All posts by secularism

Ep 30: Religious Freedom in China



On paper, the Chinese constitution permits ‘normal religious activities’. In reality, if you try to practise your religion in China independently of the state, you risk prison and worse. In this episode, Dr Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, speaks to Emma Park about freedom of religion and belief in China – or the lack of it. They discuss the Chinese authorities’ persecution of the Uighurs, the Turkic Muslim minority in the north-west, and the deliberate strategies that are being used to wipe out their culture. In Tibet, Sophie reveals how followers of the Dalai Lama are sentenced to years in prison, and how the Chinese authorities even keep spies in the monasteries. There are similar stories of the suppression of Christians and Falun Gong practitioners elsewhere in China. The speakers also consider the feebleness of the international community’s response to these human rights violations –– and the grim outlook for basic freedoms in the People’s Republic.

 

Follow Emma on Twitter: @DrEmmaPark

 

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93U5CsgHocU&feature=youtu.be

 

Transcripts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/transcripts

 

Notes

 

China’s religious persecution is a secularist issue: https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2018/09/chinas-religious-persecution-is-a-secularist-issue

 

China and Tibet – Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/asia/china-and-tibet

 

Why do Muslim states stay silent over China’s abuse of the Uighurs? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/04/why-do-muslim-states-stay-silent-over-chinas-uighur-brutality

 

Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular democracy. Join the National Secular Society today https://www.secularism.org.uk/join

 

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Help protect free speech in Scotland

Ep 29: Scotland’s new blasphemy law?



Where do you draw the line between safeguarding people’s protected characteristics, and guarding their right to freedom of speech? The new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, introduced in April purports to protect groups defined by reference to protected characteristics, including ‘religion’ or ‘perceived religious affiliation’. But some have argued that the proposed legislation will chill free speech about religion.

In this episode, Emma Park is joined by Neil Barber, communications officer at the Edinburgh Secular Society, along with the NSS’s Stephen Evans, to give a detailed analysis of the language of the bill relating to offences of ‘stirring up hatred’. They argue the Bill is likely to make it all too easy to shut down valid debate about religion.

While the bill will abolish the common law offence of blasphemy against Christianity in Scotland, there are good reasons for thinking that the new statutory offences will simply be a multi-faith version of the former.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @DrEmmaPark

Browse all NSS podcasts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/podcast

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSlpdKk8m_g&feature=youtu.be

Transcripts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/transcripts

Notes

Help us protect free speech in Scotland: https://www.secularism.org.uk/free-expression/scottish-hate-crime-bill.html

Scotland’s new hate speech law will be too censorious: https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2020/05/scotlands-new-hate-speech-law-will-be-too-censorious

Does Scotland’s justice minister realise the reach of his own hate crime bill? https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2020/06/does-scotlands-justice-minister-realise-the-reach-of-his-own-hate-crime-bill

Minister to correct record on hate crime bill after NSS intervention: https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2020/06/minister-to-correct-record-on-hate-crime-bill-after-nss-intervention

Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular democracy. Join the National Secular Society today https://www.secularism.org.uk/join

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Ep 28: RE in Wales: a chance for fundamental change



How much progress will the Welsh government make with its proposed reforms to RE? In this episode, Emma Park speaks to Stephen Evans, CEO of the NSS, and Alastair Lichten, head of education, for an update.

Encouragingly the subject’s name is to be changed to ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’, to reflect a more pluralistic and critical approach. But the proposed abolition of parents’ right to withdraw their children is more concerning. Faith schools will still be able to teach RVE ‘in line with the tenets of their faith’, but will be obliged to offer a secular alternative if parents expressly choose it.

Do these proposals go far enough? And should religious education continue to be a separate subject that is compulsory for all students up until 16? Join Emma and her guests for comment and analysis.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @DrEmmaPark

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD2syE26heQ&feature=youtu.be

Transcripts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/transcripts

Notes

NSS response to RVE proposals in Wales: https://www.secularism.org.uk/21st-century-re-for-all/rve-wales.html

Will Wales lead the way in reforming RE? – Stephen Evans, 2 June 2020: https://medium.com/@stephen.evans_42820/will-wales-lead-the-way-in-reforming-re-415cf3049fa6

Should lessons on sex and religion take parents’ wishes into account? –– Emma Park, 12 March 2020: https://life.spectator.co.uk/articles/should-lessons-on-sex-and-religion-take-parents-wishes-into-account/

NSS podcast, Episode 17: RE in Wales: https://www.secularism.org.uk/podcast/2019/10/ep-17-thought-for-the-day-re-in-wales

Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular democracy. Join the National Secular Society today https://www.secularism.org.uk/join

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Ep 27: Unregistered (illegal) schools



In this episode, Emma Park discusses unregistered faith schools, particularly in the Hasidic community with Eve Sacks, a member of the Jewish anti-extremist organisation Nahamu.

Eve has spent years engaging with members of the ultra-orthodox community in London. They discuss issues in registered independent schools and the prevalence of unregistered schools where boys aged 13 to 18 are sent to receive religious instruction with little or no secular education. There is also evidence that boys who do not perform well in their studies receive corporal punishment. The result is that they leave school utterly unequipped to participate in civil society.

Efforts to tackle these ‘schools’ and similar abuses of children’s rights in the registered independent sector have been slow going, while members of the Hasidic community who want a different education for their children often experience severe pressure to conform.

After the interview, Emma speaks to Alastair Lichten, head of education at the NSS, to reflect on the fascinating insights provided by Eve, and the NSS’s position on unregistered and faith schools.

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Nb4LRNtk1o&feature=youtu.be

Transcripts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/transcripts

Notes

NSS supports plans to regulate unregistered schools: https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2020/05/nss-supports-plans-to-regulate-unregistered-schools

Corporal punishment still being used in Orthodox Jewish schools, inquiry hears – Telegraph, 21st May 2020: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/21/corporal-punishment-still-used-orthodox-jewish-schools-inquiry/

‘The Missing?’ by Eve Sacks, 11 July 2019: http://nahamu.org/the-missing/

Illegal Faith Schools: https://www.secularism.org.uk/unregistered-schools/

Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular democracy. Join the National Secular Society today https://www.secularism.org.uk/join

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Ep 26: Hindutva with Gita Sahgal



In this episode, Emma Park speaks to Gita Sahgal, a human rights activist and Honorary Associate of the NSS, about secularism in India, and the threats it is facing from the Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) movement endorsed by Modi’s government. Modern India has been a secularist state since its foundation in 1947. But since the first election of Modi’s government in 2014, as Gita explains, Indian supporters of secularism, pluralism, and the rule of law have been targeted, silenced, and in some cases imprisoned or killed; and the coronavirus pandemic has been used as an opportunity to clamp down on them further.

Gita and Emma also consider how the ideology of Hindutva is bringing its version of Hinduism closer to a monotheistic religion, and how this reinforces its intolerant stance towards Indians who are not Hindus, in particular, the large Muslim minority. Finally, Gita discusses her current work with One Law For All, which is campaigning against Sharia law and other religious laws in the UK.

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWXaP6g8QgA&feature=youtu.be

Transcripts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/transcripts

Notes

The Constitution of India

https://www.india.gov.in/sites/upload_files/npi/files/coi_part_full.pdf

How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart – The Guardian, 20 February 2020

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/20/hindu-supremacists-nationalism-tearing-india-apart-modi-bjp-rss-jnu-attacks

Gita Sahgal’s lecture highlights rise of Hindutva in India and Britain

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2018/09/nss-lecture-highlights-rise-of-hindutva-in-india-and-britain

One Law For All

https://onelawforall.org.uk/

 

Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular democracy. Join the National Secular Society today https://www.secularism.org.uk/join

Support the podcast, share with a friend and leave a five star review everywhere you can.


Bonus Ep 2: Leo Igwe #FreeMubarakBala



This podcast gives an emergency update on the plight of Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria (HAN). Bala was arrested in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, by the police on the 28th April, effectively for blasphemy against Islam. Although he has not yet been formally charged, he remains in custody, probably in Kano state, which is under Sharia law. He appears to be without access to a lawyer or contact with friends or family. Leo Igwe, founder of the HAN, speaks to Emma Park about what has happened to Bala, why his situation is so dangerous, and what the international community can do to support him. As this emergency podcast has been done at short notice, we apologise for any dip in quality.

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEttRS-h2Vo&feature=youtu.be

Transcripts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/transcripts

Notes

Fears for safety of Nigerian Humanist leader after blasphemy arrest – 29th April 2020

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2020/04/fears-for-safety-of-nigerian-humanist-leader-after-blasphemy-arrest

How you can support Mubarak Bala

https://humanists.international/2020/04/action-alert-what-you-can-do-to-save-mubarak/

Mubarak Bala: Speak Out Against Religious Tyranny In Kano By Leo Igwe – Sahara Reporters, 5th May 2020

http://saharareporters.com/2020/05/05/mubarak-bala-speak-out-against-religious-tyranny-kano-leo-igwe

Make a stand for freedom, fairness, and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular democracy. Join the National Secular Society today https://www.secularism.org.uk/join

Support the podcast, share with a friend, and leave a positive review everywhere you can.


Ep 25: American religious exceptionalism and Covid-19



This episode is about secularism in the USA, its basis in the American constitution, and its opposition by the religious right. The NSS’s Alastair Lichten interviews Andrew Seidel, an attorney at the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They discuss the narratives of religious exceptionalism and persecution propagated by some on the Christian right – and other tactics which they have used over many years to build up their political influence. Andrew argues that the Christian right use a misinterpretation of the First Amendment to justify religious gatherings during the pandemic. He also reveals what organisations like the FFRF are doing to challenge them.

Alastair is then joined by Emma Park to reflect on similarities and differences between the place of religion in the US and UK, and what British secularists can learn from organisations like the FFRF.

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-itavtk6Vv8

Transcripts: https://www.secularism.org.uk/transcripts

 Notes

The Freedom From Religion Foundation: https://ffrf.org/

Andrew Seidel – attorney, activist and atheist: http://andrewlseidel.com/

Secular attitudes and laws are assets against coronavirus https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2020/04/secular-attitudes-and-laws-are-assets-against-coronavirus

Why religious freedom stokes coronavirus protests in the U.S., but not Canada https://theconversation.com/why-religious-freedom-stokes-coronavirus-protests-in-the-u-s-but-not-canada-136557

Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular democracy. Join the National Secular Society today https://www.secularism.org.uk/join

Support the podcast, share with a friend and leave a positive review everywhere you can.