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We All Lost Afghanistan

As Afghanistan tumbles into Taliban hands, the avalanche of recrimination and outright condemnation of the Biden administration’s withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has become unrelenting. Former National Security Adviser General H. R. McMaster echoed the sentiments of many when he declared that Afghanistan is a “humanity problem on a modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization” and that the United States lacks the will “to continue the effort in the interest of all humanity.”   What is happening is a …

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When bully boys dictate the West’s agenda, Turkey invades Syria with impunity

How can bully boys and aggressors label a resistance movement ‘terrorist’ when the whole question of Turkey’s accession to the EU turned around its democratic deficits? Kurdish women Infiltrate Conservative party HQ in London to highlight plight of besieged city of Afrin.On 19 January, Kurdish people and their supporters stood outside the Turkish embassy in London denouncing Turkey as a fascist state because it had begun cross-border shelling of Afrin, a predominantly Kurdish area, in Northern Syria. An invasion was …

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70 years after partition: is India, like Pakistan, turning to religious extremism?

Pakistani and Indian national flags. Photo: Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.It’s a curious phenomenon: the further Indian independence from Britain recedes into the past, the more attention it receives. It’s as if the British psyche is in greater need of past glories amidst Brexit. The 70th anniversary of Indian independence this year appears to have attracted more attention in the British media than even the 50th. This month’s London Film Festival also nods in this direction with its screening …

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The right to blasphemy: is this the boundary between civilisation and barbarism?

Zineb El Rhazoui at the London conference. Photo: Victoria Gugenheim.In heated debates following the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo, apologists for the violence condemned the ‘racism’ of its cartoons. Staff of the French satirical magazine were frequently presented as part of a white racist left. But how many people knew that – along with an Algerian copy-editor, Mustapha Ourrad – there was a young Moroccan woman, a journalist named Zineb El Rhazoui, on its payroll? This question reeks of the …

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“I don’t want to die because I’m an atheist”: ex-Muslims speak out

Deeyah Khan at the Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in London. Photo: Victoria Gugenheim.While making her documentary Islam’s Non-Believers, award-winning Norwegian filmmaker Deeyah Khan says she came to realise that Maryam Namazie and her group, Council of ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), were plugged into a growing international movement of people leaving Islam, sometimes at great risk to themselves.  Broadcast by ITV last year, and shown at the Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in London last month, …

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Surviving a machete attack: the story of Bangladeshi-American freethinker Bonya Ahmed

Bonya Ahmed. Photo: Ritu Mahendru.“We stand on the right side of history” was the title of the keynote speech given by Bonya Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-American freethinker, at the international Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in London last month. The price she has paid for standing on the right side of history was reflected in her troubled eyes and sliced off thumb, which testified to her own recent experience. In February 2015, Ahmed and her husband, the author Avijit …

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Where is the line between Islam and Islamism?

Public art protest organised by Victoria Gugenheim in solidarity with persecuted freethinkers, at the conference in London. Photo: CEMB.In the ten years of its existence, the Council for Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) has organised annual conferences to draw attention to issues facing ex-Muslims, their status as apostates and blasphemers, the distinction between Islam and Islamism, islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism, the links with other religious fundamentalisms, and religion and women’s rights. To mark CEMB’s tenth anniversary, the international conference on Freedom …

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The politics of nudity as feminist protest – from Ukraine to Tunisia

FEMEN activists. Photo: Jacob Khrist.Such are the risks to some frontline activists who have dared to challenge religious orthodoxies around the world that an international conference on Free Expression and Conscience, 22-23 July, is taking place at an undisclosed venue in central London, the location known only to the participants. One of the keynote speakers, Bonya Ahmed, was attacked by machete and her husband, Avijit Roy, was brutally killed on the crowded streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh because they ran a …

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Brexit: where were women’s voices?

Brexit supporters celebrate the referendum result, 24 June 2016. Photo: Michael Kappeler/PA Images. All rights reserved.When formal Brexit talks began last month, a telling photograph was published of the UK and EU negotiating teams: a dozen or so diplomats are sitting around a table; only two are women. Women’s voices have not been at the fore of Brexit discussions – during the referendum campaign or after the vote. A recent flurry of creative writing and films challenges this dynamic. A …

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