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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Dawkins Says Women Will Defeat Militant Islam

Richard Dawkins says that it is “the awakening of women” that will solve the problem of “the worldwide menace of Islamic terrorism and oppression”.

His remarks came while praising the winner of this year’s Secularist of the Year award from the National Secular Society. The £5,000 prize went to Mina Ahadi, an Iranian woman who was forced to flee her native country after leading a campaign against the compulsory veiling of women. Because of her resistance to the clerical regime, her husband and four of her colleagues were executed, and she only narrowly escaped the same fate.

She now lives in Germany and has founded the Committee of Ex-Muslims, a movement that is rapidly spreading across Europe. She has also founded the Committee Against Stoning, which now has 200 branches worldwide.

Richard Dawkins said: “I have long felt that the key to solving the worldwide menace of Islamic terrorism and oppression would eventually be the awakening of women, and Mina Ahadi is a charismatic leader working to that end. The brutal suppression of the rights of women in many countries throughout the Islamic world is an obvious outrage.

"Slightly less obvious, but just as outrageous, is the supine willingness of Western liberals to go along with it. It is worse than supine, it is patronising and condescending: "Wife-beating is part of 'their' culture. Who are we to condemn their traditions?" A religion so insecure as to mandate the death penalty for apostasy is not to be trifled with, and ex-Muslims who stand up and fight deserve our huge admiration and gratitude for their courage.

"Right out in front of this honourable band is Mina Ahadi. I salute her and congratulate her on this well-deserved award as Secularist of the Year.”

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “We are proud to have been able to give Mina this honour – she is a woman of incredible courage and tenacity. The suffering she has endured has not dimmed her determination to improve the lot of women oppressed by Islam and other religious traditions.”

Note for editors:

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, introduced Ms Ahadi at the presentation:

“What can the National Secular Society say about the winner of this year’s Secularist of the Year award – other than to affirm our deepest admiration for Mina Ahadi’s courage and commitment?

“Mina Ahadi started her serious political activities when she was 16 and living in Iran. She was at university in 1979 in Tabriz at the time of the Iranian revolution and she began immediately to organise demonstrations and meetings to oppose the compulsory veiling of women. This courageous dissent got her noticed by the Islamic regime’s authorities and soon she had to go underground to avoid retribution.

“At the end of 1980 her house was raided by the police, and her husband and 4 of their comrades arrested. Mina escaped only because she wasn’t at home at the time.

“Her husband and the 4 arrested were all executed by firing squad soon after. She lived underground for some time and then fled to Iranian Kurdistan in 1982, where she continued to struggle against the Islamic regime for the next ten years. In 1990 she went to Vienna. She moved to Germany in 1996 and has lived in Europe since then.

“In all that time, Mina Ahadi has struggled mightily for the rights of women. She founded the International Committee against Stoning – which now has over 200 branches throughout the world. She also heads the International Committee against Executions and is the spokesperson for the newly formed women’s rights organisation, Equal Rights. She formed the Central Council of ex-Muslims in Germany early this year to help people renounce Islam and religion should they so wish.

“This brilliant Human Rights initiative has now been replicated in several other European countries, including in Britain by our own Maryam Namazie.

“Undeterred by the inevitable death threats, Mina has pressed on, determined as ever to protect women from the ravages of Islam.

“Apostasy, of course, is forbidden in Islam and in some Islamist states it carries the death penalty – including in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Mauritania.

“She calls such states “Islam-stricken” and her own experience of living and suffering under such regimes has made her ever more determined to rescue others from their clutches.

“I cannot tell you how proud the National Secular Society is to honour this wonderful, compassionate, kindly but strong-as-steel woman.”

October 22nd 2007



Published Tue, 23 Oct 2007