My speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning the arrests of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh:
This article was published in the book Stories of Change – Beyond the ‘Arab Spring’
When we say that nowadays to call for sexual freedom in Arab and Muslim societies is more dangerous than the demand to topple monarchies or dictatorial regimes, we are not playing with metaphor or attempting to gain sympathy. We are stating a bitter and painful fact of the reality in which we are living.
In Arab and Muslim milieus, sex is considered a means and not an end, hedged by many prickly restrictions that make it an objectionable matter and synonymous with sin. Its function within marriage is confined to procreation and nothing else, and all sexual activity outside the institution of marriage is banned legally and rejected socially. Innocent children born out of wedlock are socially rejected, and considered foundlings.
This situation cannot be said to be characteristic of Arab societies only, but we experience these miseries in far darker and more intense ways than in other countries. This is especially so because of the dominance of machismo, which considers a man’s sexual adventures as heroics worthy of pride, while a woman who dares to give in to her sexual desires is destined to be killed, or at best beaten and expelled from home, because she has brought dishonor upon her family. I personally know a number of professional sex workers in Morocco, who were doing this work primarily because they had been rejected by their families, after losing their virginity during sexual experimentation before they had reached a marriageable age.
The demand for sexual freedom takes us onto a road to a revolution against the miseries of cultures and institutions, because sex is one of our society’s most important taboos, even more dangerous than those related to religion.
Sexual freedom leads to a reconciliation of the body with the self, and reinforces the value of transparency and cohesion within society. It enables the individual to think independently and freely. It is the triumph over taboo, and the individual’s stimulation to creativity and the forging of free relationships with others. Sexual freedom does not only mean allowing individuals to have sex outside the institution of marriage, but goes beyond that—in ensuring the rights of homosexuals, the decriminalization of adultery, and the recognition by the state that the private lives of individuals do not concern the state at all, and that individuals are responsible for themselves and have the full right to choose their sexual partners. Sexual freedom also means the right for my sister or my mother to have sex with whomever they want, and that I should in no way poke my nose into other people’s bedrooms, be they relatives or ordinary citizens.
I am a supporter of freedom, and was one of the first to raise the call for sexual freedom in the Arab and Islamic world, at the very beginning of what has become known as the Arab Spring, because I believe that accepting freedom as an existential concept is the way to ensure confidence in the kind of change we aspire to. We cannot talk about instilling democratic values and human rights without having the courage to address ourselves with a frank and audible voice, without faith in an individual’s right to choose and think, and without endeavoring to break all the taboos that distort our awareness and understanding of human nature. If it were up to me, I would urge young people to take to the streets to demonstrate for a Sexual Spring and make our demand clear to all: ‘For a national day of sexual freedom.’
Victory for individual freedom of choice is essential to creating a civilized generation that cannot be easily enslaved or repressed. Otherwise, we will always remain in the hold of the thieves of dreams and revolutions—the so-called Arab Spring is a good example of that.
The angry poet.
« Today Islam has been reduced to a soulless ideology of Islamists »
A 18 years old Danish citizen of Palestinian descent, poet and self-proclaimed atheist, has prompted the largest debate on religion in Denmark since the Westergaard cartoon.
Hassan Yahya has been a frequent guest on television programs where he debates other young Muslims, and his willingness to bluntly criticize them in front of outsiders has earned him many accolades from the media. Yahya sold 11,000 copies in the first 24 hours it was available, and over 100,000 have been printed total, making it the most popular Danish poetry publication of all time.
He has been literally attacked by his detractors. the poet was assaulted by a radical Muslim who had previously been convicted of terrorism under Danish law. Later that month he did a reading in Vollsmose, a poverty-stricken suburb of Odense that’s home to many Muslim immigrants. The authorities had so many concerns about the event they gave Yahya bodyguards and made all of Odense a no-fly zone.
The son of Muslim Palestinian immigrants, he grew up in a religious environment but has abandoned religion. He dropped out of school at thirteen but developed a love of literature on his own. His poetry is popular and admired. One professor of literature, Tue Nexo Andersen, described Hassan’s longer works as “almost Walt Whitman-like.
In this short interview where are going to get closer to Hassan’s story and views:
Expressing your views and opinions via poetry is such a unique way to communicate with others. What made Hassan Yahya choose poetry to express his thoughts to the world?
When I was a child, I used to spend a lot of time reading. When I did something stupid, my father used to beat me and lock me up in my room, and that’s how I discovered literature. When I was 13 years old, some rap schools were established in my neighborhood, so I started writing my own texts and rapping them, but after a while I felt like there was something wrong with that form of expression.
I felt like I had to pretend I was a gangster, and rap about beating people up and party stuff. When I wrote something personal, or something more lyrical, the producer would refuse it.
So that was the beginning. I spent a couple of years rapping, and then I just continued to write without rapping. I wrote short stories and such while at school. I started to attend a writing club once every week.
That’s where I was introduced to serious literature and poetry. I read a lot, and Karl Ove Knausgård, a Norwegian writer, made a big impression on me. He writes about his life and his relationship with his father, and I could see a lot of the same things in my relationship with my own father, the violence, the restrictions and so on… the rap thing was the beginning; maybe it had been a journey to find the best way to express myself. From rap to short stories, and other genres, it ended up with poetry.
How do you see people from your generation in Denmark, who have the same background as yours (Muslim family…), and what do they think of you? Did any of them support you?
Most of them are pissed. They feel I discriminate against them, make generalizations about them, and paint a picture which shows that all Muslims are bad people. But of course, I know many Muslims are good people. In Denmark, however, we have many of these areas where many Arabs live. They came from a refugee camp from Lebanon, like my parents, others from Syria or Jordan or another Arab country, but all from refugee camps, and it seems like they have created their own refugee camp here. These people have poor education, and the only thing they know is religion; well they think they know, but the truth as I see it, is that these people are strongly indoctrinated. My parents’ generation, which has indoctrinated mine, had been indoctrinated itself by my grandfathers’ and so on. It seems like the same primitive mindset is reproduced generation after another, but with worse results. If you look at my generation, most of them can’t read or write Arabic. That makes it difficult for them to acquire knowledge about their own religion and history. So they only know what their parents have been told, that the later themselves tell them.
You have been dealing with death threats from Islamists. Most of the Muslims in Denmark received your poems with anger. In your opinion, why do Muslims always react with violence and threats to other people’s opinions?
Every religion thinks that it represents the only truth, especially Islam. So most Muslims think that Islam is the Truth and that other lifestyles are of lesser value, that Muslims are going to heaven while all other human beings to hell. They have a hard time accepting and respecting people who are different from themselves. They count themselves as Muslims, but most of them don’t really pray; they can only kneel insincerely. They love the Eid, but they don’t fast. They don’t practice but they preach to everyone. They only know Al-Fatiha surat (the first chapter in the Quran). They don’t understand the Quran, only some outdated interpretations. They can only comprehend the bad parts of the religion: you are either a believer or an infidel; things are either allowed or forbidden, halal or haram; heaven or hell; they are completely intolerant.
And hypocrisy is everywhere. In those areas that I described earlier, there are crimes, social fraud, and violence. Boys of my generation go to Friday prayer, and the rest of the week they steal, drink alcohol, smoke weed, and fuck Danish girls, until they can get married to some Arab girl.
You mentioned in some of your interviews that Islam needs a reformation. How do you think that would be possible?
Today Islam has been reduced to a soulless ideology of Islamists, a religion of laws mainly dealing with rituals, with permissions and prohibitions, which I think weakens the spiritual message. Is Islam based on rituals or spirituality?
I don’t think any Muslim loses faith in god just because they don’t pray. Both Islamophobic Westerners and Muslim fanatics agree that Islam is a religion of laws, but other aspects of Islamic culture have been overshadowed by rituals and laws. Muslims should not let Imams and religious institutions define their religion, and have such power, driven by political agendas, to speak in the name of God.
My speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning the arrests of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh:
Kacem El Ghazzali. this Article was first published in the Basler Zeitung.
In King Faisal mosque in Basel, at a location accessible only to visitors who come for prayer, you can find an announcement on the wall in Arabic, which is a fatwa by a Salafist sheik from Saudi Arabia, explaining to Muslims who live in the West how they should deal with infidels during their stay in Western countries.
The fatwa starts by explaining the concept of “infidel land”, defined as a land where Islamic Sharia is not applied. This obviously includes Switzerland, as a country that uses civil law as a reference, on the basis of a social contract between all citizens and foreign residents, which guarantees everyone’s rights without any discrimination based on gender, skin color, or belief; meaning that whoever chooses to live in Switzerland would have to abide by those laws, which also ensure his or her protection from any discrimination or persecution.
But when a group of Muslims deems as essential to obey a religious order, even before the nature of the relationship towards society and law is defined, especially when such an order is related to murder or theft, then such an act (issuing such a fatwa and publicizing it) should be considered as dangerous, as it ignores all laws and institutions of the State, and threatens public peace.
This is the case for the fatwa that has been publicized at King Faisal mosque. It urges Muslims living in the land of the infidels, Switzerland, to keep the peace and avoid fighting the infidels and stealing their possessions, but it does not stop there: it adds the condition for peace, must be that those infidels should not have fought them in their religion. At first glance, the reader might wonder, then where’s the problem? Switzerland as we all know is a country that does not participate in wars and has no enmity whatsoever with Muslims, and the Swiss Constitution respects freedom of religion.
That is true of course. Switzerland is a democratic country, and has an old humanistic tradition. But through activities that I followed, by some Islamist Salafist organizations in Switzerland, such as the Swiss Islamic Council (IZRS), I found that in their public meetings, they always put forth an image of Switzerland as a country that is waging a war against Islam and Muslims. What else can we understand from claims made by Nicolas Blancho, the director of the (IZRS), on the Egyptian Salafist channel An-Nas TV, that Muslims are suffering from discrimination and persecution, that a Muslim can’t get a seat in the parliament, and that this “war” comes from the fact that the Western cultural model does not accept an alternative inspired by Islam? I would ask Blancho: what is this Islamic model that he wants as an alternative for Switzerland? Is it a model à la Saudi Arabia, with public decapitations of infidels, where women are not allowed into public libraries? And what would you say about a Muslim father who forbids his child daughter from having swimming courses, because he considers her small body subject to male sexual lust?
When a canton forbids the burka, because it kills the individuality of women and pushes them to isolation from social life, Islamists consider that war on Islam. King Faisal mosque fatwa is therefore a call to war, anarchy, and disrespect of Swiss law, because it linked respect of the law and peace with a condition prone to many interpretations, especially when used by such organizations that adopt a radical understanding of Islam. And instead of being an obvious matter, respect of the law becomes dependent upon religious approval, the future of peaceful coexistence in society tied to religious texts from Saudi Arabia, and the mosque supposed to be a place of worship becomes an institution that meddles with civil law. We have to ring the bells of danger, pay close attention to such happenings, and punish those who encourage such ideas.
Save Muslims from Swiss Islamic Council (IZRS)
Not all Muslims in Switzerland are extremists. It’s a truth that cannot be denied. It would be sheer ignorance to lump all Muslims in the same basket. And when I discuss Islam in Switzerland, I am speaking of that group of Muslims who are trying to impose their laws, and are also characterized by deviousness when dealing with counter arguments. Once for example when I met Swiss Islamic Council president Nicolas Blancho in Zurich, I asked him about their position concerning the application of Sharia, which is in contradiction with human rights, does not recognize civil law, and considers that all laws must be derived from Koran and Tradition. His answer was a shock. He did not say that he was against anyone who infringed upon the law even if it originated from religion, or that he would not accept that in the 21st century people would lose their lives for changing their religion. His answer was: I am with Sharia if people choose it. This shows the nature of his ideology, for he would never say something like “I’m against killing people who leave Islam”, but he would say “we respect Swiss law because we can’t apply Sharia yet”. When would Mr Blancho kill apostates then, do you think?
Every year, Blancho’s association, Swiss Islamic Council, organizes a conference where famous sheiks are invited. And since the beginning, the event has been criticized for inviting some of the most extremist religious personalities. Switzerland only managed to deny entry to two among them, namely Pierre Vogel and Mohamed Al-Arifi, for their incitement to hatred and violence.
But the most important question here is: why does the council invite sheiks who call for violence, infringement on women’s rights, and killing apostates and infidels? This shows us the true face of the council, which is trying to create a parallel society that refuses to obey the law, and fights government policy to help immigrants integrate into society. The council is therefore hurting Muslims first and foremost, pushing them to isolate themselves from society and its laws, using religion and mosques as a tool of incitement against the society where they live, with its rich cultural components deemed as “blasphemous”.
I know that this article will not be met with a positive and responsible answer from Islamists. I have become used to getting responses in the form of terms and concepts that are completely unrelated to the context of the discussion; only attempts to silence whoever tries to criticize their enmity and hatred to diversity. For every time such topics are discussed in the Swiss public sphere, you get the usual ready-made response, which has almost become like a cliché, “you’re an islamophobe”; and so they succeed, time and again, into diverting the discussion from their deeds and calls for hatred and violence, to another topic completely detached from reality.
When I say that I’m against those who want to divide society into infidels and believers, good guys and bad guys, clean girls and dirty girls… when I state my disapproval of those who await a fatwa from Saudi Arabia to teach them how to deal with society and live among the Swiss people, when I oppose killing apostates, or infringements on human rights in the name of religion, it is simply stupid and foolish to call me an islamophobe, because I’m simply calling for a free society, that guarantees rights for everyone, as opposed to a society that wants to bring back practices from the Middle Ages, when grinding wars were waged under the slogan: killing an infidel is not a crime, it is the path towards God.
How did it come to this?
If these are sick people and criminals, and we cannot generalize their behavior to the whole population, may the reader then allow me to ask a few concentrated and clear questions, which can have no more than one answer.
Where is the law? Where’s the police? Where’s conscience? Where’s humanity? How did we come to this?
Why aren’t these racist criminals being punished? Why did Saudi authorities arrest Raef Badawi for a few articles published on a website, and Hamza Kashgari for tweeting a few lines depicting an imaginary conversation with the prophet Muhammad? And why were Wajiha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyoni led to the mazes of courts and legal prosecution, just because they defended women’s rights and equality of genders in the kingdom?
Yes. Why did they arrest those, while leaving racist offenders enjoy their freedom, and even boast with their racist and hateful deeds on the Internet, without any prosecution or even a mere verbal condemnation?
I’m afraid to say the truth…
Truth is sometimes too shocking. The way Saudi authorities deal with frequent violations of the rights of foreign workers, and racism and mistreatment against foreign residents, is known to everyone within the kingdom and abroad. Reports by International Human Rights organizations do not miss any opportunity to condemn the violations of immigrants’ and foreign workers’ rights. The last report by the UN warned Saudi Arabia about human right infringements against the same group.
The problem is that the authorities take no deterring measures against offenders, and provide no guarantees of protection for immigrants; and that’s a catastrophe, because then we face a state that normalizes racist behavior, and even more, provides the adequate social environment for such behavior to become instilled in society and education, and to becomecommon in the public sphere. A state that does not prosecute racists, and does not consider racism a crime, to say things straightforward and without any word games, is a racist state.
And that’s what Saudi Arabia is…
A country that spends billions of oil money to build mosques all around the world, to print Korans, to sponsor fundamentalist groups and provide shelter and protection for them, and to export terrorism to the rest of the world.
A country that new Western converts consider as a second home, where intellectuals are arrested, decapitated, or imprisoned for opposing the political movement of Wahhabism. It’s also a country where women are not allowed to drive.
A country still proud of the culture of the dark ages of History. Welcome to Saudi Arabia, the official sponsor of public executions, while being at the same time the sponsor and founder of the International Center for Cultural and Religious Dialogue, founded by King Abdullah in Vienna, capital city of Austria. Long live schizophrenia, and long live dialogue and peace a la Wahhabism.
And here’s the faithless West…
Where anyone can take the phone receiver to call the police to report an act of discrimination, offense, or behavior with suspected racist motive. This is the West, which respects everyone’s rights, and does not recognize any law favoring a particular group. All is equal in duties and rights, residents, newcomers, and tourists alike. And those extremist racist groups, when one of their members is responsible for a similar act to what happens in the kingdom, it stirs much anger from the public and many political discussions in the media; and the question of foreigners’ and minorities’ rights is reassessed with much caution and interest. Whereas racist offenders are presented to justice, get the punishment they deserve, and do not publish a video like “Saudi striking an Indian in the head”.
Having a meal, smoking a cigarette or drinking a glass of water… is quite normal, right? but what when it turns to be a campaign making a lively debate on social networks?
Dozens of photos of Tunisians breaking the fast during Ramadan were posted on Facebook after the Salafist leader Adil Almi threatened to record videos of people eating publicly during Ramadan, promising to fight those who try to provoke the Muslim society and its morals. calling on Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddo to respond firmly to any one eating publicly.
The Facebook page « Photos prises durant Ramadan chmeta fi Adel Almi » managed to attract in less than 24 hours about 7000 fans.
The page describes itself «This page is open to anyone who feels like to challenge Adel Almi, in this case, we’ll go to the beach and take pictures by ourselves »
Humanists at the United Nations have coordinated a series of speeches on human rights issues affecting atheists and those accused of professing atheism.
In joint statements to the Human Rights council last week (5 June 2013), representatives of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Center for Inquiry (CFI) attacked calls for the death penalty for bloggers in Morocco and Bangladesh and demanded that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran takes immediate, active steps to eliminate the widespread practice of torture in its institutions.
Kacem El Ghazzali is a secularist blogger sometimes described as Morocco’s first openly, self-professed atheist. He has been living recently in Switzerland as a refuge. As a guest representative of the IHEU delegation in the previous session of the Human Rights Council asked Morocco’s representatives “Why must I be killed?”.
In last week’s session El Ghazali again criticised his home state of Morocco for unconstitutionally silencing the voices of atheists, asking “How can a non-believer living in Morocco raise his voice? Why are calls to murder apostates and free thinkers allowed when the constitution is supposed to protect the human rights of everyone?”
The right wing wants to use the prevalence of the dark side of the religion (an unfortunate fact) in order to achieve its objectives: expel all immigrants, and “purify” the country..
The left wing, supposedly the protectors of human rights and universal values, adopt the opposite view, and ignore the elephant in the room, preferring to retort the same cassette over and over about “Islam the peaceful religion”, and how those who oppose Islamists are just islamophobic, xenophobic and the sort, ignoring the real problem and preferring the ostrich policy of burying their heads in the sand, than to face it..
Their position probably comes from the naive notion that if the right wing says something, then the opposite of it must be true..
and the right wing unfortunately, given their principles and objectives, would be the first to notice a threat to the integrity of their “beloved nation”, so, we would expect the right wing to adopt their position first, and the left to simply react to it.. what they don’t realize is that in some sense they are being manipulated by the right, and falling into their trap (whether that was meant from the beginning or not), because as the problems caused by Islamists will grow, more and more people will become less immune to the right wing discourse…
So the left must sit down for a moment and define its own independent views based on a rational understanding of the situation, and not a mere emotional and childish reaction to the right wing discourse.. When I first came to Switzerland, I tried to work with the left wing group, but in their eyes I was a young Islamophobe, as if defending myself against those who want us dead is Islamophobia?
Morocco’s Islamist prime minister says it’s unacceptable to criticize the Prophet Muhammad, entering a war of words between a secular activist and hardline Salafists that has strained the balance between freedom of expression and religious sensitivities.
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane took a not-so-veiled swipe at secular activist Ahmed Assid at a party rally late Saturday in Rabat. While not mentioning Assid by name, Benkirane said respect must be given to the overwhelmingly Muslim country’s values. and everyone should let the world understand that Morocco is a Muslim state and was built and developed by Islam through centuries of history.
At least one Salafist leader retorted that Assid was trying to paint Muhammad as a terrorist — a claim Assid denies — and called Assid an “unbeliever,” which could be seen as an incitement to violence.
Ahmed Assid said in a statement front of a national conference of a Human Rights NGO in Rabat: religious education in Morocco ” is now outdated, and teaches religious values that contradict universal values that of Human rights”. He added that the message of Islam taught to young people in school textbooks is “terroristic”. The religious education emphasizes values that go back to when Islam was “spread by the sword” during the time of prophet Mohamed.
Back to my days in Morocco, I remember when Facebook closed our group on Facebook “Youth for the separation of Religion from Education ” , at that time, I was running together with other bloggers and activists from Morocco and some Arab countries a campaign advocating that religious teachings be discarded from pre-college educational programs, by replacing the subject «Islamic education» by «Humanistic education». condemning the religious inculcation of the young which consecrates religious myths, superstition and fundamentalism. and to put an end for religious political currents which attempt to kill reason and creativity, and encourage terrorism. Also, putting an end to a long-standing epidemic of fundamentalism and brainwashing in order to cut down all bridges for terrorism and despotism factories.
We were simply calling for a modern, democratic, and rational educational system, that respects religious diversity and freedom of belief, I wonder what have been achieved since then? …
A fatwa published this week by Morocco’s Higher Council of Religious Scholars (CSO) calling for the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith has sparked fierce controversy in the country.
The scholars, who represent official Islam in Morocco, said in their edict, published in Tuesday’s edition of Arabic-language daily Akhbar al-Youm, that Muslims who reject their faith “should be condemned to death.”
The fatwa, which has provoked strong reactions, dates back to April 2012 when a legal report was being prepared by the government, but it was not published at the time, according to local media.
The CSO is a government institution, led by the king Mohammed VI, in his capacity as Commander of the Faithful, is enshrined in the Constitution in Article 41 as “the only body empowered to impose religious consultations (fatwas). and counts among its members the ministry of Islamic affairs.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs declined to comment on the issue.
Sheikh Mohamed Fizazi, symbolic figure of the hardline Salafi, which has already expressed its intention to form a political party, rushed to thank the Council of Ulema for this fatwa which he said is an absolute truth and does not suffer every nuance.
The (CSO) latter has recently published a book which includes this Fatwa, explains that verses in Quran such as ( there is no compulsion in religion, as per the Koran (2:256) ) are not for the ones who were born as Muslims ( from Muslim parents ) but for none Muslims living in a Muslim country.
The Fatwa was based on the Hadiths of Sahih al-Bukhari, the most reliable collection: Bukhari 52:260 (the Prophet said, ‘If somebody [a Muslim] discards his religion, kill him’) and Bukhari 83:37 (By Allah, Allah’s Apostle never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations:  A person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed  a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse and  a man who fought against Allah and His Apostle and deserted Islam and became an apostate) and Bukhari 84:57 (statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him’)and more.
Morocco’s state religion is Islam. Whilst Article 3 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, atheists and unbelievers are not recognized. Though apostasy is not a prosecutable offense in the Penal Code, “incitements in order to shake the faith of a Muslim” are. Apostates and atheists face harassment, threats or imprisonment if they speak out.
I consider this Fatwa as a direct invitation to commit murder and assassination, and may be an umbrella for the implementation of political assassinations, it’s enough today to say that someone is an apostate from Islam to justify killing him, and I’m surprised that it comes from a constitutional institution, While the Moroccan regime talks about the new constitution and the series of reforms and change in Morocco.