Political Islam a threat to Humankind
30-Sep-2005
Azar Majedi
Political Islam versus Secularism

Islam against Islam is an interesting topic. The irony of a believer criticizing the beliefs is provocative. I am not a Moslem. I am an atheist. However, I have lived Islam; I have first hand experiences of Islam. I was born within a religious conflict: a religious mother and an atheist father. From childhood I began to see the flaws, the restrictions, the misogyny, the backwardness, the dogma, the superstition, and uncritical nature of Islam vis-à-vis the enlightenment, the freethinking spirit of atheist thinking.

I became an atheist at the age of 12.

The establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran after a failed revolution laid bare many other appalling and cruel dimensions of Islam, which we later came to use the term political Islam. It was not only dogma or superstition anymore. It was torture, summary executions, stonings, amputations, and the rape of 9 year olds in the name of marriage. Another face of Islam? Perhaps. But a real one. Millions in Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Nigeria, and Iraq are experiencing this true face of Islam daily.

With the coming to power of the Islamic Republic in Iran we began to witness a revival of the Islamic movement as a political movement, i.e. the emergence of political Islam. I prefer not to talk about this movement as fundamentalism, but rather political Islam. We are talking here about a contemporary political movement which refers to Islam as its ideological framework and vision. It is not necessarily a doctrinaire and scholastic movement, but it embodies different and varied trends of Islamic tendencies. It is a political movement seeking hegemony and a share of power in the Middle East, North Africa and in Islamist communities.

This movement embodies Islamists who in the fight against secularization of society in the West, hypocritically defend the freedom of clothing, so as to fight against the banning of veil in schools and for under-aged girls and those in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Algeria who throw acid at unveiled women, cut them with knives and razors, and who lash them for not observing the dress code. They are part and parcel of one movement. This movement is a threat to humankind. A movement, against which all freedom loving, equality seeking human beings must take a firm and uncompromising position.

Islam against Islam may imply finding ways and means to reform Islam, to resort to so-called more moderate interpretations of Islam. As a personal, private belief this may be possible, as a political movement is not. What we are experiencing today, the movement which has terrorized the world, what we have become first hand victims of, is not capable of being reformed. We are dealing with a political movement which resorts to terror as the main means of achieving power. My experience in Iran explicitly shows that the only way to deal with this movement is to relegate it into private spheres, cut its hands from the state, education and societal sphere. To do this we need to build a strong movement both in the region and worldwide.

In this brief time I have, I like to focus on few points, which in my
opinion can be the basis for an international united front against political Islam in order to make the world a better, more humane and safer place.
Defence of secularization and de-religionisation of society. This banner has historically proven successful in the fight against the church and now against the gains of political Islam. The voice for secularism has become loud and clear in Iran. There is a strong movement for secularization of society in a country under the siege of political Islam for 25 years. We should unequivocally raise this banner, in the West, and in the East. We should recreate the spirit of the 18th century, the enlightenment, the French Revolution, in a contemporary manner.

The fight for universality of human rights and women’s rights is an important cause. In the past two decades the Islamists were largely helped by the proponents of cultural relativism. The Western academia, media and governments by defending this racist concept turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by this misogynist and reactionary movement, not only in the so-called “Moslem world”, but in Islamic communities in the West. Apparently, there are some rights that are suitable for Western women and not appropriate for women like me, who are born in the other part of the world.

The veil, sexual apartheid, and second class citizenship became justified by reverting to this arbitrary concept of “their culture”. A violation that felt appalling if committed against a Western woman, was a justifiable action committed against a woman born under Islam. This double standard, this sheer violation of humane principles must be stopped. I must admit that it has been pushed back a great deal. We have fought hard against it for more than one decade.

Defence of children’s rights must be extended to areas where so-called religious beliefs are concerned. Veiling of under-aged girls must be banned, not only in schools, but altogether. Veiling of children is a clear violation of their universal rights. Just as we fight for obligatory education for children, abolition of child labour, banning of corporal punishment, we should fight for banning of veiling of under-aged girls. This demand has the same significance as other basic children’s rights. The veil deprives a child from a happy normal life, from a coherent and healthy physical and mental development, stamping their life as a different being by segregating them. It defines two sets of gender roles and imposes it upon children who have no way of protecting themselves and demanding equality and freedom. Children have no religion; they are only by accident born into a religious family. The society has a duty to protect them and uphold their rights as equal human beings.

Abolition of religious schools is another important arena. This too is an important principle of a secular state, and protection of children’s rights. Children must be free from official religious teachings and dogmas. Religion’s hands must be eradicated from children’s lives. The new legislation in France, regarding banning of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools and institutions, is an important step but insufficient. In order to safeguard children’s rights, religious schools must be abolished.

Otherwise, we create religious ghettos, isolate children from religious families from the society, and condemn them to a life in isolation. The new legislation is the easiest way out for the state. But we cannot remain indifferent to these kids’ lives. The society and the state have the duty to protect their rights. They should be allowed to integrate in the society, to go to school like any other kid, and to be free from meddling of religion in their lives, at least until they are still children.

The recognition of the right to unconditional freedom of expression and criticism is one of the important pillars of a free society and free thinking. The right to criticize Islam is an important means to fight religious predominance in society. We need and must criticize Islam relentlessly, without the fear of being beheaded in countries under the siege of Islam, or being called racist in the West. Islamophobia is a new term created by Islamists, or their apologists in order to stop a growing critical movement against Islam and Islamic movements. This is as hypocritical as it is regressive.

I like to call upon all of you here to recognize the importance and the urgency of demanding secularization and de-religionisation of the state and society, unconditional freedom of expression and criticism, recognition of women’s equality and universality of their rights, banning of child veiling, and abolition of religious schools. In order to build a better, safer, freer and a more egalitarian world, we must unequivocally raise this banner.