[We have received the following statement from a grouping of women, recently set up in Britain in order to struggle against religious fundamentalism.]
Women Against Fundamentalism was launched on May 6th 1989, as a network to challenge the rise of fundamentalism in all religions. Women’s groups involved in this campaign include Southall Black Sisters, Brent Asian Women’s Refuge and the Iranian Women’s Organization in Britain.
Fundamentalism appears in many different forms in religions throughout the world, but at the heart of all fundamentalist agendas is the control of women’s minds and bodies. All religious fundamentalists support the patriarchal family as a central agent of such control. They view women as embodying the morals and traditional values of the family and the whole community.
We must resist the increasing control that fundamentalism imposes on all our lives. It means that we must take up issues such as reproductive rights, and fight both to safeguard and extend abortion rights and to resist enforced sterilization. We must struggle against the body of religious belief which denies us our right to determine our own sexuality and justifies violence against women.
In Britain today, resistance to fundamentalism involves a struggle against the state and against religious leaderships. We must challenge the assumption that minorities in this country exist as unified, internally homogeneous groups. This view assumes that women’s voices are represented by the “community leaders” and denies them an independent voice. We also reject the multi-cultural consensus, forged by sections of all political parties, which would deliver women’s futures into the hands of fundamentalist “community leaders” by seeing them as representative of the community as a whole.
New legislation has allowed fundamentalist forces in all religions space to organize tor their demands. The Education Reform Act has re-imposed the Christian assembly in state schools, alienating many non-Christian parents. At the same time, the extension of state aid to non-Christian schools is promised. This is a disturbing development for all those who have fought to improve state education. All religious schools have a deeply conformist idea of the role of women. They will deny girls opportunities that they are just beginning to seize. Thus the need to struggle against fundamentalism is at the forefront of the political agenda in Britain, especially for women.
We call for the separation between state and religion in Britain as a precondition for defeating fundamentalism.
More specifically, we call for:
- An end to state funding of religious schools and the imposition of particular religious education by the state, including Christian assemblies within state schools.
- A development of a social policy that addresses the genuine needs of women, and that does not attempt to deal with them on the basis of racist and sexist assumptions as to how they are expected to behave according to their particular racial or cultural origin.
- A development of an educational policy, that, while not falling into the “multi-cultural” trap, will respect the different histories and cultures of the peoples in Britain and develop a genuine anti-racist strategy.
- The abolition of the Blasphemy Laws in Britain.
Women Against Fundamentalism seeks to ‒
- Challenge and organize against manifestations of fundamentalism. This would include:
- Defending individual women and women’s organizations against attacks by fundamentalists.
- Providing non-religiously based refuges and protection for women experiencing violence inside and outside the home.
- Disseminating information in Britain and abroad about fundamentalist activities affecting women and about our attempt to organize against them.
- Examine the effects of policies (e.g. pro-family or multi-cultural) that result in the denial of women’s independent existences.
- Study the common strands of fundamentalism in all religions and their links to sexual, ethnic, class and political divisions within British society.
- Look at international links and examples and work in solidarity with similar movements in other countries.
To find out more about our activities, contact
Women Against Fundamentalism, London