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Dec 09 2009

The Formation of an International Bureau for Laicite* Announced

Press Release
For Immediate Release
9 December 2009

A wide number of non governmental organizations and individuals from across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas have signed a common public statement affirming the nefarious role of fundamentalist politics and the need to counter it internationally.

This charter highlights:
– The flawed ideological bogey of clash of civilizations, the role of public policies leading to greater inequality, and the impact of religious fundamentalisms and right wing identity politics in dividing people locally, nationally and internationally.
– Fundamentalist movements benefit from – A retreat of the state from the social domain that leaves the terrain open to the religious-political outfits to flourish. – Public support from certain groups on the left, that consider fundamentalists as allies in the name of fighting imperialism.

In this overall backdrop the signatories propose the formation of an international initiative called International Bureau for Laicite to act as a facilitating body to network, support and amplify the struggles for secularism.

The charter of International Bureau for Laicite has been released in English, French and Spanish on a day that marks the 104th anniversary of the legislation separating state and religion in France.

The full text of the charter is below or available for public consultation and is open for signatures at the newly created website of International Bureau for Laicite.

Considering that:- The so-called theory of ‘clash of civilisations’ between a ‘Christian West’ on the one hand, and a ‘Muslim Orient’ on the other, is gaining ground, in total disregard of all people the world over, who have been fighting in favour of a political model founded on principles of secularism,

- In the name of defending the ‘right to difference’, numerous states are legitimizing differences of rights between citizens depending on their faith, thereby fueling communalisms,

- With the help of religions, governments try to draw people into warlike confrontations

- In addition to fighting against existing disparities between men and women, women have to unceasingly defend their hard won rights, notably equality in the realm of social and professional rights and bodily rights,

- That, in many countries, the rise of different fundamentalisms has come to increase the subordination of women,

- Despite a movement towards secularisation and the decline of religions, globalisation of neoliberal policies (favoured by the Washington consensus) that emerged in the 80’s, stimulated the march towards privatisation and commoditisation of all human activities, and exacerbated inward looking communalism (the disengagement of the state necessitated the recourse to traditional forms of solidarity, substituting national solidarity with the principle of charity),

- The alliance that a communalized Left does not hesitate to make with religious organisations, in the name of fighting ‘western imperialism’, is damaging, as is the neoliberal disinvestment by the State from the social sphere that has allowed religious organisations to occupy that space

-The current economic crisis has accentuated inequalities and poverty,

- However, there has been a convergence of secularist, feminist and social struggles, everywhere in the world;

The organisations and persons listed below have come together to set up the International Bureau for Laïcite, based on the present resolution, in order to promote secularism internationally.

1. We affirm our commitment to secularism. The principle of secularism, notably the strict separation of State and religion, guarantees the non interference of religion in the sphere of state authority; as well as a real independence of religious and faith based organisations of civil society vis-à-vis the state. Secularism guarantees to citizens the absolute freedom of conscience: the right to believe, the right to disbelieve, the right to change faith, as well as the right to freedom of expression. Consequently, the right to criticize religions is not to be put into question and it takes precedence above all moves to institute ‘defamation of religions and their prophets’ as a crime.

2. We affirm our commitment to the principle of equality and the universality of rights. We believe in a republican conception of citizenship, and we reject all systems which, in the name of particularisms, segment the body politic, either by privileging one category of citizens or by excluding it. Therefore we intend to fight against all forms of discriminations, notably those faced by women and the minorities.

3. We refuse the globalized predatory and destructive neoliberal policies which accentuate pauperisation, whose first victims are women and children; state disengagement fosters the retreat of national solidarity in favour of traditional solidarities of ‘communal’ type. In wake of neoliberalism, we call for the internationalisation of struggles.

On the 9th of December 2009**, we call on organisations and individuals who identify with the principles of this statement to support and sign it, and join us.

*After consultation, we finally resolve to use the French concept/word ‘Laicite’ in the name of our platform. The reason for it is that the word ’secularism’ in English conveys the notion of equal tolerance of the state vis-à-vis all religions, rather than the notion of separation between ‘Churches’/religions and the state as well as the total disinvestment of the state regarding religions, which is embedded into the French concept of laicite. Rare scholars have of late started to use the neologism ‘Laicity’, but we feel that it is not known to activists and to public at large.

** On the 9th of December 1905, France voted the Law of Separation of Churches and State

The founders of the BLI
Coalition for a Secular State, Serbia
Collectif citoyen pour l’égalité et la laïcité (CCIEL), Montréal
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Development Alternatives with Women for A New Era (DAWN), international network
Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran
Iran Solidarity
Iranian Secular Society
MAREA, feminist journal, Genova, Italy
Parti pour la Laïcité et la Démocratie (ex MDSL), Algérie
Protagoras, Croatia
One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain
Organization for Women’s Liberation (OWL), Iran
Secularism Is A Women’s Issue (SIAWI), international network
Union des Familles Laïques (UFAL), France
Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights (WICUR) international network
Women in Black – Belgrade (WIB), Serbia
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), international network

Zarizana Abul Aziz, lawyer, human rights activist, Malaysia
Samia Allalou, journaliste, Algérie/France
Hakim Arabdiou, militant laïque, France
Soheib Bencheikh, théologien, spécialiste des religions et de la laicité, ancien mufti de Marseille, France
Djemila Benhabib, auteure de « Ma vie à contre-Coran », récipiendaire du Prix des écrivains francophones d’Amérique
Codou Bop, journaliste, Dakar, Sénégal
Caroline Brancher, co-responsable du secteur féminisme et laïcité de l’UFAL, Paris
Ariane Brunet, co-fondatrice de Urgent Action Fund , Montréal
Sonia Correa, co-coordinator of Sexuality Policy Watch and Research Associate at ABIA (Brazilian Interdisciplinary Association for AIDS (Brazil)), Rio De Janeiro.
Yvonne Deutsch, feminist peace activist, Jerusalem
Lalia Ducos, présidente de WICUR, Paris-Alger
Alda Facio, jurist and feminist human rights activist, part of the Campaign for Debaptisation, Costa Rica
Gigi Franscisco, coordinator of the DAWN international network, Manila, The Philippines
Pierre Galand, président du Centre d’action laïque (CAL), Belgique
Nadia Geerts, initiatrice du R.A.P.P.E.L. (le-rappel.be), Belgique
Laura Guidetti, President and co-founder of MAREA, Genova, Italy
Marieme Helie Lucas, fondatrice du WLUML et coordinatrice de SIAWI, Algérie/France
Hameeda Hossein, co-chair of South Asians for Human Rights and Chairperson of Ain o Salish Kendra, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Ayesha Imam, Sociologist, human rights activists, Nigeria
Harsh Kapoor, founder of South Asia Citizens Web (sacw.net), France/Inde
Sultana Kamal, lawyer and human rights activist, Executive Director of Ain O’Salish Kendra, Dhakha, Bangladesh,
Cherifa Kheddar, présidente de l’association ” Djazairouna” des Familles Victimes du Terrorisme Islamiste, Algérie
Catherine Kintzler, philosophe de la laïcité, Paris, France
Monica Lanfranco, journalist, co-founder of MAREA, Genova, Italy
Azar Majedi, president of OWL, Iran/U.K
Maryam Namazie, Campaigner, Iran/U.K
Henri Pena Ruiz, philosophe de la laïcité, France
Fariborz Pooya, Iranian Secular Society, Iran/U.K
Venita Popovic, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mary Jane Real, lawyer and human rights activist, Manilla, The Philippines
Rhoda Reddock, feminist historian, Professor at the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago
Nina Sankari, Présidente de l’Initiative Féministe Européenne (IFE), Pologne
Aisha Shaheed, historian and women’s rights activist,Canada/Pakistan/UK
Mohamed Sifaoui, journaliste, Algérie/France
Fatou Sow, sociologue au CNRS, Dakar, Sénégal
Gila Svirsky, Women In Black, Jerusalem
Lino Veljak, Professor of philosophy, University of Zagreb, founder of PROTAGORAS, Croatia
Vivienne Wee, anthropologist and women’s rights advocate, Singapore and Hong Kong, China
Stasa Zajovic, founder of WIB-Belgrade, coordinator of the Coalition for a Secular State, Serbia

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