Secular conference on freedom of conscience and expression: London, 22-23 July

On July 22 and 23 of this year, there’s an International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century in London, featuring a diverse and distinguished panoply of speakers.  The description:

Join notable free-thinkers from around the world for a weekend of discussions and debates on freedom of conscience and expression in the 21st century at a spectacular venue in central London during 22-23 July 2017.

The exciting two-day conference will be a follow up to the historic 2014 International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights and will discuss censorship and blasphemy laws, freedom of and from religion, apostasy, the limits of religion’s role in society, LGBT and women’s rights, atheism, secular values and more.

Speakers from countries or the Diaspora as diverse as Algeria, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Ireland, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, UK, Ukraine, US and Yemen will gather in London to defend freedom of conscience and expression and argue that freedoms are not western but universal.

The conference will highlight the voices of people on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled – as well as address challenges faced by activists and freethinkers, elaborate on the links between democratic politics and free expression and conscience, promote secular and rights-based alternatives, and establish priorities for collective action.

Art and culture will be integral to the event as will lively debate with the dauntless use of the free word.

Tickets for each of the two days, which you can buy here, are £85; and if you want the full experience, including dinner and drinks, it’s between £230 and £260. What struck me is the list of participants, which I’ll give in full:

A C Grayling, Philosopher
Abdalaziz Alhamza, Co-founder and Spokesperson of Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently
Ali A. Rizvi, Pakistani-Canadian Writer, Physician and Musician
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Feminist Activist
Alya Al-Sultani, British-Iraqi Vocalist and Composer
Ani Zonneveld, Founder and President of Muslims for Progressive Values
Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, Co-Presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Benjamin David, Editor-in-Chief of Conatus News
Bonya Ahmed, Activist, Writer and Blogger at Mukto-Mona
Cemal Knudsen Yucel, Co-Founder and Chair of Ex-Muslims of Norway
Chris Moos, Secular Activist
Clive Aruede and Lola Tinubu, Co-Founders of London Black Atheists
Dave Silverman, President of American Atheists
Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker
Djemila Benhabib, Author and Activist
Elham Manea, Yemeni-born Author and Human Rights Campaigner
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Iraqi Founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement
Fariborz Pooya, Bread and Roses TV Presenter and Editor
Fauzia Ilyas, Founder of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan
Gina Khan, One Law for All Spokesperson
Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
Gona Saed, Co-Founder of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Award-winning Playwright
Halima Begum, Ex-Muslim Feminist Researcher and Blogger
Hassan Radwan, Agnostic Muslim Khutbahs blog
Houzan Mahmoud, Culture Project Co-Founder
Ibn Warraq, Writer
Imad Iddine Habib, Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader
Iram Ramzan, Journalist and Founder of Sedaa
Ismail Mohamed, Egyptian Atheist and Founder of Black Ducks Talk Show
Jane Donnelly and Michael Nugent, Atheist Ireland’s Human Rights Officer and Chairperson
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship
Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
Karrar D. Al Asfoor, Co-founder of Atheist Alliance Middle East and North Africa
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian
Kenan Malik, Author and Broadcaster
Lawrence M Krauss, American Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist
London Humanist Choir
Maajid Nawaz, Founding Chairman of Quilliam Foundation
Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Mario Ramadan, Co-Founder of Freethought Lebanon
Maryam Namazie, Iranian-born Rights Activist, Writer and Conference Organiser
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nasreen Rehman, Co-Founder and Chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Nina Sankari, Polish Secular Activist
Noura Embabi, Muslim-ish President
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Rana Ahmad, Head of the RDF Arab Atheist Community
Rayhana Sultan, #ExMuslimBecause
Richard Dawkins, Author and Scientist (subject to availability)
Sadia Hameed, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Sanal Edamaruku, Founder and President of Rationalist International
Sarah Peace, Nigerian Artist and Director of Fireproof Library
Savin Bapir Tardy, Counselling Psychologist for The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Shelley Segal, Singer/Songwriter
Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Founder and Editorial Collective Member of Feminist Dissent
Tasneem Khalil, Swedish-Bangladeshi Journalist and Editor of Independent World Report
Teresa Gimenez Barbat, MEP, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Euromind
Usama al-Binni, Arab Atheists Network Activist
Victoria Gugenheim, Award-winning Body Artist
Waleed Al Husseini, Palestinian Writer and Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Yasmine, Confessions of an ExMuslim
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Zehra Pala, President of Atheism Association of Turkey
Zineb El Rhazoui, Moroccan-born Columnist for Charlie Hebdo

I know some of these people, and have heard of many others, and I wish I could go. The only issue I have is how, with so many speakers, everyone’s going to get a chance to talk! I count 67 people on the list above, and even if there were 8 hours per day of talks, that’s a maximum of 15 minutes per speaker. Perhaps there will be panels.

15 Comments

  1. Griff
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Can anyone spot the location of the event, other than ‘Central London’?

    • Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      None of the internet notices I read gave the location of the event. They did advise:

      “For more information, contact:
      Maryam Namazie
      maryamnamazie@gmail.com
      Tel: +44 (0)7719166731
      http://www.secularconference.com

      • Griff
        Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        Odd that they don’t mention the venue!

        • somer
          Posted January 18, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          think I can guess why

          • Griff
            Posted January 18, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

            Because of “protests”? I suspect someone would come along and turn off Maryam’s projector whilst chanting “Safe space, safe space” and having loud conversations on their mobile phones.

            Or worse.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted January 20, 2017 at 6:21 am | Permalink

              That would only be relevant if the venue had a “safe space” policy. Which may be a reason for ruling out some venues.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 20, 2017 at 6:20 am | Permalink

          Or they’ve not decided on a venue until they’ve got some idea of the attendance figures.
          I can think of several venues in central London which could host up to 200 people, all of which wouldn’t have any concerns over the content of this meeting. A venue that could host a thousand attendees though – that a lot taller order. Also much more expensive.

  2. Milton Zmijewski
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Any chance for this to come to US. We need it.

  3. Geoff Toscano
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    It’s intensely pricey, though I know it can’t be cheap to get all these speakers. If I add the cost of rail travel, overnight accommodation (not cheap in London) I’m looking at getting on for £1k. Think I’ll pass this time, though it looks as though it could be a fantastic event.

  4. Posted January 18, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    What a cast!

  5. Posted January 18, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I just read Maajid Nawaz’s book, Radical. Man, do I have a lot of respect for that guy.

    • Posted January 18, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I would be very interested to hear Maajid’s take on the (in)famous showdown between Maryam Namazie and Sam Harris on Sam’s podcast. I came away from that episode having lost a lot of respect for Namazie.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted January 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Yes, me too. And boy, was it hard to listen to! She was so petulant and condescending. I was embarrassed for her actually. If I was Sam, I would have lost it big-time with her.

  6. Ravindran Nair
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Best wishes for the success of the secular conference. A well wisher K Ravindran Nair

  7. Posted January 22, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ve bought tickets for the whole weekend. The venue is meant to be in the Covent Garden area. Exactly where depends on the numbers attending I suppose.


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