Maryam Namazie interviews A.C. Grayling

Here’s a half-hour discussion of secularism, its highlight a conversation between Maryam Namazie and Anthony Grayling. The interview is bookended by her conversation with Fariborz Pooya, and Bahram Soroush, who I assume are her colleagues on one or another of the anti-Islamic committees in which she’s active.

The interview with Grayling begins at 3:15 and lasts until 22:16. There’s nothing radically new here, but it’s good to see an discussion of humanism by such an eloquent philosopher (I swear, the man speaks in complete paragraphs, with never an “um” or dropped word).  It’s also useful to hear how secularism differs from atheism, Grayling’s take on whether Islam can even be compatible with secularism (6:50), and why Grayling thinks that today’s visible religious fervor is really a sign of religion’s decline.

It’s also great to hear ex-Muslims articulately dismantling their faith. Sadly, the video was part of a campaign to raise money for Namazie’s Bread and Roses video project, which appears to have ended without coming near its goal. Kudos to Namazie, who is not a keyboard warrior who thinks that the way to advance secularism is to diss other nonbelievers, but someone who really does make the world a better place.

h/t: Yakaru


  1. Posted May 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink


  2. Posted May 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Grayling on the claim that Islamic law is necessary for a moral society, and that a secular society is by its nature immoral:

    It’s a demonstrably false view this, because it’s a claim that there is a one-size-fits-all answer to how people should behave, how they should think, what they should believe. And this completely ignores the great diversity that there is in human nature, and human interests and needs.

    People sometimes talk about the golden rule — do to others as you would have them do to you — but that makes *you* the standard for every one of the 7 billion people on the planet. But if you are going to be a good neighbor to your fellows in society, you should be thoughtful about differences and individuality, and recognize that society is a plural domain.

    In fact, I think the very concept of pluralism is a very uncomfortable one for Muslim thinkers, because homogeneity is the very essence of what a Muslim society should be like.

    I personally know Muslims who would argue that Islam doesn’t necessarily oppose pluralism, (in fact the only religious person I’ve ever known who supported secularism was a Muslim), but I think this is a good summing up of the territory of the debate that needs to take place within Islam, as well as outside it.

    • gravityfly
      Posted May 25, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Grayling makes the good point that Islam cannot be compatible with secularism because of Islam’s all-inclusive nature.

      Perhaps Orthodox Judaism is the only other religion that so pervades a believer’s life.

      I don’t see how either could accommodate secularism.

      • Dawn Oz
        Posted May 25, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        In Australia, we have a thriving Jewish community from the social to the orthodox and they are happily secular.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink


  4. Greg Esres
    Posted May 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Grayling answers questions ineffectively, in spite of, or maybe due to, his eloquence.

    For instance, when asked about whether preventing totalitarian religious views from establishing totalitarian regimes was a form of religious suppression, he went on for several paragraphs without ever leaving the listener with anything to take home.

    That question is answerable in just one sentence: religious freedom is only a good thing when it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others. Every other sentence he added stole some of the thunder from that crucial idea, just like this one does.

    • Larry Esser
      Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Didn’t Grayling say just that? It was one of his best points when he said people’s rights to religious belief could not be allowed to infringe on the rights of non-believers.

      • Greg Esres
        Posted May 26, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Who knows what he said? That’s my point. He rambled on forever, making the signal to noise ratio very low.

        • Larry Esser
          Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          Grayling said what very few people really say–that we need to allow freedom of thought. His point about “secularism” and that some people really are “religious secularists” was quite good. In sum, believe what you like or don’t believe at all, but don’t treat others badly because they do not share your beliefs or are believers whereas you are not. As a scientific atheist, the way to deal with “believers” is this: You are respected, your legal (but not intellectual) right to believe what you like is respected, but the things you believe will not be respected, honored, or given any privilege just because you believe them. If your beliefs cannot be backed up with evidence, they will be dismissed as nonsense forthwith. That is freedom.

        • Diane G.
          Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          Greg, I agree with you. A bad case of philosopheritis, or perhaps, “loving the sound of your own voice too much.” Jerry’s been working a bit of ph*losophy (two can play this game :D) into his speeches lately, in a much more direct and effective manner.

        • Posted June 1, 2014 at 6:08 am | Permalink

          Greg, you need to appreciate the context of Graylings explanations. He was being interviewed for Maryam Namazie’s TV programme “Bread and Roses” which is targeted, at what hopefully, is a newly developing open-minded Middle Eastern community. Therefore listeners in this audience are probably hearing Graylings explanations of secular concepts for the first time. The historical, philosophical and ethical implications of secularism therefore need to be both comprehensive and put into the context of an Islamic worldview. And he does an absolutely superlative job in doing this. I doubt anyone, even yourself Greg, could do better.

  5. Posted May 26, 2014 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    To me, religions like Islam (many branches of Christianity, too) don’t have an “all inclusive nature”, they are simply totalitarian: they have rules permeating all aspects of life sometimes from diet to sex lives, seek to meet all demands and wants “in religion” (guidance, answers about the world, entertainment) and tend to discourage or ban things outside their religion.

    They check some other boxes on the common definition of totalitarian, too. For example, they do have “charismatic leaders” who also happen to be the leader and supreme authority, and spiritual guide, even if they are non-existent.

    It is justified to call these ideologies totalitarian, with little stretch of the definition, but society at large will consider this polemical, and downplay the similarities, because it’s religion.

    • Diane G.
      Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      We need to start calling this, “playing the religion card.”

  6. Draken
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    …who I assume are her colleagues on one or another of the anti-Islamic committees in which she’s active

    From her website, I gather the impression that she would prefer to call it ‘anti-islamism to stress the political nature of the problem.

    (I don’t necessarily agree with her on that, I only want to point out what I think is her position).

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