Tag Archives: Extremism

Report From The #Secularism2016 Conference

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The annual National Secular Society conference took place in Central London on Saturday 3rd September. As always, it was a fantastic occasion featuring some excellent guest speakers talking on important topics. It was nice to see some familiar faces and make the acquaintance of some new ones too.

I’d also like to thank those of you who approached me to say hello throughout the day – it was a pleasure meeting you all.

I’ll share some thoughts, observations and media from the conference with you. You can read about the guests in full here, but I will note a few highlights below. Read more

Ep#78 – Asra Nomani – #MyMuslimReform

Joining me on this week’s #GSPodcast is Journalist and Author Asra Nomani (@AsraNomani). I’ll be asking how Islam allows for Asra’s liberal interpretation as well as discussing the reform movement. We delve into the current state of digital journalism and Asra’s infamous confrontation with Nathan Lean. Also, we’ll hear about the ‘honor brigade’ and #MyMuslimReform.

Also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Support the podcast at www.patreon.com/gspellchecker

Listeners get a free audiobook and trial with Audible at http://www.audibletrial.com/gs

#GSPodcast Theme by Dorian Silk & The MCH


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Ep#69 – Arif Rahman – Bangladeshi Bloggers

My excellent guest for this week’s podcast is Arif Rahman (@ArifArifUK). Arif is a Bangladeshi blogger and activist currently living in the UK. We’ll be talking about the tragic murders of 5 Bangladeshi bloggers/publishers this year – some of whom were friends and colleagues of Arif’s. He’ll also be explaining the religious bias of the Bangladeshi constitution. I also ask him why the authorities don’t appear to be doing anything to stop these Islamist murderers.

Also available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Support the podcast at www.patreon.com/gspellchecker

Listeners get a free audiobook and trial with Audible at http://www.audibletrial.com/gs


Direct Mp3 Download

You Can’t Fight Segregation and Support Faith Schools Mr. Cameron

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The Conservative Conference is currently taking place in my home city of Manchester. Aside from it playing havoc with my morning commute, David Cameron has had some things of note to say about extremism and religious fundamentalism. There’s a more detailed summary over at The Telegraph, but I thought I’d post some of the paper’s highlights here.

On Jeremy Corbyn

Cameron says, of Corbyn:

“My friends, we cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love”

Ouch

He also chastises Corbyn for describing the death of Bin Laden as a ‘tragedy’. Full context of that can be found here.

I’ve expressed my own dissatisfaction with the current Labour Leader on a recent episode of Taking The Myth. You can read a bit more about some of my shared concerns in this open letter to him on Left Foot Forward.

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Islam And The Future Of Tolerance– A Harvard Discussion Between Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz

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Ahead of the November 3rd release of ‘Islam and the Future Of Tolerance: A Dialogue
a book collaboration between Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz – both men sat down in conversation before a Harvard audience a little while ago.

I’ve always admired both men’s willingness to seek out dialogue with those who hold different, or even wildly opposing worldviews. Actual dialogue mind you, not point scoring and inflammatory rhetoric, but a genuine, civil exchange of ideas. I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with the typical debate format over the years. Often, a truly valuable opportunity can be sacrificed in the pursuit of victory. The debate format is engineered around ‘winning’, not investigating truths or finding common ground.

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Some Thoughts On Douglas Murray’s Advice For Secularists

secularismI’m a keen follower of Douglas Murray’s writing and public speaking, especially his output on the issue of Islamism. I think he’s a rare voice of clarity and honesty on this topic, which to my mind, also makes him an important one. In short, I quite like the man. You can listen to a discussion between us here.

I’m also a member of The National Secular Society. I’ve attended several of their events, met their management and I’m grateful for the work they do. You can listen to my discussion with the President, Terry Sanderson here.

This brings me to Douglas’s latest piece in The Spectator:  ‘Secularists need to prioritise their targets. I agree with the basic sentiment of the title. It’s true that far too many individuals and organisations are more than happy to take a swing at the ‘lesser’ evils of a Christian flavour – yet develop a mysterious case of chronic arm fatigue where the religion of peace is concerned. However, I just feel it’s a tad unfair to make this point in the context of The National Secular Society and secularists in general.

Here Douglas takes issue with a point regarding Bishops in the House Of Lords, made by representative of the NSS, Evan Harris:

I’ve been hearing this Bishops in the House of Lords line for years and it strikes me as an increasingly eccentric obsession for anybody to have in 2015.  There are all sorts of reasons to advocate House of Lords reform, but the presence of Anglican bishops – hardly the most terrifying religious figures of our age – strikes me as approaching the barmy.  It is also a fine example of a dated and outmoded form of secularism.

 

I disagree. The remit of the NSS is to promote and achieve a secular state whilst challenging religious privilege. I’m not sure how they can hope to achieve this goal of separation of Church and state while 26 unelected members of clergy are able to influence decisions in state politics. It matters not how lovely and cuddly they may be, their mere presence is the antithesis of secularism. No other religion (or indeed non-religious ideology) enjoys such privilege.

This is the point I find most puzzling:

It is difficult for secularists who appear on moral discussion shows because to some extent they are involving themselves in a category error.  On the one hand a religious figure talks about the saving of souls and explains their view of the meaning of life.  The secular representative then responds by talking about tax arrangements.

Unless I’m entirely misreading here1 it appears the implication is that moral discussion is exclusively the domain of the religious – which would be especially odd given Douglas is an atheist. Of course a secular or humanist worldview should be included in any objective discussion on morality – so I cannot understand the ‘category error’ point. Religion doesn’t own this domain of discourse, rather it has simply held it hostage for the most part.

If I were a representative of the National Secular Society I suppose I might mention this point [Bishops in House Of Lords] at the very end of any long list of concerns, but I could not put it anywhere near the top.  And that is the thing about much of the outmoded secular voices we hear at the moment.

Well, if we look at the many voices existing within the National Secular Society, rather than just one – it’s clear that many of their and Douglas’s priorities align, such as The Trojan Horse Plot, Freedom of Expression, British Jihadists, Extremism and so on – which are all staples of NSS Campaigns & focus.

I was particularly pleased to be in attendance at the Secularist Of The Year Awards, where the main prize was handed to Charlie Hebdo magazine. Secularists from around the world gathered to stand with the NSS to champion freedom of expression and oppose Islamic fascism by honouring the brave at a time when too many opted for apologetics and cowardice.

It’s true that the problem of priorities, as identified by Douglas, is a genuine and pervasive one. I just feel making this point with Secularists in your sights may constitute an act of friendly fire.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

 

  1. 22/05/2015 – Douglas Murray was gracious enough to clarify this point to me via email, reproduced here with permission: ‘..the category error point is that if a religious person is talking about the meaning of life (as they see it) it seems a mistake to me to reply by talking about tax arrangements. That was the category error I was referring to. I think it makes us secularists sound like joyless tax accountants (as opposed to the joyful type)…,’
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