A Speech You Must Hear on Why Europe Must Remain Secular

Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of the One Law for All campaign against Sharia Law in Britain and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, gave a rousing speech against religious intervention in politics.

You *have* to listen to this:

The enforcement of religious laws… is an attack on the rights of women, children and gay people, non-believers and people of other religions. Secularism is the only way to protect all human rights, and it is under attack from militant faith, globally.

So much of what she says is serious and important and I’d be doing an injustice to pick out just a highlight or two from most of her talk… but I loved this quotable line:

“Like cigarettes, religion should come with a health warning: Religion kills.”


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    That woman is awesome.

  • Anonymous

    That woman is awesome.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just Islam that we need to get rid of to have a secular Europe.  The Lords Spiritual sit in the legislature.  The Holy See is (sort of) counts as a state.  Beth Din courts sit in judgement for Jewish civil cases.  The state funds church schools.  We need to extricate ourselves from religious entanglements and live under secular law.  If people want to practice their religion in peace then that’s fine, treat it like any other social club.

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    I’m really confused. Has a Sharia Council’s decision ever been enforced by a European nation? Isn’t participating in Sharia voluntary to the same extend that participating in Islam is voluntary? Their website claims that most participants don’t realize they have an alternative. However their goal is not to educate Muslims about how British law supersedes Sharia, but to simply ban Sharia and other religious law bodies. I can’t imagine how such a ban could be enforced since the line between these judicial bodies and the religions themselves are extremely thin, or even non-existent.

  • Peter Mahoney

    How can supporters of Sharia Law defend the following:
    1) testimony of a woman counts only half as much as the testimony of a man.
    2) to “prove” rape, a woman must have four MALE witnesses attesting that it occurred.
    3) males may marry and consumate the marriage when the girl is NINE years old.
    4) the penalty for apostasy (leaving the religion) is death. Yes, EXECUTION for having a difference of OPINION with someone!
    5) etc. etc.

    What type of mental gymnastics must be done to say that these ideas are sane?

  • Tracy

    We should be inspired by this woman’s intellect, her message, and the bravery it took for her to speak so incisively and publicly.  Bravo!

  • b00ger

    Totally awesome and so inspiring to hear this woman speak out even though it could mean death for her at the hands of some lunatic. 

    Oddboyout, participation in Sharia courts is voluntary to the same extant that participation in Islam is voluntary. That is to say for some people, particularly women, it is NOT voluntary at all. If your husband or father says you will go to Sharia court you do or often times you find yourself the victim of an honor killing.

    Sharia is in direct conflict with the secular laws of many countries and as such, should be banned outright. You shouldn’t be able to decide that your testimony counts as only 1/2 mans, because in the end, you don’t get to decide that, it gets forced on you. Any secular country who has Sharia law is NOT a secular country. They are kidding themselves if they think they are.

    • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

      The big difference is whether you live in a secular country or not. If you’re Muslim you follow Sharia. It’s not possible to separate the two. In secular countries you can leave a Muslim community that practices strict Sharia, though maybe with much hardships. In Islamic countries it is the law of the land and you can’t leave its grasp.

      Sharia law exists in any country with at least one Muslim. I’m not sure how you could enforce a ban on Sharia. It is their code of ethics.

      It’s like trying to ban people from following the ten commandments. Or ban them from following Catholic canon. Or Jewish law. Or ban Christian Scientists from not going to the doctor, or even not taking their children to doctors.

      Religious freedom bans the government endorsing any of these codes of ethics, but it can’t ban people from following them.

      • Anonymous

        Nobody is talking about banning the ten commandments etc. etc. As you would have heard Maryam say in the video if you’d watched it, allowing sharia to have official status and to be co-equal with the secular law and/or supersede it is not about religious freedom for minorities – it’s an issue of political power and about taking rights away from members of other religions as well as Muslim women, rights that modern governments have international treaty obligations to guarantee and protect.

        As for “christian scientists” (talk about on oxymoron!) it makes perfect sense for the state to tell parents they should have to provide proper medical care for their children. The state has a duty to act in loco parentis and step in to protect children if their parents won’t. (Those pesky international treaties again, on the rights of the child.)

        Bottom line, religionists can pray, sing, chant, handle snakes and speak gibberish until they’re blue in the face, but their rights end where other people’s rights begin. Period, end of discussion.

        • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

          Maybe I’m not getting her point because Sharia law has not been given any judicial powers in Europe, but she’s acting as though British Muslims are hanging gays and stoning women. Show me one case in which a European government has given a Sharia law council the right to execute someone.

          • Anonymous

            Sorry but you are wrong.  Sharia law is enforcible with the full power fo the judicial system in the UK: 
            http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4749183.ece
            You are correct that this doesn’t extend to execution but it does include financial disagreements like probate and contract law, and divorce and domestic violence cases.  This works in precisely the same way that Beth Din courts work for Jewish communities in the UK and have for 100 years.  That is another thing that should end.

            • Kevin Bates

              It does also apply to criminal courts, not just civil cases.  So if, for example; a group stoned someone, and the victim’s family agreed then they could take the case to a Sharia Law court.  The court would likely say something like “oh, well they stoned this woman who has premarital sex, and the Koran says the punishment is death, the the mob was correct.  goodbye.”  That is the worst part, since the government loses the ability to press criminal charges if the victim or family takes it to a Sharia court. 
              The Beth Din courts do work slightly differently in that they only deal with civil cases, not criminal ones.   Not that I’m saying it is good that those religious courts exist.  They should both go, but one is clearly worse than the other.

            • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

              Oh wow o.o I really did not know that. So the real problem is that people agreeing to arbitrate using a Sharia court don’t understand they have any alternative and are probably being pressured into agreeing, rather than giving true consent. (I said in my first comment they should really be educating Muslim women about the actual authority Sharia has, not trying to outright ban it.)I did find that an amendment to prohibit discrimination based on gender in the Arbitration Act was being put forward in June 2011. This and other parts of the amendments I do agree with. I don’t think outright banning Sharia is right or even possible.    “6A Discriminatory terms of arbitration    No part of an arbitration agreement or process shall expressly or implicitly provide—    (a) that the evidence of a man is worth more than the evidence of a woman, or vice versa,    (b) that the division of an estate between male and female children on intestacy must be unequal,    (c) that women should have fewer property rights than men, or vice versa, or    (d) for any other term that constitutes discrimination on the grounds of sex.”http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/arbitrationandmediationservicesequalityhl.html

  • Terry

    I only became aware of the work of Maryam Namazie and the One Law for All Campaign about six months ago, tough she has been active much longer.  Very impressed.  Import that we have people like her fighting to help the muslim women victims of this religion and to promote the cause secularism at the same time.
    Thank you Maryam!

  • Daniel H.

    “Like cigarettes, religion should come with a health warning: Religion kills.”Nice bit of froth. The two deadliest regimes in history were secular (Soviet Russia and Maoist China). And what is “religion” anyway? A category that would lump together a Mormon missionary, a Satanist who does child sacrifice, a jihad bomber, and a Buddhist monk is a meaningless category.

    • Peter Mahoney

      All the religions you mention DO have a commonality. They all encourage belief in extraordinary/supernatural things despite there being no reliable evidence to warrant such belief.  (Whether that’s an angel named Moroni, or a demon named Lucifer, or a god named Allah, or reincarnation/karma, etc.)

      Thus, they all warp the mind into thinking that doing do is a good way to approach life.  Personally, I think that is a limited and dangerous way to live life or to encourage in a society.

      • Daniel H.

        Well, I don’t know what “doing do” means. And I’m certainly not convinced that secularism is any less dangerous than any religion – whether you’re measuring “danger” in terms of body count or by some other standard. Secularism has no choice but to view humans as an accidental and inconsequential cosmic by-product. That’s a recipe for disaster.

        • Dan

          Really? I’m getting so disappointed in arguments like this. That one has been debunked so many times over. It’s note even a challenge anymore, are there any good religious debaters that actually have reasonable positions that require debate?

        • Hazor

          He probably meant “doing so.” I mean no insult, but a moment’s contemplation on that might’ve revealed it.

          Accidental? Sure. Inconsequential? I fail to see how. Humans can and do, for example, influence the whole world’s ecosystem. Simply originating within nature instead of supernaturally does not necessarily mean that humans must be seen as having no value – I might point out secular humanists.

          Further, Soviet Russia and Maoist China were not deadly because they were secular, they were deadly because of poor political policy. Secularism and socialism are independent concepts and there are many religious socialists. Christian socialism is fairly well-represented in the western world. Lastly, I might point out Nazi Germany as a counterexample of a deadly regime lead by a Christian.

          • Daniel H.

            “Accidental? Sure. Inconsequential? I fail to see how. Humans can and do,
            for example, influence the whole world’s ecosystem. Simply originating
            within nature instead of supernaturally does not necessarily mean that
            humans must be seen as having no value – I might point out secular
            humanists.”

            I didn’t say they have to *be seen* as having no value, but they they literally and objectively have value. They are an unconscious accident. Secular humanists might be fine and dandy, but there’s nothing about secularism that requires humanism.

            “Further, Soviet Russia and Maoist China were not
            deadly because they were secular, they were deadly because of poor
            political policy.”

            Ok, then Christian regimes were not deadly because they were Christian. This has been my point.

            “Lastly, I might point out Nazi
            Germany as a counterexample of a deadly regime lead by a Christian.”

            Sure. Show me where anything Hitler did was consistent with Christian discipleship. 

            • Anonymous

              Sigh… we really ought to have a FAQ to deal with the trite refuted-to-hell-and-back arguments that we keep seeing ad nauseum since this blog moved to patheos. In the meantime I’ll cut and paste from an unofficial FAQ I wrote some time ago.

              Q: Hitler and Stalin were atheists, and they killed millions. Doesn’t that prove that atheism is an evil philosophy?

              A: Hitler was definitely not an atheist. He was a devout (if not exactly mainstream) Christian, and was embraced as such by both the Vatican and the German churches to the end of his life. The German churches held special services every year on Hitler’s birthday. The SS wore belt buckles with the words “Gott mit uns” (God with us). “Mein Kampf” is saturated with religious language, for example, “In persecuting the Jews we are completing the work of the Lord left unfinished by Jesus Christ”. Atheists were among those persecuted by the Nazis, and “The Origin of Species” was on a list of books burned by them.

              Hitler’s anti-Semitism can be traced directly back to Martin Luther, who wrote a notorious document, “On the Jews and their Lies”, which advocated many elements of the “Final Solution” – Jews should have to wear special clothing in public to distinguish them, they should be evicted from their homes and concentrated in ghettoes, their businesses should be confiscated and their synagogues destroyed, and so on – centuries before the Nazis took power, let alone before Charles Darwin wrote “The Origin of Species”.

              Stalin may have been an atheist, but he was primarily a megalomaniac who instinctively tried to eliminate anything he perceived as a threat to his absolute power. He didn’t kill people because he was an atheist, but because he wanted to remove them as threats. He reached an agreement with the Russian Orthodox Church in 1943, after which he ceased to persecute it, and it strictly avoided challenging him. In fact, later communist leaders, just like the Czars before them, found the Russian Orthodox Church a useful ally in enforcing conformity of thought and behavior.

              Finally, Stalin didn’t kill millions of people single handedly. He had a vast army, and the majority of soldiers would have been peasants who continued to be devout believers. Russia has a long history of brutal and autocratic leaders using their armies ruthlessly to amass and maintain power – whether they are religious or not doesn’t seem to have made much difference to their morality.

              ” Ok, then Christian regimes were not deadly because they were Christian. This has been my point.”

              That doesn’t follow. Communism is primarily about economics and atheism is incidental to it. If atheism can be a component of both extreme-left communism and extreme-right Randian objectivism, then it seems foolish to equate it with communism. But christianity is central to christian regimes or at best a very useful tool for the leaders to get the population willing to wage war against the infidel. Not every war involving religious differences is a holy war – there may be ethnic and power differences, as in Northern Ireland – but christianity, like any religion, really has nothing to do with morality and is primarily about tribalism. Casualties of war may be larger today in absolute numbers, due to more powerful technology, but religious wars of the past often killed a higher percentage of the population. The Hundred Years War, which was explicitly about religion, killed between half and two thirds of the population of Germany.

              • Daniel H.

                “Q: Hitler and Stalin were atheists, and they killed millions. Doesn’t that prove that atheism is an evil philosophy?”

                Not what I asked or what I suggested.

                • Kevin Bates

                  In the sentence before: “In the meantime I’ll cut and paste from an unofficial FAQ I wrote some time ago.”  Your demand *is* distinct from the question Hugh stated, however his answer is still valid.

                  He addresses several points which address your original demand to show that anything Hitler did was consistent with Christian beliefs.

                  I fully expect that you will come back with something along the lines of “Ah, but you’ve constructed a straw-man of my argument, for I said ‘Christian discipleship,’ you’ve only addressed religious beliefs held by Martin Luthor (who is the founder of Protestantism, the most common form of Christianity in the United States). The people who spread spread Christianity and lived thousands of years ago are completely separate from the people who spread Christianity and lived hundreds of years ago. Clearly I won this argument.”  Which you are welcome to do, I suppose.  

                  You’ve already demonstrated that you are incapable of reading the points that someone brings up in a discussion.  You have harped on someone misquoting you, though he never claimed to.  You have harped on a typo, because one letter was displaced.  You have brought up new points before addressing your opponent’s point.  You have done all of these things, and still people are willing to listen to your points of views and discuss them.  I suppose you should thank god that atheists don’t stone people to death…

                  PS: I also like the fact that you picked the only two militant secular societies as ‘the most deadly.’  By choosing to ignore world conquering societies like Greece lead by Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Medieval European nations, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, or another number of other ancient societies in which all enemies were killed, dissenters were hung, and nearly all of the nation worked as slaves or serfs until they died you have clearly made your point.  Way to make up statistics, such as “most deadly” without any proof, numbers, or data to back it up.


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