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Against reaction not religion

Ben Drake replies to Dave Landau

Ta to Dave for comradely response.  Still disagree though!

The key to me is that we face an urgent battle against a resurgence of racism, stoked up by the War On Terror and anti-asylum hype.  In this context, well-intentioned secularist arguments risk being co-opted to reinforce suspicion and hostility against ethnic minority faith groups.  I agree entirely that the French headscarf ban is racism not secularism, but elements of the French Left have chosen to back it for supposed secularist reasons, and that's what dismays and worries me.

There's also a tremendous danger of appearing to arrogantly cast all reaction at the feet of religious minorities, as though eg. women's equality is all sorted and fine and dandy in the secular mainstream. As if! (Religious Misogyny Exposed, exclusive report in this week's Zoo/Nuts/Loaded/FHM...)

Of course we should campaign for abortion rights, the right to divorce, free speech.  But directly, not through some sort of struggle by proxy that substitutes the abstract ideal of a secular state for concrete demands.  I tend to think it's best to say just what we mean, not more or less.

(And yes, one of those demands has to be for school students to be taught evolution.  I'm less fussed whether the school where they learn about it is labelled 'C of E' or not.)

At the same time, people under siege are the most likely to entrench their ideas, whereas debate and change comes with interaction and solidarity.  Who in the meeja would've predicted Respect conference passing a motion committing us to defend abortion rights?  But we did and without friction.

Respect in practice is a movement where people of various faiths and none work together, just like in the Palestinian struggle.  I don't see that a formal declaration of secularism would add anything beyond that.

Final note:  I can only speak with sense about the current context in the UK.  Comrades in the US face a different situation, resisting a Christian Right takeover is a whole different ball game and it may be the secularist case has more value there.  I don't know.


January 2005

Previous contributions
to this debate:
The trouble with secularism
In defence of secularism
Secularism and the SWP
The struggle is no
longer against religion,
but within it

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