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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege


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Newsline 1 December 2017


The rise of the hijab in schools, particularly primary schools, is a tricky issue which requires careful handling. But when campaigners are brave enough to speak out about the fundamentalist influences behind it, and deeply regressive views of gender it is promoting, they must be given a chance to speak and be heard. Unfortunately this week the opposite has happened. Yasmin Rehman's blog at the top of this Newsline lays bare the sinister tactics which some powerful Muslims are using to silence her and her fellow activists. It is a sobering and vital read.

As several of our other stories this week show, we are continuing to uncover and highlight harmful practices in schools which are only justified in the name of religion. Under the status quo the UK's education system defers too much to the opinions and special interests of the religious. One opportunity to change this is coming to an end this weekend. The Commission on Religious Education's consultation closes on Monday at 9:00am. Please follow our call to action below to have your say.


News & Opinion


A lesson in silencing dissent: the controversy of hijab in schools

Yasmin Rehman was among campaigners who recently met Ofsted's chief inspector to discuss veiling in schools. Now, she writes,... Read More »


Pupils in Jewish schools gender segregated for different RE lessons

The NSS has called on the Government to investigate state-funded Jewish schools where pupils' RE lessons vary depending on their gender.


Islamic faith schools endorsing misogyny, dossier reveals

A former integration tsar has said faith school openings should pause amid news that Islamic schools endorse wife-beating and misogyny.


Only secularism can defeat the emboldened Hindu right

Violent threats look set to censor a film which was due for UK release today. It's the latest sign of rising Hindu fundamentalism.... Read More »


Ofsted to consult and publish guidance on religious clothing policy

Ofsted has said it will consult "a range of stakeholders" before finalising its guidance over religious garments such as hijabs.


Half of independent faith schools failing

Almost half of independent faith schools have been rated as 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement' since Ofsted introduced new standards for inspections.


Home schooling debate must prompt wider discussion of children’s rights

As supporters of a new Bill aim to see home schooling in England registered for the first time, education and schools campaigner... Read More »


From the archives


Britain First – foot soldiers of a ‘Christian nation’?

When mainstream politicians endorse the 'Christian nation' narrative they feed both Muslim and Christian persecution complexes and pander to the far-right, argues Alastair Lichten.


Call to action


Last chance to respond to the Commission on Religious Education

Monday 4 December (09.00) is the deadline to respond to the Commission on RE's consultation.

We want every pupil to have the same entitlement to high quality, non-partisan education about religion and belief. That's why we're campaigning for legislative change to replace current laws surrounding RE with a new national entitlement for religion and belief learning. This entitlement should be determined by educationalists and apply in all schools equally, including faith schools.


Quote of the week

"Being religious – or being from 'our' religious tradition – should not give any politician a privileged position or a get-out clause that allows them to ignore the accepted bases of authority: logic, scientific fact, experimental test, critical evaluation and an appeal to values we share in common."
Gordon Brown, former prime minister

"Despite promising to defend equality, tolerance and mutual respect in schools as part of the drive against extremism, ministers appear to be turning a blind eye to taxpayers' money being used to promote the idea that girls are inferior to boys."
Rachel Sylvester, political columnist at the Times, says the Government must face up to prejudiced teaching in Islamic schools

"They will say that it is just verbal and political. They know that in this world right now this is not the way some other people see it. It really isn't a joke. It is genuinely dangerous. These campaigns are all part of an attempt to intimidate public figures from saying anything at all about integration into our society."
Trevor Phillips, the former equalities chief, responds to being nominated for an annual 'Islamophobia award'


Essays of the week

Australia's Labor party is right to block 'religious freedom' amendments to protect same-sex marriage bill
By Anja Hilkemeijer and Amy Maguire, for the Conversation
Opponents of marriage equality are posing amendments which would support an argument that freedom to discriminate on the basis of belief is absolute. Freedom of religion is a shield to prevent discrimination; it is not a sword to justify discrimination against others.

For Mormon women, saying #MeToo presents a particular challenge
By Andrea Smardon, for the Guardian

Sexual abuse survivors say notions of modesty and patriarchal authority make speaking out difficult.

They left Islam and now tour the US to talk about it
By Owen Amos, for the BBC

Muslims who leave the faith often face abuse and violence - but a grassroots group that's touring American colleges is trying to help.


NSS speaks out

Our research was mentioned in stories in the International Business Times on misogyny in Islamic schools and Wales Online about Operation Christmas Child.


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AGM and new appointments

As secularism comes under attack on a range of fronts, the NSS is entering an exciting new era. On Saturday our AGM saw the changing of the guard among officers, councillors and staff.

Keith Porteous Wood, whose long tenure as executive director came to an end, was elected as our new president. Terry Sanderson stood down as president after 11 years; he and Richard Scorer were elected as vice-presidents.

Ed Moore was re-elected as treasurer. Robert Forder and Patricia Wallis were elected as new members of council, while Afonso Reis e Sousa and Dorothy Smith were re-elected. Meanwhile Stephen Evans's appointment as chief executive was confirmed.

As we restate our commitment to the secularist cause, we thank you for your support and pass our thanks to outgoing officers and members of council for their hard work.


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