In September 2011, I spoke at a meeting on Sharia law in Copenhagen, Denmark organised by the Danish atheists. The discussion was on sharia law but as in most talks on the issue, I also dealt extensively with the far-Right, the racist scapegoating and blaming of immigrants and Muslims for the crimes of Islamism and also the pathetic excuse of a pro-Islamist left who sides with Islamism at the expense of the population at large…

It’s a long video but it does deal with a lot of issues that are crucial in the debate against sharia law and Islamism.

After a 20 minutes or so speech, I start responding to questions and comments…



  1. “the pathetic excuse of a pro-Islamist left who sides with Islamism at the expense of the population at large…”

    This is limited to parts of Europe, isn’t it? None of the left-leaning people I know here in the US are pro-Islamist or even have a favorable opinion of Islam (of course, most people on the left I know are also atheist or agnostic, so maybe that’s the reason).

  2. There’s a lot of things I’d like to comment on and get your input, but for the moment I’ll restrict myself to the problem of the Burka.
    I totally agree with your assesion of the burka as a mobile prison, but I think it must not be illegal to wear.
    Apart from those bans being the cheap scores populist governments earn on the backs of the weakest members of society, my reason is this:
    Although, of course, those women have the legal right to leave the huse without it, we also know that it’s not easy.
    They may not be aware of their rights, they may be caught in the psychology of an abuse victim.
    I think it’s reasonable to assume that there will be a portion of women who will therefore not leave the house or their narrow community anymore, and I think we can assume that those are the most opressed and most abused women.
    But those are also the women I want out of the house, in contact with free society the most, showing them their possibilities.
    If prohibiting their mobile prison means that they’ll be confined to a solid one, how are we going to reach those women and help them?

    1. I disagree. It is a matter of public safety. If it is nt banned any common Criminal can hide in plain sight.

      1. Criminals can already hide in plain sight. Unless you want to outlaw hoods, hats, sunglasses, scarves… There are too many other forms of clothing that conceal the identity of the wearer for this to form a coherent objection to the wearing of hijabs, burqas and so on. If you want to ban the veil, you need to argue for that from a more honest position, such as from a feminist position.

        Personally I detest the niqab and similar garments. I would discourage women from wearing them, but I think that an outright ban goes too far toward curtailing personal freedoms in a way that Maryam’s arguments against Sharia courts do not.

  3. Hello Maryam,

    You talk about Enlightenment as a solution, but what has it become in Europe?

    The masses in Europe only get to watch political debates on TV, which only care about ratings and not the debate itself.
    Politicians therefore show up on those TV programs with specific political marketing strategies: right-wing using fear and moderate parties using hope (of change). Hopes and fears have nothing to do with reasoning and rationality.

    So what kind of Enlightenment could we bring to help out when we gave up Reason in favor of Marketing Communication in Europe ?

  4. I very much enjoyed your talk. I thought I might make a brief point about hate crime legislation, which is that in some situations it can be beneficial; the implementation makes a big difference.

    In the United States, the First Amendment has prevented any hate crime legislation that addresses speech alone; a “hate crime” refers only to activity that would have been criminal anyway, but is more harshly punished because it. I understand that this is different from many other countries, including Canada and several European countries, where “hate speech” is more likely to be criminalized.

    In our case, there are three very major benefits to these laws. Firstly, it has allowed federal investigation into crimes that would otherwise go unpunished (due to local police corruption or bigotry). Secondly, it has encouraged a crackdown against groups that attempt to systematically terrorize minorities. Thirdly, these laws have made it easier to track and study these crimes of prejudice.

    I think these laws can be justified due to the history of pogroms and lynchings against African-Americans, and due to recent history of Christian law enforcement discriminating against gays and lesbians, which are situations under which some groups were not effectively protected by the law. (Anti-gay and anti-Jewish hate crimes greatly outnumber those against Muslims in the U.S.)

    I don’t know that I would support these laws if they included “hate speech”, or if they were suggested in circumstances where they would not act to counteract police corruption; I might therefore not support these laws in much of Europe. But I thought I would point out some of the complexities behind these issues.

    1. I don’t oppose hate speech. Freedom of speech is for everyone including bigots. Let them speak, deny the holocaust, say what they will and we too though have a right to speak and express ourselves and discredit them. You can’t ban ideas. they need to be in the open so you can challenge them.

      1. I think we are in agreement on that point. I was simply stating my thoughts after I heard your brief comment in the video.

      2. how to challenge ideas when most people get their debates from TV which generates more logical fallacies / Public Relations propaganda / Fear mongering and smear campaigns than anything else (about immigration/religion)?

        what i mean is most people don’t attend those conferences so hate speech isn’t really challenged … hence the rise of right-wing all over Europe.

    2. It would seem to me that harassment and incitement would be the “activity that would have been criminal anyway” in cases of hate crimes that don’t involve outright violence.

      Free speech also includes freedom to respond and criticise, so just printing something offensive isn’t really a big deal. It’s when its clearly intentionally used to endanger a specific group that we might need to worry.

      1. That’s a fair observation. My concern was more about laws prohibiting “defamation” against groups, which can be interpreted so broadly that it impinges upon legitimate criticism.

        I also think that in some cases, “incitement to hatred” and “incitement to violence” get confused. I think the first term is too vague, but the second term makes it clear that there’s a distinction between hateful beliefs and violent actions.

        Again, I think this is one of the few areas in which American law has gotten it right. You are allowed to stand on the street corner and talk about how much you hate any group or practice, but you are not allowed to make statements encouraging others to attack them, nor are you protected if you incite a mob or riot where your audience is clearly already on the verge of violent behavior.

        1. Oh, and threats as well. You can’t threaten or intimidate people, and “intimidation” is covered by hate crimes legislation in the U.S. as well. It is already illegal to make death threats, but it’s an additional offense to do so on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, etc. This harkens back to incidents where African Americans were threatened to keep them away from the polls and from predominately white schools.

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