Episode 2 The Big Questions

Episode 2

Nicky Campbell presides over a special debate recorded at Queen Mary University of London, asking just one question - should human rights always outweigh religious rights?

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Today on The Big Questions: human rights versus religious rights -


which should prevail? Good morning. I'm Nicky Campbell.


Welcome to The Big Questions. Well, we're back at Queen Mary University


of London in Tower Hamlets to debate one very Big Question: Should human


rights always outweigh religious rights? Welcome everyone here to The


Big Questions. Should gay couples be allowed to marry or form families?


Should women be ordained as priests or consecrated as bishops, or be


allowed to wear a veil or to be segregated from men? Should


employees be allowed to refuse to work on the Sabbath or to wear a


cross at work, or to refuse to handle alcohol or pork products? All


of these questions weigh human rights in the balance against


religious rights, and some of these disputes have ended up in the


highest courts in Britain and Europe. So, we have assembled


atheists, Schumann this, but others from many -- believers from many


different faiths this morning. You can have your say on Twitter or


online. Just log onto our website, where you will find things to


continue our discussion online. There will be lots of contributions


from our varied lively and well informed London audience. Should


human rights always prevail over religious rights? Davis Mac-Iyalla,


you are the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group Christians In


Exile. You believe that human rights are universal. Explain why. Yes, I


believe human rights are universal, and I also do believe that we should


outweigh religious rights because most of the religious right that we


talk about, love your neighbour as yourself, feed the hungry, they are


all born out of natural human rights and needs. So if you follow what is


human rights, you see very clearly that human rights should outweigh


religious rights. Today, if you look at society, where we have problems


in the context of human sexuality, you will find that religious people


will want a special right for themselves, and the people who are


discriminating other people who are persecuting. Human rights have no


persecution or discrimination. Human rights provides for everybody and


treats everybody equally. So wherever you are in the world, you


should be able to vote, women should be able to drive, women should be


able to be educated, there should be Gay marriage everywhere, the right


to leave a religion - something we will come onto, I am sure. But


should there not be, as others might say to you, respect for other


religions, different cultures and different traditions? People who are


religious, Christians and those faiths, can define themselves within


their community. As far as I am concerned, any definition that you


give yourself that excludes a section of that community... Let me


use the Christian faith for example. Homosexuals have been part


of the Christian faith from the beginning, and the church doctrine


prevents them from marrying. Gay people cannot be priests, they


cannot be bishops. Any community that excludes has lost a kind of


respect. There is no human rights, there is no equality, there is no


universally a la tea in such a community. People like me do not


have respect. Reverend Betty King, how do you respond? Religion as a


human right. We choose to worship God. So for you to say that human


rights should be universal, we have a right to worship our God. We have


a right to make our decision. In every religion, it is the moral


conscience of the nation. So when we are worshipping, these laws are


being made. Where you want to come in to tell a particular religious


group what you -- to accept what you think is your right, I disagree with


that. I have not seen, from Nigeria to the UK, where religious people,


Christians or Muslims that I know of, have been forced to accept


anything. What the society is saying to you is, live and let live. You


want your right, you want to exist, you want to worship God the way you


want, and you are telling other people that they don't have that


right to be themselves. I will be with you in one second, Sahar.


Attitudes have changed and evolved, and have progressed. We no longer


burn witches, as I think Exodus tells us to do. We no longer think


homosexuality is a disease. There are lots of things that we are


transgressing from the Old Testament, that are now accepted.


These may be seen by you as eternal truths, but the world has changed.


It has, but human rights is about respecting another person. Being


kind to another person. Understanding another person. Are


you being kind to him if you disapprove of Davis marrying the


person he wants to marry? Nobody is understanding what -- why he is


doing what he is doing. It is his choice to be with a man or woman of


the same gender. I don't have to believe his Troy says. It is my


right, as a human being, to believe what I believe. This is a false


stuck to me. Human rights initially evolved as a safeguard for the


individual against the oppressive power of the state, and one of the


basic fundamental human rights was the protection of religion, the


right to practice your religion, to manifest your religion, to state


your beliefs and conscience. Trying to make this dichotomy that you


either choose religious rights of human rights, it is totally false.


There is a grave danger that what we are actually doing is prioritising


the sexual rights of a minority group. Let's not forget that


homosexuals form 1.5% of the population. In prioritising sexual


rights, we are in grave danger of overriding the traditional human


rights, which is the freedom of religion. Surely minorities, whether


they be the 1.5% of Christians in countries far away from here, or the


1.5% of gay people in this country, surely it is minorities who needs


their rights to be protected? Charlie is coming in. We have to


talk about minorities. Sometimes I'm told that Jesus only had 12


followers, so that is a relevant point to make. I do believe with


Lynda not to separate human rights and religious right has a different


thing. There is something called Article 9 on the European Convention


on Human Rights that makes it very clear that everyone has a right to


freedom of thought, conscience and religion. That is all beliefs.


Article 9 makes it very clear that even though you can have whatever


believes you want, when you manifest those beliefs, they can be


restricted. It is a qualified right. Restricted in what way?


Example, if you manifest your religion in such a way that


infringes someone else's rights, it is right to restrict the right to


manifest your religion. It is something like the B cases, or the


Lady Lilian Ladele who went to Europe because she didn't want to


perform a civil partnership for a gay couple. That's a very clear


example of how her manifestation of her religion was quite clearly going


to, and did in fact, in fringe someone else's right. That is what


we are talking about. The question in the first place is based on the


assumption that there was a conflict between human rights and religious


rights, and that the reality is not true. Each case has to be dealt with


individually. Everyone has the right to manifest what they truly and


deeply believe. Let me mention that this does not mean, for the case of


the B for example, that I will justify for myself to discriminate


against them. From an Islamic point of view, a same-sex relationship is


not permitted under Islamic. That is now agreed upon. It doesn't mean,


for me, to project my belief into my action, allowing myself to


discriminate against them. Human rights and religious rights are in a


line, and there is no conflict. Do you understand the position of the


evangelical couple who ran the bed breakfast, and then the gay couple


turned up and they didn't want them staying, not just because they were


gay, but because they didn't want unmarried people sharing a room.


That is an important thing to say. I am speaking from the principle point


of view. Even if I have this belief that is against a same-sex


relationship, I wouldn't allow myself to discriminate against them.


But each case has to be dealt with individually. I cannot generalise. I


would like to deal with this question first. We have the veil ban


in France, which is being fought at the moment in court. If that were to


be brought in here, what impact would it have on your life? It would


be terrifying for me, being a British active citizen within


society, being a community organiser. Any such ban taking place


in Britain means nothing but marginalising me and isolating me. I


will not be able to contribute. Why not? Because you can't leave your


home? Of course. I will be staying home, isolated, because the ban is


there. It is against the basic religious belief that is protected


by the human rights, that I have a right to manifest this in a public


capacity. Why would it be so bad to show your face? Remind people why?


It is an act of worship. I believe, for me, it is a way to strive and be


closer to God. Each of us has different ways of striving to be


closer to God in different ways. This is my way to be closer to him,


to wear the veil, because it isn't act of worship. And it is also


modesty. And I will be rewarded for it. This is what I believe. What do


you believe in bout modesty? You can be modest without covering your


face. This is my own manifestation. This is my own modesty. People can


differ. Betti, presumably, you support human rights. I support what


France is doing. I thought you supported religious rights? Only


your own religious rights? Let me explain what I mean. I'm a


Christian, she is a Muslim. Supporting the question of France


banning women wearing burka, there is a reason for that. There are


wonderful people that where a burka. Recently we found a terrorist going


under a burka. When you were talking I didn't interrupted. Please let me


explain. We found people hiding under the burka to cause an


atrocity. In France, I believe that the nation of France goes and


supports people that are fighting against one another. They go to


these countries and, really, protect their human right. It doesn't matter


what religion. It has happened, the Kenyan shopping mall, but that is to


extrapolate from a small part of what we are talking about. They are


trying to protect their citizens. David Lammy MP is looking rather


frustrated. Why is this? I think we are in danger of asserting solely


rights and not asserting the responsibility that goes with those


rights. The point is, how do we live together? In this country, this is a


pluralistic country in which there are lots of traditions and people.


When I am sitting in my advice surgery, in Tottenham Townhall on a


Friday evening, any one of my constituents can come and see me


with a problem. It is not for me to say you cannot wear a niqab, in the


same way that if somebody comes in with tattoos from their head down to


their toes, they come in with the shortest miniskirt, I make no


judgement at all with the advice that I offer and the support that I


give to the individual. It seems to me that the state should not be


engaged in that. You do make rules in relations to schools,


courtrooms, pilots, where your religious belief can get in the


way. But, as a responsible citizen, we have to be in a place where we


support the rights and responsibilities of everyone. I


totally agree. When it comes to security, I absolutely do not have


any problem to take at off, whether it is in court, I have no problem.


The issue is that it is clearly, clearly, this whole dilemma, it is


targeting the Muslims and they are targeting the Muslim women wearing a


veil, who are actually a minority. What about other religions? Yes, in


just a second. Maajid Nawaz, from the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim


and also a secularist, it is fair to say? What do you think about this


particular aspect? We have to strike a middle ground between what I would


call the aggressive secularism of the French and aggressive Islam,


forcing people to accept a certain interpretation of Islam. That middle


ground I called British common sense. That means respecting the


fact that people like Harmaner have the right to wear the veil. It also


entails the responsibilities that they've just mentioned. That means


as well as being liberal, choosing what we do with our own bodies,


human rights mean that we have to respect others in their choices


about what people do with their bodies. That is the relationship


between liberalism and human rights. So, if we apply that to the veil,


there are certain areas where the veil must not only be respected, but


there are areas where it must be lifted. For example, if a parent


turns up at school, it is already the case that teachers are not


allowed to hand over children to strangers, to people that are


unidentifiable as the parents of that child. Whether an adult turned


up and says, I have been authorised to pick up these children on behalf


of the parents, ID is a necessity. Likewise, it is a necessity to be


able to identify a mother who claims that she is the mother of the child


by asking her to lift her veil to identify herself. The same applies


in examination halls, where students are expected to place their photo ID


on the table so the examiner can see that it's actually the student


sitting that exam. There are certain circumstances where the veil must be


lifted for equality and respecting children putt right and everybody


else's rights. We must respect the rights of a woman to choose what to


do with her own body. A couple of members of the audience, this


gentleman wanted to say something. It seems to me that human rights,


they are like general, you get them because you exist. Religious rights,


religious doctrine only comes around after indoctrination of it.


Religious rights only exist after the human rights have had its


foundation. To say that religious writer should be anywhere near the


same grounds as human rights, it is invalid. You are making a mistake,


of having something that can only apply to a whole applying to a part.


Female genital mutilation, how can we protect these young girls when


somebody's religious right to do it is equal to the person not given the


human right? Is that cultural? You got the situation in Saudi Arabia


were many women cover their faces, women are not allowed to drive,


there is flogging and the death penalty for gays and rape victims


can be charged with adultery and flogged. Is that the mark of a


civilised society? Of course not, obviously not. All of this is


happening in Saudi Arabia is totally different context from Britain. But


we could do with human rights therefore women? You cannot compare


Britain to Saudi Arabia, which is from the third World, where human


rights are not invested in any way. There is no freedom of expression,


no freedom of assembly or movement in Saudi Arabia. Why are we trying


to imply what is in Saudi Arabia... That is under the umbrella of


religion? That is all under the umbrella of religion. Who wants to


come in? Sharon? I just wanted to pick up on the fact that when we are


talking about the different minority groups and we are talking about the


difference between human rights and religious rights, some minority


groups, as with lesbian and gay people, are also religious people.


We have to bring religious rights and human rights together because it


is part of who we are. While we accept the adamant about the


difference between religious and human rights, as a human being, I


believe we all have a need and a desire for a belief structure,


whether it is around humanism, one of the traditional beliefs or


whatever. Being able to express a belief and faith system is a human


rights in and of itself. It needs to be recognised. As we have already


heard, that does not mean that they have a right to discriminate against


other people. We tend to forget, when we are trying to put them


against each other, that, as I say, some of us are both and religious.


We need to have the freedom to express both. What I find


objectionable is when my faith, in particular, but other faiths also do


it, when the Christian faith tries to tell me I cannot be a lesbian and


a personal faith. That is when I find that I have to back to human


rights, because my religious rights are actually being taken away from


me on the grounds of my sexuality. But people who run the


aforementioned bed and breakfast would say their religious rights are


being taken away from them? Not at all. They are able to believe it is


wrong for anyone who is not married to sit together. The difference


comes in the fact that they were opening up their home as a business.


They were now making their rooms public property. They were publicly


open and, therefore, as a public thing, they had to abide by the law


of the land. The law of the land says you cannot discriminate against


people based on their sexuality. In their own home, they can decide to


do what they like. The problem with people that are unmarried sleeping


together, not just homosexual couples. Can you please explain to


me why they have had the full weight of the law thrown at them, but there


are gay B in this country that are actively advertising for gay


people only and will not allow heterosexual couples to stay at


their B and B. I don't know of any. They do exist. Surely they are


contravening the law? They are contravening the law just the same


and I would hope the law would come down on them. Let me rap but this


particular part, do you feel that Christians in this country are being


persecuted? -- wrap it up. I think we are coming dangerously close to


persecution. If you will not allow Christians to speak traditional


faith based on the Bible, then you are restricting us. Discrimination


is not a human rights. Freedom from discrimination is a human rights.


Let's give her freedom of speech just now and I will come back to


you. We have freedom from religion. Linda? We are coming to a place


where there is a grave restriction on people saying any elements of the


Christian faith that does not conform with the predominant


cultural view. I think we are facing... We are very close to


seeing active suppression of Christians, which would lead on to


persecution. We have seen this developing before, in the French


Revolution, in Nazi Germany, we found certain ideas were put in


place and then they carried on to active persecution. Removing


privileges not the same as discrimination. The Christian


faith, speaking as an ordained Christian, the Christian faith has


always had a privileged position within our society. What we are


finding now is that... You are confusing something, freedom to


express your belief is not a privilege that can be taken away, it


is the articulation of faith. David Lammy? Are Christians on the edge of


being persecuted? No, they are not! There are Christians... They are in


Pakistan. Not in the UK. My Christian faith means a lot to me


and there are Christians in Pakistan, in easyJet, in Nigeria


today who are being persecuted. To say they are being persecuted in


this country is ridiculous. -- in Egypt. To support these people that


said, if you are gay, you cannot come into my bed and breakfast, I


fail to see how different that is to the Britain of my father arrived in


in 1956 that have signs outside B and establishments, no Blacks,


no Irish, no dogs. We fought that, we got rid of that. We got rid of


that oppression. We have to be in a society that is plural, where we


support the human rights of everybody. If you don't want gay men


and women in your home, you cannot open your home up to the public.


It's as simple as that. They did not refuse to allow gay couples into


their B and B. They simply said that they could not share a bedroom. They


would have been perfectly happy to have had them in two separate rooms.


How different is that... How different is that to an


establishment that would have said to me and my wife, who is white, I'm


sorry, I am not having a mixed race relationship in this institution?


It's very different, actually, they are very committed Christians and


the Bible says quite explicitly that all sexual relationships outside


marriage... Yellow marker the Dutch Reform Church in South Africa was an


aberration, was it? I don't know enough about it. Religious


justification for apartheid. It is interesting, the justifications that


can be inferred from the Bible, the Dutch Reform Church is an


interesting example in apartheid South Africa? I'm very much in


favour of protecting rights, I think they should have the same rights as


everybody else. I think if a B owner wanted to disseminate against


mixed-race couples, using theology to do so, they should not be allowed


to do that. The addition of religion to objections does not lend the


objections any more weight, in my book. The fact this particular


couple was Christian, objecting to same-sex couples in their B, I


don't see why that should lend their objections any more weight than some


other couple that might have non-religious objections. I think


there should be exemptions sometimes made for people that are religious.


A Roman Catholic doctor should not be forced to perform an abortion.


The reason is that they have a very strong moral objection. Anyone,


nonreligious as well, if they have a similar objection, they should be


exempt from that particular institution as well. I don't see


that the addition of religion to somebody's objections and anyway it


whatsoever as far as these cases are concerned. Yeti, you wanted to come


in? Betty King Ministries? -- Betty. On the board said Irish,


blacks, dogs, excluded. This couple were asking an unmarried homosexual


couple not to come into debt institution. Sexuality is not a race


it's a choice. A choice? It's not a choice. Yellow rattle homosexuality


is not race. -- Homosexual it is not a race. You know what the Bible


talks about. It talks about gay couples Homer sexuality. Does it


mention lesbianism? It doesn't. As a Minister of the Gospel, in reading


the Bible, you know what you are trying to protect is not in the


Bible. Linda. You want religion without the responsibility. Davis! I


find this very shocking, that in Britain Christians... I mean,


talking always about my background, my origin, as a Nigerian boy who


came to Britain only for the purpose for being safe and being able to


practice my religion freely and being able to live my sexuality


without being persecuted. Today, sitting in Britain, having


Christians say that they are being persecuted because they are not able


to speak their mind, they are not able to discriminate, they are


claiming that because they are not allowed to disseminate. Where in the


Bible... The Bible that I read, the whole of the Bible, in the Ten


Commandments and that text, where in the Bible does it say... Is it a


choice? Where does it say, thou shalt not be gay? I will ask you


another question in a minute, Lynda, but Sahar wants to come in. I think


the theological debate should be left within people who believe in


Christianity. The danger is, when institutions and organisations or


legal systems are getting themselves into this theological debate,


interfering in someone's right to practice their religion is, I think


we should make a distinction between the personal rights and these


institutions going into this theology. There is a very good


example I would like to raise on this particular point. I wonder,


Lynda, what you think about this. You support religious rights. Do you


support the rights of the Marks Spencer 's employee who was working


at the till and who was allowed not to serve people who had pork


products or alcohol. Do you support their religious rights? I think you


need to unpack what is going on here. I don't support the right to


be actually serving on the tills in a country where it is expected that


you can serve alcohol or pork. If you know you are going to have those


problems, she shouldn't have been on the tills there. But that is not


what you were saying. That isn't what you were saying earlier. You


have just taken a stance where you have defended your Christian rights


but denied others' rights. So you're only stance should be secularism. By


what you have just said, you have completely contradicted yourself, as


did Betty earlier. She defended the French ban on the face veil, yet at


the same time, proclaimed her right to prepare -- to practice her own


fate. I assume you -- I assume you support the ban on the crucifix in


France. You are wearing a crucifix right now. It is a cross, actually.


Thank you for that clarification. The same ban on the face veil also


banned you wearing that round your neck. Either you defend human rights


for everyone or don't take any exclusivist stance, or you accept


that you are arguing for your own rights to the exclusion of everyone


else's. You need to one packed exactly what our -- what are


religious rights and what our customary rights. I am not a scholar


of the Koran. You are not? I am not. I believe there is no obligation


laid down in the Koran that women have to become that with a niqab or


burka. This has become a traditional, social custom. It


isn't. It isn't an obligation. We should leave this debate to the


people who believe in that faith rather than interfering... An


absolute article of faith, if I may, in the UN Declaration on Human


Rights, and traditionally, you said this right at the outset, Lynda. It


is the right of everyone to hold the faith they want to hold and to have


freedom to believe. Also key in the UN Declaration on Human Rights is


the freedom to leave a religion, the freedom to get out of here and leave


a religion. Stephen Law, that is vital, isn't it? Yes, absolutely


key. I do agree with that. But across the world, there are death


penalties if you do just that. Yes, and that is unacceptable. It


concerns me that, if some polls are to be believed, there are minorities


in this country of young people who believe it is unacceptable for them


to leave their particular religion -- religion. Does anyone here in the


studio think that? Does anyone disapprove of it? What a liberal


assemblage we have here! Here is a situation that has occurred to me.


What about circumcision? Is that a parental imposition of a religion on


a child? Because that child, then, if that child leaves that particular


religion that has circumcision as a tradition, that child... It is kind


of final, circumcision. Stephen, your thoughts? Circumcision is not


something I know so much about, particularly medically. Certainly,


there are medical arguments to do with circumcision. Putting that to


one side... It isn't the choice of the child, is it? Exactly. Supposing


there was a chance who want to -- there was a child whose parents


wanted to mark it in some other way, such with some facial -- such as


with some facial markings. That would be unacceptable. We shouldn't


accept a child to have those changes to their body at such a young age.


Imposing that kind of physical change on a body, surely, that is


something that should be left until later. The trial's human rights are


being... ? Yes. But on the face of it, that is a pretty strong


objection. Rabbi, I will come to you in a minute. I feel you want to come


in here! I see this as, if you will forgive the expression, quite


clear-cut moral issue. This is not laughing topic. We are talking about


taking the most intimate part of a defenceless baby boy, who has


absolutely no say in the matter, whose welfare is completely in the


hands of other people, and we shouldn't look at that moral issue


lightly. This is a perfect example, I would say, of - we spoke earlier


about how some things can be justified on the basis of religion,


whether it is misogyny or homophobia or something. Circumcision is a


perfect example. If you are going to remove a part of your child's body


for a nonreligious region -- nonreligious reason, such as...


Social services would be in there. Absolutely, and that should happen.


But when you throw the religion in there, everyone kind of steps back a


bit. But it isn't different. You have to look at the rights and


wrongs of what is taking place. It is a sharp instrument and a


defenceless, naked baby, and that is wrong. Unless there was a medical


reason for it. This is an infringement of somebody's human


rights. They have no choice. The most compelling argument for it is


that, but I personally do not agree. With human rights, we see a


conversation, and religious rights are part of that conversation. You


can't exclude religion from that conversation. But the child has no


choice. Children have no trust over lots of things. Being a parent is a


very difficult and complicated thing to do. In my congregation, people


find it very difficult to answer questions of whether they should or


shouldn't circumcise their children. They don't do it with the intention


of infringing their child's human rights. They do it with the belief


of bringing their child into a whole cultural and religious world they


are part of, and that is part of the conversation. You can't just take


out one component. I'm not saying it is done in tension leave harmfully.


It is like double standards, and it demonstrates to us the power of


religious belief, the power of religious community and belief, and


also the pressure that comes from within that community to keep those


traditions going. Do you understand the logic of what Charlie is


saying? Of course, but as parents, we are faced with lots of difficult


chill -- difficult decisions that we make for our children. Circumcision


is different from utilise -- from utility, isn't it? Let's not use the


term mutilation. Let's not call it mutilation, because what you then do


is create a very problematic conversation about female genital


mutilation, which I think is damaging to the female genital


mutilation argument, because FGM is a suppression and damage of a


woman's human rights. Now, let's bring you win. You two guys have a


story to the House. You wanted to come in on this particular point.


Clearly, as you know, there are many children who would buy from that


procedure. Of course, it isn't comparable to FGM, but there are


males who die from this procedure. The holy text mentions specific


provisions for if the first sons dies from circumcision. It is not a


case of simply caring for your child. First of all, I don't know


the statistics worldwide, but the statistics in this country by the


Association of Mohelim, that conducts circumcision is for the


boys in my community, are all medically trained before they are


allowed to conduct circumcision is. The statistical risk is very low.


They audit their risk. They are very careful about how they conduct it.


If there is any risk to life for that baby, then the circumcision is


not permitted to go forward. But is irreversible. That's not the point


he was making. He was making the point that we are killing our baby


boys through circumcision, and that is not correct. What about raising


the age of consent slightly with circumcision, so the child has a bit


of choice? Something where the child can be consulted and spoken to a bit


about it, a bit like custody with divorced parents, where the child is


brought in and consulted as to whether they truly do wish to live


with their mother all with their father. Sometimes, the age of 12 is


where they take the opinion of the child. I would like to hear your


story in a minute. We had some hands up. The gentleman in the jumper back


there, with the glasses on. I just wanted to say that Chris' argument


seems to be tantamount to denying a parent's right to bring up the child


as part of their own community. I disagree. I was brought up in the


Muslim faith, but I was circumcised later on. At the age of 12, my


parents asked me whether I wanted to be circumcised as part of my faith.


I disagree with the Rabbi. There are countries all over the world where


children do die because they do not have the safety procedures we do.


There are many countries in the world, where my parents came from in


the third World, where it is not safe to circumcise boys. I am of the


Muslim faith, and normally, boys are circumcised at birth. I think it is


wrong. Give us a chance to have feedback from the community. I did


it as an -- at an age where my parents consulted me. I said yes.


The right to reply, Charlie. The right to bring up your child is a


very important right. Generally, you should be able to do what you want.


But freedom to manifest your own religion should stop sometimes, at


someone else's body. You have to be 18 years old to have a tad too, but


for some reason, you can cut your child's foreskin off. So if you want


to do that, or if you want to have a tad too on your child, cut their


foreskin of the first, and then you can trust to it! It is a very


difficult decision, and I think it is important for the audience to


hear that I have parents who join my community who make the choice not


to, as well as to circumcise their boys, and they are equally welcomed


into my community. It isn't about excluding people who don't make that


choice. Secondly, circumcision has been used as a weapon against the


Jewish community, as a means of anti-Jewish legislation throughout


all of Jewish history, and you are on very dangerous territory for the


Jewish can. We feel threatened by the prospect of someone trying to


legislate about this. The Royal Family is a circumcised! On this


point, we will leave it there. That's too much information. Tina,


Catholic Studies at Roehampton University. You are uncomfortable


with the gender segregation that we heard about recently. I am, but


before I say why, I am also uncomfortable with the fact that we


are interpreting human rights, and I agree with everyone that religious


rights are human rights, religious people are human beings and,


actually, it is a relatively small minority race, of secular modernity,


that would have seen any possibility of separating out religion from the


rest of being human. Everybody has beliefs, values, ideas they


subscribe to. That is part of what we are talking about. But you can't


impose them on other people, that is the key? Throughout history,


religious views have been imposed on people. All sorts of views are


imposed on people. I am a pacifist. I have to watch people on the BBC


wearing red poppies for a month, in public. Is that painful? It is, I


have to pay taxes to fight wars I don't believe in. We have to


compromise all along the line. We may not all have religious


identities, we have national identities, we can understand


analogies if we say, how much does my community matter to me, sometimes


more than my individual rights. I think gender comes in there. I am


certainly not in favour of gender segregation in publicly funded


places like universities. The whole ethos of a forum like that is to


reflect the values of a society to which we belong and we do not accept


gender segregation. Isn't that a religious rite? No. The language of


rights is a blunt in strength. The language of the law cannot always


address the nuances and complexities that we need to have around these


areas. The B couple is a very good example. That couple have on their


website that they did not welcome unmarried people sharing rooms. They


had a mosaic on their reception desk saying, Jesus is Lord. Why would any


gay couple want to stay there? We have kind of been over that ground.


Lisa? The gender segregation, are you supportive? I am, because it is


voluntary. We are not asking for gender segregation in public areas


like pavements... Television studios? This is not the perfect


environment for me. But I did not say to the producer I didn't want to


sit next to men. Why is it not the perfect environment? Bear with me.


Bear with me! Why is this not... You are oppressing me because you are


not allowing me to finish my point. Why is this not be perfect


environment for you? If I could, I would adhere to Islamic tradition


and sit separately from men. That is my choice. What about your Muslim


sisters fighting against segregation in the Muslim world? There is an


underlying principle, an Islamic principle, there is no compulsion in


the religion. The segregation, which I don't prefer to even call it


that, it is only sitting arrangements. When you mentioned


segregation, it reflects a dichotomy between superiority and inferiority,


which is not true. It is a basic religious right that some groups


want to manifest and it is voluntary. Let me extend my


apologies for interrupting, I thought it was such an interesting


point, please carry on. You have ruined my train of thought. You feel


more comfortable in that situation. Do you think it is acceptable in a


public place like university? If an Islamic organisation is holding the


event, I expect them to allow me to adhere to tradition, it is just the


most obvious. If the Islamic organisation is holding the event in


a public arena like a university, a lecture hall, a conference hall or


if it is in a mosque, I do expect they would allow me to adhere to


Islamic tradition. But I am not saying we should extend this to


buses and trains. Abhishek, you would disagree. You were at one of


these meetings? It is a lie that it is voluntary. We have attended an


event, two friends of mine have been evicted for sitting in the ladies


area, which was at the back of the room. The men were at the front, the


women were at the back. Please. If you want to have a seating


arrangement, the organisation that organised the event put it out. I


was at the event, there was mixed seating for those that wanted to sit


together and there was a segregated seating for men and women. Sounds a


bit like South Africa, doesn't it? That is what Maajid just said? The


struggle that you referred to, the struggle you should be referring to,


the struggle of your Muslim sisters... Let me speak. I also want


to hear from David Lammy, an elected representative. You two were there.


You have 40 odd women that have decided out of their own choice,


choice being the operative word, to sit in the segregated area. There is


no reason for men to impose themselves in the women's area. Why


on earth would you object to women wanting to sit next to another woman


out of their own free choice? Chris? Nobody has forced you to sit next to


anyone. There was a clear force applied to those people that came


into the room and were told, you cannot sit here, you cannot sit


here, you have to sit here. There is force applied to those people. We


were refused entry to the female area when I was with my partner


because I am male. You, as a woman, have the right to sit next to


whoever you like. But you do not have the right to impose it on


anyone else. Let's go to Charlie. Chris? No, let's go to Charlie. A


couple of these events, the females had to submit their questions to the


speakers beforehand, whereas the men could just ask the questions they


wanted on the day. How do you feel about that? They could have been


private questions. But it was one rule for the women, one for the men,


they had to filter the questions. Have you been to these events? Yes.


You guys wore some T-shirts? Would you like to see them? What have you


got on your T-shirt? Stop drawing the prophet? It is a cartoon, Jesus


and Mo, it pokes fun at religious figures, we wore them at the


freshers fair. We all know about the Danish cartoons? But it does not


denigrate muslins or anything. We were asked to take them off, cover


them up, we were harassed by the University staff, students union


staff, over two days. You have the right to wear the veil and the


niqab, I support those rights. Are you also going to stand up for my


right to wear whatever I like? We talked about the face veil,


segregation, there is a trend in the media, this is a different context.


Does he have the right to wear that T-shirt? The segregation issue was


promoted in the media by Henry Jackson Society, a far right


organisation. There is Islamophobia industry going on. Segregation, the


face veil feeds into that. Do they have the right to wear those


T-shirts? Sunni no. Why are you trying to offend a religious faith.


UR offending us. You know that many people, EDL


bigots, for example, would be offended by you wearing the veil. Do


they have the right to impose their sensibilities on you? Was it you


that said no, they don't have the right to wear those T-shirts? Is


wearing our hijab is our own right, we are not when you threaten our


religion and our right, that should be a concern, not only for Muslims


but for everyone else. Like you are saying, human rights is very


important to us. When you do threaten our religion, we are not


sitting here wearing a hijab, mocking you in anyway. It is a


picture of a man with a beard, it not really Mohamed Diame stop As a


Muslim, that T-shirt does not threaten my God, does not threaten


my faith, it does not threaten the Koran, it does not threaten any


aspect of my religion. I do not feel threatened by these men wearing that


T-shirt. David, I think it is important we hear from you. Is it


important that we have the right to offend? Yes. It is. But the measure


of a civilised society is how we treat minorities. Therefore, we have


to here and listen to the Muslim women that are in this room that are


offended. Just because you have the right to offend, it does not mean


that you have to go on to offend. When I am entering a synagogue in my


constituency, and I represent a Stamford Hill, Orthodox, Jewish


community, I wear a skull cap. I do not shake hands with the women that


I am presented with because it is culturally not appropriate. If I


going to a mosque, I take off my shoes. I am respectful of religion.


This was a university campus. In a university campus, it is a public


building, where you extend meetings to everyone. There is a reason why


we talk about the liberal arts, but I think you also have to be


respectful of all experiences and the fact that, probably, it is going


to be very difficult to preserve any degree of segregation in that


context. The Dave Allen show was repeated the other day, great


comedian who offended religions at the time. Why does David Lammy say


it is respectful not to shake the hand of a woman. Do you know why you


are not shaking her hand? In case you are polluted by her. I didn't


say I agree with it, but I respect the fact that... Who are you


respecting? In every religion in the world, institutional power is in the


hands of men. I think we need to address these issues in terms of


power. The veil is a good example. Why do we jump solely on Muslim


women in this context? The Bullingdon Club, which our Prime


Minister was part of, excludes women. Golf clubs exclude women. One


other very important issue. While we have time, the kirpan. The carrying


of the knife. You, of course, are representing the Sikh community.


There is an exemption to carry the knife. Why is it so important?


Because it is one of the articles of faith. I have to say that the


obnoxious French secularism affects Sikhs as well, we are not allowed to


wear a turban in public places. This movement of freedom across Europe is


a nonsense. I am pleased we have members of parliament here who would


undoubtedly be able to defend our right to go to France and live there


as European citizens without having to remove our turban. How important


is the kirpan? It is the last of the five articles of faith. Once they


have shown that they know it's meaning, it is the way you have been


blessed to fight for some body else's freedom. So, the kirpan has


been exempted from prosecution from the 1951 crime act. So far, it


today, in Britain, there has not been a single case of a Sikh abusing


that. It is an offensive weapon, as you say? I think that is a good


point to finish on. That is an excellent example of an exemption


that seems to work? It seems to work and it is so important to your


faith. Listen, it has been lively, that has been really interesting.


Thank you all very much for taking part. Thank you. As ever, the debate


will continue on Twitter and online. Please join us next Sunday from


Salford. From everyone in east London, goodbye. Have a really good


Sunday. Thanks for watching.


Nicky Campbell presides over a special debate recorded at Queen Mary University of London, asking just one question - should human rights always outweigh religious rights?

Amongst those taking part are David Lammy MP, Maajid Nawaz from The Quilliam Foundation, Rev Lynda Rose from Voice for Justice, philosopher Dr Stephen Law, prof Tina Beattie from Roehampton Univeristy, Davis Mac-Iyalla from LGBT Christians in Exile, Rev Betty King, Charlie Klendjian from the Lawyers' Secular Scoiety, Muslim community organiser Sahar Al-Faifi, Rev Sharon Ferguson from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Harmaner Singh from Sikhs in England and Rabbi Neil Janes from the Liberal Jewish Synagogue.

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