By Maryam Namazie

Azar Majedi and Homa Arjomand’s recent criticisms of feminists, secularists and ex-Muslims under the guise of defending the Palestinian people are worrying given their use of Islamist and pro-Islamist Left propaganda.

Their statement ‘Genocide in Gaza: Where does the Women’s Rights Movement stand?’ rightly condemns genocide but has not one word condemning Hamas and the Islamist movement. (Whilst I agree with it in general, I refused to sign because of this glaring omission.)

This position, which sees US-led militarism as the greater threat and therefore only focus, is particularly disturbing coming from women’s rights campaigners and communists who have struggled against the Islamic regime of Iran for decades.

Though they pay lip service to the third pole, representing humanity, vis-a-vis two poles of international terrorism: US-led state and Islamic (as laid out by Mansoor Hekmat in The World After September 11), in effect, they dismiss Islamism’s role in the suppression and the right-wing restructuring of societies. And they do so with language that has been used against the Left, working class and progressive movements in Iran and the Middle East for decades.

For example, in criticising Mina Ahadi’s call to protest Islamism after an attack in Manheim, Germany, Azar uses scaremongering and deception to make her points. She says an ‘Iranian Leftist’ (meaning Mina) has called for an ‘anti-Islamic jihad’ ‘eight months after a genocide that continues’ (far-Right language not used by Mina). She says this call to protest is preparing the ground ‘for anti-Muslim pogroms,’ ‘Muslim ghettos’ and ‘ovens that this time will be used to burn Muslims.’ (starting at 11:12 minutes). This shocking language is directly from the literary arsenal of the Islamists.

And even worse, in the same video, Azar completely denies the threat of Islamism as she rhetorically asks: ‘Is the Islamic movement really a threat in Europe? Has it really threatened anyone?’ (5:50 minutes). She then lists threats such as the restrictions on freedoms and democratic rights, war mongering, poverty… (as if we cannot have more than one threat in society at any given time). She adds: ‘These are dangers, not Islamic terrorism,’ which she goes on to say is supported by western governments. 

She continues ‘Is the Islamic regime really carrying out terrorist activities in Europe now? Is it mad? It must maintain itself. They will bomb it and destroy it. It is suicide for it.’ (10:48 minutes) This despite the fact that the regime’s terrorist activities in Europe against the opposition are well documented.

Whilst Azar rightly criticises the far-Right and anti-Muslim bigotry, she repeats the tired mantra that criticism of Islam and Islamism adds fire to the fascist movement. (Where does that leave criticism of our Islamist fascists then? Are we to remain silent? Are only white fascists cause for concern? And if we stop criticising Islam and Islamism, will that end the rise of the far-Right. If so, countries with blasphemy laws would not have far-Right movements.) 

Azar says this call to protest against Islamism ‘should be read as anti-Muslim, since no ordinary person can make a distinction between Islamists and Muslims’ (2:40 minutes)! This is absurd. It is as if to say that ordinary people cannot make a distinction between Christians and the Klu Klux Klan, English Defence League, or National Front so one must stop criticism of white nationalists. Isn’t this the very accusation of ‘Islamophobia’ that we have battled for many decades? How many times have we said that criticism of the religious-Right and religion are not the same as attacking people? How many times have we said that we cannot excuse the religious-Right because of racism, nor excuse racism because of the religious-Right?

In an interview with Partow TV, when asked to further explain her position that Islamism is not a threat, Azar says that she meant that there is no threat in Europe from Islamic terrorism and the Islamic regime of Iran. It’s in the region or in Africa that they are threats. (If they are threats in the region, why are Hamas and Islamism not mentioned in the statement ‘Genocide in Gaza: Where does the Women’s Rights Movement stand’?)

In the interview, she goes on to say that those critical of her views have bought into Israeli and Western propaganda and want to ‘link Hamas and the Israeli genocide in order to ignore a clear genocide.’ (starts at 12:34) Apparently those critical of her views are silent on genocide when the issue at hand is her silence on Islamism’s role and crimes, including in destroying the Palestinian movement for self-determination and liberation.

At the end of the interview, she takes aim at ex-Muslims. It is important to note here that the ex-Muslim movement is a civil rights one, calling for an end to blasphemy and apostasy laws and insisting on the right to freedom of conscience and thought, the right to be non-believers and criticise religion without threats and fear. On this Azar says ‘unfortunately, there are some whose anti-religious activities is only to provoke, constantly provoke Muslim people.’ (31:52 minutes)

She goes on to say that this doesn’t happen to other religious groups. Her example is a shocking anti-Semitic trope usually promoted by the likes of Hamas, the Islamic regime of Iran and conspiracy theorists. She says even though, for example, the NY police found ‘blood and that children have been sacrificed,’ the news about their ‘eating babies’ blood’ in an underground tunnel linked to a Synagogue was censored (32:09 minutes). These allegations of blood libel originate in the Middle Ages when Jews were falsely accused of ritualised murder, in particular of children, so as to legitimise violence against them. See fact-check on the Synagogue incident here.

Any Left political personality should face a political scandal for the articulation of these outrageous right wing views but apparently, any nonsense can be uttered on a Left wing TV programme and not challenged once.

She then goes on to say she is in favour of unconditional freedom of expression BUT (the famous BUT) ‘don’t provoke people, don’t go in front of a mosque and drink alcohol’ (34:13 minutes). Again, Azar relies on deception. Our fast-defying annual actions are designed to highlight the repressive nature of theocratic states against citizens who are coerced to fast. It follows from an action that was first carried out in 2010 in Morocco by the group Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (M.A.L.I.). 

In fact, we at the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) always go in front of embassies, not mosques. This year, we had RUMadan in front of the embassies of the Islamic regime of Iran, Pakistan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia to condemn the persecution of people for defying fasting rules. She deceptively portrays our political action as provocation against Muslims when in fact many Muslims are also persecuted for eating and drinking during Ramadan. Again, Azar uses Islamist language and morality to make her point. Women defying hijab rules, those transgressing sex apartheid, those who become atheists, etc are always considered provocateurs and punished with the full severity of Sharia. Blurring the distinction between Islamists and Muslims is in actuality another far-Right position made both by Islamists and white nationalists, albeit for different reasons, to scaremonger people into embracing their politics of hate.

In any case, Azar should know that provocation is an important way for the powerless to open spaces, break taboos, force conversations and demand change. But the fundamental question remains, who is provoking whom? Is drinking in front of an embassy provocation or the persecution and murder of those who defy Sharia rules?

Azar’s use of Islamist language is so blatant that she has even been quoted positively in Mashregh, a media outlet of the Islamic regime. The quote from an interview on Ru Dar Ru with Mahmood Ahmadi is telling.

In response to those ‘feminists and secularists’ who did not speak at her online conference on where the women’s rights movement stands on Gaza, she says what the regime and Islamists have always said about women’s rights and secularist organisations; she also throws in an anti-Semitic trop against Soros, who is the bogeyman of the far-Right, for good measure. She says:

‘Some replied negatively because the funds they get from western governments or western foundations will be in danger if they speak about Israel and they will lose their funds…’ (from 7:18 minutes)

‘Some didn’t attend because they want to maintain their organisations that are reliant on western governments and democracy organisations like Soros, which gives money to a lot of secular and women’s groups in the region and effectively makes them corrupt… This is the cause for their silence.’ (From 32:45 minutes)

Which organisations Azar? Why not list them and expose their ‘corruption?’

Whilst I am here, I would be remiss not to mention an article penned by her comrade Homa Arjomand critical of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) for organising a Celebrating Dissent conference ‘during a genocide’. Homa should know that we have organised conferences since 2008 (she has spoken at some) and that it takes more than a year to organise the largest gathering of ex-Muslims world-wide to defend the rights to apostasy, blasphemy and free expression (especially since these are punishable by death in countries under Islamic laws).

Since then, our conferences, CEMB and One Law for All have criticised all religions and all religious right movements, including Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist-Right, and Sikh. See manifestos and conference discussions here. Also, we have worked for years against the far-Right, racism, xenophobia, against anti-Muslim bigotry… See for example our reports: Enemies not Allies: The Far-Right and Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left.

But I suppose when one relies on deception and Islamist language and morality (Homa also says we ‘drink alcoholic drinks in front of places attributed to Muslims’), facts don’t matter. As long as criticism of Islam and Islamism can be vilified and discouraged.

I am curious; did Homa also write a piece criticising Pride for holding its annual Gay Pride, or refugee rights groups for organising around International Refugee Day ‘during a genocide?’ Or is her ire only for those who criticise Islam and Islamism?

This is neither here nor there but she laughably mentions ‘prophet’ Richard Dawkins and his position on Christianity and Judaism as if all atheists think alike. Muslims, ex-Muslims, atheists are not homogenous. Ex-Muslims and atheists are linked in protest for civil rights, not identity or politics and opinion. I vehemently disagree with Dawkin’s position on Christianity. I have said it many times before, religion must come with a health warning: it kills. I also disagree with his calling Ayaan Hirsi Ali a hero when she is promoting the Christian-Right and neo-conservatism, but yes, shock, horror, we are both atheists. Grouping people to ‘expose’ them is no different again than what the far-Right does. An Islamist demands Sharia law, therefore all Muslims and those who look ‘foreign’ don’t have proper values, and ergo, they must all be deported to Rwanda or pushed back into the sea.

Of course, a lot more could be said to expose the goldmine of deceptions, smoke screens and tired old arguments but this should suffice to show how Homa Arjomand, Azar Majedi and their comrades have now firmly joined the camp of the Pro-Islamist Left and are diminishing and ignoring the threat of Islamism as a right-wing tool of suppression and restructuring in the Middle East and globally.

If they would care to see what a principled position on the genocide in Gaza and Hamas’ terrorism looks like, I would recommend Feminist Dissent’s Statement on the Genocide in Gaza and Bread and Roses programme on the Israeli state genocide and Hamas’ terrorism.

Azar Majedi says history will be the judge. Indeed it will.


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