Last week's massacre of worshippers at mosques in Christchurch in New Zealand was an appalling manifestation of anti-Muslim hatred. It was another grim reminder of
the threat posed by hatred and division when it infests democracies the world over.
The attacks have also been followed by a surge in reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK, most obviously the vandalism of five mosques in Birmingham.
We welcome sincere efforts to explain what motivated the Christchurch mosque killer and the associated debate over how to reduce anti-Muslim bigotry and violence.
As secularists we stand firmly against prejudice, discrimination and hatred against individuals or groups because of their religion or belief.
But we maintain that a secular society is the best way to tackle bigotry and prejudice. And that means free speech must be defended. Free societies must have space
both for those who choose to follow Islam and for those who choose to reject or criticise it.
In a post-terror attack climate it is easy to forget this. Some prominent voices have responded to Christchurch by pointing the finger of blame very widely, and
associating criticism of regressive manifestations of Islam with racism and violence. Some disingenuous commentary has gained significant traction. This response
is opportunistic and misguided, and will shut down free expression if it is not challenged robustly.
We will not flinch from criticising any religion when doing so upholds the principles of our Secular Charter. And in that spirit we hope you'll agree that we have been doing important work this week. We've published a major
report on the role of religion in the charitable sector, and a set of resources to help teachers educate children on secularism.
We're continuing to challenge religious privilege, and to stand for a free, fair society where everyone is treated as equal citizens regardless of their religious
affiliation or beliefs.