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, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, 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.
The Conference will be in English.
Saturday 11 October 2014
9:30-9:40 Welcome and Housekeeping with MCs Fariborz Pooya and Nahla Mahmoud
9:40-9:50 Maryam Namazie: “Secularism is our Challenge to Islamism and the Religious-Right”
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 Ouechdek: 20 ans Barakat
10:10-10:20 Tribute by Karima Bennoune to those Fallen Fighting the Religious-Right
10:20-12:00 Secularism Panel
This panel will discuss the importance of secularism as a minimum precondition for a democratic society.
Chair: Peter Tatchell
Panellists: Caroline Fourest (“Secularism against Fanaticism”), Gita Sahgal (“Who’s Afraid of Secularism and What they Won’t tell you About it”), Hamid Taqvaee (“Rise and Fall of Secularism”), Sue Cox (“The Isolation and Alienation Caused by Clergy and Why Secularism is Important”), Safak Pavey (“The Turkish Experience”) and Sultana Kamal (“Fate of Secularism in Bangladesh”)
13:00-13:30 Nadia El Fani, “Neither Allah nor Master”
13:30-15:10 Religion in State, Law and Politics Panel
This panel will look at religion’s role in the state, law and politics and discuss why organised religions must be kept out the state.
Chair: Terry Sanderson
Panellists: Fariborz Pooya (“Production and Reproduction of the Myth of Moderate Religion”), Fatou Sow (“Religion and Politics in Sub-Saharan Secular States”), Homa Arjomand, (“Children have no Religion: One Secular Education for All”), Nina Sankari (“In the Shadow of the Church: Failed Democracy in Poland”) and Pragna Patel (“Religion, Law and the State in the UK: The Human Rights Implications of Accommodating Religious Legal Codes”)
15:10-15:40 AC Grayling, Secularism and Education
1610-16:20 Comedian Kate Smurthwaite
16:20-18:00 Multi-faithism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship Panel
The panel will look at problems related to the erroneous conflation of people, religions and the religious-Right and why multiculturalism and multi-faithism undermines notions of citizenship.
Chair: Rumy Hasan
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: The Essentialists”), Kenan Malik (“What’s Wrong with Multiculturalism?”), Marieme Helie Lucas (“Communities, Conflicting Rights and Hierarchy of Rights in Non-Secular States”) and Taj Hargey (“Banning the Burka: Religious Intolerance or Secular Imperative?”)
18:00-18:30 Pervez Hoodbhoy, “Has the Islamic State ever been a Historical Reality?”
18:30-19:30 Regional Sessions
19:00-19:30 Cocktails for Dinner Guests
19:30-23:00 Dinner with Entertainment
21:30 onwards with MCs Maha Kamal and Ramin Forghani
Gita Sahgal interviews Taslima Nasrin
Pianist/Composer Anne Lovett
LCP Dance Theatre
Singer/Songwriter Shelley Segal. Shelley will perform and present the winner of One Law For All’s international song competition, ‘Sounds of Freedom’.
Sunday 12 October 2014
9:00-9:05 Welcome with MCs Fariborz Pooya and Nahla Mahmoud
9:05-9:35 Karima Bennoune, “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here”
9:35-11:00 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”), 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”), Siba Shakib (“How Religion and Tradition Determine the Lives of Women and Girls and Education as a Way to Free Oneself”) and Soad Baba Aïssa (“Double Fight: against Islamist Terrorism and Ideology”)
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”
13:00-13:30 Comedy with Sameena Zehra and Daphna Baram
13:30-15:00 Blasphemy and Apostasy Panel
This panel will address the issue of blasphemy and apostasy laws.
Chair: Salil Tripathi
Panellists: Inna Shevchenko (“Girls against Gods”), Kiran Opal (“The Human and the Kafir: How Fear of Apostasy Fuels Islamist Power”), Maha Kamal (“International human rights law and the clash with state-implemented Sharia law”) , and Nahla Mahmoud (“Islamic Apostasy in the West: Reality and Challenges”)
15:30-17:20 Religious-Right Panel
This panel will focus attention on the religious-Right, far-Right political movements, using religion for the right-wing restructuring of societies.
Chair: Yasmin Rehman
Panellists: Bahram Soroush (“Confronting the Islamic State”), Chulani Kodikara and Faizun Zackariya (“Sinhala Buddhist Ethnonationalism: Implications for women and minorities in post war Sri Lanka”), Dilip Simeon (“India – Communal Faultlines and Genocidal Consensus”) and Gita Sahgal (“Remembering Genocide, Striving for Secular Space”)
17:20-17:25 Video: Mali’s Songhoy Blues will not be silenced
17:25-17:45 Secularism Manifesto and Closing with Marieme Helie Lucas and Maryam Namazie: What Next?
The conference is organised by Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All. It is endorsed by Atheist Alliance International; Bread and Roses TV; Children First Now; Center for Inquiry; 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; 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.
Richard Dawkins will be attending the conference.
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, Gaby Grammeno, Huma Irfan, Marieme Helie Lucas and Maryam Namazie at email@example.com. Please also join the event’s Facebook page and follow the conference on Twitter or Tweet #Secularismtodaynow.
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF SPEAKERS AND ACTS