“Secular conference created a sense of imminent and momentous change – and women will be the driving force”
- Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society
The two-day International Conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights held in London during 11-12 October 2014 was a rousing success, promoting a much-needed global secular alternative in the ISIS era and conquering fear with hope.
250 secularists, including believers, free-thinkers, agnostics and atheists from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora assembled at the unprecedented and historic gathering to discuss resistance against the repression and violence of various manifestations of the religious-Right.
They highlighted the voices of the many persecuted and exiled and the strength of the demand for secularism despite grave risks.
The delegates made an unequivocal stand with the brave women and men of Kobane, adopted a Manifesto for Secularism and set the stage for the development of a broad international front for secularism to challenge the religious-Right.
The conference, which was convened by Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas and Iranian-born Campaigner Maryam Namazie, called on people everywhere to sign the Manifesto for Secularism and join in this historical task.
The conference was not an end but a beginning of great things to come.
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1. See extensive press coverage of the conference.
2. Speakers at the conference were philosopher AC Grayling; Aliyah Saleem who spent 6 years in an Islamic school in Britain; Tunisian University of Manouba Professor Amel Grami; social and political analyst and commentator Bahram Soroush; French writer Caroline Fourest; secular student activist Chris Moos; Senior Researcher at the International Center for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka Chulani Kodikara; Indian labour historian Dilip Simeon; Yemeni writer and activist Elham Manea; Co-Founder of Muslim Women Research and Action Front from Sri Lanka Faizun Zackariya; founder of the Iranian Secular Society Fariborz Pooya; Senegalese International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws Fatou Sow; Director of Centre for Secular Space Gita Sahgal; Leader of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran Hamid Taqvaee; One Secular School System in Ontario Campaigner Homa Arjomand; Director of the Afghanistan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium Horia Mosadiq; FEMEN leader Inna Shevchenko; co-founder of Justice for Women Julie Bindel; author Karima Bennoune; writer Kenan Malik; Pakistani-born human rights activist Kiran Opal; Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker Lila Ghobady; Ex-Muslim Maha Kamal; Libyan president of Hakki Magdulien Abaida; Tunisian filmmaker Nadia El Fani; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud; Vice President of the Atheist Coalition in Poland Nina Sankari; Founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism Nira Davis-Yuval; Pakistani nuclear physicist and social activist Pervez Hoodbhoy; Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell; Southall Black Sisters Director Pragna Patel; founder of the Ex-Muslims of Scotland Ramin Forghani; author Rumy Hassan; Turkish MP Safak Pavey; journalist Salil Tripathi; Iranian/German writer Siba Shakib; Founder of Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laïcité Soad Baba Aïssa; co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe Sue Cox; Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra in Bangladesh Sultana Kamal; Director of Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford Taj Hargey; Bangladeshi-born writer Taslima Nasrin; President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson and women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman. Acclaimed pianist and composer Anne Lovett; comedians Daphna Baram, AKA MissD, Kate Smurthwaite and Sameena Zehra as well as LCP dance company and singer/songwriter Shelley Segal provided entertainment.
3. Indonesian band SIMPONI was announced as the winner of One Law for All’s Sounds of Freedom award with their entry “Sister in Danger”, a tribute to Indonesian victims of sexual violence.
4. The conference was endorsed by Atheist Alliance International; Atheist Union of Greece; Bread and Roses TV; Children First Now; Center for Inquiry; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran; Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation; International Committee against Stoning; International Committee against Execution; International Federation of Iranian Refugees; Iran Solidarity; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Pink Triangle Trust; Secularism is a Women’s Issue; Southall Black Sisters; The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK; and Women Living Under Muslim Laws amongst others.
5. Special thanks to The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK, the National Secular Society and donors who supported the Indiegogo fundraising campaign to bring secularists from the South to the conference, including @GodlessRobin, Andy Croy, Karima Bennoune, Kim Revill, Leif Cid, Muriel Seltman, Oliver Zimmerman, Penny Jaques, Rustom Cardinal, Sue Cox and Thomas Oliver.
6. For more information, contact: