The Unjust Banning of Maryam Namazie

In this day and age, it is not strange anymore to see people from Muslim backgrounds leave Islam and become its vociferous critics. We have Ex-Muslims, Atheist Muslims, Agnostic Muslims, Cultural Muslims and other relative neologisms which pervade Islamic discourse.

Maryam Namazie exists in this particular orbit of Islamic discourse and, in my humble opinion, is contemptuous of Islam. She disguises this contempt very well though, by couching her distaste in an intricate yet artificial dichotomy between politics and religion. However, this veneer does drop from time to time and that is when we can see her true nature as an Islamophobe.

For all my disagreement with her, I FULLY SUPPORT her right to speak freely at Warwick University.

We Muslims must remember one very vital fact – we do not live in a homogenous society. In fact, we never have. Even in our formerly native Muslim lands, we were not all the same. We had the Sunni and Shia divide, for a start. And then we have all sorts of other political persuasions: conservative, liberal, secular. This potent mix often led to sectarian and political conflicts (think Iranian revolution) and goes to show us that Islam – at least after the death of the Prophet – was a subjective construct. Even if we believe the Quran to be divinely inspired which I do, its interpretation is still human.

So should Maryam Namazie be treated any differently than any other of these aforementioned persuasions? One could argue that she belongs to the Islamic spectrum of thought albeit one who dissents from the Islamic tradition and offers Muslims an alternative approach. I would formulate her approach as one which dichotomizes religion and politics. In her speeches, she proposes a perceptive awareness towards the difference between Islam the religion and Islamism the political expression. While she has no problem with the religion of Islam since it is an expression of personal belief, she considers Islamism to be a modern inquisition.

I do not like the term ‘Islamism’ because it does not qualify what Maryam refers to as a form of Islam. I prefer the term ‘Islamofascism’ which I define as a strain within the Islamic tradition that practices systematic oppression. Beyond that, it certainly would be difficult for us to argue with her about the nature of Islamism as she defines it. Sovereign states like Saudi Arabia and Iran actually do practice Sharia laws which exact draconian measures on apostates, adulterers and thieves. Not only that, but there are now groups like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS which actually go beyond such barbarisms and reportedly practise sexual jihad which actually entice British Muslims to join. These organizations are nothing less than a threat to global peace.

However, it would be remiss for us not to address Maryam’s own Islamophobia. In one of her speeches, she claims that what ISIS practices is the actual Islam without any inhibition. She then goes on in the very same speech to say that religious expressions of Islam pick and choose from the religion (i.e. does not practice the violent bits) and the goodness which Muslims display is their humanity shining forth (rather than inspired by their faith). These statements are very deceptive trick on her part and I must say that she is way off the mark.

Muslims who eschew the barbaric practices of Sharia law often have explanations for their rejection. Speaking for myself, I find such laws to be against not only the spirit of the Quran but its very letters. I find the proponents of Sharia law to be rejectors of the Quranic notion of freedom of conscience and expression and also its rules on privacy. Rejecting Sharia law is not a compromise of my faith at all but rather a ratification of it. Maryam’ oversimplifying analysis merely feeds into Islamophobic sentiments by suggesting to the wider public that Muslims who reject Sharia law are picking and choosing from their religion. We are not. We simply do not see it as part of our faith. Why does Marym, a strong advocate of freedom, not allow us to formulate our faith for ourselves but does so on our behalf?

Having said the above, I still stand for Maryam’s right to speak at Warwick University. I feel that her concerns are genuine and that the arguments she puts forth should be discussed in an open forum. The university’s student union should not fear offending its Muslim students. If at all they are offended, they should learn to acclimatize themselves to criticism. At worst, simply don’t attend the event. Ideally, I would expect them to attend and to have a productive conversation with her. Being a rational atheist, she should be more than willing to do that. Our problems will not go away by silencing dissent but rather furthering the conversation.

About Farouk A. Peru
I am a human being in the world, blogging my existence. My thought systems may be found in my website: www.farouk.name

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