Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Rally against Sharia Law 20th June 2010.

Posted in Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on July 1, 2010

“One Law for All” rally on Whitehall.

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20th June 2010.

I was there at the demo joining the One Law for All group with Maryam Namazie.  Maryam used to be ceremonies training coordinator at the British Humanist Association. Denis Cobell and the intrepid Barbara Smoker, aged 87, were there. (Both of them were honoured by Andrew, Chief Executive and Tana, Ceremonies Coordinator of the BHA at the Jubilee Celebration of Lewisham Humanist Group on the Thursday 17th June 2010 at Lewisham Town Hall where I did my Sheela-na-Gig and Billy Jenkins, fellow celebrant and nephew of the ex-Bishop of Durham, sang some blues.)

This is from the One Law for All website: ”This rally was called to coincide with the publication of a new report “Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights”. Human rights activist Gita Sahgal said of the report: “I think it is highly significant that in Britain there has been silence where there should have been condemnation. There is active support for ‘Sharia laws’ precisely because it is limited to denying women rights in the family. No hands are being cut off, so there can’t be a problem. Unfortunately for us, senior law officers will find that human rights expert bodies often have a similar attitude. They have done little research on the impact of family laws and the denial of justice caused by parallel systems of justice. That is why the findings of this report are so important. It is such dedicated work that changes the thinking of the experts.”

HERE I AM WITH THE PLACARD HOLDER SPLITTING MY FACE IN HALF!

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She went on to say: “This campaign stands at the heart of a debate over the future of Britain. It also stands at the heart of global attempts to destroy the most basic rights, to invade liberty and to crush equality and to do this in the name of upholding and promoting human rights. We stand here today facing down forces of racism and fundamentalism as we struggle for secularism.”

The pro-Sharia Al-Muhajiroun organised a counter-demonstration to the One Law for All rally. One of their members said: “We find many of these people who call for human rights and one law. They come and they say that they want equality. But what equality do you get when one man legislates over another?” In response, One Law for All Spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, said: “The fight against Sharia law is a fight against Islamism not Muslims, immigrants and people living under Sharia here or elsewhere. So it is very apt for the Islamists to hold a counter-demonstration against our rally. This is where the real battleground lies. With a few members of the far Right English Defence League also there to showcase their bigotry, it became abundantly clear to everyone why our Campaign is fast becoming the banner carrier for universal rights, equality, and one secular law for all in this country and beyond.”

MC Fariborz Pooya of the Iranian Secular Society said: “The One Law for All Campaign has brought to centre stage an important debate about the kind of society we want to live in whilst defending the rights of everyone irrespective of religion, race, nationality…; this Campaign is truly the voice of the voiceless.”

Women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman said: “We Muslims have been a part of the UK for many, many years but the generations before me did not feel the need for or call for segregation in the way that is being demanded now. At the beginning of my career as a women’s rights advocate there was no need to apply for a certificate of Khula in divorce cases. Muslim women are now being told that divorces under the English legal system are not valued or recognised without a certificate of Khula – and should they remarry without this they will be committing Zina – a ‘crime’ punishable by death in many Muslim countries. This is not a view shared by all Islamic scholars but a view that is being pushed through the Islamic councils and tribunals across the UK.”

Anna Waters of One Law for All’s Legal Team said: “Any reasonable interpretation of the Human Rights Act shows us that there are certain things that it doesn’t allow – and one of the things it doesn’t allow is for a woman to have an inferior or second class status when she stands before a judge in a court of law. This is exactly what is happening…”

Sue Robson of the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association said: “This is a human rights issue. Here in the UK, it’s an egalitarian issue; it’s a feminist issue. Elsewhere in our world, the issue is life – and death.”

Gerard Phillips of the National Secular Society said that Sharia Law was “nothing less than an attack on human rights and on equality.” He went on to say: “It undermines our democracy. It must be opposed.”

The rally also heard from others including Naomi Phillips of the British Humanist Association, poets from the Anti-Injustice Movement and singer Adam Barnett.

Protestors then joined a march organised by Iran Solidarity to the embassy of the Islamic regime of Iran. Patty Debonitas of Iran Solidarity UK said: “By coming today you are showing your solidarity with the people here who are victimised under Sharia law and people in Iran who are being victimised under the state power of Sharia.” The rally was held on 20 June to mark the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan at a protest in Tehran last year and link the fight against Sharia here with that in Iran and elsewhere.

A blog about it stated  “One Law For All, the mixed race, cross-party group of all religions and none who campaign against SHARIA LAW held a demonstration yesterday outside Downing Street. Like bees around honey, it drew some attention but repelled others

It drew Islamist Sharia law supporters; it repelled the press. The British press in Britain are not too keen on that blend of honey, it would seem.

There was another Unite Against Fascism demo  FOR SHARIA LAW, and an end to British democracy, in East London, on the 20th June 2010 and the same blog asked:AGAINST WHAT? At the risk of being called “racist”, well of course – I’ve heard that tired old song many times – why are there no British caucasians or seemingly non-Muslims “uniting against fascism”? Why are all these 5,000 or at least most of them of Asian appearance? And why are there no women protesting in this picture? Do female Muslims not fear fascism too?  Do they have plenty of that at home? And have native Brits never had to face fascism? Have we forgotten what it means? What it looks like? Even in its nascent state? Don’t we give a damn?

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The English Defence League, a group of young males resembling a group of football hooligans – all white men except for a token black man, came to protest against the Islamic bunch.  The EDL protestors were bundled into vans by the police who said they had no permission to demonstrate.

Shortly thereafter, a group of protestors carrying “Unite Against Fascism” banners joined the rally. They were all young Muslim men, some very young. It first seemed that those carrying the UAF banners were there to oppose the EDL, until their chanting became clear and one could hear them calling out “Allah Akbar.” The UAF group has denied any association.

A total of four factions protesting in favour of and against the introduction of Sharia law into the UK were represented at the rally on Sunday. Such demonstrations are becoming more and more common on the streets of towns all across the UK.

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I have not been at a rally like this before. It was funny peculiar. There were three all male groups and us. The Islamic fundamentalists were easily identifiable – bearded etc whilst the later bunch were much younger and in western clothes. Some were very young and obviously came looking for some action against the EDL lot. It felt very much testosterone-fuelled which is always uncomfortable and alienating for women.

All this shows up the problem caused by cultural relativism – the way the Muslims now co-opt the language of protest and anti-fascism leaving liberals, women’s groups and the left in disarray on dealing with this threat to human rights and justice.

At this rally we were Humanists, secularists, ex-Muslims, moderate Muslims, women and gay people together – a motley crew, indeed. The reaction to political Islam has been confused and muted. It threw up RESPECT and the maverick George Galloway cosying up to Muslim men and the ex-Bishop of Canterbury supporting Sharia Law in Britain. It is a cock up. This religious influence has to be curtailed and reversed. Whilst Christians, from the Church of England, Catholics  and the evangelicals are feeling a threat from secularisation they are having to embrace Muslims and kowtow to their demands in order to defend their own privileges.

However, many citizens feel uneasy about Muslim encroachment. The xenophobes and fascists lead by the BNP and EDL are always ready to protest. This leaves us with the strangest of bedfellows of which I had a taste on 20th June.

All of us need to come together on this. Humanists are there now, alongside women, and gay people who feel the wrath and power of Islamism and Sharia Law and should be united in fighting for Human Rights in this country, in Islamic countries and globally. That is a no brainer. Feeling queasy about challenging Islamists and those promoting Sharia Law by the left and liberals has to be overcome. They have to stand up and be counted now and their reticence against any accusation of racism has to be confronted just as it does in the fight against Zionism and the worry of being deemed to be anti-Semitic.

This is both a Human Rights issue and taking a stance against the irrational powers of religion. Liberals, the left and trade unionists are being cowardly as they stand by as they can’t seem to able to get interested in this. Is it because the main victims of Sharia law are women and gay people?  We have to keep vigilant on this and persist with remind them. It seems that Humanists will have to lead the way on this.

I have just received statements from candidates wanting to stand for election to the BHA  Board of Trustees. One candidate believes the BHA  will be “ an acknowledged authority on key moral and human rights issues, representing the largest belief group in the country”.

Another candidate wrote: I want to ensure that other non-religious people have support in ‘holding their own’ with pride. We must share our vision that humanist values can create a fairer and more harmonious world.”.

All of them see challenging religious privilege as a main aim of Humanism. This includes religious schools, the law that proclaims school assemblies should be of “a mainly Christian character” the Queen being Supreme Governor of the Church of England as well as being Head of State, Sharia law and the inhumane ritual slaughter of animals. This should be an aim for all reasonable and rational people in a democracy.

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