Secularism is vital for the defence of democracy, equality & human rights
“The launch of the Manifesto for Secularism is a challenge to the global rise of the Religious Right and its menacing values, which threaten women, LGBTs, atheists, minority faiths, apostates and many others,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“Secularism – the separation of religion and the state – is a vital precondition for democracy, equality and human rights. It protects people of all faiths and none; creating a level playing field where no religion has legal privilege and no faith can abuse its influence to victimise people of different beliefs.
“Wherever religion has political power, human rights are attacked and restricted – as in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Even when religion has little or no formal political power, such as in the UK and US, the Religious Right has often sabotaged women’s reproductive rights and equality for LGBT people.
“Last weekend, 250 delegates gathered in London for the international secularism conference. Many of them were from developing countries and some of them were Muslims or ex-Muslims. Most delegates and speakers were women. Some had suffered state persecution or violent abuse in the name of religion. Examples of people murdered by theocratic states and religious fanatics were read out; followed by a minute’s silence.
“The conference went ahead despite threats made to the organisers and the conference hotel; as well as despite sustained cyber attacks which took down the conference website
“Delegates expressed strong support for the Kurdish people’s democratic, secular struggle against the clerical fascism of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with many urging international aid to help the Kurds defend Kobane,” said Mr Tatchell, who attended and spoke at the conference and conveyed a message of support to the Kurdish solidarity rally in London on 11 October.
The Manifesto and signatories can be accessed online: http://goo.gl/TkdFSY .The full text follows below.
The Manifesto for Secularism:
Our era is marked by the rise of the religious-Right – not because of a “religious revival” but rather due to the rise of far-Right political movements and states using religion for political supremacy. This rise is a direct consequence of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism and the social policies of communalism and cultural relativism. Universalism, secularism and citizenship rights have been abandoned and segregation of societies and “communities” based on ethnicity, religion and culture have become the norm.
The Islamic State (formerly ISIS), the Saudi regime, Hindutva (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) in India, the Christian-Right in the US and Europe, Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka, Haredim in Israel, AQMI and MUJAO in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria are examples of this.
For many decades now, people in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora have been the first victims but also on the frontlines of resistance against the religious-Right (whether religious states, organisations and movements) and in defence of secularism and universal rights, often at great risk to their lives.
We call on people everywhere to stand with us to establish an international front against the religious-Right and for secularism. We demand:
1. Complete separation of religion from the state. Secularism is a fundamental right.
2. Separation of religion from public policy, including the educational system, health care and
3. Abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes. An end to discrimination
against and persecution of LGBT, religious minorities, women, freethinkers, ex-Muslims
4. Freedom of religion and atheism and freedom to criticise religions. Belief as a private
5. Equality between women and men and citizenship rights for all.
1. Aliyah Saleem, Secular education campaigner
2. Amel Grami, Professor, Tunisian University of Manouba
3. Bahram Soroush, Social and political analyst
4. Ben Baz Aziz, Presenter at Arab Atheist broadcasting
5. A. C. Grayling, Philosopher
6. Caroline Fourest, French writer and editor
7. Chris Moos, LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
8. Chulani Kodikara, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka
9. Elham Manea, Yemeni writer and human rights activist
10. Faizun Zackariya, Citizens for Justice, Sri Lanka
11. Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV
12. Fatou Sow, International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws
13. Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
14. Hamid Taqvaee, Secretary, Central Committee of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran
15. Horia Mosadiq, Human rights and women’s rights activist from Afghanistan
16. Imad Iddine Habib, Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
17. Inna Shevchenko, Leader of FEMEN
18. Julie Bindel, Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize and Justice for Women
19. Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and activist
20. Kiran Opal, Writer, LGBTQ & human rights campaigner, Co-founder Ex-Muslims of
21. Lila Ghobady, Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker
22. Magdulien Abaida, Libyan activist and President of Hakki (My Right) Organisation for
23. Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian activist, founder of Secularism is a Woman’s Issue
24. Maryam Namazie, Iranian spokesperson for One Law for All, Council of Ex-Muslims of
Britain and Fitnah
25. Nadia El Fani, Tunisian filmmaker
26. Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
27. Nina Sankari, Vice-President of the Atheist Coalition, Poland
28. Nira Yuval-Davis, a founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism and the
International Research Network on Women in Militarized Conflict Zones
29. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and Social Activist
30. Peter Tatchell, Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation
31. Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
32. Ramin Forghani, Founder of Ex-Muslims of Scotland
33. Rumy Hassan, Senior Lecturer at University of Sussex and author
34. Sameena Zehra, comedian and blues singer
35. Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International
36. Soad Baba Aissa, Founder of the Association for Mixing, Equality and Secularism
37. Sue Cox, Founder of Survivors Voice Europe
38. Sultana Kamal, Lawyer, human rights activist and Executive Director of Ain o Salish
Kendra in Bangladesh
39. Taslima Nasrin, Bangladeshi writer and activist
40. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society
41. Yasmin Rehman, Women’s rights activist