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No place for discrimination at the SP

3 March 2019

No place for discrimination at the SP

This week I'm going to be spending two days in Geneva at the invitation of the EU Service for External Action, discussing the protection of freedom of religion and belief. Some will ask themselves what a representative of the SP is doing there. Which is why I have decided to use this weeklog to clear up a couple of misunderstandings. It's true that the SP places no importance on 'identity', and that we seek to combat forces that try to set people against each other on the basis of identity and in that way lead them away from the real struggle, which is our fight against neoliberalism and the increasing exploitation of labour and the enrichment of capital. That doesn't mean, however, that we don't find the fight against discrimination important. We want everyone on board, whatever the colour of their skin and whatever their beliefs, because we need everyone in our core struggle.

It isn't true that Marx condemned religious belief. Cite his famous saying that 'religion is the opium of the people' and you really have to put it into context. In Marx's time most people professed a religious faith. Religious leaders tended to take capital's side, and weren't averse to luxury themselves. They saw it as their role to keep the people passive, for the most part condemning resistance to exploitation or the established order. Religion as a means to lull people to sleep, that was indeed the opium of the people.

But it doesn't have to be that way. As a young teenager I came across an extremely militant church. With liberation theology and countless peace movements and other social movements religious belief became, at least for me, a source of inspiration spurring me into action against poverty and the ever harsher realtions within our society. That was no opium of the people, it was a pep pill.

Now, in 2019, everything has become a little more complicated. There are still socially conscious religious leaders, but there also those who preach hatred, within religions and outside them. There are those who see certain religions as undesirable, or worse. So it isn't the case in our times that religion per se is the opium of the people, but there are those who use religious differences to set people against each other, leading them, consciously or not, away from the central struggle, the fight to put an end to ever growing social and economic inequality and the multinationals' monopoly of power.

The sowing of hate is precisely what we'll be discussing in Geneva. What comes under freedom of expression of what doesn't? Can you protect religions and what are the rights of those who adhere to a religion or belief? My contribution will be clear: sowing hatred on the basis of religion or belief that deliberately encourages violence and discrimination should not be allowed, not only if it comes from the side of religion, but also from third parties. That's the case in the Netherlands, but also, according to the human rights treaties, throughout the world. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be played off against each other and must respect the right of everyone to believe or not believe. And we don't let this distract us from the central struggle. The SP has no place for discrimination.

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