One Law for All, the group that campaigns against the adoption of Islamic law or sharia in the UK, is planning a mass demonstration in the centre of London tomorrow, Saturday. 'We know we have a huge fight ahead and can only win if we do this together. We must mobilise a mass anti-racist movement that defends people's rights and lives and gives them precedence over culture and religion,' says organiser Maryam Namazie. The protest is timed to coincide with International Women's Day.
Maryam says: 'This is your chance to voice your opposition to sharia law and all religious-based tribunals in Britain and elsewhere, demand one secular law and full citizenship rights, demand an end to cultural relativism and racism, and defend universal rights.'
The rally begins in Trafalgar Square at 3.30pm with a march to Conway Hall followed by a public meeting there beginning at 6pm when speakers will include Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Naser Khader, founder of Democratic Muslims, Gina Khan of One Law for All, the writer Kenan Malik, Maryam herself, Fariborz Pooya of Iranian Secular Society and chair of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Carla Revere, chair of the Lawyers’ Secular Society.
There will also be an art competition designed to expose 'the discriminatory nature of sharia and religious-based tribunals and promote equal rights for all citizens. The judges will be the philosopher AC Grayling, the singer Deeyah, the playwright Johann Hari and the journalist Polly Toynbee.
It is hard to find cases illustrating what is going on. Women are understandably frightened to speak out. Maryam is one of the few who has. In an article in The Times last year her story was reported:
'Iranian Muslim by birth, Namazie, 41, is friendly and softly spoken. But she does not mince her words. It takes nerve to start an organisation for people who have rejected Islam. In Islamic law, apostasy is punishable by death. Namazie receives periodic threats, usually on her mobile phone: “One said, 'You are going to be decapitated'...I went to the police. They were very attentive at first because they thought it might be linked to the attempted bombings in Glasgow . But when they realised it wasn't, they never bothered contacting me again.” Doesn't she worry about her safety? “Yes, I do, frequently. I worry about whether I will live, especially now I am a mother. If I see someone looking at me strangely, I wonder.” Why doesn't she use a pseudonym? “They can find out who you are anyway. And the point of the Council of Ex-Muslims is to stand up and be counted.” She doesn't really like the label ex-Muslim and would prefer not to frame her identity in religious terms but, she says, it is like gays “coming out” 30 years ago: something has to become public if you are to break taboos. The Council of ex-Muslims of Britain has more than 100 members with inquiries from people who do not dare to join. “Some have horrendous stories but do not put them on the website because they are afraid.”
However, it's not just Muslim women suffering because of religious rulings by men. Take this from the St Mary's-by-the-Woods blog: 'How far down the stupid hole can the Roman Church hierarchy go? Apparently all the way down to the bottom. News from Brazil is that a 9 year old girl who had been sexually-molested for years by her stepfather became pregnant with twins. She weighs only 80 pounds. The child's mother and doctors decided to abort the twins because the young girl could not continue with the pregnancy without the risk of dying herself. As a result, The Roman Catholic Archbishop Jose Sobrinho has excommunicated the mother and the doctors involved. Who gets today's Vote for the worlds biggest idiot? Archbishop Sobrinho!!!'
Funny isn't it, a woman and doctors who do what they must to save a little girl's life after rape are excommunicated. A Holocaust denier who shows no sign of recanting his obscene views has his excommunication lifted. Still, I suppose that little girl should be grateful she's not living in Iran or Somalia, where women who are raped risk being stoned to death for adultery. Watch out on Monday for a report being launched byAmnesty in connection with these unjust sentences in Iran.