I started this post yesterday, feeling I should write one to commemorate the anniversary of this blog, which began a year ago on International Women’s Day.

On the same day 37 years ago today, I went on my first march for women’s liberation in central London. We demanded an end to discrimination in education and the workplace, as well as contraception, abortion and nursery places for all who needed them. We protested about the demeaning way women were presented by various media and we challenged the ideology that women were responsible for the hateful way we were perceived and portrayed and for the sexual harrassment and violence visited upon us. 37 years ago, if I’d looked this far into the future, I would have expected International Women’s Day 2010 to be a day of celebration.

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On 31st October 2009, thousands of Muslims from up and down the country plan to converge in the heart of Central London in a spectacular procession to make their demands for the overthrow of the British establishment clear.

At the time of writing, that message, which was posted on 4 March 2009, is still on the website of Islamist nutjobs, al-Muhajiroun. But a few days ago they added another message, in the form of a press release, saying that it had

become apparent that certain right-wing/anti-Islamic organisations had become intent on preventing the march from going ahead, using threats of physical violence, including bomb and death threats to any member of the Muslim community who happened to attend the march.

In light of this, organisers of the March4Shariah campaign, after careful consultation, have decided to relocate the march in favour of securing the safety of the hundreds of Muslims who may have attended the march to voice their support for the Deen of Haq (Truth).

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I see that both the English Defence League (EDL) and their opponents in Unite Against Fascism (UAF) are in the news again after a bunch of EDL supporters turned up in Manchester today to stage a protest against Islamic extremism. Apparently, the UAF didn’t like it so staged a counter-demonstration. The short clip viewable here shows EDL placards saying ‘Patriotism is not racism’ and ‘No more mosques in England’, while crowds of UAF people shout “Nazi scum: off our streets!” Predictably, EDL supporters commenting on the web today saw the UAF counter-demo as an attempt to suppress free speech and called them ‘Unashamed Actual Fascists’, and suchlike.

Anyway, aware that the messages of the newly emerged EDL (which seems to have evolved from a group calling themselves Casuals United) and the Stop Islamification of Europe group (SIOE) have resonated with at least a few nice, respectable, secularist folk, I decided to take a closer look at what they and their opponents are about.

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Having now written three negative posts about particular Muslims, I was hoping that this one would be a lot more positive. I had high expectations of a gathering initiated by the Dialogue with Islam organisation and co-hosted by the Central London Humanist group. On its website Dialogue with Islam appears to be a well-intentioned initiative whose declared sole aim is to “provide a bridge of understanding and discussion between the Western Intellectuals and the Muslim community in Britain”. The website features quotes from a few high-profile journalists and politicians giving the impression that, thanks to Dialogue with Islam, valuable and constructive discussions were taking place from which we could all learn something.

As a result of the meeting I attended — a precious hour and a half of my life that I’ll never get back — I have resolved, firstly, not to bother attending any more CHG meetings that are addressed by religous speakers and, secondly, to join the National Secular Society.

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Or something like that. Last night I went to the Conway Hall Humanist Centre in London’s Red Lion Square Conway Hall balconyfor a meeting organised by the Central London Humanist group.

For those that don’t know it, the Conway Hall was built some 90 years ago by the South Place Ethical Society — a Society dedicated to fostering “freedom in moral and spiritual life and thought”. The SPES describes itself as “the oldest freethought community in the world. It was founded in 1793 as a dissenting congregation and for more than two centuries has been a focus for serious discussion of basic ethical principles. By 1888 SPES had rejected the existence of God and became an Ethical Society, the only one which now survives. SPES is now an educational charity and maintains a proud tradition of free enquiry in all areas of thought and action.”

So it was a bit of a surprise and actually quite alarming to arrive there on a hot summer evening and find a number of women shrouded from head to foot in black being shepherded upstairs by men who were dressed a good deal more comfortably.

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Compassion and self-sacrifice are completely futile on atheism because unless there is a moral payback, unless there is a return, a dividend, it makes no sense to risk your own life for another.

So said Muslim missionary, Adam Deen, in a recent “debate” with Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association, at Birkbeck University in London.

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Atheists, by virtue of being atheist, think there’s nothing wrong with deliberately flying light planes into buildings, killing thousands of people. This view was expressed by a a 25-year-old Muslim from East London with a talent for self-advertisement, who hilariously describes himself as an “intellectual activist who has been working in the field of Muslim apologetics for almost a decade”.

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The No Sharia: One Law for All campaign was launched at the House of Lords on International Human Rights Day (10 December 2008). I attended the launch and, yesterday, I marked International Women’s Day by joining several hundred protesters at the anti-Sharia demo in Trafalgar Square for a march to Red Lion Square.

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