Free Muslims: Autonomy and Creativity


Title: “Free Muslims: Autonomy and Creativity”

Venue: SOAS Brunei Gallery

Date: 16th February 2010

Time: 10am to 2pm

Hosted by British Muslims for Secular Democracy with support from the British Council

Speakers (TBC):
Baroness Warsi, Conservative Party Spokesperson for Community Cohesion and Social Action
Saira Khan, businesswoman
Ayesha Tammy Haq, corporate lawyer and organiser of Pakistan’s Fashion Week

We know that in certain Muslim homes, children are strongly discouraged from participating in drama, art and music. This message is reverberating in schools across Europe. Fourteen hundred years of Islamic contributions to art, culture, literature, and history have been pushed aside in favour of a hardline interpretation of religion that denies the legitimacy of any form of artistic expression whatsoever.

So far, the debate on extremist ideologies has focused on politics and theology, but the cultural side has been ignored. BMSD are organising a half-day open conversation to explore this in further detail, with support from the British Council. It is hugely stifling to deny so many people – especially children – access to the arts and humanities, and this has serious implications for their personal and social development.

The Pakistani journalist Maruf Khwaja describes this inner chaos in an Open Democracy blog: “The young resent the fact that in the traditional Muslim home all the things that attract them – music, dance, cinema, television, even many kinds of hobby and sport – are taboo, cardinal sins, regarded as Satanic. It is easier to be a nun or a Catholic priest than a practicing Muslim. Adults are also fighting back by refusing to give up music, fashion, theatre and artistic freedom.”

Various artists and cultural commentators will be invited from Britain and other parts of the world. BMSD Chair Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will chair the event, working alongside Catherine Fieschi, Director of Counterpoint at the British Council.

Contact info@bmsd.org.uk to register your interest.