By Maryam Namazie
Warwick University Student Union’s reversal of its initial decision to bar me from speaking about Islam and Islamism on campus, at the invitation of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society, has been widely celebrated as a small win for free speech. But it has also ruffled the feathers of Islamists and their apologists.
Historically, criticism of religion has been a crucial aspect of free expression and intrinsically linked with anti-clericalism and the dismantling of that which is deemed taboo and sacred by the gatekeepers of power. Such criticism has been key for social progress. It is also a matter of life and death for many living under Islamist rule, such as in those areas where Isis has seized power, Saudi Arabia, or in Iran where criticism of religion and the state are analogous. There, anything from demanding women’s equality or trade union rights to condemning sexual jihad and the “Islamic cultural revolution” (which banned books and “purified” higher education) can be met with arrest, imprisonment and even the death penalty.
Where Islamists are not in power but have influence – I include Britain here – critics face accusations of racism and Islamophobia to deflect legitimate outrage against Islamism, which I regard as a killing machine and a network with global reach. Atheist bloggers have been hacked to death by Islamists in Bangladesh while UK-based Bangladeshi bloggers have been placed on death lists.
The labelling of much-needed criticism of Islamism as antisocial, even dangerous by left apologists sees dissent through the eyes of Islamists and not the many who refuse and resist. How else are we to show real solidarity with those who struggle against the theocracies we have fled from – if not through criticism? The fight against Islamism and the need for international solidarity apparently does not enter into their calculation.
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