‘Ex-Muslim’ group bats away Islamophobia claims ahead of Pride in London march

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A secular group called the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) has batted away accusations of Islamophobia before it takes to the streets this weekend at Pride in London.

The group, made up of “non-believers, atheists, and ex-Muslims”, is one of the official parade groups for this year’s Pride march, which takes place tomorrow.

Although Pride is already regularly attended by openly Muslim LGBT groups every year, the group hopes to protest in favour of LGBT Muslims, LGBT people in Muslim countries, and also draw parallels between the LGBT rights and “ex-Muslim” movements.

CEMB at Pride

Co-founder of CEMB Maryam Namazie told PinkNews: “One of the problems is the use of this term ‘Islamophobia’.

“It gives the impression that criticism of Islam or the political Islamic movement or Islamic State is akin to bigotry and racism. What we’re saying is that it isn’t. We’re obviously opposed to bigotry ourselves.

“We need to stand up to racism and bigotry and at the same time we should be able to criticise religion and the religious right… people should be allowed to criticise without threat or intimidation.”

Challenged on the provocative term “ex-Muslims”, she noted that ex-Catholic, ex-Jehovah’s Witness and ex-Jewish groups exist.

Namazie added: “When you can be killed for leaving Islam, for renouncing it, for criticising it, it’s important to say what you are as a way of challenging those that want to see you dead.

“It’s very comparable to the gay rights movement and to the demand for LGBT rights.

“People would say, ‘It’s your sexuality, it’s your business, why are you coming out into the street and putting it in everyone’s face? Why can’t you just privately be gay?’.

“The point is if you’re discriminated against, if you can be killed for it then coming out is a form of resistance, it has to be done as a way of challenging the status quo.”

She said: “There are a lot of us who don’t want to be Muslim but we’re not able to say that openly because of the threat – It’s punishable by death in 13 countries – 14 if you include Islamic State territories.

“There are a lot of people born and raised in this country who are pretending to be Muslims when they’re not – if you want to defend the right to religion you also have to defend the right to be free from religion.”

The group’s Pride Parade organiser Daniel Fitzgerald added: “What what we see time as again is many well-meaning white liberals round on and attack some of our members and even call them Islamophobes and racists.

“Hello! They’re not white. Toronto Pride had a largely Iranian group of people from Muslim heritage – some were ex-Muslim, some still identified as Muslim, and quite a few were refugees as well.”

He added: “They were rounded on by antifa and accused of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Muslim bigotry. The response was that they’re from the Middle East! They’re refugees!

Related: London LGBT Pride Parade 2017: Parade route, travel advice, start and finish time, celebrities and more

“Salman, who was one of the main organisers for the group there, said, ‘Why don’t you ever argue the case for gay Muslims in Islamic countries, you never, ever flag up that’.”

Asked if mainstream Muslim thought would echo the shift in that of other major religions and move towards greater acceptance of LGBT people and LGBT rights, Namazie said: “If there is any positive change it’s because of a challenge that has taken place.

“We talk about how gay rights have been normalised in this country to a certain extent, but it’s been fought for tooth and nail, hasn’t it?

“It hasn’t been handed over. The Anglican Church hasn’t said, ‘Everybody’s equal and we agree with it’. They’re still trying to push for their own position whether they can.”