Monday, July 09, 2007

The global resurgence of religious intolerance

From Washington to Baghdad and beyond, religious intolerance is making a comeback; threatening democracy and human rights.

Peter Tatchell interviews feminist commentator, writer and secularist, Joan Smith on his Talking with Tatchell interview on online TV station 18 Doughty Street.

Two centuries after the Enlightenment, religious ignorance, superstition, sectarianism and prejudice are on the rise again. Reason, science, liberalism, democracy, secularism and humanitarian values are under attack from fundamentalists within many faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. They want to reassert religious dogma, authority and control. More and more of these zealots are prepared to use violence; as evidenced by the growth of religious-inspired terrorism.

Liberal and progressive people of faith are on defensive in large parts of the world; often being eclipsed by the shrill voices of religious fanaticism.

Even in a wealthy, well-educated democratic nation like the US, the Christian Right has succeeded in hijacking the Republican Party and the Presidency, propagandising creationism and sexual abstinence, and securing a prohibition on the federal funding of stem cell research and condom use as a method to prevent HIV.

In Britain, the Church of England bans women bishops, faith schools tolerate the bullying of lesbian and gay pupils, and religious extremists have succeeded in closing down the play Behzti and cancelling regional performances of Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Central to the global resurgence of religious intolerance are attempts to police gender and sexuality; including restrictions on women's reproductive rights and their access to economic and political power, and escalating state-sponsored assaults on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in countries like Catholic Poland, Muslim Iran and Anglican Nigeria.

We also see rising religious sectarianism in countries such as Iraq, where rival Shia and Sunni Muslims are car bombing and assassinating each other in a bitter battle for clerical supremacy and state power; and in Palestine where fundamentalist Islamists have displaced secular nationalists from the leadership of the national liberation struggle and are seeking to impose their particular interpretation of Islam on everyone else.  

To view the programme, click on this link.


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