11-12 October Conference Schedule NOW AVAILABLE

ConferenceIcon1smallConference 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

BACKGROUND

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.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE
(Subject to Change)

Saturday 11 October 2014

8:00-9:30am    Registration
Arrival Tea/Coffee 

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 

10:10-10:30    Film

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”)
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Who is allah?

Who is allah?

Your poor unsuspecting children can find out for the bargain price of $1.82.

This book is designed to help parents and teachers in their efforts to encourage young children to ask questions and to assist them in exploring answers together. It makes the sharing of a basic knowledge of Islam simple, clear and enjoyable. This lays the foundation on which greater understanding can be built and learning enriched as young students grow older. And, whatever our age, reviewing the basic in this way can be very beneficial, in that it re-kindles our awareness and glad acceptance of the beautiful message and wondrous knowledge of Islam: we are then the better able share our renewed enthusiasm with others. May you benefit greatly from reading this book.

Whilst the book pays lip service to children asking questions and exploring, which is very useful for the pro-religious education lobby, it has the requisite veiling of girls (which is child abuse in my opinion, the sexualisation of girls at a young age and a physical and constant reminder of sex apartheid), and the very ‘objective’ views on Islam, the world and creation. It also manages to oh so subtly remind the reader that its aims are to ‘rekindle our awareness’ and ‘glad acceptance of the beautiful message’. So much for objectivity.

The only thing missing is the ‘or else’ but don’t worry, the child will learn that soon enough.

Once your child’s done with this book, there are plenty more to choose from – like ‘I Love Islam – Level 1′ and the ‘A to Z of Akhlaq’ or moral behaviour. Here’s one your child will need to know and very soon:

Enjoy.

Religious education is an oxymoron

Good quality’ ‘Religious Education’ (RE) in schools is seen as important and valued by the public, research commissioned by the Religious Education Council (REC) has indicated. According to the research, 53% of adults in England and Wales think that RE should remain a compulsory subject in state funded schools. A greater number (58%) think it is beneficial for pupils to study RE.

REC of England and Wales brings together fifty professional organisations and religion and belief groups with an interest in promoting good quality RE.

Err, good quality religious education? I think that’s what’s called an oxymoron.

Religion and education are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. One is dogmatic, prescriptive and punishes free thinking and reason. Education is *meant* to be the opposite.

I’m really not sure why anyone who is not part of a religious group would be glad that adults recognise the importance of religious education.

And if it’s so important for children to be force-fed their parents’ religion – which is what this is all really about – why not have political education classes too? It is also very helpful in raising obedient robots.

I know, I know, it’s all about exploring the ‘many varied ethical and religious perspectives to promote understanding and to assist in the personal development of each student’, blah, blah, blah.

But religion is the last thing that can help in anything to do with promoting understanding and children’s personal development.

Maybe it would be best if the ‘professionals’ started looking at it from a children’s rights perspective rather than from the perspective of religion.

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I’m blogging every half an hour from 9am to 3pm GMT in support of the Secular Student Alliance blogothon. The SSA is trying to raise £100,000 by 16 June.

Try to support the SSA if you can. If we’re going to beat the religion industry, we need to support organisations promoting secularism and reason.

Here’s a link to the official SSA Week page, which has lots of information about the SSA as well as an easy-to find donation widget.

Here’s a list of quotations collected by Greta on why the SSA is worth supporting.