Picture this, says Maryam Namazie: "A child is swathed in cloth from head to toe every day. Everything but her face and hands are covered for fear that a man might find her attractive. At school she learns that she is worth less than a boy. She is not allowed to dance or swim or feel the sun on her skin or the wind in her hair. This is clearly unacceptable, yet it is accepted when it is done in the name of religion."
Namazie is the founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB) which started life in the middle of last year. On Monday - in celebration of the centenary of International Women's Day - she spoke at a conference on Political Islam and Women's Rights, and launched a campaign against Sharia.
Iranian Muslim by birth, Namazie, 41, is friendly and softly spoken. But she does not mince her words. It takes nerve to start an organisation for people who have rejected Islam. In Islamic law, apostasy is punishable by death. Namazie receives periodic threats, usually on her mobile phone: "One said, 'You are going to be decapitated'...I went to the police. They were very attentive at first because they thought it might be linked to the attempted bombings in Glasgow . But when they realised it wasn't, they never bothered contacting me again." Doesn't she worry about her safety? "Yes, I do, frequently. I worry about whether I will live, especially now I am a mother. If I see someone looking at me strangely, I wonder." Why doesn't she use a pseudonym? "They can find out who you are anyway. And the point of the Council of Ex-Muslims is to stand up and be counted." She doesn't really like the label ex-Muslim and would prefer not to frame her identity in religious terms but, she says, it is like gays "coming out" 30 years ago: something has to become public if you are to break taboos. The CEMB has more than 100 members with inquiries from people who do not dare to join. "Some have horrendous stories but do not put them on the website because they are afraid."