Below is a statement by several Sudanese rights activists against Salah Al Bandar’s takfir campaign against Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud. Takfir is an originally Arabic word that literally means pronouncement of unbelief against someone; it is similar to the ecclesiastical concept of ‘excommunication’. Takfir in Islam is a justification for capital punishment.
Drawing on our belief of and responsibility towards defending all rights and freedoms, and based on our principled position towards supporting the freedoms of expression and belief, as two basic rights for every human being and as well as our stance on supporting the fundamental right to life and personal security, we, the undersigned, would like to declare our solidarity with Nahla Mahmoud in the face of the takfir/death threats and intimidation campaign being orchestrated by Mr. Salah Al Bandar against her. We also call on the British authorities to protect Nahla and put an end to the violation by Mr. Al Bandar of her right to life and personal security as well as her rights of belief and freedom of expression, and to obligate him to stop intimidating her and her family in Sudan.
We have been following the takfir campaign orchestrated by Al Bander against Sudanese activist, Nahla Mahmoud, following her appearance on channel four regarding Sharia law implementation in the UK. Since the broadcast, he has been intimidating her and her family and relatives in Sudan, where radical Islamists control power and enforce laws in which apostasy is punishable by the death penalty, pursuant to Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Law of 1991. He used Sudanese discussion forums as well as the Sudanese media to further the aims of his campaign.
We are also deeply concerned about the Metropolitan Police response to the complaints against Salah Al Bandar that were raised by Nahla Mahmoud. The police claimed that they see no eminent threat, and that investigating Al Bandar over this issue might make him ‘angrier’ and push him to persistently continue his acts. However, we do believe that Nahla was right in taking this matter seriously by seeking the help of state institutions to protect her, as we know for a fact that takfir is one of the most dangerous threats to the life of any person who is targeted by radical Islamists. Takfir is in essence a call to kill and pronouncing someone as a kafir/a, Murtad/a – which are well known derogatory terms meaning infidel and apostate- is widely viewed in Muslim societies as a call to radical Muslims and terrorists to kill that person. We are convinced beyond doubt that the tactics used by Al Bandar in contacting the Sudanese media are inflaming the situation, attracting more attention to her and her family and endangering her life and security. Also, Mr. Al Bander’s publications of her pictures, family pictures, and the pictures of other Sudanese activists connected with Nahla Mahmoud on the web accompanied with the accusations of a conspiracy against Islam is tantamount to incitement to murder. Therefore, we respectfully request that the Metropolitan Police reconsider the way they dealt with this serious matter.
We have also been aware of the UK Liberal Democratic Party investigation in response to the complaint submitted by Nahla Mahmoud against Salah Al Bandar, who was a former Lib-Dem Councillor and currently a party member within Cambridge. Al Bandar defended himself arguing that his words have been misinterpreted, although he did not deny using the words kafira and Murtada. As Arabic native speakers, we do confirm that Al Bandar’s claims of misinterpretation are utterly false and incorrect. His statements online in some websites and his interviews in the Sudanese media are a serious threat that puts Nahla’s life at risk considering their meaning and concepts within the Islamic context. The Lib-Dem should have asked Al Bander to specifically explain the words he used and address the actual statements he made against Nahla rather than providing a bogus human rights record which is at odd with his real activities amongst the Sudanese diaspora in his defence.
It is important to draw attention here to the thread started by Al Bander on 30/8/2013 on the widely read Sudanese site ‘Sudaneseonline.com’ after the complaints against him to the Lib-Dems and his protestations of misinterpretation. He continued his threats and attacks against Nahla and her friends and his shameful attempts to use cultural prejudices to label some of Nahla Mahmoud supporters as “queer” and using derogatory homophobic phrases to falsely attack them.
In addition, we call on the Liberal Democratic Party to properly investigate the shameful history of their member Salah Al Bandar in subverting the Sudanese human rights organisations, inside the Sudan and abroad. He succeeded in dismantling these organisations by deliberately spreading lies, harassing human rights defenders both inside Sudan and in the diaspora, damaging their reputation and propagating false allegations about them and their human rights activities.
The Sudanese community in London has been bitterly experiencing the wide damage inflicted by Al Bandar on these organisations. It is also important to bring attention to the fact that Al Bandar was expelled from the ‘Sudan Human Rights Organisation’ (SHRO) (statement in Arabic) and his membership revoked after an investigation committee found out that he was lying and purposefully damaging SHRO’s reputation. Also of note is his dismissal and revocation as the Head of the Board of the ‘Sudanese Organisation Against Torture’ (SOAT) (in Arabic) after he deceitfully took on the role. As a result of his activities, all SOAT’s supporting networks and human rights partners in Sudan were dissolved including the ‘Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and Environmental Development, ’and ‘Al Amal Centre’. (supporting doc. 1 (in Arabic), supporting doc. 2: Part 1/Part 2).
Ali Agab, Lawyer and human rights defender
Amal Jabrallah, former member of the Sudanese Organisation Against Torture (SOAT) and political activist
Amin Alsayid, Member, Open Themes Group
Aziz Kamil, former member of the Sudanese Organisation for Human Rights (SOHR) and human rights activist
Al-Zain Al-Gamri, pro-democracy activist
Mohamed Mahmoud, former member of the Sudanese Organization for Human Rights (SOHR), and Head of the Centre for Critical Studies of Religion
Fidaa Mahmoud, Member, Open Themes Group
Gasim Hassan, former member of the Sudanese Organisation Against Torture (SOAT) and pro- democracy activist
Mohammed Alhassan, pro-democracy activist
Azim El-Hassan, TV Producer