Secularism is often seen as a Western concept. But the demand for separation between religion, state and law is particularly important for those living in theocracies and religious states. Speakers discuss how secularism is a minimum precondition for the rights of women, LGBT+’s, ex-Muslims and minorities. If one believes that these rights are universal human rights and not just Western rights, which conclusions should derive from it? 

We discuss the specific case of Afsana Lachaux, whose son Louis lives in Dubai, where Sharia law prevents Afsana from visiting and gaining custody of her son. Do individuals have more rights in secular societies and if so, why? Who has the responsibility to stand up for universal human rights? Is it still ethical to have trade relationships, cultural exchanges and partnerships with states where these ‘basic human rights’ are being violated?

 

 

 

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Afsana Lachaux has been fighting for many years to bring her son Louis home. Louis lives in Dubai where Sharia law prevents Afsana from visiting and gaining custody of her son. Afsana’s long running legal campaign for justice continues both in the UK and France. She is currently writing a book on honour killings.

Annie Laurie Gaylor is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, originally founded in 1976 with her mother, feminist activist Anne Nicol Gaylor. Gaylor is the author of several books, including “Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So”, “Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children” and, as editor, “Women Without Superstition: No Gods – No Masters,” an anthology of historic women freethinkers.

Homa Arjomand is an Iranian–born political activist, who runs the International Campaign against Sharia Court in Canada. She received the 2005 Toronto Humanist of the Year award and was recognised as women of the year by Gazette Des Femmes amongst others. She is the Spokesperson of Women’s Liberation in Canada and founder of the Cultural Bridges.

Marieme Helie Lucas is a sociologist, political theorist and author. Marieme was born in Algeria to a ‘family of feminists’ and had been active in the liberation struggle of Algeria. She is founder and former International Coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws, a solidarity network that provides information, support and a collective space for women.

Elżbieta Podleśna is an outspoken activist and human rights defender from Poland. She has stood up against hate and discrimination for many years and is fighting for a just and equal Poland. She was charged with ‘offending religious beliefs’ and is currently facing up to two years in prison. Still, she refuses to stay silent.