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Newsline 21 October 2016

This month we have seen the grotesque spectacle of Louis Smith being hounded for mocking Islamic prayer and causing 'offence', yet all around the Islamic world people face persecution and death for their beliefs, atheism, or apostasy. Only one of these things is truly offensive.

Last week we called the media trial of Louis Smith out for what it is: a de facto blasphemy law, and Charlie Hebdo survivor Zineb El Rhazoui got it exactly right when she said this week that Islamist groups in the West, unable to pass blasphemy laws here (for now), clamp down on dissent with charges of 'Islamophobia'.

We're speaking out for the right to mock, satirise or criticise Islam, or any other idea. That's why we were pleased to see the press regulator IPSO giving a clear ruling that you can express whatever personal view about religion you like. Anti-Muslim bigotry, just like any other form of bigotry, must be called out, but it is vital to draw the fundamental distinction between people and ideas. Ideas should have no special protection and must be open to challenge.

All of these cases show the need for a principled secular voice to articulate a pro-free speech message and advocate for secularist principles. You can help us do this by joining the National Secular Society today.

The new UN Secretary General must not allow religion to override human rights

The new UN Secretary General must not allow religion to override human rights

Opinion | Fri, 21 Oct 2016

UN Secretary General designate needs to ignore Catholic pressure to row back on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and Gay Rights, writes Keith Porteous Wood.

Zineb el Rhazoui, Charlie Hebdo survivor, on why the world needs to ‘destroy Islamic Fascism’

Zineb el Rhazoui, Charlie Hebdo survivor, on why the world needs to ‘destroy Islamic Fascism’

Undeterred by fatwas and death threats, the author Zineb el Rhazoui has released an incendiary and thoughtful new book, bound to provoke debate. Emma-Kate Symons interviews the author for the New York Times.

Withdrawing children from collective worship is no easy answer

Withdrawing children from collective worship is no easy answer

A mother writes about the dilemma she faces over withdrawing her daughter from collective worship: "Knowing our daughter would be utterly mortified to be excluded in such a way, and would see it as a punishment, we opted to let her stay".

NSS Speaks Out

Our campaigns officer Alastair Lichten travelled up to Manchester on Tuesday to take part in a discussion with Radio 5 Live on faith schools. You can hear the discussion here from 2 hours 7 minutes in.

On Sunday we spoke about the ongoing trial-by-media of Louis Smith and defended the right to mock Islam in an interview with BBC Three Counties. You can hear NSS communications officer Benjamin Jones debate this from 1 hour 4 minutes here. The Catholic Herald picked up our views on this as well.

We were also mentioned this week in a Guardian article on Desert Island Discs and a poll that showed most Britons wouldn't want to take a Bible with them to their desert island.

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