Defend religious freedom

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of our most precious democratic rights (Report, November 14). It took hundreds of years, including civil wars, to establish the right of every individual to freely pursue their beliefs, subject only to to the necessary and proportionate protection of the rights and the freedoms of others. It must be defended against every challenge.

Britain today faces a systematic campaign by sections of the media and some politicians, fanned by the extreme right, to undermine this right by sowing hatred against Muslims. This has culminated in attacks, fire bombings and assaults on women. This campaign constitutes an attack on civil and religious liberties, including an attempt to suppress the right of persons of all faiths to dress in accordance with their religious convictions. It must be strongly opposed – as indeed should any attack on the rights of Christians, Jews, Sikhs or any other religious group.

All democrats, of all faiths and none, should come together to defend these basic principles of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and culture, and join the rally in Westminster on November 20.

Ken Livingstone, Jon Cruddas MP (Lab), Andrew Stunnel MP (Lib Dem), Dr Abdul Bari MCB, Shami Chakrabati Liberty, Anas Altikriti British Muslim Initiative, Jeremy Dear NUJ , Dr Edie Friedman Jewish Council for Racial Equality, and three others

Letter in the Guardian, 18 November 2006