Celebrating Dissent Oslo 2024 Contributor Biographies

Contributor Biographies:

Shabana Rehman was a renowned comedian and social commentator. She was Director of Født Fri (Born Free) Foundation and a performance artist and human and animal rights advocate of Norwegian with Pakistani descent. Shabana entered the stage in Oslo, Norway in 2000. In the following years, she quickly built a reputation for groundbreaking and iconoclastic comedy. Her taboo-breaking comedy style included Mullah-Lifting and being bodypainted in the Norwegian flag. In addition to her prolific comedy career, Shabana was a highly respected columnist, satirist, and public speaker. She was awarded the Freedom of Expression Foundation Prize in 2002. Rehman was among the speakers at the 2017 and 2019 Celebrating Dissent, and intended to speak in Cologne in 2022, but became too ill to travel and died months later.

Afaf Bessa is a Belgian-Algerian Feminist, abolitionist and universalist. She became an agnostic decades ago. She is also the mother of four children.

Ahmedur Chowdhury, known as Tutul, is a publisher, writer, and editor from Bangladesh. In 1990, Chowdhury began publishing and editing Shuddhashar FreeVoice, a magazine that soon became a platform for young and unconventional writers in Bangladesh. Chowdhury opened his own publishing house in Dhaka in 2004 under the same name, where he primarily printed works of progressive Bangladeshi writers. In 2013, the publishing house was awarded the Shaheed Munir Chowdhury Award for publishing the highest number of quality books in Bangladesh and is considered one of the most important publishing houses in the country. In October 2015, Chowdhury was a victim of a coordinated machete attack on publishers of secular authors. Chowdhury had received direct death threats from Islamists and was among the main targets of the attack. Despite these threats, Chowdhury continued to publish, including books written by Avijit Roy, who was murdered in February 2015. Chowdhury currently lives in exile in Norway, where he restarted Shuddhashar FreeVoice as an online platform and non-profit organisation. Shuddhashar FreeVoice’s flagship publication is its quarterly theme-based magazine, which focuses on critical contemporary issues and includes articles written by international scholars and writers. In 2022, Chowdhury returned to book publishing with new e-books and print books, including two books translated into Norwegian. He has been an invited guest speaker at several programs and universities, including the Oslo Freedom Forum in Oslo, Norway; the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva; Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala; Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina; Augsburg University in Minneapolis; and the University of Oslo. He has been a participant in the Salzburg Global Seminar and the PEN Belgium´s writers fellowship program. Chowdhury’s work and courage have been honoured with several awards and recognitions, including Norwegian PEN´s Ossietzky Prize (2018), Prix Voltaire Shortlist Nominee (2018), International Freedom to Publish Award Finalist (2016), American Publishers Association’s Jeri Labor International Freedom to Publish Award (2016), and English PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage Award (2016).

At the age of 18, Aleem left Islam and embarked on a journey to discover the meaning of life through a secular humanist perspective. On his YouTube channel, ‘Secular Spirit,’ Aleem deconstructs organised religion and explores the myriad ways we seek to answer life’s big (and perhaps unanswerable) questions. As a journalist and filmmaker based in Canada, Aleem also works to share the stories of ex-Muslims who have been silenced by fear. His mission is to help build a world where living without religion is normalised and accepted without any repercussions.

Ali Malik is Pakistani ex-Muslim living in London and is a free speech and rights activist. Ali is co-spokesperson for CEMB and organises regular social meet-ups for ex-Muslims in London. Ali also handles all the asylum work of CEMB, including providing letters of support and acting as an expert witness if need be.

Ali A. Rizvi is the award-winning author of The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason, and host of the Unlicensed Therapist podcast. He is also an oncologic pathologist and medical/scientific communications consultant with a passion for storytelling who lives in Toronto, Canada.

Annie Laurie Gaylor is co-founder and co-president of Freedom From Religion Foundation. She is the author of several books, including ‘Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me,’ and the editor of ‘Women Without Superstition: No Gods – No Masters.’ She has been a lifelong feminist and has overseen or been part of several dozen lawsuits to keep religion out of government. She is also president of FFRF’s new lobbying arm, FFRF Action Fund.

Apostate Aladdin is an agnostic ex-Muslim who started cultivating an online presence in 2021 by discussing religion critically and talking about his deconstruction journey. He aims to give a voice to the voiceless and to offer representation and community for ex-Muslims around the world. Through friendly dialogue, Aladdin demonstrates how to be critical of beliefs while understanding and empathising with believers, demonstrating that disagreement and hostility do not always go hand in hand. Aladdin hopes to participate in creating a world where he and other ex-Muslims will be able to take their masks off without fear of reprisal.

Arnfinn Pettersen (b. 1969) is a Senior Advisor in the Norwegian Humanist Association, with special focus on the relationship between humanism and politics. He has edited anthologies on amongst other things freedom of speech, doomsday movements and conspiracy theories.

Cemal Knudsen Yucel was born and raised in Turkey. He was an Islamist and active in the youth branch of the Islamist movement, Milli Gorus, which is a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. He is now an ex-Muslim atheist activist and founder and chair of Ex-Muslims of Norway. He writes articles, participates in debates and conferences related to apostasy, blasphemy, women’s status in Islam, Islamic reform, and political and social issues. He is helping to build the ex-Muslim community and promoting enlightenment work.

Dan Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, co-host of Freethought Radio and Freethought Matters (TV). An evangelical minister, he pastored in California churches, and was an evangelist and Christian songwriter for 19 years. Following 5 years of reading, Dan announced his atheism 1984. He is a cofounder (with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett) of The Clergy Project. His many books include Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists (2008), Life Driven Purpose (2014), GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction (2016), Mere Morality (2018), and Contraduction (2024).

Eirik Løkke is a Fellow at the Norwegian liberal think tank, Civita. He is the host of Civita’s weekly podcast, ‘Liberal half hour.’ He has a B.A. in Comparative Politics and a M.A. in History from University of Bergen. Before joining Civita, he worked as a teacher at UiB, campaign advisor for the conservative party and as a digital advisor for UNICEF. He is a former leader of the Student Society (Studentersamfunnet i Bergen) in Bergen, where he currently serves on the advisory board. He is a frequent contributor to the Norwegian conservative quarterly, Minerva, and has been published in all the major Norwegian media outlets (NRK, TV2, Aftenposten, VG, Dagbladet, Dagens Næringsliv, Bergens Tidende, Stavanger Aftenblad).

Faravaz is a singer and activist for women’s empowerment and women’s rights. She was born in Tehran and started making music at an early age. She fled Iran and lives in exile in Berlin. Her offence: singing in public. Since her escape, she has combined alternative pop with oriental elements and provocative English lyrics about the empowerment of women in the Middle East. She regularly appears in international media such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Tagesspiegel. She received the Voices of Women for Change Award 2022 and is the founder of ‘The Right to Sing e. V.’.”

Fariborz Pooya is a political activist of Iranian origin. He founded the Iranian Secular Society and is a founding member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. He is the producer of the political and social TV programme Bread and Roses.

Fauzia Ilyas is a human rights activist and ex-Muslim. After an arranged marriage, she started to doubt the existence of God. She founded the Atheist and Agnostic Alliance Pakistan. In Pakistan, blasphemy is punishable by death. In 2015, Fauzia sought asylum in the Netherlands because her family members and religious fanatics threatened her life. She lost custody of her child and has never seen her again. She won the Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation Atheist of the Year (2017).

Gita Sahgal is a writer, journalist, film-maker and rights activist. She is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Feminist Dissent which examines gender, fundamentalism and secularism. She is a Spokesperson for One Law for All and Produced ‘Women Leaving Islam’ for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She was a Founder of Centre for Secular Space which published ‘ The Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left and Universal Human Rights’ by Meredith Tax. She was formerly Head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International; she was suspended in 2010 after she was quoted criticising Amnesty for its high-profile associations with the Islamist Moazzam Begg, the director of a group called Cage Prisoners. For many years she served on the board of Southall Black Sisters and was a founder of Women Against Fundamentalism and Awaaz: South Asia Watch. With Nira Yival Davis, she edited ‘Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain’ (London, 1992). Among her articles are ‘Legislating Utopia? Violence Against Women, Identities and Interventions’ in ‘The Situated Politics of Belonging.’ During the 1980s, she worked for a Black current affairs programme called “Bandung File” on Channel 4 TV. She made two films about the Rushdie affair, ‘Hullaballoo Over Satanic Verses’ and ‘Struggle or Submission.’ She has also made two programmes for Dispatches Channel 4, ‘The Provoked Wife’ on the case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia and ‘The War Crimes File,’ an investigation into allegations of war crimes, committed by members of the Jamaat i Islami in Bangladesh in 1971.

Halima Salat is an investigative journalist based in the Netherlands. She discarded Islam in her late 20s and lived a double life of being an ex-Muslim within a believing community for 9 years, until after she immigrated to the Netherlands where she ‘came out’ with her apostasy. Halima started supporting Ex-Muslims from the Somali community who face harsh backlash and started the online support group “Ex-Muslim Somali Voices.”

Haram Doodles is a collection of haram (forbidden) doodles created by an ExMuslim Atheist woman in solidarity with courageous ExMuslims who leave Islam. These sinful comics and memes are lovingly doodled using a humanist approach, and in close partnership with a community of ExMuslims. Haram Doodles are publicly available in protest of Islam’s strict restrictions on freedom, gender, sexuality, critical thinking, science, art and life itself – those very reasons why ExMuslims start to question, slowly disbelieve and eventually leave Islam. With a coalition of ExMuslims and ExMuslim activists, leaders and organisations, she organised the first ever ‘ExMuslim Awareness Month’ in December 2022 following ‘Islamophobia Awareness Month.’ ExMuslim Awareness Month is now observed annually to honour ExMuslims, celebrate dissent, and demand our freedom from Islam.

Ibn Warraq, a leading figure in Koranic criticism, is the author of fourteen pioneering books on Islam and Koranic criticism, including the classic ‘Why I am Not a Muslim,’ 1995. Other titles are ‘The Origins of the Koran,’ 1998, ‘The Quest for the Historical Muhammad,’ 2000, ‘What the Koran Really Says,’ 2002, ‘Leaving Islam. Apostates Speak Out,’ 2003, ‘Virgins? What Virgins? And Other Essays,’ 2010; ‘Which Koran?’ 2011, ‘Koranic Allusions,’ 2013, and ‘Christmas in the Koran,’ 2014. Warraq’s op-ed pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, and he has addressed governing bodies, including the United Nations and Members of the Dutch Parliament. Ibn Warraq completed in 2007, a critical study of the thought of Edward Said, ‘Defending the West,’ which was described as ‘a glorious work of scholarship.’ He defended Western values in a public debate with Tariq Ramadan in London in 2007, and in his subsequent book, ‘Why the West is Best,’ Encounter Books, NY, 2011.

Ibtissame Betty Lachgar is Moroccan. She is a clinical psychologist specialised in Criminology and Victimology, in the fight against sexist and sexual violence. In 2009, she founded the Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (M.A.L.I.) in Morocco. As a result of her activism, she has been the target of harassment, intimidation and threats, as well as arbitrary arrests and prosecution.

Inna Shevchenko is a feminist activist and author, known for her topless actions with the FEMEN movement. She was kidnapped and threatened by the Belarus KGB in 2011 and was granted political asylum in France. In July 2013, Shevchenko was the main inspiration for a new French stamp depicting Marianne. In December 2012, the French magazine Madame Figaro included Shevchenko in its list of the World’s Top 20 Iconic Women of the Year. Shevchenko is a speaker at conferences and a columnist for the international press. She was a speaker at a debate on freedom of speech in Copenhagen on 14 February 2015 with cartoonist Lars Vilks. During that speech, a terrorist opened fire in the lobby of where the debate was taking place. Surviving the attack, Shevchenko later said: ‘Liberal voices should be louder than Kalashnikovs.’ She also writes for Charlie Hebdo, and is currently working on a documentary film called ‘Women and Religions.’

Jimmy Bangash is a Psychotherapist specialised in working with ExMuslims as well as Muslim Heritage LGBT in an international context. He is a spokesperson for the Council of ExMuslims of Britain and advocates for the awareness of apostate and LGBT rights in Islamic countries and communities.

Khadija Khan is a Pakistani journalist and broadcaster based in the UK. She is an editor at Canadian Magazine A Further Inquiry and a co-host of A Further Inquiry podcast. She advocates for women’s rights and denounces the idea of Islamic feminism. She is an ardent advocate for secularism, free speech, and universal human rights. She criticises the use of blasphemy laws as a tool to crack down on dissent and supports freedom of and from religion. She stresses the need for freedom of speech to counter extremist ideologies.

Krystel Antoni is a passionate advocate for free expression and critical thinking, with a diverse background spanning philosophy, comparative literature, and educational outreach. Born and raised in Beirut, and residing in France, she brings a unique perspective to her work, shaped by her academic studies and her active engagement in civil society in both countries. In addition to her academic pursuits, Krystel has been actively involved in organising philosophy and cinema cafés, creating spaces where individuals and young minds can come together to discuss ideas, challenge assumptions, and explore the complexities of the human experience. Through these initiatives, she has helped cultivate a community of critical thinkers and engaged citizens, inspiring meaningful conversations and connections. Krystel’s dedication to promoting free thought and expression is further demonstrated by her advocacy for digital liberties. In an increasingly digital world, she recognizes the importance of safeguarding online spaces as platforms for free expression and open discourse. Through her work with organisations like Freethought Lebanon, Krystel strives to protect and promote digital freedoms, ensuring that individuals have the right to express themselves freely and access information without fear of censorship or surveillance.

Lawrence M. Krauss is a world-renowned theoretical physicist, commentator, bestselling author, President of The Origins Project Foundation and host of the Origins Podcast. Among his numerous important scientific contributions was the proposal, in 1995, that most of the energy of the Universe resided in empty space. He was Chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists from 2006-2018. During his career, Lawrence has held endowed professorships and distinguished research appointments at institutions including Harvard University, Yale University, University of Chicago, Boston University, University of Zurich, University of California at Santa Barbara, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, the European Center for Nuclear Research, Case Western Reserve University, Australian National University, Arizona State University, and New College of Humanities. He writes regularly for newspapers including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Journal, and appears on radio, television, and films.

Mariam Oyiza Aliyu is a women’s rights defender and founder of Learning through skills acquisition initiative (LETSAI). She works to provide protection for survivors of gender-based violence, access to justice, economic empowerment support as well as creating a safe space for women and girls in Northern Nigeria which is currently battling with the Boko Haram crisis. She is also an ex-Muslim who creates awareness on the dangers of Islam to women’s rights.

Marieme Helie Lucas is an Algerian sociologist, political theorist, and author. She was born in Algeria to a ‘family of feminists’ and had been active in the liberation struggle of Algeria. She is founder and former International Coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws, a solidarity network that provides information, support and a collective space for women. She is also the founder of Secularism Is A Women’s Issue, which focuses on the threat of the erosion of secular spaces and of formal secularism, and challenges all forms of fundamentalisms. In 2014 she published ‘The Struggle for Secularism in Europe and North America: Women from Migrant Descent Facing the Rise of Fundamentalism,’ amongst many others.

Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born campaigner and writer. She is Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All. She is the instigator behind the Celebrating Dissent conferences, the largest gatherings of ex-Muslims in history since 2014. During decades of activism, Maryam has organised numerous actions, including #Hair4Freedom and #BodyRiot in support of women in Iran, executive produced Women Leaving Islam and published The Woman’s Quran. The Islamic regime of Iran’s media outlets have called Namazie ‘immoral, a harlot and corrupt.’ Her TedX talk on ‘Creativity in Challenging Islamic Fundamentalism’ was censored and labelled ‘distressing and objectionable.’ Namazie has faced many attempts at censorship, including by Warwick University Student Union and Goldsmiths Islamic Society. Maryam and the CEMB have been featured in a 2016 film by Deeyah Khan called ‘Islam’s Non-Believers.’ She was also a character in DV8 Physical Theatre ‘Can We Talk About This?’ Maryam is winner of numerous awards, including IBKA Sapio award (2022), the 2017 Henry H. Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism award; 2016 International Laicite Prize from the Comité Laïcité République; the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year Award (2005); and the Julia B. Friedman Humanitarian Award (1987), amongst others. She has written many articles on women’s rights issues, free expression, Islamism, and secularism and co-authored Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights (One Law for All, June 2010), Enemies Not Allies: The Far-Right (One Law for All, August 2011), and The Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam (CEMB, August 2017).

Milad Resaeimanesh is Chairman of the Central Committee of Ex-Muslims in Scandinavia. He also hosts a weekly TV program for the organisation.

Mimzy is a Life coach and Counsellor helping people overcome trauma, transform their lives and reach their potential. She works a lot with people who leave religions and have to recreate their identities. She has been vocal her YouTube channel, “Mimzy Vidz” with topics such as, why she left Islam, misogyny, toxic relationships and radicalisation. Mimzy has been a part of the movement to normalise ex-Muslims, put an end to blasphemy and apostate scrutiny in Muslim communities, and raise awareness of these problems. She is featured in the CEMB film ‘Women Leaving Islam.’

Mohamed Hisham is an Egyptian Electronics Engineer who appeared in a live Egyptian television talk show to speak about atheism, which led to abuse and vilification during the show from the host and other guests, and to threats to his life in Egypt afterwards. He delved into Islamic studies incentivised by the Sharia sentence on his sexuality, and eventually left Islam. He aspires for a Middle East that respects human rights and civil liberties through embracing science and humanistic values instead of dogmatic doctrines.

Morten Guldberg studied history and religious studies. Worked in the cultural sector for the foundation Christianssands Idealistiske Arrangører as general manager in Kristiansand (2002-2006), then in HR at Kantar in Oslo (2006-2018), as secretary for the foundation Født Fri/Born Free with Shabana Rehman (2018-2021), and currently employed in the law firm Advokatfirmaet Strandenæs, involved in administration and marketing. Chairman of the board for the Oslo county regional part of the Norwegian Humanist Organization Human-Etisk Forbund, representing 25,000 members. Founder of the secular think tank Dømmekraft.

Mouhammad El Jabbari or MoMo is a French podcaster. In 2020, he created the podcast ‘Apostats Islam,’ in which he gives a voice to former Muslims to understand the reasons for their apostasy and analyse the impact that leaving the religious group can have. He then set about creating the first network of French-speaking apostates and became chairman of the «Mouvement pour l’émancipation et la liberté de pensée» (MELP), which aims to support people who wish to emancipate themselves from their ideological environment. He is co-founder of the association Laïque sans Frontières, which organised the last edition of the Celebrating Dissent conference in Paris in December 2023 with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

Nada Topić Peratović is a solicitor and a feminist and humanist activist. In 2011, she founded the humanist and feminist association Center for Civil Courage in Croatia, which promotes humanism, secularism, civil courage, and feminism in strengthening and protecting human rights, especially women’s rights, and equality, and in critically dealing with the past. In 2014, she wrote the humanist book “Humanism for Children” which was translated into 5 languages. She was a representative of various non-religious organisations at the UN in Geneva, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and meetings of the European Parliament in Brussels. From 2017 to 2020, she was a member of the board of directors of the Swiss Association of Free Thinkers and the European Humanist Federation (EHF). In September 2020, she founded the women’s abortion network “Brave Sisters” which has been actively supporting women who decide to terminate their pregnancy, providing them with all the essential information, moral support, and accompaniment to the hospitals. The network already supported over 650 women. One of her latest goals is to actively support the feminist empowerment of young humanist and feminist women and their association in regional and international sisterhoods. She lives and writes in Zurich.

With a Tunisian father and a French mother, Nadia El Fani is a committed filmmaker, feminist and Laic activist. After the Tunisian revolution of 2011, her film ‘Laïcité Inch’allah’ (Grand Prix International de la Laïcité du CLR) was released in theatres and received wide media coverage in France. During a screening in Tunis, Islamists ransacked the cinema and threatened the public. This was followed by death threats on Nadia and six criminal complaints where she risked 5 years in prison. She was only able to return to Tunisia 7 years later when the case was dismissed. Her film ‘Même Pas Mal’ (No Harm Done) was her response to her detractors: she is persisting. In 2023, she founded the association Laïques Sans Frontières (LSF), of which she is president.

Nazmiye Oral began her acting career in the 1990s in the Netherlands with series like Baantjer, Combat, Oppassen! and Westenwind. She also performed in De Gesluierde Monologen, The Suburb Safari, and in No Longer Without You, a play she wrote herself. The play was selected for the Holland Festival and Crossing the Line Festival in New York and has also been made into a documentary. Nazmiye has performed in television productions like A’dam E.V.A., Undercover, Moordvrouw and Oh Mijn Hemel, starred in the series Icarus: Zorgondernemer and In Vrijheid by Floor van der Meulen for which she was awarded Best Actress at the Netherlands Film Festival and at the Lucania Film Festival. In 2011 her debut novel ‘Zehra’ was released, for which she was nominated for the E. du Perron prize. She co-founded the Zina Foundation in 2003, a theatre initiative that travels through different neighbourhoods in the Netherlands using local stories.

Rahila Gupta is a freelance journalist, author and activist. She is Chair of Southall Black Sisters, a group which has campaigned for and supported black women escaping violence and chair of The Nihal Armstrong Trust which provides grants to children with cerebral palsy for cutting edge equipment and services. Her poems and short stories have been published in several anthologies. Her books include: a collection of essays she edited, ‘From Homebreakers to Jailbreakers: Southall Black Sisters in 2003;’ ‘Provoked,’ the story of a battered woman who killed her violent husband and she co-wrote the screenplay of the film which was released in 2007; Enslaved,’ on immigration controls, was published in 2007. Her play, a monologue in verse, ‘Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong,’ ran in London, Edinburgh, New York, and four cities in India between 2012-14 and was nominated for a number of awards. She has written for the Guardian, New Humanist, New Internationalist and openDemocracy among other magazines, journals and websites. She and Beatrix Campbell are collaborating on a book, ‘Why Doesn’t Patriarchy Die?’ She has edited and contributed to ‘Turning the Page’ (2019), an anthology of writings by the Southall Black Sisters support group. She is a Royal Literary Fund writing fellow.

Rana Ahmad is a Syrian/Saudi-Arabian ex-Muslim activist, women’s rights campaigner, and founder of the Atheist Refugee Relief. She is a pop science blogger and editor, a member of Giordano-Bruno-Stiftung, and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany. After she discarded her religion, she had to escape because she was threatened with death by her family and the government in Saudi Arabia. Rana hopes to help all girls to be free.

Sami Abdallah is President of Freethought Lebanon. He is a Lebanese civil society activist residing in Germany and is a theoretical physicist by profession. He has worked extensively to fight against discrimination and the negative social stereotypes that vilify atheists in Lebanon and the Arab World, and has been closely involved in offering protection to those who have been threatened because of their atheism. Sami is the cofounder and president of Freethought Lebanon, created in 2007 as an initiative that aims to empower freethinkers in Lebanon in order to promote humanism, encourage critical thinking, disseminate secular values, and protect freethinkers at risk. Freethought Lebanon organised the Celebrating Dissent conference in Cologne in 2022 with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

Sanal Edamaruku is an Indian-born author, rationalist, and free speech activist, now living in Helsinki, Finland. He is the founder and President of Rationalist International. Sanal Edamaruku’s books and articles deal mainly with rationalist thoughts, and they are critical of superstition, especially in India. His writings are translated into many Indian languages and English, French, German, Spanish, Polish, and Finnish. He has travelled and lectured in many countries and spoken at International Conferences. Sanal’s campaigns attracted wide international attention and he was featured on TV channels like Discovery, BBC, Channel IV, and CNN, and in the print media including New York Times, Washington Post, The Independent, The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Time, Newsweek, and Asia Week. Sanal Edamaruku appeared in TV programs, and he spoke on major Indian TV channels, defending science and rationalism. In one TV discussion in 2008, when a Guru claimed to have the power to kill anyone through mantra chanting and tantra rituals, he challenged the Guru to kill him to prove the claim. This became a landmark TV program in the history of Indian television. He found that the source of the “miraculous” water-dripping crucifix in a Mumbai church in 2012 was a leaky toilet drainage line, and explained that on TV, there were threats to his life and safety. The Mumbai archbishop and the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) demanded his apology for stopping the blasphemy cases against him and the threats to his life. He refused to apologise and moved to Helsinki for his safety and he continued his activities at a global level from there.

Shakeel Rehman is Leader of the Senter for Sekulær Integrering (Centre for Secular Integration). He has been a long-time activist, working to promote secular values in minority communities in Norway. He has written extensively about criticism of religion, secularism and honour culture, and is about to be a published author. He is the brother of Shabana Rehman.

Shelley Segal is a singer-songwriter involved in secular activism. Her first record, “An Atheist Album” is a passionate response to dogmatic belief, inequality, religious oppression and the idea that only the devout can be grateful and good. The record gives a voice to the often-underrepresented views of non-religious people, the fastest growing minority in many countries. It also creates opportunities to discuss issues of secularism with the mainstream media. Her voice has taken her around the world including England, Australia and twelve tours of the United States. She has released seven recording projects of her own and runs independent record label True Music where she works with other artists. As a young woman, Segal was not allowed to sing unaccompanied in her synagogue. However she has reclaimed her musical heritage by incorporating its’ musical elements throughout her work as a method of self expression, exploration and dissent.An award-winning songwriter, powerful performer and explicit story-teller, Shelley uses her music not only to express the way she sees the world but to create the world she wants to see.

Sohail Ahmad is an ex-Muslim, ex-Ahmadi activist and community organiser based in Canada who is more commonly known by his social media alias, Reason on Faith. Sohail began his activism in 2016 seeing a need for addressing the modernist apologetics popularised by the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam. In 2019, after years of activism and organising behind the scenes, Sohail released his first video entitled ‘Why I am Leaving Islam and Ahmadiyyat publicly’. Sohail’s journey of questioning had begun in the 1990s, at the age of 19. Having been deeply religious in his youth, Sohail set out to study Islam more closely in an effort to understand and to refine the apologetics that could be used to help promote Islam and Ahmadiyyat to a Western audience. Converting others to Islam was very much a sincere goal of Sohail’s at the time. Sohail’s process of theological exploration and honest reflection, however, produced results other than the one intended: Sohail ended up leaving Islam. The conviction to believe what is true, and not merely what is comforting, had always been his guiding precept. Sohail is currently serving as president of EXMTO–the Ex-Muslims of Toronto. He is also co-founder and a moderator of the Questioning Islam/Ahmadiyya (QIA) subreddit and private community Discord Server. Sohail writes long-form articles examining Islam with an emphasis on the apologetics put forth by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Stephen Evans is the Chief Executive of the National Secular Society and a regular media commentator on the role of religion in public life. The National Secular Society works for a secular state and played a leading role in the campaign to abolish blasphemy in England and Wales and ensuring free speech on religion was protected in Scotland’s 2021 Hate Crime Act.

Sylo Taraku is an author and political scientist at the think tank Agenda. He has a Muslim background from Kosovo. His work includes the book ‘Frihetskampen i Islam’ (‘The Struggle for Freedom in Islam’), which describes the efforts of secular Muslims to promote critical thinking and protect individual liberty. He has played a key role in founding the Norwegian organisation LIM, which acts as a platform for progressive Muslims. His latest publication is ‘Krigens kontinent – Europa etter den kalde krigen’ (‘The Continent of War – Europe after the Cold War’).

Taha Siddiqui is a Pakistani journalist who won the Albert Londres Award 2014. He had to flee Pakistan after surviving an assassination attempt by the Pakistani army. He is the founder of the Dissident Club, a socio-cultural bar in the heart of Paris. He is the author of a graphic novel called ‘Dissident Club’ which traces his emancipation as an ex Muslim. In exile in France, he continues to write for several international publications such as the Washington Post, the Guardian and Foreign Policy magazine. He is also a visiting faculty member at Sciences Po, teaching Journalism.

Veedu Vidz is a YouTube comedian who creates satirical videos on a range of topics mainly focusing on Islam. Veedu is an ex-Muslim who enjoys engaging with his religious and cultural heritage by exploring different ideas and religious preachers in the form of parodies and discussions. Veedu is a free speech advocate and stands for individual rights.

Victoria Gugenheim is a world award winning bodypainter, world ranking makeup artist, public speaker and multimedia artist who has been the core team artist for Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) for over a decade. She is currently working on a bodypaint project which empowers domestic violence and sexual violence survivors worldwide. She was the resident artist for World Humanist Congress, and has worked for multiple clients from Marvel to Sony, London Fashion Week, Glastonbury and beyond, with a world first for Ex-Muslims. She has been the creator of CEMB/One Law for All viral social media and art content for the past decade and conceived the documentary The Art of Resistance, and also works in multiple media types including documentary, film, TV, sculpture, written and spoken word, and song. She has gone viral for her activist singing for women, was nominated for the Emma Humphries Memorial Prize, and is currently writing a book.

Wissam Charafeddine is an Arab American activist, author, entrepreneur, educator, and engineer. He holds a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering from the University of Michigan and serves as the founder and CEO of W Institute. A published poet with four works to his name, he is also the author of “The Awaited Arab State,” a significant confederation project for the Arab World. Charafeddine has contributed several works in Arabic, including “12 Formulas for Islamic Renewal” and “Universe of Void,” a critical dialogue addressing the shortcomings of classical proofs of God in contemporary times. His latest endeavour, the “Universal Declaration for Human Values,” condenses the progress of enlightenment and universal values into 20 principles. Charafeddine is a prolific entrepreneur, founding several non-profit organisations such as Muslimish, AlNadwaa Freethinking Society, and the Arab American Center for Culture and Arts. Beyond his academic achievements, he boasts a deep understanding of Islamic studies, activism, and Arabic history and identity issues.

Yasmine El Baramawy, an Egyptian composer, video artist, sound designer and women’s rights activist. She has created a distinctive style that combines the virtuosity of the Oud -one of the world’s oldest instruments- with electronic experimentation, developing her work she creates her unique cosmic sonic experience using with her Semi-acoustic Oud live manipulations mixed with audio/visual messages she captured from life; voicing as a dense auditory landscape of concrete music along with spoken words mixed with her live melodic vocals. She sings, performs and shows her interactions with life surroundings promptly. Yasmine is a vocal proponent of human rights addressing issues of gender-based violence, where she contributed to form an overwhelming wave of mobilisation pushing the government to issue the law against sexual harassment in Egypt back in 2014, she was the first woman to break the taboo of gang rape/mob attacks in her society. Her main focus was to transfer the stigma from the victim to the criminal; where she only comprehends that was/is/will be the right place for it.

Zanyar Hesami, a player of the Daf and Saz instruments, was born in Sanandaj, Iran. He graduated in architecture. His activities include writing various articles in music journals on various topics about Iranian music, collaborating with over a hundred music groups and concerts throughout Iran and Europe, performing with the Tehran Symphony Orchestra as a soloist, receiving the Academy Award for Music in 2023 in the United States for the instrumental song “Dafa Dafe Daf Mah Ha” in the percussive genre, achieving 14 top awards and an honorary diploma in numerous music festivals in Iran, and judging in several editions of music festivals. In December 2022, he released a song titled “Woman, Life, Freedom” in support of protests, reflecting the anti-regime positions expressed by the protestors, which went viral.

Zara Kay is a Tanzanian-Australian women’s rights activist and an ExMuslim based in Sweden. Zara founded Faithless Hijabi, an Australian-based non-profit, dedicated to empowering ExMuslims globally with mental health support to overcome religious trauma and support their healing journey.

Zehra Pala is an activist of the Atheism Association of Turkey, the first legally recognised Atheist Organisation of the Balkans, Middle East and Muslim-majority countries. The founders are striving for the day when atheists no longer face any discrimination or prejudice in the workplace, at home or on the street.

Conference Organisers:

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain was established in June 2007 to break the taboo that comes with leaving Islam, highlight the plight of ex Muslims, and challenge apostasy and blasphemy laws. CEMB stands against all forms of bigotry and unequivocally defends reason, freedom of conscience and expression, rights and secularism. Over the last 17 years, CEMB has provided assistance to thousands of ex Muslims worldwide, created support groups, solidarity actions and educational materials and helped establish Ex Muslims International. Maryam Namazie, CEMB Spokesperson, has been the instigator behind the international conferences.

Dømmekraft is a secular thinktank established in January 2022. The founders are Morten Guldberg and Lovise Lindtner. The organisation publishes articles, reviews and interviews, and also sets up conferences, debates and other public events to counteract fake news and extremist views and embodies a Humanist outlook, including in support of basic human rights, democracy, equality, freedom of speech and critical thinking.

Conference Sponsors:

Center for Inquiry, Civita, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Fritt Ord, Human-Etisk Forbund, Human-Etisk Forbund Akershus, Human-Etisk Forbund Oslo and National Secular Society.


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