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»Fundamentalists will not stop us!«

Ex-Muslims from all over the world demonstrated in Cologne for Salman Rushdie


Demonstration for Salman Rushdie in Cologne (Photo: Eva Witten)

Last weekend, leading representatives of the ex-Muslim movement met in Cologne to "celebrated dissent". They were supported by Western critics of religion such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, and Michael Schmidt-Salomon.

"Most of us know what it means to be physically threatened. But we will not be intimidated by the militancy of our opponents: fundamentalists will not stop us!" said Maryam Namazie, president of the British Central Council of Ex-Muslims. In her opening remarks, she quoted Chilean poet Pablo Neruda: "They can cut the flowers, but they cannot keep spring from coming." Appropriate words for an extraordinary congress with extraordinary people.

Solidarity with Salman Rushdie

The attack on the writer and dissident Salman Rushdie ("The Satanic Verses") in New York on August 12, motivated by Islamism, shocked the ex-Muslim community, but did not break its spirit of resistance by any means, in fact it strengthened it even more. This was evident at the end of the first day of the congress, when the entire conference united in a spontaneous demonstration through downtown Cologne, loudly expressing solidarity with Salman Rushdie on the Heumarkt and calling for strengthening the right to freedom of expression, blasphemy, and apostasy.

"I was a bit queasy about marching through Cologne without police protection and with so many high-risk individuals waving pictures of Salman Rushdie and Charlie Hebdo cartoons", gbs spokesman Michael Schmidt-Salomon admitted afterwards. "I also knew, however, that such security concerns would not have prevented anyone from taking to the streets. The spontaneous demonstration for Salman Rushdie on Saturday showed once again how much risk ex-Muslims will take to warn the West about the dangers of Islamism and to defend open society against its enemies."

"One of the most important political movements of our time" (R. Dawkins).

Richard Dawkins, who also took part in the demonstration, was equally impressed by the courage of the ex-Muslims. The British evolutionary biologist and critic of religion ("The God Delusion") described the ex-Muslim movement as "one of the most important political movements of our time" and praised it as one of the "decisive forces in defending freedom of expression worldwide."

How much the movement of ex-Muslims has progressed in the last 15 years became clear when Mina Ahadi and Michael Schmidt-Salomon talked on the podium about the beginnings in 2006 and 2007. To set the mood for the conversation, they showed the English version of the film the gbs had produced in 2017 to mark the 10th anniversary of the world's first Central Council of Ex-Muslims, which was met with great applause by the 200 or so congress participants* on Sunday at noon.


Ensaf Haidar, who reported on her husband, the Saudi blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi, was also celebrated. While Raif was released from prison several months ago, he is still not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. The conference firmly stood behind the #LetRaifFly campaign and appealed to the world's governments to persuade Saudi Arabia to relent and lift the exit ban imposed on Raif. After 10 years of unjust imprisonment, it must finally be made possible for Raif to live a life together again with his wife and their three children.

Towards the end of "Celebrating Dissent," the convention, organized by the British Central Council of Ex-Muslims and the Freethought Organization of Lebanon, supported among others by the Giordano Bruno Foundation, adopted a "Declaration on the Celebrating of Dissent" as well as three resolutions, one of which explicitly refers to conditions in Germany. The assembly called for the deletion without replacement of the "blasphemy paragraph" 166 of the German Penal Code, which was recently used to reprimand an ex-Muslim in Stuttgart. We publish below the text of the three resolutions as well as the concluding "Celebrating Dissent" declaration.


Resolution 1


Celebrating Dissent 2022 condemns the violent attack on Salman Rushdie and stands in unequivocal solidarity with the brave writer. We are pleased to finally see support for Rushdie, rather than the usual vilification and victim blaming that comes after freethinkers are targeted by the Islamist movement.

Whilst the attacker’s motives have not yet been revealed, his allegiance to the Islamic regime in Iran clearly links the attack to Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against Rushdie. The Iranian regime, in specific, and the Islamist movement, in general, have responded to any freethought with terror and violence over decades.

Entire generations of freethinkers have been brutally attacked, jailed, tortured and killed for their conscience and expression. Unfortunately, the brutal attack on Rushdie is not the first nor will it be the last.

Celebrating Dissent pays tribute to Rushdie and all dissenters at risk across the globe. We will continue to celebrate the rights to apostasy and blasphemy until no one is persecuted for their conscience and expression.

And still we rise.


Resolution 2


Celebrating Dissent 2022 is deeply concerned with Code 166 in Germany’s criminal code which shields religions and religious and ideological organizations from criticism or "defamation" if deemed to "disturb the public peace". Punishments can consist of a fine or up to three years imprisonment.

Since any criticism of the sacred and taboo can be met with a disturbance to the public peace by fundamentalist violence and threats against critics, the code gives succor to the censors and oppressors whilst silencing dissenters.

A case in point is that of Abbas Mohammadpoor, a member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany, who has been found guilty under this code and fined for his criticisms of Islam and Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, in the city of Stuttgart. He will be appealing the July 4, 2022 decision.

We call on the German government to scrap Code 166 of the criminal code, drop all sentences and charges pertaining to this Code and to respect the right to apostasy, heresy and blasphemy, which are integral to freedom of conscience and expression and are protected under international human rights law.


Resolution 3


Celebrating Dissent 2022 calls for the establishment of International Secularism Day on 10 December to coincide with International Human Rights Day.

Secularism or laïcité is the separation of religion from the state, education, law and public policy. At a time when secularism is under concerted attack by the religious-Right, including in secular states like France, India, Israel, Turkey and USA to name a few, we reiterate the importance of secularism for ex-Muslims, freethinkers, atheists, women and ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

Secularism is a fundamental principle, human right and a minimum prerequisite for the respect of rights and freedoms and for democratic politics and societies.



As atheists, agnostics, ex-Muslims and freethinkers we stand for a world in which all human beings enjoy freedom of expression and conscience, and freedom from fear and want. We claim our freedom from religion, from superstition. We claim our freedom to love and live as we choose, to creativity and to enjoy the benefits of scientific and human progress. We affirm our right to act with reason and conscience.

Apostasy and blasphemy are fundamental rights protected by freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression and are grounded in the universality of rights which apply to all human beings everywhere. Our freedoms depend on our rights to atheism, apostasy and blasphemy; on the right to be free from religion and to criticize Islam and any other religion.

We reject apostasy, blasphemy and religious laws as grave violations of rights and call for their immediate abolition. We reject the religious-Right of all stripes. The rule of theocrats is the end of and antithesis to democratic politics, free thought and expression and basic rights, particularly of women and ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

We reject and condemn xenophobia, bigotry and racism against non-believers and believers. We reject cancel culture, self-righteous intolerance and a patronizing defense of ‘hurt sensibilities’ that aim to silence blasphemers and suppress rational discourse.

We reject the criminalization of the right to asylum and claim the right to protection for those of us fleeing persecution. Asylum is a human right recognized in international and national laws. Governments are duty-bound to protect those fleeing persecution.

We affirm that freedom of expression (as long as it is not inciting violence) is a bedrock of human rights and progress. It is a necessity, particularly for those challenging the powerful, sacred and taboo. We affirm that the struggle taking place in the world today is not a clash of civilizations but a clash between theocrats on the one hand and secularists on the other.

We want to live in a world where believers and non-believers are respected as human beings but where beliefs can be challenged and even mocked without fear. A world where doubt and dissent are seen as integral to the human quest for truth rather than expressions to be censored and silenced under the guise of hurt sentiments or "Islamophobia".

We want to live in a world where secularism or laïcité, the separation of religion from the state, law, education and public policy, is considered a fundamental principle and human right, integral to the fulfilment of our freedoms. We claim for ourselves a world where no one is shunned, exiled, imprisoned, tortured or killed for their conscience. We claim for ourselves a world where blasphemy, apostasy and dissent are celebrated.


Further links:

"Celebrating Dissent" Köln 2022 – Tag 1: "Du kannst die Blumen stutzen, aber du kannst nie den Frühling aufhalten!" (hpd, 8/23/2022)

"Celebrating Dissent" Köln 2022 – Tag 2: Säkularismus: Eine Freiheitsgarantie für alle (hpd, 8/24/2022)

Größte Versammlung von Ex-Muslimen: Darum haben sie den Islam verlassen (, 8/22/2022)

Celebrating Dissent 2022: The website for the event