Live Blogging From the 2007 Secular Islam Summit

**Live from Florida- the 2007 Secular Islam Summit**
Updated with pictures!

“An age of reformation is upon us that needs desperately to be responded to by people who embrace not only the faith as a personal and private matter, but who also wish to see their countries and nations move forward in a progressive and prosperous way to catch up with the 21st century.”

Banafsheh Zand
Secular Islam Conference Organizer
Kuwait News Agency
February 27, 2007


Speakers List: (left to right-top to bottom) Shaker Al-Nabulsi, Nonie Darwish, Afshin Ellian, Manda Zand Ervin, Hassan Fatemolla, Tawfik Hamid, Shahriar Kabir, Nibras Kazimi, Irshad Manji, Salameh Nematt, Dr. Walid Phares, Tashbih Sayyed, Wafa Sultan, Amir Taheri, and Ibn Warraq.
For more on these amazing individuals go HERE.

Via the Kuwait News Agency– the Announcement of the “Secular Islam Summit” in Florida:

NEW YORK, Feb 27 (KUNA) – The first ever “Secular Islam Summit,” to be convened in St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 4-5, will bring together hundreds of thinkers and activists worldwide to counter the voices of reactionary Islam which have been speaking on behalf of all Muslims, the organizers of the event said late Monday.

About 500 people from all over the world are expected to attend, including speakers and government guests from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Europe, Canada and the US. Iranian Banafsheh Zand, one of the organizers, told KUNA that, “People in Islamic countries were taken into the “dark ages by the politicization of Islam.”

“An age of reformation is upon us that needs desperately to be responded to by people who embrace not only the faith as a personal and private matter, but who also wish to see their countries and nations move forward in a progressive and prosperous way to catch up with the 21st century,” she added.

She indicated that the Summit will become a “sanctuary for a lot of people who have been intimidated by the Jihad and radical Islamist forces, and to essentially create an atmosphere of embracing the ideas of enlightenment, of greater understanding of science, reason, secular ideas, such as separation of religion and state, and of embracing their own cultural and national heritage, their historical identities and the formation of a solidarity movement that will help the Middle East and South Asian countries to have a leap forward in societal growth.”

Another organizer Austin Dacey also told KUNA that the most important thing for participants is the hope that this Summit will be the “beginning of a coherent cross-culture movement for secularism in Islamic societies.” “There are countless individuals who are standing up for critical reasoning and freedom of conscience and secular values, but until now there really hasn’t been a global movement that brings them together as a force for change, ” he argued.

CNN and Glenn Beck from CNN Headline News, Al-Arabiya, Aljazeera, and others are sending representatives to cover the summit.

The summit opens tomorrow. I will be liveblogging and posting as many pictures and video clips as possible.
Stay tuned- From the Summit- GP.


Michael and Barbara Ledeen arive at the Summit. Michael from Pajamas Media will be moderating a panel session at the summit.


Elio Bonazzi, Afshin Ellian, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi (organizer), and Iranian dissident Amir Abbas Fakhravar

Amir Abbas Fakhravar was born in 1975, is single, and experienced his first jail when he was 17 years old and has been imprisoned 18 times since. Now 31, Amir served time in Iran’s notorious Evin prison before arriving in Washington in May 2006, with Richard Perle’s help. Amir now leads the Iran Enterprise Institute and advocates U.S. intervention to promote secular democracy in Iran, now seeks Washington’s backing to lead an organization that would unite Iranian student dissidents.

Afshin Ellian was born in 1966 in Tehran, Iran. At the age of seventeen in 1983, after he had been threatened with execution by the regime, he fled on camelback to Pakistan with help from smugglers. After a few months, he moved to Afghanistan, studied medicine in Kabul for two years and met his wife there. In 1989, when the Afghani authorities had agreed to turn over dissident intellectuals to Iran, Ellian and approximately seventy other intellectuals were chartered to European countries on an invitation that was mediated by a United Nations representative. Ellian arrived in the Netherlands and he was granted the option to study at the University of Tilburg as a refugee. (Via Secular Islam Summit). Afshin was a strong supporter of Ayaan Hirsi Ali during her persecution in the Netherlands.
Saturday was Afshin’s first day in America. He was very excited.


(L to R) Jim Hoft-Gateway Pundit, Elio Bonazzi, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi (organizer), Irshad Manji, and Manda Zand Ervin.

Irshad Manji – Irshad Manji is the internationally best-selling author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. She is circumventing censors by posting free translations on her website: www.muslim-refusenik.com. A senior fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy, Irshad writes columns that are distributed worldwide by the New York Times Syndicate. She is also producing a PBS documentar
y about Islamic reform, to be aired in 2007. (Via Secular Islam Summit)

Manda Zand Ervin – founder and president of “Alliance of Iranian Women,” an organization working to bring the attention of the world governments and human rights organizations to the plight of the women and children in Iran. I have been actively working with some of the members of the United States Congress, some members of the Administration and European Parliament. I have spoken at the United Nations, Helsinki Commission and the congress of the United States and many other institutes and organizations. She is a frequent guest on BBC, Radio America, NPR, VOA, ABC Radio, and others. (Via Secular Islam Summit)


John Loftus (left) and Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi in the lobby.

John Loftus a former Justice Department prosecutor, once held some of the highest security clearances in the world, with special access to NATO Cosmic, CIA codeword, and Top Secret Nuclear files. As a private attorney, he works without charge to help hundreds of intelligence agents obtain lawful permission to declassify and publish the hidden secrets of our times. He is the author of four history books, three of which have been made into films, two were international best sellers, and one was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. (Via his Bio Page)
John is heading up the Intelligence Summit that is being held in conjunction with the Secular Islam Summit.


Shaker Al-Nabulsi, Manda Zand Ervin and Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi meet up at the summit.

Shaker Al-Nabulsi – Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi is a Jordanian intellectual residing in the United States who has authored widely-cited articles on Islam and Arab governments. In an article for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyasa, he asked why Islamic religious scholars haven’t issued a fatwa against bin Laden. In 2006 he authored an open letter to letter to Saudi King ‘Abdallah Ibn ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz, demanding an investigation into a doctorial dissertation submitted to the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University that named 200 modern Arab intellectuals and authors whom the author accuses of heresy. (Secular Islam Summit)

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