Category: Diary

Some things for the weekend, including ‘No to Faith Schools!’

Richard DawkinsDid you watch More4 TV last week, when Richard Dawkins launched his attack on faith schools? Were you horrified by some of the things that were going on, such as those girls in a Muslim school, who thought the Qur’an’s version of our origins was true, and didn’t believe in evolution? Tom Sutcliffe wrote an excellent review for the Independent (and yes, I’m biased). If you’re a BHA member, you should have had an email from Richard Dawkins today, appealing for funds for the BHA’s campaign. If you didn’t, here’s what he wrote:

I am writing to you today to ask for your help in fighting the expansion of state-funded faith schools. This is not a campaign against religious education (teaching about religion) but against faith schools, which teach a particular religion as the one true faith (indoctrination in religion).
There are nearly 7,000 state-funded faith schools in England. These schools have many special privileges – they can select pupils on the basis of parents’ religious observance, discriminate on religious grounds in the employment of teachers, and teach their own RE syllabus, free of Ofsted supervision and free of any National Curriculum.

Ipswich Skeptics in the Pub – Open Talk Night postponed

Their first open talk night, when three speakers will give a talk on a subject of science, skepticism or general interest.

ISP say,

The format that we’re going to try and keep to is a speaking event every other month, alternating between a guest speaker, and an open talk night, where anyone can take the floor and talk about something that interests them. Non speaking nights will be a casual get together over a beer.

Note: This meeting has been postponed from the 21st.

Is wearing the niqab any more acceptable than wearing a paper bag over my head?

BurqaPhillip Hollobone MP has said that he expects niqab wearing constituents to remove them before he’ll talk to them. Liberty has warned him of potential legal action under the Equality Act 2006, because this would constitute religious discrimination.

Maybe Mr Hollobone is right. It would be reasonable to ask someone wearing a crash helmet with tinted face shield to remove it, or a paper bag, so why should a niqab be different? In this instance, I think Liberty is wrong. You might argue that this isn’t about religion, but about culture. I’ve emailed Liberty (not that they’ll take any notice of me, having forgotten that I was once on their National Executive committee). This is what I commented on the Guardian website:

I saw two very young women being interviewed on TV about their burqas and niqabs the other day. They were clearly unaware, as are most who are raised in the UK and adopt this form of dress, that this is as much a cultural issue as a religious one. Many Muslim women’s families originate in countries where the burqa and niqab aren’t worn by a majority, and their interpretation of the Qur’an is quite different; they don’t wear Islamic dress. I recently spoke to a young man from Egypt who said he was shocked at the difference between the liberal attitudes back home and the rigidity of the attitudes in a British mosque. He said he’d never go there again as he felt he had nothing in common with the mainly Pakistani people who worshipped there.

Bad news on academies

Thank you if you emailed your MP about the Academies Bill in response to an urgent appeal a few days ago, but it doesn’t look as though we’ve had much success. One of our members had an email from his MP, as follows:

Thank you for your email … and I note your concerns.

However, I have a different view to you on this matter and am a great advocate of faith schools.

I think you will find that there are safeguards for a balanced curriculum and I will not be tabling any amendments.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Therese Coffey MP
Suffolk Coastal

The Academies Bill is being rushed through Parliament with undue haste to try to get it sorted before the summer recess, which starts on 27 July. Amendments tabled by Dr Julian Huppert MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, would have prevented or restricted religious discrimination in the new Academies’ admissions policies.

Help defend Leo Igwe

Leo IgweIHEU is seeking donations to its Human Rights Defense Fund to help cover legal fees for Leo Igwe, IHEU’s Representative in West Africa. Mr. Igwe and members of his family have been subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment by local police involving multiple arrests on unsubstantiated charges since he began a campaign to bring to justice a powerful local man accused of raping a ten year old girl.

Read more here and please donate if you can.

Talking about baby-namings on BBC Radio Suffolk

Humanist Celebrant Margaret Nelson will be talking about baby-naming ceremonies on BBC Radio Suffolk. Not sure how long for – tune in before 11.30 to be sure. If you’re not in Suffolk or N Essex you can listen online.

Note: This has been changed from Tuesday 13th.

One Law for All anti-Sharia news

An email from One Law for All:

Several hundred people joined One Law for All on 20 June at Downing Street to show their opposition to Sharia and religious-based laws in Britain and elsewhere and to demand universal rights and secularism.

A new report “Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights” was published on the day to coincide with the rally. Human rights activist Gita Sahgal said of the report: “I think it is highly significant that in Britain there has been silence where there should have been condemnation. There is active support for ‘Sharia laws’ precisely because it is limited to denying women rights in the family. No hands are being cut off, so there can’t be a problem. Unfortunately for us, senior law officers will find that human rights expert bodies often have a similar attitude. They have done little research on the impact of family laws and the denial of justice caused by parallel systems of justice. That is why the findings of this report are so important. It is such dedicated work that changes the thinking of the experts.”