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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Secularism is an important vehicle to protect society

As you now, I am replying to one comment or email a day until Nov 21 rally against Sharia and religious laws. Here is today's:

Danny writes in an email: I have been an avid supporter of your cause - not allowing Sharia law to affect our own. But in your previous e-mail, I felt you were encouraging your members to support secularism, I could not do this, given that I am a Christian... I am a definite supporter of your cause, but now I'm not sure what to think, or what you truly oppose! Hope you can clear a few things up for me, Thank you for your time and kindest regards.

Maryam Namazie replies: Thanks for your email. I don’t see why you cannot be a Christian and a secularist at the same time. There are many, including Christians and Muslims, who are both. Secularism is the separation of religion from the state. It has nothing to do with your private beliefs. In fact, often times, a secular state is the best guarantee that your freedom of religion or atheism won’t be violated. For example, if you live in an Islamic state, what happens if you are a Muslim who wants to drink and have sex outside of marriage, and or is gay? What about all the other religious groups or atheists living there? Even if you are of the same religion as the state, there is no guarantee that your version of your religion will be the one the state adheres to. So even in a place like Britain, which is still far from a secular society, the state allows religious groups exemptions to discriminate against those they don’t accept. A good case in point is a homeless gay man being refused entry into a church-run shelter. Of course Britain today is a very different place from the times of the inquisition but in my opinion the extent to which religion is part of the state, educational system, or judicial system – whatever religion – that is the extent to which people in general suffer.

The promotion of secularism is an important vehicle to protect society from religion's intervention in people's lives, especially in the face of religion’s rising access to power.

I know nowadays, secularism is often portrayed negatively and that comes out in your letter. But this is just not true. Religion excludes whilst secularism is inclusive and ensures that a sect or group does not impose its beliefs on all. That a person's religion is a private affair.

This has also been clearly stated in our manifesto, which says: ‘Rights, justice, inclusion, equality and respect are for people, not beliefs. In a civil society, people must have full citizenship rights and equality under the law. Clearly, Sharia law contravenes fundamental human rights. In order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all those living in Britain, there must be one secular law for all and no Sharia.’

You can read more about my position on secularism in this article called Faith and State, getting the balance right.

Hope this helps clarify things.

Until tomorrow then.

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