Join notable free-thinkers from around the world at a spectacular venue in central London during 22-23 July 2017 for a weekend of discussions and debates on freedom of conscience and expression in the 21st century.
The exciting two-day conference will be a follow up to the historic 2014 International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights and will discuss censorship and blasphemy laws, freedom of and from religion, apostasy, the limits of religion’s role in society, LGBT and women’s rights, secular values and more.
The conference will defend free expression at a time when unconditional free expression is no longer seen as intrinsically good; instead censorship and self-censorship are seen to be “progressive”. As writer Kenan Malik says “‘I believe in free speech but…’ may well be a motto of our times”.
With the rise of multiculturalism as a social policy both at home and abroad and the normalisation of cultural relativism, universal freedoms and rights are increasingly seen as western whilst minority communities in the west and entire societies across the world are homogenised and equated with Islamists.
On the one hand, in countries where the theocrats are in power, freedom of conscience and expression are met with apostasy and blasphemy laws, including the death penalty in 14 states. This affects not only atheists but believers who refuse to toe the line. On the other hand, in the west, dissenters are silenced or censored via accusations of “Islamophobia” or “hurt religious sentiments”. Speech is often equated with real harm against minority communities, though dissenters – minorities within minorities – are in fact the ones facing real harm and violence.
At this event, speakers from countries or the Diaspora as diverse as Algeria, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Tunisia, UK, Ukraine, US and Yemen will for the first time gather in one place to defend freedom of conscience and expression and argue that freedoms are not western but universal. In fact, no one needs freedom of expression more than those living under the rule or threats of the theocrats.
At the conference, speakers will reflect on the assault on free expression, how the freedom of religion has a corresponding right to be free from religion, how freedom to criticise religion is an integral aspect of free expression, how these freedoms are not luxuries or western but a matter of life and death for many across the globe and in minority communities in the west.
The issues will be addressed in both regional and thematic ways as will specific forms that attacks on freedoms – and on activists themselves – take in various parts of the world. The conference will highlight the voices of the many persecuted and exiled, address the challenges faced by activists, elaborate on the links between democratic politics and free expression and conscience, promote secular and humanist rights-based alternatives, establish priorities for regional and international collective action and influence policy and practice locally, nationally, and internationally. Art and culture, important forms of expression, will be integral to the event.
The event will promote and protect freedom of expression and its environment at a time when it is under heavy assault. Given the speakers and topics involved, it will be a lively debate with the dauntless use of the free word. The discussions – both in video and written form – will be made available on social media and published on the conference website.
Democratic politics cannot survive without free expression nor can human beings live full lives without it. As Salman Rushdie says: “Limiting freedom of expression is not just censorship, it is also an assault on human nature”. the key message at the conference will be that freedom of expression and conscience are not luxuries but basic human rights.
Confirmed Distinguished Speakers:
A C Grayling, Philosopher
Abdalaziz Alhamza, Co-founder and Spokesperson of Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently
Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian Writer, Physician and Musician
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Feminist Activist
Alya Al-Sultani, British-Iraqi Vocalist and Composer
Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Benjamin David, Editor-in-Chief of Conatus News
Bonya Ahmed, Activist, Writer and Blogger at Muktomona
Cemal Knudsen Yucel, Co-Founder and Chair of Ex-Muslims of Norway
Chris Moos, Secular Activist
Clive Aruede, Co-Founder of London Black Atheists
Dan Barker, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Dave Silverman, President of American Atheists
Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker
Djemila Benhabib, Author and Activist
Elham Manea, Yemeni-born Author and Human Rights Campaigner
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Iraqi Founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement
Fariborz Pooya, Bread and Roses TV Host
Fauzia Ilyas, Founder of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan
Gina Khan, One Law for All Spokesperson
Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Award-winning Playwright
Halima Begum, Ex-Muslim Feminist Researcher and Blogger
Houzan Mahmoud, Culture Project Co-Founder
Ibrahim Abdullah, Founder of Muslim-ish
Imad Iddine Habib, Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader
Iram Ramzan, Journalist and Founder of Sedaa
Ismail Mohamed, Egyptian Atheist and Founder of Black Ducks Talk Show
Jane Donnelly, Atheist Ireland’s Human Rights Officer
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship
Karrar D. Al Asfoor, Co-founder of Atheist Alliance Middle East and North Africa
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian
Kenan Malik, Author and Broadcaster
Lawrence M Krauss, American Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist
Lola Tinubu , Co-founder of the London Black Atheists
Maajid Nawaz, Founding Chairman of Quilliam Foundation
Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Mario Ramadan, Freethought Lebanon
Maryam Namazie, Iranian/British Rights Campaigner
Michael Nugent, Chairperson of Atheist Ireland
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nahla Mahmoud, Sudanese Activist
Nasreen Rehman, Co-Founder and Chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Nina Sankari, Polish Secular Activist
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Rayhana Sultan, Bangladeshi Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Richard Dawkins, Author and Scientist (subject to availability)
Sanal Edamaruku, Founder and President of Rationalist International
Sarah Peace, Nigerian Artist and Director of Fireproof Library
Shelley Segal, Singer/Songwriter
Tasneem Khalil, Swedish-Bangladeshi Journalist and Editor of Independent World Report
Usama al-Binni, Arab Atheists Network Activist
Waleed Al Husseini, Palestinian Writer and Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Zehra Pala, Activist of Atheism Association of Turkey
Zineb El Rhazoui, Moroccan-born Columnist for Charlie Hebdo
Conference organisers are One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Sponsors include Bread and Roses; Fitnah; National Secular Society; Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science; and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.