Conference of a life-time on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights
11-12 October 2014
The Tower Hotel, St Katharine’s Way, London E1W 1LD, UK
The global rise of the religious-Right, including but not limited to Islamic State (or ISIS), and their efforts to gain political power and control the state apparatus and public institutions has meant that organised religions’ role vis-a-vis the state as well as secularism and the complete separation of religion from the state have become critical political and civil rights matters.
At this unprecedented conference, prominent women and men on the frontlines of opposing the religious-Right and defending secularism, including those of faith and none, will come together to discuss the religious-Right, its attacks on civil rights and freedoms, and the role of secularism for 21st century humanity.
Speakers from countries or the Diaspora as diverse as Algeria, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Senegal, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, UK, USA and Yemen will reflect on the struggle for secularism in both regional and thematic ways and will discuss the specific forms that attacks on secularism – and on secularists themselves – take in various parts of the world. They will also discuss how these attacks are linked to the rise of the religious-Right in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East and its confluence in countries of emigration such as Europe and North America.
The conference aims to highlight the voices of the many persecuted and exiled, address the challenges faced by activists, elaborate on the links between equality, democratic politics and secularism, promote secular and rights-based alternatives to the religious-Right, establish priorities for regional and international collective action and influence policy and practice locally, nationally, and internationally.
The conference will result in the establishment of an international front of secularists against the religious-Right.
(Subject to Change)
Saturday 11 October 2014
9:30-9:40 Welcome and Housekeeping with MCs Amal Farah, Mahal Kamal and Nahla Mahmoud
9:40-9:50 Maryam Namazie: Opening Address
Maryam Namazie will give an overview of the conference aims, the political necessity for such a conference during the rise of the religious-Right and the need for secularism as a minimum precondition.
9:50-10:05 Marieme Helie Lucas: Attacks on Secularism
Marieme Helie Lucas will look at the shifting meaning of ‘secularism’; the political consequences of this shift and how it enhances and legitimises both the rise of fundamentalist theocratic ideologies and the fragmentation of people into ‘communities’ with unequal rights.
10:05-10:10 Ouachdek: 20 Ans Barakat
10:30-12:00 Secularism Panel
This panel will discuss the definition of secularism and whether secularism is a minimum precondition for a democratic society.
Chair: Peter Tatchell
Panellists: Caroline Fourest (“Secularism against Fanaticism”), Faisal Saeed Al-Muttar (“The Need for a Global Secular Humanist Movement, My Journey from Baghdad to Washington D.C.”), Hamid Taqvaee (“Rise and Fall of Secularism”), Pragna Patel and Sue Cox (“The Isolation and Alienation Caused by Clergy and Why Secularism is Important”)
13:00-13:30 Nadia El Fani, “Neither Allah nor Master”
13:30-15:00 Religion in Law and Politics Panel
This panel will look at religion’s role in the law and politics and discuss whether organised religions must be kept out the state.
Chair: Terry Sanderson
Panellists: Fariborz Pooya (“Production and Reproduction of the Myth of the Moderate Religion”), Fatou Sow (“Religion and Politics in Sub-Saharan Secular States”), Gita Sahgal, Randa Kassis (“Political situation in Syria”), and Taj Hargey
15:00-15:30 AC Grayling, Secularism and Education
16:00-17:30 Multi-faithism, Multiculturalism and citizenship Panel
Chair: Rumy Hassan
The panel will look at problems related to the erroneous conflation of people, religions and the religious-Right and whether multiculturalism and multi-faithism undermines notions of citizenship.
Panellists: Aliyah Saleem (“My Experience at an Islamic Boarding School in Britain”), Chris Moos (“The Fox, The Hen House, and The One who Let Him in: The Religious Far-Right and its Enablers in Higher Education”), Elham Manea (“Islamic Law in the West”), Kenan Malik (“Meaning of Religious Freedom”), and Marieme Helie Lucas (“Communities, Conflicting Rights and Hierarchy of Rights in Non-Secular States”)
17:30-18:00 Pervez Hoodbhoy, “Has the Islamic State ever been a historical reality?”
19:30-23:00 Dinner with entertainment
MCs Maha Kamal, Nahla Mahmoud and Ramin Forghani
Taslima Nasrin, “Women’s Rights”
Stories of Refusal and Resistance with Amina Sboui, Ben Baz Aziz, Imad Iddine Habib and Waleed Al Husseini
LCP Dance Theatre
Singer Shelley Segal and more…
Sunday 12 October 2014
9:00-9:30 Karima Bennoune
9:30-11:00 Women, Religion and Religious-Right Panel
This panel will look at the role of religion and the religious-Right in societies and its impact on women and girls.
Chair: Julie Bindel
Panellists: Horia Mosadiq (“Religious Fundamentalism and its Impact on Women and Girls in Afghanistan”), Inna Shevchenko (“Religion and Women’s Rights”), Magdulien Abaida (“Women in Islam”), Nira Yuval-Davis (“The Role of Religion in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and its Effects on the Position of Women”) and Siba Shakib
11:00-11:30 Lila Ghobady, “Female Iranian Artists: A Portrait of Anti-Regime Women in Exile”
11:30-12:00 Amel Grami: “Female Bodies in Tunisia Post Revolution”
13:00-13:10 Comedian Kate Smurthwaite
13:10-14:40 Blasphemy, Apostasy and Citizenship Panel
This panel will address the issue of blasphemy and apostasy laws and its impact on citizenship.
Chair: Salil Tripathi
Panellists: Kiran Opal, Nahla Mahmoud, Nina Sankari (“25 Years in the Shadow of the Church”), Pragna Patel, and Sanal Edamaruku (“Blasphemy Laws and the Contemporary Victims”)
15:20-16:50 Religious-Right Panel
This panel will focus attention on the religious-Right, the far-Right political movements that are using religion for right-wing restructuring of societies.
Chair: Yasmin Rehman
Panellists: Bahram Soroush (“Confronting the Islamic State”), Gita Sahgal, Houzan Mahmoud (“Political Islam an old Problem with New Challenges”), Kacem Ghazali and Tarek Fatah (“Islamism and its Roots in the Quest for an Islamic State”)
16:50-17:10 Secularism Manifesto
17:10-17:30 Closing with Marieme Helie Lucas and Maryam Namazie
For full details of the conference, including on registration and obtaining tickets, visit the event’s dedicated website or contact Conference Organising Committee: Amal Farah, Atoosa Khatiri, Eileen McFadden, Marieme Helie Lucas and Maryam Namazie at [email protected] Please also join the event’s Facebook page and follow the conference on Twitter or Tweet #SecularConf.
The conference is endorsed by Atheist Alliance International; 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; Secularism is a Women’s Issue; The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK; and Women Living Under Muslim Laws amongst others.
Richard Dawkins will be attending the conference.
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF SPEAKERS AND ACTS
- AC Grayling is a Philosopher, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and author and commentator.
- Amal Farah is Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All. She is Somali-born and was raised in a conservative and literalist Muslim household.
- Amel Grami is Professor at the Tunisian University of Manouba; she was on the frontlines of Manouba’s successful struggle to defy a Salafist siege last year and is a leading expert on Religion and Women’s Studies.
- Amina Sboui is a Tunisian activist threatened and imprisoned after posting topless photos of herself on Facebook carrying the slogan: “My Body is not the Source of Anyone’s Honour”.
- Bahram Soroush is a social and political analyst and commentator and a co-host of Bread and Roses TV Programme.
- Ben Baz Aziz is a Presenter at Arab Atheist broadcasting and a blogger focusing on LGBT and atheist rights in the Middle East who was imprisoned in Kuwait for blasphemy.
- Caroline Fourest is a French writer, editor of the magazine ProChoix, and author of Frère Tariq, a critical look at the works of Tariq Ramadan and books on topics such as the conservative right, the pro-life movement and the fundamentalist trends in the Abrahamic religions.
- Chris Moos is a secular student activist who has led a successful campaign for the right to wear ‘Jesus and Mo’ t-shirts after being harassed and threatened with removal at his university. He was a nominee for the NSS’ Secularist of the Year 2014 award.
- Elham Manea is a Yemeni associate professor specialized in the Middle East, a writer, and a human rights activist. Her concept of humanistic Islam was first published in a series of articles in Arabic.
- Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar is an Iraqi born writer and a social activist living in the United States. He is the founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement and Secular Post.
- Fariborz Pooya is the founder of the Iranian Secular Society, was one of the founding members of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and is a co-host of Bread and Roses TV.
- Fatou Sow is a Senegalese Sociologist, and a member of a number of African and international associations as well as the International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.
- Gita Sahgal is an Indian-born writer, journalist, film-maker and rights activist, Director of Centre for Secular Space who was suspended by Amnesty International as head of its Gender Unit in 2010 for criticising the organisation’s relations with an Islamist group.
- Hamid Taqvaee is Leader of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran’s Central Committee and a leading Marxist opposition figure to the Islamic regime of Iran.
- Houzan Mahmoud is a Kurdish women’s rights campaigner and the Spokesperson of the Organisations of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. She has written and campaigned extensively on women’s rights issues.
- Horia Mosadiq has been Director of the Afghanistan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium and an advisor to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, as well as a journalist in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Imad Iddine Habib is a Moroccan atheist threatened for his atheism, founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco, the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion.
- Inna Shevchenko is leader of FEMEN topless activists who was kidnapped and threatened by the Belarus KGB in 2011 for her activism. She was granted political asylum in France.
- Julie Bindel is an English writer, feminist and co-founder of the group Justice for Women. She was listed in the Independent’s “Pink List” as one of the top 101 most influential gay and lesbian people in the UK.
- Kacem El Ghazzali is a Moroccan secularist writer, blogger, activist and atheist. He was the head of the Moroccan Center for Human Rights’ Youth Chapter and is a member of the Executive Board of the Moroccan Bloggers Association.
- Karima Bennoune is a law professor at the University of California Davis School of Law, and author of “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism”.
- Kate Smurthwaite is a stand-up comedian and political activist. She has appeared on more than 500 TV and radio shows including This Morning, The Big Questions, Woman’s Hour and The Moral Maze.
- Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, a presenter of BBC Radio 4′s Analysis and a panellist on The Moral Maze. His book From Fatwa to Jihad was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize.
- Kiran Opal is a Pakistani-born human rights activist, writer, and editor living in Canada. She is co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America and Editor of ExMuslimBlogs.
- Layla Saleem spent 6 years in an Islamic school in Britain and now campaigns for secular education.
- LCP is a multimedia and multiethnic dance company which emphasises human rights issues mainly human trafficking.
- Lila Ghobady is an Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker. Her first independent release, Forbidden Sun Dance, was banned by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- Maha Kamal is an ex-Muslim who was disowned by her parents for leaving Islam, President of the Colorado Prison Law Project, and Commissioner at the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice’s Commission on Inclusiveness.
- Magdulien Abaida is a Libyan Activist and president of Hakki (My Right) Organization for Women Rights. She was kidnapped by Islamists in Benghazi in August 2012 and fled after her release three days later.
- Marieme Helie Lucas is an Algerian sociologist, founder and former International Coordinator of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws. She is also the founder of Secularism Is A Women’s Issue.
- Maryam Namazie is Spokesperson for Fitnah, One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; editor of Fitnah’s Unveiled; and producer and co-host of Bread and Roses.
- Nadia El Fani is a Tunisian filmmaker who risks arrest and up to five years in prison if she returns to Tunisia after Islamists filed a complaint against her film “Neither Allah nor Master”.
- Nahla Mahmoud is an environmentalist and human right activist originally from Sudan. She leads the Sudanese Humanists Group and is Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.
- Nina Sankari is President of the European Feminist Initiative in Poland, and Vice-President of the Polish Rationalist Association.
- Pervez Hoodbhoy is a Pakistani nuclear physicist and recipient of a number of awards. He is also a prominent environmentalist and social activist.
- Peter Tatchell has been campaigning for rights and global justice since 1967. New Statesman readers voted him sixth on their list of “Heroes of our time”. He was Campaigner of the Year in The Observer Ethical Awards.
- Pragna Patel is a founding member of the Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism. She was listed in The Guardian’s Top 100 women: activists and campaigners.
- Ramin Forghani is founder of the Ex-Muslims of Scotland and Vice-Chair of the Scottish Secular Society.
- Randa Kassis is President and founder of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society. She was a member of the Syrian National Council until she was excluded for her warnings against Muslim fundamentalists in 2012.
- Rumy Hassan is Senior Lecturer at University of Sussex and author of “Dangerous Liaisons: The Clash between Islamism and Zionism” and “Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths”.
- Salil Tripathi is an award-winning journalist, a contributing editor at Mint and at Caravan in India. He was board member of English PEN from 2009 to 2013, and co-chaired PEN’s Writers-at-Risk Committee.
- Sanal Edamaruku is an author and founder-president of Rationalist International and the Indian Rationalist Association. In 2012, he was charged with hurting religious sentiments for his role in examining a claimed miracle at a local Catholic Church.
- Shelley Segal is a Melbourne based singer-songwriter involved in secular activism. ‘An Atheist Album’ is a passionate response to dogmatic belief, inequality, religious oppression and the idea that only the devout can be grateful and good.
- Siba Shakib is an Iranian/German film-maker, writer and political activist. She was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. Her international best-seller Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep has been translated into 27 languages and won a P.E.N. prize.
- Sue Cox is the co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe, an international organisation that has at its heart the support and empowerment of catholic clergy abuse survivors of which she is one.
- Taj Hargey is South African Muslim scholar. He was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa and founder of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford and the Imam of the Summertown Islamic congregation.
- Tarek Fatah is a Pakistani born Canadian writer, broadcaster and a secular activist. He is the author of “Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State” and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
- Taslima Nasrin is a Bangladeshi-born award-winning writer, physician, and activist, known for her powerful writings on women oppression and unflinching criticism of religion, despite forced exile and multiple fatwas calling for her death.
- Terry Sanderson is a writer and journalist and current President of the National Secular Society, which campaigns for the separation of church and state.
- Waleed Husseini is a Palestinian blogger arrested in 2010 by the Palestinian Authority for blaspheming against Islam on Facebook and in his blog. He founded the Council of Ex-Muslims of France in 2013.
- Yasmin Rehman has worked for more than two decades on violence against women and girls. She was Director of Partnerships and Diversity with the Metropolitan Police Service, and Deputy Association of Chief Police Officer lead for Honour based Violence from 2004-07.