Sunday, Apr 02, 2023

Under The Guise Of Religion

Under The Guise Of Religion

The persistent demand for the extension of blasphemy laws around the world is a real danger for all. There is a need to keep alive the rich tradition that France has had to mock and caricature powers that be -- religious or otherwise.

After the massacre in Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, expressing indignation, as so many are doing, is not enough.

A quick look at the English-speaking media shows that whilst many condemn the violence itself, they also assert that Charlie Hebdo courted (and maybe deserved?) a strong response from “Muslims”. Charlie’s regular cartoonists did not spare Islam, any other religion, nor fanatics and bigots.

This trend in the media requires our attention. Apparently secularists, agnostics and atheists must keep silent and do not deserve the kind of respect that believers are entitled to; nor can they enjoy free speech to the same degree.

In the name of “respect” of religions and of the religious sentiments of believers, it is indeed the fanatical religious-Right that is being supported and given centre stage. Meanwhile, those who are on the forefront of countering armed fundamentalists are left to their own devices. It is high time to give these secularists prominence, to recognise their courage and their political clarity and to stop labelling them “Islamophobic”.

In October 2014, secularists— including atheists, agnostics and believers from many countries, in particular many Muslim-majority countries, met in London to denounce the religious-Right and to demand being seen as its alternative. It is high time to learn from their analysis and lived experiences.

The tragic massacre in Paris will undoubtedly give fuel to the traditional xenophobic far-Right and the immediate danger is an increase in racism, marginalization and exclusion of people of Muslim descent in Europe and further. We do not want to witness “anti-Muslim witch hunts” nor do we welcome the promotion of “moderate” Islamists by governments as official political partners. 

What is needed is a straightforward analysis of the political nature of armed Islamists: they are an extreme-Right political force, working under the guise of religion and they aim at political power. They should be combated by political means and mass mobilisation, not by giving extra privileges to any religion.

Their persistent demand for the extension of blasphemy laws around the world is a real danger for all. France has a long— and now growingly endangered— tradition of secularism; which allows dissent from religions and the right to express this dissent. It has had a rich tradition to mock and caricature powers that be— religious or otherwise. Let us keep this hard won right which cost so many lives in history, and, alas, still does— as Charlie Hebdo’s twelve dead and numerous wounded demonstrate.


  • Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and 'Secularism is a Women’s Issue' Founder
  • Maryam Namazie, Iranian-born Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, One Law for All and Fitnah and Co-host of Bread and Roses TV
  • Karima Bennoune, Professor and Martin Luther King Jr. Hall Research Scholar, University of California, Davis School of Law
  • Ali al-Razi, Ex-Muslim Forum
  • Amel Grami, Professor at the Tunisian University of Manouba
  • Anissa Daoudi, Birmingham University, Head of Arabic Section
  • Ayesha Imam, Coordinator of the Nigerian Women’s Rights Organisation BAOBOB
  • Braema Mathi, Human Rights Activist, Singapore
  • Chris Moos, Secularist Activist and Researcher
  • Christine M. ShellskaPresident of Atheist Alliance International
  • Codou Bop, Groupe de recherche sur les femmes et les mois au Sénégal
  • Daayiee Abdullah, Imam of Light of Reform Mosque
  • Deeyah Khan, Norwegian Filmmaker and Founder/CEO of Fuuse
  • Esam Shoukry, Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights of Iraq and Left Worker Communist Party of Iraq
  • Fahima Hashim, Director of Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre in Sudan
  • Fariborz Pooya, Founder of the Iranian Secular Society and Co-host of Bread and Roses TV
  • Farzana Hassan, Writer
  • Fatou Sow, International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws
  • Fiammetta Venner, Writer and Filmmaker
  • Gita Sahgal, Founder of Centre for Secular Space
  • Gona Saed, Campaigner and Activist
  • Hala Aldosari, Women’s Health Researcher and Women’s Rights Women’s Activist
  • Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web
  • Houzan Mahmoud, Kurdish Women’s Rights Activist
  • Imad Iddine Habib, Founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
  • Inna Shevchenko, Leader of FEMEN
  • Julie Bindel, Writer
  • Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
  • Laura Guidetti, Marea Italian Feminist Review
  • Lila Ghobady, Iranian Writer and Filmmaker
  • Magdulien Abaida, Libyan Activist and President of Hakki (My Right) Organization for Women Rights
  • Meredith Tax, Centre for Secular Space
  • Mina Ahadi, International Committees against Stoning and Execution
  • Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
  • Nina Sankari, Vice President of Atheist Coalition of Poland
  • Nira Davis-Yuval, Founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism and the International Research Network on Women in Militarized Conflict Zones
  • Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
  • Ramin Forghani, Founder of the Ex-Muslims of Scotland and Vice-Chair of the Scottish Secular Society
  • Safak Pavey, MP for Istanbul, Turkish Parliament
  • Sara Hakemi, Secular Greens and Giordano Bruno Foundation
  • Siamak Bahari, Political Activist and Editor of Children First Publication
  • Sultana Kamal, Bangladeshi Human Rights Activist
  • Taslima Nasrin, Bangladeshi-born Writer
  • Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
  • Soad Baba Aïssa, Founder of Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laïcité
  • Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society
  • Waleed Al-Husseini, Palestinian blogger and Founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of France
  • Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Advocate