Maryam Namazie on Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression in the Age of ISIS

For those of you who are not familiar with Maryam Namazie she is an activist for secularism and human rights. This particular speech, which was given at the invitation of Goldsmith’s, University of London’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, came to my attention because Maryam was heckled and interrupted by members of the university’s Islamic Society. For those of you who are following the freedom of speech issue as calls for censorship rise, might be interested in this event since Maryam has been accused of harassing the hecklers, invading their safe space and being an “Islamophobe.” I’ve met Maryam in person and she is a lovely, gentle, soft-spoken, warm woman. The idea that anyone might find her threatening in any sense of the term as it’s normally understood is totally laughable. It is only her words and her ideas that are threatening.

Besides the disruptions, many people will be interested in hearing the content of the talk. In comment threads in the past few weeks, I’ve seen many people struggle with the difference between opposing Islamism, a political ideology, criticizing Islam, a religion which is appropriate to discuss critically but would be wrong to try to suppress, and anti-Muslim bigotry, which I expect most people will view as wrong. For those struggling with the difference between those things, I think Maryam’s talk will be very helpful.

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9 comments
  1. Ideas are a threat to the status quo. Anyone who represents a new idea that seeks to challenge the norm has always been treated harshly

    • fojap said:

      I just added a few extra lines.

      Also, opposing people in power is treated very harshly. That is the odd thing about the left siding with the Islamists. At one point Maryam points out that Islamism is well organized and well funded. Even when people think military action is not a good solution, I can’t see why anyone would say that arguments should not be deployed.

      • Now that I have finally watched the video, I keep asking why would someone attend a talk with an express intention of disrupting the speaker throughout?

      • fojap said:

        They are opposed to her political views and want to silence her. They don’t want anyone to hear her.

      • I think that is being quite immature

    • fojap said:

      By the way, what do you think of this situation. You’re in Africa. As I see it, the recent attacks in the U.S. and Europe are just a distant edge of a broader conflict, much of which is happening in Africa. I know you think the KDF should get out of Somalia, but do you think attacks in Kenya would end? I see a suicide bomber just killed some people in Chad at a market. What are your opinions on this?

      I keep trying to tell people that most people killed by Islamist Terrorism are Muslims in Muslim majority countries. I sort of know that people tend to center their thoughts on their own countries, but over the past few days I’ve come to realize just how insulated some Americans are. Some one actually said, “They don’t attack in countries like Malaysia.” I couldn’t believe that she named Malaysia. Hello? Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country that has a history of tensions. And if someone doesn’t know there’s always Wikipedia. The keeps me from writing lots of ignorant stuff. You don’t want to know how many times I started typing and thought, “Let me double check that…”

      • In a way, all this conflicts seem so distant. When there is an explosion in Somali, one feels like it is the norm.

        Once I had a talk with a fellow in the army and he insinuated that KDF was doing good work keeping us safe by being in Somali. I honestly don’t know how true this is. I think the KDF should withdraw from Somali not that this will reduce the attacks but so the government can focus on securing the porous borders. Our biggest threat to security is corruption. Anyone can buy their way into the country. If they can’t deal with this, it doesn’t matter if the whole army moved into Somali.

        I think more that 60% of the victims of the acts of violence by Muslims are Muslims. But I think this is lost to so many people. I don’t see a solution to this problem.

      • fojap said:

        Long term, I think the ideology that justifies the terrorism will only subside when it is replaced by another ideology. Although it’s probably a grotesque generalization, it looks to me like in the post-colonial world various forms of nationalism coupled with either communist or neo-liberal ideas have failed to provide a stable, prosperous environment for people and, at least in the Muslim world, people have turned to Islamism for a solution. I don’t know if the less violent forms of Islamism can provide a real solution. Ultimately, only a new political vision that is more convincing will solve the problem.

        In the short run, however, we are burdened with how to minimize the harm. The Garissa University attack seemed especially horrific.

        How to reform corruption? That’s a tough one. Like any crime, it can’t ever be eliminated, but it has been reduced in times and places.

        How well are your police and border guards paid? I once read that under paid police lead to corruption because they are more easily bribed.

      • You will find this laughable; a few years ago, a commission was set up to look into MPs pay and make recommendations to the parliamentary service commission. Among other things, they said because MPs were lowly paid, they were easily corruptible. The result, their salaries were increased astronomically, did this change a thing? Nothing.
        Yes, our police are badly paid. I also think most of them are really stupid. Whenever other government employees strike or any other such thing for better pay, the police are on the streets with teargas breaking up demonstrations.
        I do think the only way to a peaceful coexistence is to have a more equitable world. Monotheist religions will also learn to live peacefully with other gods. They must stop thinking that only their god, their book and their interpretation is the right one

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