16 June 2007
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.
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.
Even in a wealthy, well-educated democratic nation like the US, faith fanatics have succeeded in hijacking the Republican Party, capturing the Presidency and propagandising creationism, sexual abstinence and a prohibition on the federal funding of stem cell research.
In Britain, the Church of England bans women bishops, there is an explosion of faith schools that tolerate the bullying of lesbian and gay pupils, and some religious groups have attempted to censor entertainment such as the play Behzti and Jerry Springer: The Opera.
At the heart of 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.
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