Tomorrow I will be attending the Secular Conference in London, to discuss with activists across the globe the rise of religious extremism. The Arab Spring revealed that opportunity for reform may be squandered if civil society is not prepared to grasp it. By contrast Islamist networks are very developed, funded, and ready to hijack reform away from a universal civil rights model to a more theocratic one. The need to be prepared, for civil society to grow even if underground, is essential.
Yet islamism is not the only one. Hindu religious nationalism is on the rise in India. In Burma, Buddhist monks praise the massacre of the Rohingya Muslims. The need for secularism to prevent state apparatus being used to suppress people for the reason of faith is still ever present.
Secularists should be championed for promoting universal human rights, and democracy. Yet, so much mud has been slung instead. These are western imperialist values, imposing godlessness on all. One law is God’s law for all. Secularism is painted as separating humanity from God.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Secularism is concerned with preventing the state dictating to citizens matters of religion. The dictates of your conscience are yours alone. Religion is a voluntary activity, not a duty to the state.
Freedom is for people to express their faith true to themselves. Some will not want that. The thought that this means mosques allow men and women to pray together will be sacrilegious. That gay people are welcomed an anathema. Those that leave the faith are as equal as anyone within the faith not traitors to their community.
The heady mix of right wing nationalism and religious fundamentalism is political militant extremism. ISIS is attempting by force to build a caliphate. As I have mentioned, these are not mindless thugs. These are clerical fascists with a utopian zealot murderous ideology. They mean every single word. Their propaganda is sincere. More deadly for it.
Trying to draw Muslims to their cause, and to make us in turn hate Muslims. To see them as other. Less human, and therefore less worthy of equal human rights. Our reaction must be to focus on extremism while maintaining the very values we wish to uphold.
The conference could not be more timely. The world must not falter. Too many lives are at stake. The challenge has to be met. Countered. The rights of the people over mullahs’ whims. The state concerned with rights of all citizens not the imposition of theocracy.
Against the extremists that oppose human rights for all.
Make a stand.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog