Category Archives: Interviews

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.


Ep 24: The history of the NSS – Interview with Bob Forder



How did the secularist movement begin in Britain? And why should modern supporters of secularism care about its history?

In this week’s episode, Emma Park speaks to Bob Forder, a member of the NSS council and former history teacher, about the origins of secularism in Britain. Bob explains how the secularist movement was, from its early years, bound up with the story of the National Secular Society. From its origins in local working-class associations, secularism has always been a socially progressive if not radical movement that has challenged the established hierarchy.

Freedom of speech and of conscience, abolishing the blasphemy laws, providing scientific information about birth control – issues like these have been at the heart of secularist campaigns, and supported by the NSS, for over a hundred and fifty years. And, as this podcast shows, understanding the history of secularism can help reinforce its supporters’ sense of purpose, and their shared identity, even today.

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

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

Notes

The history of the National Secular Society

https://www.secularism.org.uk/history.html

The Fruits of Philosophy – an early pamphlet on contraception

https://www.secularism.org.uk/the-fruits-of-philosophy-trial.html

Peterloo’s heroes represented the finest traditions of secular democracy

https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2018/11/peterloos-heroes-represented-the-finest-traditions-of-secular-democracy

Radicals, Rebels, and Revolutionaries of the 19th century – Bob Forder at Conway Hall

https://www.secularism.org.uk/radicals-rebels-and-revolutionar.html

Former NSS President Barbara Smoker dies at 96

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2020/04/former-nss-president-barbara-smoker-dies-at-96

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.


Ep 23: The NSS at the UN: interview with Josephine Macintosh



In this week’s episode, Emma Park speaks to Josephine Macintosh, a solicitor and vice president of the National Secular Society, about her work representing the NSS at the United Nations.

Earlier this year, Josephine attended the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva. She made submissions on behalf of the NSS on its objections to male circumcision, proposed reforms to Italian law to counter child abuse in the Catholic Church, and the need for the UK to legislate explicitly against caste discrimination.

She discusses the content of these submissions, the process of presenting them at the UN and lobbying for support, and why it’s vital for the NSS to be represented at international level. She also talks about the constraints that the coronavirus is likely to place on the UN’s human rights work.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @DrEmmaPark

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/zdfQeKP8Tj8

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

Notes

43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session43/Pages/43RegularSession.aspx

Protect all children from ritual genital cutting, NSS tells UN

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2020/03/protect-all-children-from-ritual-genital-cutting-nss-tells-un

NSS raises Italy’s response to child abuse in Catholic Church at UN

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2020/03/nss-raises-italys-response-to-child-abuse-in-catholic-church-at-un

The Vatican Is Talking About Clerical Abuse, but Italy Isn’t – New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/22/world/europe/italy-catholic-church-pope-francis-abuse.html

Outlaw caste discrimination

https://www.secularism.org.uk/outlaw-caste-discrimination/

NSS urges UN to push government to pass law on caste discrimination

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2020/03/nss-urges-un-to-push-government-to-pass-law-on-caste-discrimination

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 reviews wherever you can.


Ep 22: Bishops in the House of Lords – Dick Taverne interview



Is it time to remove Church of England bishops’ automatic right to sit in the House of Lords? Liberal Democrat peer Dick Taverne is introducing a private members’ bill – drafted with the NSS’s assistance – to do just that.

Emma Park travels to Westminster to interview Dick about why it’s time to abolish the bishops’ bench and reform the Lords, why constitutional reforms can take such a long time, and why the UK is still not a secular country.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @DrEmmaPark

Watch this episode on YouTube | Direct MP3 Link | Transcripts

Notes

Peer proposes bill to abolish bishops’ bench in House of Lords

The NSS campaign to separate church and state

Public want religion kept out of politics – The Times

‘House of Lords (Removal of Bishops) Bill’ in the House of Lords ballot

Dick Taverne, Baron Taverne, QC

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux


Ep 21: Integrated education in Northern Ireland – interview with the Integrated Education Fund



In this episode, Emma Park speaks with Maddy Bridgman and Sam Fitzsimmons of the Integrated Education Fund, a charity that supports inclusive, integrated education (not segregated into de facto Protestant and Catholic schools) in Northern Ireland.

Maddy and Sam discuss the IEF’s campaign to support an integrated school system, and outline some of the difficulties the IEF has faced, both political, administrative and structural.

They also discuss positive signs that school students who attend integrated schools are benefiting from the tolerant and inclusive ethos that these schools promote.

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/edrVKRsXwWo

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

Notes

Education in NI shouldn’t be a tug of war between religious interests

https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2019/10/education-in-ni-shouldnt-be-a-tug-of-war-between-religious-interests

Research reveals impact of religious discrimination on NI teachers

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2019/05/research-reveals-impact-of-religious-discrimination-on-ni-teachers

NSS calls for school integration in NI amid religious polarisation

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2018/04/nss-calls-for-school-integration-in-ni-amid-religious-polarisation

Integrated Education Fund

https://www.ief.org.uk

Integrate My School campaign

https://www.integratemyschool.com

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.


Ep 20: Lee and Lizanne Harris – compulsory worship



In this episode, Emma Park speaks with Lee and Lizanne Harris about their experience of the collective worship requirement in schools.

The Harrises recently initiated judicial review proceedings against the primary school attended by their children. They challenged its decision to provide no alternative to a proselytising Christian assembly once a week conducted by representatives of the local C of E church.

Lee and Lizanne discuss their children’s experiences of these assemblies, what happened when they withdrew them, and the school’s failure to provide a secular alternative until they were forced to by the threat of legal proceedings.

The Harrises’ case may encourage other parents to speak up about concerns that their children will be indoctrinated if they participate in religious assemblies, and excluded from school life if they do not.

Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Oh0Sv2Je824

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

Notes

Lee Harris’s 2018 blog for the NSS

https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2018/12/my-childrens-school-has-become-christian-by-default

C of E trust to introduce alternative to worship after legal challenge

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2019/11/coe-trust-to-introduce-alternative-to-worship-after-legal-challenge

More information and guidance from the NSS on collective worship: https://www.secularism.org.uk/end-compulsory-worship/

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.


Ep 10a: Bonus content | Behind the scenes at Secularism 2019



Here’s a little bonus content from Secularism which was originally going to be in our post conference review.

In this episode, Emma Park, a freelance writer and NSS volunteer, interviewed five of the Conference speakers to explore some of the issues raised by their talks in further detail. Some of these were a bit more wide ranging than the topic. Everyone’s views are their own and do not necessarily represent those of the NSS.

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

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

Nick Cohen (00:51), political journalist, on the parallels between political and religious extremists, the lack of leadership from liberal centrists in British politics today, and the need for secularists to be self-critical and form political alliances to resist extremists:

‘Generalisations are the basis of identity politics and breaking down identity politics is the road to freedom.’

Izzy Posen (08:04), President of the Bristol Free Speech Society, on the damage caused by universities’ excessive tolerance of the extremist student groups trying to shut down free speech on campus:

‘It’s an alliance of Islamists and far leftists, and by Islamists I don’t mean Muslims, I mean Islamists who have a political ideology based out of imposing Islamic values on Britain … [These groups] unite in their hatred for the West.’

Pragna Patel (17:41), Director of Southall Black Sisters, on how secularists can challenge the claim by ethnic minority leaders to speak on behalf of an entire community, even those who may disagree with them:

‘Our organisation has always challenged community leaderships, because they have never spoken on behalf of women, they have never spoken on behalf of gay and lesbian communities’.

Rachel Laser (25:13), President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, on the threats to freedom of expression and other human rights in the US from right-wing evangelicals, and how to ‘burst the pimple’ of such extremism:

‘Today religious freedom in America is more about the right to discriminate, or licence to discriminate, than it is about the right to be able to practise your religious observances.’

Yasmin Rehman (34:06), Member of the NSS Council, on the challenges of being a secular British Muslim, changes in the UK government’s treatment of minorities in recent years, and the compatibility of Islam with secularism:

‘If you look at a religious text that was written a very very long time ago, it will endorse things that we as a society wouldn’t condone … I want to be able to practise my faith, but I also want to be able to challenge my faith, or any other, when it comes to abuses of human rights’. 

Links

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

Find our more about the conference, including speaker profiles and videos: https://www.secularism.org.uk/secularism-2019.html

Bradlaugh Lecture 2019 | No Outsiders: Reclaiming Radical Ideas in Schools https://www.secularism.org.uk/no-outsiders.html

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


Ep 09: Simon Barrow | Exploring religious freedom



Continuing our series of discussions exploring religious freedom, Alastair Lichten spoke with Simon Barrow. Simon is the director of Ekklesia – a Christian think tank focusing on politics, social justice and belief. Simon is a commentator, journalist, publisher, NGO consultant, adult educator/trainer and theologian.

This is part of a series of interviews leading up to our major conference in May, Secularism 2019: Reclaiming Religious Freedom: https://www.secularism.org.uk/2019

Watch this episode on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/Q9XDrdnBS0s

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

Links from Simon

The Jesus Candidate: Political religion in a secular age, by Paul Lusk (NSS review): https://www.secularism.org.uk/opinion/2017/10/book-review-the-jesus-candidate-political-religion-in-a-secular-age

Faith and Politics after Christendom: by Jonathan Bartley: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Faith-Politics-after-Christendom-Movement/dp/1842273485/?ie=UTF8&tag=natisecusoci-21&linkCode=shr&camp=3194&creative=21334

Words Out of Silence, by Jill Segger: https://www.bookdepository.com/Words-Out-Silence-Jill-Segger/9780993294280

Links from the NSS

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