BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast show, Saturday 11th February 2006

BBC: Thousands of people are expected to join a rally in Central London today. The Organisers of United against incitement and Islamophobia demonstration in Trafalgar Square say they want the world to hear the views of moderate Muslims while also protesting against the Cartoons of the prophet Muhammad published by the Danish newspaper. Let's speak to Azar Majedi, the chair of the Organisation for Women's Liberation. She is Iranian born to a Muslim mother and atheist father and she is also an atheist herself.

BBC: A very good morning to you.

Azar Majedi: Good morning to you too.

BBC: Does Islamophobia exist in this country ?

Azar Majedi: No I don't think it exists anywhere. I believe Islamophobia is an invented concept trying to silence the world to criticize Islam or Islamic movement. Just imagine in the Middle Ages or Enlightenment where Some priest would come and say this is Christianophobia at a time when Christianity and religion were criticized. That would be rediculous. However that did not happen. As a result we see the modern civilized world respecting freedom of expression, criticism and freedom of religion and civil liberties. These have come out of it.

BBC: I just wondered whether you thought perhaps if you don't believe Islamophobia exists, whether a fear of extremists exists ?

Azar Majedi: Of course it does. Even for me who by their definition am not Western or Christian or whatever, I have lived in Iran and I have seen the Islamic movement in action. I have first hand experiences. I have lost many friends to the Islamic Republic. I have seen the the Islamic movement, led by the Islmaic regime of Iran, trying to take over all the world and the Middle East and now we see that movement in action. This movement tries to blackmail the society, tries to take people's sentiments and their conscious hostage, to cash in on some real grievances that exist in the so called Islamic countries or Islamic communities in the West.

BBC: What about the views of other extremists like BNP for instance' They are attacking what they perceive Islam stands for. Isn't that effectively Islamophobia'

Azar Majedi: BNP is a very racist fascist group that is actually attacking Muslim people. What people like me are doing, we are criticizing Islam as a religion with a lot of flaws most importantly the fact that it humiliates women, it does not respect women's rights, and there are a lot of problems with Islam as an idea or as a religion. When put in practice as a political institution and political legislation, then you can see what crimes can come out of it.

BBC: But that line could be applied to all religions. Couldn't it ?

Azar Majedi: Of course. But what happens is that through out history, Christianity has been challenged. Christianity has been pushed back to the so called margin of society. We have seen separation of state from religion in some countries, France for example. But Islam has never been challenged. Any time there has been any enlightenment movement in the Middle East trying to challenge Islam, a dictatorship, a coup d' etat has silenced it.

BBC: So you would rather a far more open discussion about Islam ?

Azar Majedi: Of course. And this is what we are doing in the Organisation for Women's Liberation and in the Satellite TV programme that I have which is called No to Political Islam on New Channel TV. This is what I am trying to do. Criticize Islam, the Islamic movement but not disrespecting Muslim people. They are two different concepts.

BBC: Thank you for joining us this morning.

Azar Majedi: Thanks.