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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Campaigner For Women’s Rights In Islamic Countries

10 October 2005
Campaigner For Women’s Rights In Islamic Countries
Is Named “Secularist Of The Year”
Maryam Namazie, inveterate campaigner for the rights of women and refugees in Islamic countries was named as the winner of the inaugural Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year last Saturday.
Maryam Namazie was given a standing ovation as she was presented with the £5,000 prize by Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee.
Introducing Maryam, Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society which organised the event, said: “'Maryam is an inveterate commentator and broadcaster on human rights, secularism, religion, political Islam and many other related topics. The present revival of Islam has heightened interest in Maryam’s work, and at last her writings are gaining a mainstream audience. She has spoken at numerous conferences and written extensively on women’s rights issues, particularly violence against women.”
In her acceptance speech, Namazie acknowledged Mansoor Hekmat’s role in inspiring an entire generation of secularists and spoke of the rise of the political Islamic movement and its attempts to silence opposition using Human Rights language. She went on to say: “We need an uncompromising and shamelessly aggressive demand for secularism but again this is only a minimum if we are to ensure that human values are safeguarded and that the human being is put first and foremost. Today, more than ever, we are in need of the complete de-religionisation of society as well.”
Namazie is a well known campaigner for refugee and women’s rights and against political Islam. She is host of TV International, a Central Council member of the Organisation of Women’s Liberation, and director of the International Relations Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran amongst others.
Seven others had been nominated, including the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has highlighted violence against Muslim women and Nicholas Hytner, director of Britain’s National Theatre, who came under fire for staging the musical Jerry Springer -- The Opera, which many Christians regard as blasphemous.
Stephen Green of Christian Voice narrowly missed nomination for single-handedly bringing into disrepute those seeking to stifle freedom of speech on religious grounds.
Also present at the event were Dr Evan Harris MP, the journalist and novelist Joan Smith, cartoonist Martin Rowson and broadcaster Jonathan Meades. Hilarious entertainment was provided by Stewart Lee, co-author of Jerry Springer- The Opera. End

Published Mon, 10 Oct 2005