Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2012 > Secularism, human rights and the Middle East: Challenges and reflections

Secularism, human rights and the Middle East: Challenges and reflections

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  • Tuesday 23 October 2012
  • Speaker: Professor Gilbert Achcar
  • Chair: Professor Chetan Bhatt
  • Suggested Twitter hashtag for this event: #LSEAchcar

The Arab Uprising that started in Tunisia in December 2010 and spread to most Arab countries has revealed a key tension between new opposition forces upholding universal human rights and older opposition forces who hold religion as their political programme. What does the Arab Uprising tell us about the purported incompatibility of the ‘Arab mind' or ‘Muslim mind’ with democratic values? How do we assess the prevalence of religious forces in the key countries of the Arab uprising? Can these forces be reconciled with democracy, human rights and women's rights? Or should the very notion of human rights be adapted to each 'culture' or religion? Are religious taboos compatible with the freedom of expression? Is secularism a ‘Western import’ or a prerequisite of democracy?

Gilbert Achcar is Professor of Development Studies and Gilbert AchcarInternational Relations at SOAS, where he has been based since 2007. Trained in philosophy and social sciences in Beirut, he holds a PhD in social history from the University of Paris-VIII. After teaching at the University of Paris-VIII, he moved to Berlin in 2003, where he worked as a senior research fellow at the French-German Centre Marc Bloch. He has published widely on politics and international relations in general, and the Middle East and North Africa in particular. His recent books include The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder (2006, translated into thirteen languages), Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (co-authored with Noam Chomsky, 2007), and the critically acclaimed The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010). His next book, The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising, will come out in the spring of 2013.

Chetan Bhatt is Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights.

Audio Recording 

An audio recording of the event is available here