Press Release: Much needed 7 February 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.
Housmans Bookshop will have a bookstall at the event.
For more information, or a press pass, please contact
Conference Conveners: Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731