By Karima Bennoune, 16 December 2014 - After the deaths of two hostages in a Sydney chocolate shop standoff orchestrated by a man who forced his captives to raise black Islamist flags, it is time to recommit to the struggle against the extremist ideology that twists men like him. We need to be intolerant of intolerance.
The two-day International Conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights held in London during 11-12 October 2014 was a rousing success. A broad coalition of secularists, including believers, free-thinkers, agnostics and atheists assembled from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora at the unprecedented and historic gathering to discuss resistance against the repression and violence of ISIS and other manifestations of the religious-Right, including in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Tunisia and Yemen.
In the week Malala Yousafzai collects her prize in Oslo, Karima Bennoune writes, "Dear Malala, As you accept the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, please know how many human rights activists around the world -- especially women -- are grateful to you ..."
Since 21st June 2014 Yara Sallam, WLUML networker and award-winning human rights defender has been held under the unconstitutional 'Protest Law', along with six other women arrested on the same occasion. Countless more are being held on similarly spurious charges in a wave of crackdowns on civil society and dissenting voices in Egypt. On 26 October 2014, a Cairo Misdemeanours Court sentenced Yara - along with 22 other human rights defenders and protesters - to three years' imprisonment, a further three years' police monitoring, and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian Pounds each. An appeal has been launched to overturn the sentence, but they remain behind bars.
I still feel the teargas' effects on me... my eyes and my nose are on fire, the voices of people are coming from different sides “wash your eyes with Pepsi”, and the voice in my head “but my face will be sticky”. I still check my Twitter timeline and search for my friends and colleagues tweets or the face book updates; recalling the unspoken code: as long as you are tweeting or facebooking then you are safe and hopefully secure.
‘There is such a strong desire on the part of many of us to make clear that “I am not ISIS. I am not like those crazies,”’ according to Ani Zonneveld, founder of Muslims for Progressive Values. She explains the struggle to organize progressive Muslim communities and institutions in a fight back in the era of ISIS, in conversation with Karima Bennoune.
This week marks the beginning of the yearly commemoration of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence - a global campaign initiated and led by women's groups and movements in many parts of the world which put the spotlight on this pandemic. I have been a part of this campaign since its beginnings and through the lenses it has given me on why women are being targeted and subjected to the most inhuman manifestations of oppression, my feminist outlook has been sharpened and my activism for women's rights became an integral part of who I am. I am now a 62 year old feminist and human rights activist and on the road to slowing down while casting my vision to new fields where I can still be useful to my causes within my given limitations.
It has never been more imperative to take action toward ending gender-based violence and militarism. From the terrorism of the likes of ISIS and Boko Haram, to the threats of Western-led imperialism, down to personal lives marred by cultures of masculinist violence, women all over the world face insecurity owing to patriarchal and militaristic violence.