22-24 July International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Conscience to celebrate blasphemy and apostasy
For Immediate Release
16 May 2017
Notable free-thinkers from around the world will gather for a weekend of discussions and debates on freedom of conscience and expression in the 21st century at a spectacular venue in central London during 22-23 July 2017. On 24 July, an ex-Muslim activist strategy meeting will be followed by body-painting in support of ex-Muslims, which will be open to the public.
The exciting two-day conference with over 70 speakers and acts, including comedy, music and art 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, atheism, secular values and more.
Speakers from countries or the Diaspora as diverse as Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Ireland, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, UK, Ukraine, US and Yemen will gather in London to defend freedom of conscience and expression and argue that freedoms are not western but universal.
The conference will highlight the voices of people on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled – as well as address challenges faced by activists and freethinkers, elaborate on the links between democratic politics and free expression and conscience, promote secular and rights-based alternatives, and establish priorities for collective action. Art and culture will be integral to the event as will lively debate with the dauntless use of the free word.
See the schedule and full list of speakers at the International Conference for Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century.
The conference is sponsored by Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; Atheist International Alliance; Bread and Roses TV; Center for Inquiry; Centre for Secular Space; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Culture Project; Euromind; Equal Rights Now; Fitnah; Freedom from Religion Foundation; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science; Southall Black Sisters; and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.
For more information, contact the Conference Organising Committee.
Get your ticket(s) today for the 22-24 July 2017 International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century in Central London.
2016 Conference with New Evidence on Sharia Courts in Britain and Adverse effects of Legal Pluralism for Women
For Immediate Release
29 April 2016
On Saturday 30 April 2016, women’s rights campaigners will speak at a “Conference on Sharia Law, Legal Pluralism and Access to Justice” in central London from 11:30am-5:30pm.
The conference proceeds correspondence with the Government following a hand delivered letter to 10 Downing Street on 10 December 2015 signed by nearly 400 individuals and organisations urging David Cameron to hold an inquiry into and dismantle discriminatory Sharia courts and other religious arbitration forums.
At the conference, and for the first time in the UK, Humanist Muslim Elham Manea, a professor at the University of Zurich, will present the finding of her soon to be published book: “Women And Sharia Law: The Impact Of Legal Pluralism In The UK,” which includes first-hand analysis of the Islamic Sharia councils and Muslim arbitration tribunals in various British cities, interviews with experts on extremism, lawyers, politicians and activists in civil society and women’s rights groups. She will offer a scathing critique of legal pluralism, with evidence of its connections with Islamism and the adverse consequences for women in Muslim communities.
Representatives from women’s and human rights organisations – namely British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Centre for Secular Space, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, Southall Black Sisters and One Law for All – who have led successful campaigns preventing public authorities such as the governing body of UK Universities and the Law Society from incorporating aspects of Sharia laws into their public policies will present their case against legal pluralism . They will continue to call on the government to exclude Sharia and all other religious forums, including the Jewish Beth Din, from presiding over divorce and family matters; to reinstate legal aid; to stop the repeal of the Human Rights Act and to re-affirm the principle of the separation of religion and the law. The law is a key component of securing justice for citizens and one law for all.
Pragna Patel of SBS says:
“Discriminatory religious codes are very much a part and parcel of the continuum of domestic and gender based violence and other abuses that BME women face in their daily lives since they reinforce discrimination, deny exit and prevent women from accessing justice or from asserting their right to equality…For these reasons and more, parallel legal systems must not be allowed to exist.”
Maryam Namazie of One Law for All says:
“Dismantling religious courts isn’t a denial of people’s right to religion, it’s a defence of human rights, and particularly women’s rights vis-a-vis the religious-Rightwing and their attempts at restricting women’s rights in the family. By allowing religious courts to operate, we are saying that Muslim or Jewish women do not have the same rights as others in this country. This is unacceptable.”
Gita Sahgal of Centre for Secular Space says:
“Sharia Councils drag women into living out a fundamentalist vision of Islam. They do this by promoting ‘Islamic law’ as higher than the law of the land and by marketing divorce as a solution for a problem they have created. It is a disgrace that they are tolerated by the authorities and allowed to become charities. All parallel legal systems are discriminatory and undermine women’s rights under the law. It is time that they are dealt with.”
Diana Nammi of IKRWO says:
“The whole premise of religious ‘courts’ is discrimination to women, they represent a major barrier to women’s rights and not only do they deny women justice, they also distance women from the mainstream court system and safety measures, such as civil protection orders, which can have dire consequences. Given that religious ‘courts’ are community based and often mediate, there are dangerous implications including locking women within violent marriages and “honour” based violence. The government must prioritise women’s safety by ensuring access to mainstream justice and preventing the proliferation and deepening entrenchment of these parallel legal systems.”
Nasreen Rehman of British Muslims for Secular Democracy says:
“Government, Parliament and the courts have a duty to protect the rights and prevent the exploitation of the most vulnerable members of society. But all too often we find they abrogate this responsibility by condoning parallel systems of justice that promote cruel and discriminatory practices perpetuated by obscurantists and fanatics in many faith communities – often, falsely pleading divine sanction as a smokescreen for cruelty. The only way to ensure equality and justice is to stand together for clarity and ‘one law for all.’ This does not mean that we do not accept religious, cultural and ethnic diversity; rather we raise our voices against injustices perpetuated in the guise of faith and culture.”
Much needed 7 February 2015 Conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism
6 FEBRUARY 2015
Secularists will be gathering on 7 February 2015 in London for a day conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism. The event follows an historic conference in October 2014 on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights.
Speakers at the sold-out conference will discuss freedom of expression, apostasy and blasphemy laws, Islamism and the religious-Right, as well as Sharia in the law, educational system and public policy. They will also highlight the successful campaigns against the Law Society and Universities UK and pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo and the many Muslims, ex-Muslims and others who have been killed or persecuted for their dissent.
Conference speaker, Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters says: “This is a much needed conference because it allows us the space to mourn the deaths of the journalists at Charlie Hebdo and thousands around the world who have died at the hands of religious terrorists. Above all, it allows us to show solidarity to those who continue to bravely challenge deadly religious far-right movements whose end game is to shut down secular democratic spaces and to terrorise us into silence. The time has come to renew our thinking of what it means to be human and to reject the politics of hatred whether emanating from the racist far-right or the religious far-right. The time has come to speak up while we still have the space.”
Conference organiser, Maryam Namazie, says: “Despite all evidence that Muslims are not a homogeneous group and that resistance against Islamism is very much part and parcel of daily life everywhere, the Islamist narrative is still the order of the day. No matter how many ‘Muslims’ side with Charlie from Iran to Egypt to Turkey, it is the terrorists/fascists who are deemed to be the ‘authentic’ Muslims. The ‘culture of offence’ heeds Islamist demands for submission at the expense of dissenters – whether it be Charlie in Paris, Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia or Roya Nobakht in Iran. As Rosa Luxemburg has said though, ‘Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters’.”
Another speaker Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space, says: “In 1989, we stood for Rushdie and our right to doubt and dissent. Today we stand with Charlie Hebdo and for comic liberty. In this important conference we will look at how the war against apostates and artists is central to the justification for ‘defensive jihad’ and genocide. Long before the emergence of Daesh and Boko Haram, the massacre of minorities, the rape of women and the killing of intellectuals defined Muslim fundamentalist movements. The Conference represents those who stand against them.”
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue, which has sponsored the conference, says: “The conference is a much needed initiative that addresses a burning political issue: a growing restriction on our freedoms and civil rights in the name of religious tolerance, an endless abandonment of secular values that in the past ensured equal rights to all citizens, agnostics, atheists, and believers alike. We are heading towards unequal rights and different laws for different categories of citizens, all condoned by ‘democratic’ states. The right to practice according to one’s own belief should not supersede universal rights. This conference is a wakeup call.”
Other distinguished speakers at the conference include: Aliyah Saleem who spent 5 years in an Islamic school in Britain; Somali-born Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Amal Farah who has been threatened for leaving Islam; secular student activist Chris Moos; Imad Iddine Habib, Founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco – the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as its state religion; Magdulien Abaida, Libyan women’s rights campaigner abducted by Islamists for speaking out; Sudanese-born Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Nahla Mahmoud; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell; Founder of Ex-Muslims of Scotland Ramin Forghani; Nari Diganta’s Rumana Hashem; National Secular Society’s President Terry Sanderson and Women’s Rights Campaigner Yasmin Rehman. The MCs of the event are activists Ahmed Idris and Atoosa Khatiri.
Kate Smurthwaite whose show was recently cancelled for not being “feminist enough” will be doing a comedy act at the conference. She says: “The irony of being prevented from doing my show about free speech this past week is overwhelming… I’m really looking forward to participating in this conference and I’ve got a lot of new material about Goldsmiths College to share!”
The conference is sponsored by Bread and Roses TV; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran; Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation; National Secular Society; One Law for All; The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.
The conference agenda and speaker biographies can be found here.
15 October 2014
A broad coalition of secularists, including believers, free-thinkers, agnostics and atheists assembled from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora at the unprecedented and historic gathering to discuss resistance against the repression and violence of ISIS and other manifestations of the religious-Right, including in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Tunisia and Yemen. They also discussed the urgent need to defend secularism, universal values and citizenship rights.
The 250 delegates made an unequivocal stand with the brave women and men of Kobane saying: “Their struggle is ours. Their fight is a fight for us all. We are all, today, Kobane.”
The conference, which was convened by Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas and Iranian-born Campaigner Maryam Namazie, adopted a Manifesto for Secularism which criticised neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism, communalism and cultural relativism and affirmed the complete separation of religion from the state and public policy, freedom of religion and atheism and freedom to criticise religions as well as equality between women and men and citizenship rights for all. It also called for the abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes and an end to discrimination against and persecution of LGBT, religious minorities, women, freethinkers, ex-Muslims, and others.
The conference highlighted the voices of the many persecuted and exiled, the long standing resistance against the religious-Right and the depth and strength of the demand for secularism all over the world despite grave risks. It also set the stage for the development of a broad international front for secularism to challenge the religious-Right, racism and all forms of bigotry.
The Conference called on people everywhere to join the International Front for Secularism and strengthen a human alternative to the religious-Right.
Speakers at the conference included philosopher AC Grayling; Aliyah Saleem who spent 6 years in an Islamic school in Britain; Tunisian University of Manouba Professor Amel Grami; social and political analyst and commentator Bahram Soroush; French writer Caroline Fourest; secular student activist Chris Moos; Senior Researcher at the International Center for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka Chulani Kodikara; Indian labour historian Dilip Simeon; Yemeni writer and activist Elham Manea; Co-Founder of Muslim Women Research and Action Front from Sri Lanka Faizun Zackariya; founder of the Iranian Secular Society Fariborz Pooya; Senegalese International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws Fatou Sow; Director of Centre for Secular Space Gita Sahgal; Leader of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran Hamid Taqvaee; One Secular School System in Ontario Campaigner Homa Arjomand; Director of the Afghanistan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium Horia Mosadiq; FEMEN leader Inna Shevchenko; co-founder of Justice for Women Julie Bindel; author Karima Bennoune; writer Kenan Malik; Pakistani-born human rights activist Kiran Opal; Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker Lila Ghobady; Ex-Muslim Maha Kamal; Libyan president of Hakki Magdulien Abaida; Tunisian filmmaker Nadia El Fani; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud; Vice President of the Atheist Coalition in Poland Nina Sankari; Founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism Nira Davis-Yuval; Pakistani nuclear physicist and social activist Pervez Hoodbhoy; Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell; Southall Black Sisters Director Pragna Patel; founder of the Ex-Muslims of Scotland Ramin Forghani; author Rumy Hassan; Turkish MP Safak Pavey; journalist Salil Tripathi; Iranian/German writer Siba Shakib; Founder of Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laïcité Soad Baba Aïssa; co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe Sue Cox; Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra in Bangladesh Sultana Kamal; Director of Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford Taj Hargey; Bangladeshi-born writer Taslima Nasrin; President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson and women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman.
Acclaimed pianist and composer Anne Lovett; comedians Daphna Baram (AKA MissD), Kate Smurthwaite and Sameena Zehra as well as LCP dance company and singer/songwriter Shelley Segal provided entertainment.
The Indonesian band SIMPONI was announced winner of One Law for All’s Sounds of Freedom award with their entry “Sister in Danger”, a tribute to Indonesian victims of sexual violence.
The Conference was 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; Pink Triangle Trust; Secularism is a Women’s Issue; The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK; and Women Living Under Muslim Laws amongst others.