A conference this Saturday, Women’s Rights, Sharia Law and Secularism, will mark International Women’s Day with discussion of the adverse impact of religious laws on the status of women.
The conference will have sessions on Religion’s Impact on Women’s Rights (A discussion on whether religion is compatible with women’s rights, the limits of religious freedom and the intrusion of culture, religion and tradition on women’s status); Religion and Secularism (A discussion on whether religion and secularism are interdependent, complimentary or contradictory); and Religion and the Law (A discussion on religion’s intrusion in the law and on the importance of secularism). A C Grayling will deliver the keynote address. There will also be a showing of Ghazi Rabihavi’s play ‘Stoning’ – ‘A very strong and powerful piece of work, beautifully constructed’ as described by Harold Pinter.
More information and booking
Meanwhile, Rahila Gupta writes on threats both practical and theoretical to secularism, why it matters to women, and how the state’s renewed enthusiasm for ‘faith’ communities and religious leaders must be checked by a secularist feminism.
To some extent public policy is influenced by the public debate. Secularism, as a concept, appears to be in danger from both the left and the right. The growing popularity of the term, secular fundamentalism, an oxymoron if ever there was one, is part of the continuing attempt to discredit it. Although secularism was traditionally the preserve of the left, some on the left have abandoned this territory, in the face of rising anti-Muslim racism and the state’s War on Terror, and developed an anti-racist politics that gives succour to religious extremism rather than challenging it. The marches against the war in Iraq, for example, that were organised by the Stop the War coalition in which the major partners were the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Muslim Association of Britain, often used slogans like ‘We are all Muslims’. Rallies started with prayers from the podium! This is not the way we tackle ‘islamaphobia’, certainly not by squeezing our public secular spaces.
With the resurgence of religion, secularism is bound to be contested territory. The women who come to SBS [Southall Black Sisters] to rebuild their lives testify to the importance of secular spaces. One woman said, ‘I would like my views represented by women, not by community and reigious leaders…If religious leaders bring their laws where can we run to? There will be more suicides, depression, castaways, conversions. It would be the biggest disaster.’ Among feminists, it tends to be only some minority women scrambling for the soul of secularism. It is time for all feminists to muck in.
Full article: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/feminism-and-soul-of-secularism
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Women and secularism: a conference this Saturday, and Rahila Gupta on the threats to secular principles,