Secularists of Islamic Societies Gather for Unprecedented Summit

For Immediate Release: February 9, 2007
Contact: Jefferson Seaver, Communications - (207) 358-9785

Leading Dissidents to Launch Movement for Reason, Pluralism, and Freedom of Conscience

Contact: Austin Dacey

Phone: (212) 265-2877, ext. 11; (917) 664-3855

Fax: (716) 636-1733


New York, N.Y.(February 09, 2007)— From Pope Benedict XVI to the Princeton historian Bernard Lewis, people are asking, What went wrong? How did Middle Eastern cultures transform from the openness and intellectual ferment of the medieval period to the closed theocrat societies of today? Where are the secular voices of the Muslim world? Until now, they have been largely stifled and silenced. Now, bold critics of orthodoxy are calling for sweeping reforms from inside Muslim societies. With the intent of catalyzing a global movement for reason, humanist values, and freedom of conscience, delegates from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh will assemble March 4-5 in St. Petersburg, Florida for an unprecedented Secular Islam Summit.

According the chair of the meeting, the rationalist critic of Islam and acclaimed author Ibn Warraq, “What we need now is an Age of Enlightenment in the Islamic world, of the Islamic mind-set or worldview. Without critical examination of Islam, it will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. It will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.

Said one summit delegate, Irshad Manji, author of

The Trouble with Islam Today

, “This summit is proof positive that reform-minded Muslims are creating a movement. We no longer exist in isolation. Those who hate our message of free thought in Islam will keep trying to pick us off individually, but collectively we're not going anywhere except forward.”

The historic Summit, to be held at the Hilton St. Petersburg, will set in motion the generation of new practical strategies from the world’s leading thinkers and activists in an ongoing cross-cultural forum. At issue will be secularist interpretations of Islam, the importance of expanding Koranic criticism, the state of freedom of expression in Muslim societies, educational reform and the urgent need for a paradigm shift in Islamic philosophy. Speakers include Mona Abousenna, Mithal al-Alusi, Magdi Allam, Shaker al-Nabulsi, Nonie Darwish, Afshin Ellian, Fatemolla, Tawfik Hamid, Shahriar Kabir, Nibras Kazimi, Irshad Manji, Salameh Nematt, Walid Phares, Amir Taheri, Mourad Wahba, Ibn Warraq, Manda Zand-Ervin and others.

To promote emerging solutions, the delegates will craft a statement of values and principles expressing the call for a new Enlightenment in Islamic culture. The statement will be released in English, Arabic, Farsi and Bengali to the world media at a press conference at 2 p.m. Monday, March 5, 2007 at the Summit, after which participants will take questions.

“The Secular Islam Summit hopes to encourage a new global movement for reason, science, and secular values within Islamic societies,” said Summit organizer Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, an Iranian-American activist.

The Summit is sponsored by the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, a secularist think tank.

For more information, call Austin Dacey at (212) 265-2877, ext. 11; (917) 664-3855; or e-mail


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at