TEDxExeter speaker calls for us to take a stand against terror and hate

Following the Orlando shooting on 12 June, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune condemned murderous hate and called for commentators to question how Islamist political ideology purveys hatred against many groups.

Writing in the Huffington Post, she says: “If a suspected Christian fundamentalist had carried out an attack like this, liberal commentators would rightly be questioning how the rhetoric of some homophobic Christian leaders might have fuelled the atrocity.


“As difficult as it is to do so appropriately in an atmosphere infused with discrimination against Muslims and terrifying Trumpism, if the Islamist inspiration of the Orlando murderer is confirmed, we will have to ask precisely the same questions. How has Islamist rhetoric inflamed homophobia and led to mass violence? Mateen’s armed, murderous hate is neither better nor worse because he was a Muslim. It is simply lamentable, to be condemned vociferously, should not be imputed to others who share his identity categories, but must be dissected, analyzed and fought mercilessly.”

Karima Bennoune, who is herself of Muslim heritage, spoke at TEDxExeter in 2014. In her talk, Your fatwa does not apply here, she told four powerful stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities — refusing to allow the faith they love to become a tool for crime, attacks and murder. These personal stories humanise one of the most overlooked human-rights struggles in the world.

Speaking about the Orlando shootings, she added: “we cannot be tolerant of intolerance either, whoever’s intolerance that may be. Tolerance of intolerance does not produce tolerance. We have to stand against the far right, whether Christian or Muslim, in the West or in Muslim majority contexts and without disappearing difficult realities behind politically correct platitudes.” 

To read her full article, click here.


TEDxExeter’s Twitter account is the place to go for the latest news about our previous and upcoming speakers and performers. And here are a few bonus snippets.

Tomorrow, Karima Bennoune is giving the Edward Said memorial lecture at Warwick University. Her first report as UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights was recently released; click on “LATEST REPORT”.

Jenny Sealey’s theatre company Graeae and the Central Illustration Agency (CIA!) recently collaborated on a wide-ranging exhibition at The Guardian. “Reframing the Myth” celebrated 35 years of placing Deaf and disabled artists centre stage.

Deeyah Khan and Manwar Ali (Abu Muntasir) both featured in this BBC interview about the lure of ISIS. Deeyah Khan wrote in the HuffPost last June about how “We Must Tackle Extremism Without Compromising Freedom of Speech”.

Carmel McConnell was awarded her MBE on 19 February for services to school food. A slide from her TEDxExeter talk was featured at the TED conference in Vancouver, as Jay Herratti celebrated ideas coming through TEDx events around the world with a particular focus on food.

Patrick Holden was featured in a Guardian article about urban farming and equality.

And finally… Last week, Mike Dickson released a new book! “Our Generous Gene” is “A call to action illustrated with stories from ordinary people who are, to their surprise, already changing the world and seeing small actions ripple outwards for good… For a future of happiness and meaning we just need to develop the naturing, caring instincts we are born with and focus on creating a world, not acquiring it.”

“Crime against humanity, crime against culture”

In October, TEDxExeter alumna Karima Bennoune was appointed as a UN Special Rapporteur on culture. Sadly, her first statement in this capacity was about the Paris attacks: “Crime against humanity, crime against culture”. You can read it on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website in English and French.

It is as necessary as ever to hear the message she gave in her talk at TEDxExeter 2014, “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism”, which is now featured on TED.com. In September 2014, she also wrote A Ten-Point Plan for Defeating ISIS and Muslim Fundamentalism, which covers the following in more detail:

  1. The international community must stand together.
  2. Our strategy must be cross-regional.
  3. Support must be given to people of Muslim heritage who oppose extremism.
  4. There must be an immediate humanitarian response to the desperate needs of those affected by ISIS brutality.
  5. We must not just battle terrorism, but fight the underlying fundamentalism.
  6. We have to dry up the funding sources of ISIS.
  7. Unequivocally defend women’s rights.
  8. The response to ISIS must respect international law.
  9. This is not a partisan issue.
  10. We must fight discrimination against Muslims everywhere.

Thankfully, Karima’s is not the only sane voice amidst the empty rhetoric and hate-mongering. Deeyah Khan is a documentary film-maker and activist. Shortly after the Paris attacks, she wrote in the Guardian about how “Together, we can conquer Isis’s savage world view”, and in the Evening Standard about British extremists’ path to radicalisation and their warped world of hyper-masculinity. Deeyah’s film “Jihad” explores the root causes and appeal of radical extremism to young Muslims in The West. “Banaz – A Love Story” tells the story of Banaz Mahmod: her murder by her own family in an ‘honour killing’, and how the police finally brought them to justice.

Childhood and parenting in the digital age

At TEDxExeter 2014, Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics spoke about how children engage with the internet

Sonia’s talk is now featured in a free course from the Open University on Childhood in the Digital Age. The course discusses the potential benefits and limitations of technology in children’s lives and asks: Are social media changing the way that children form relationships? How is technology changing the way that children think, and how will it shape the classroom of the future? The course first ran in June, and is running again during August. It’s not too late to join, and there is another planned.

In May this year, the LSE launched a new blog on parenting and digital media. This gives parenting advocates, researchers and parents themselves easy access to the latest research on the subject, including the LSE’s own project on Parenting for a Digital Future.

The LSE has also launched a website on the back of explorations by EU Kids Online and UNICEF of whether and how children’s rights are being enhanced or undermined in the digital age. In February, they convened a meeting of international experts, and the resulting report “Researching Children’s Rights Globally in the Digital Age” addresses key concerns for youth users in the global North and global South as well as challenges facing research across cultures and countries. The website provides further material from the meeting, and links to many more relevant reports and initiatives.

Prime numbers hit a million

First, Harry Baker is at the Edinburgh Fringe with his Sunshine Kid show THIS WEEK, until Saturday 29th August.

And second, his performance at TEDxExeter 2014 “A love poem for lonely prime numbers” on TED.com has just hit a million views. How they translate his wonderful wordplay, I don’t know, but the transcript is now also available in 14 languages.

More TED.com statistics:

A big hand for Joel Gibbard!

Sorry for the bad pun, but we really want to celebrate the fact that Joel’s robotic hand for amputees has won the James Dyson Award.

Joel is the founder of the Open Hand Project, which makes robotic prosthetic hands more accessible to amputees, and its parent company Open Bionics, which 3D prints affordable superhero robotic hands.

He aims to start selling the prosthetics next year, intending to charge £2,000 for the device, including the cost of the fitting. This is roughly the same cost as the arms fitted with hooks currently on the market, whereas similar arms with controllable fingers are more like £20,000 to £60,000.

Furthermore, existing products take weeks or months to obtain. Joel can 3D-scan an amputee using a tablet equipped with a special sensor, 3D-print the parts in about 40 hours, and finally fit them together in a further two hours, giving them a custom-fitted socket and hand in less than two days.

We’ve got a bit of catching you up to do on Joel’s other news.

Back in May, he was at London’s 3D Print Show, as featured on the BBC News website. Watch the video from about 2:00.

And in October 2014, he was named British Young Design Engineer of the Year (pdf) at the British Engineering Excellence Awards. The Judges said: “A highly motivated, dedicated young engineer with multidisciplinary skills and an impressive record of achievement already.”

Many congratulations Joel!!

Another million

Congratulations to Scilla Elworthy, whose talk on “Fighting with nonviolence” has now been watched more than 1 million times on TED.com!

“How do you deal with a bully without becoming a thug? In this wise and soulful talk, peace activist Scilla Elworthy maps out the skills we need — as nations and individuals — to fight extreme force without using force in return. To answer the question of why and how nonviolence works, she evokes historical heroes — Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela — and the personal philosophies that powered their peaceful protests.”

Subtitles are available in 31 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Persian, several Far East and Southeast Asian, and many European languages.

Also, at the time of writing,

The videos of the talks at TEDxExeter are just being finalised before being uploaded. We hope they’ll be available in about a week.

TEDxBarcelonaSalon features Karima’s talk

Every month, TEDxBarcelona hold a salon event, in which they screen a TED or TEDx talk, share questions and opinions in discussion, and continue the conversation over tapas. In February this year, TEDxBarcelonaSalon featured Karima Bennoune’s talk from TEDxExeter 2014. José Cruset from TEDxBarcelona kindly passed on some insights from the discussion.


We wanted to discuss about fundamentalism because it is a hot topic right now. And from the talks I found about islam, fundamentalism, terrorism, arabic countries, etc., this one was (to my mind) the best. It was personal, very positive and inspiring, and it was very TED (especially the usage of the watch and the time the watch stopped, at 5:17). Great talk, unforgettable.

The discussion was very good because we had some people with knowledge about islam within our group. I was a bit afraid before the event about the outcome. But afterwards I was very relieved.

When people signed up we asked them beforehand to send us questions they would like to discuss. These questions helped to structure the discussion. The first and most important question was: What is the reason for islamic fundamentalism? The main answers were: education and poverty. Some people reminded us that fundamentalism is not tied to any religion. We even talked about nationalism and related terrorism (like we had in Spain with ETA).

One of our volunteers gave me this summary [which I translated from the Spanish and Oriana corrected]:

The lack of education is not necessarily the reason for the rise of fundamentalism. 

  • Include Religious studies and Information and communications technology in schools as a preventive measure, and create opportunities for reflection for young people.

Hypocrisy and double standards in the West: what do we do / what can we do as citizens?

Religion is not the cause of fundamentalism, but becomes a tool that is easy to use to cultivate it.

  • The hatred of the unknown is a way to plant the seed of fundamentalism.
  • Religion is a tool which was originally intended to help, but historically has been used to repress the people; anything can be used as an excuse.
  • The prophet never politicized Islam. But historically there have been groups who over time have used it to their advantage.

Immigrants in Western countries: integration into the system or thriving in the system?
We are all responsible: some by omission and others by commission.
The language rivalries (eg in the Basque Country) must be overcome.


We are thrilled that Karima’s talk has prompted such discussion and reflection, and that it continues to be watched on TED.com, now passing 1.25 million views.

Harry Baker on TED.com

We’re thrilled that Harry Baker’s grand slam poetry performance at TEDxExeter 2014 has been selected to feature on TED.com. This is a huge achievement. Under 1% of TEDx talks make it on to TED, and this choice is testament to Harry and his fantastic performance last year. His performance has already gone viral and been viewed nearly 169,000 times. Going onto TED.com means his poetry will reach a potentially global audience.

Harry is understandably excited…


I couldn’t be happier right now. I have always written my poems to be performed and shared with people, the fact that so many people now get to see the words that started out scribbled in my notebooks and performed in pubs is amazing.

I am in my final term of a maths degree at university and when I graduate I want to be a full-time writer, so this is a massive step in making that dream a reality, both in terms of confidence in what I’m doing being worth it, and the practical nature or more people becoming aware of my work.

It’s hard to explain to people what I do, it’s far easier to show them. Now I feel I have the best possible way of doing that.

^^^^ that is 100% true and sincere and genuine but almost feels a bit measured (aka boring) for what is maybe the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me so umm…


This is nuts. It’s crazy stupid brilliant nuts. When I got the email I was in an Algebraic Number Theory lecture on a Monday morning and I wanted to scream but I don’t think anyone would have understood. I love what I do. I want to do it forever. I’m going to do it forever. I loved performing at TEDxExeter because it felt like what I had to say was important. I was doing the same poems that I’ve performed to audiences of 6 people in a pub basement and I was performing them in-between a guy who invents robot hands and a woman who had triplets and then went to both the North and South Pole. That’s fun. Now it’s going on the main site with the crazy beatbox guy and Bono. I’m really happy.

I write stuff to try and connect with people, I always have. It being shared on TED.com just means it connects with a whole lot more people overnight and hopefully can continue to in the future.

Life is exciting.

Teaching creative computer science

Early this week, Computing at School (CAS) and Microsoft released two surveys which showed that: two-thirds of teachers are worried their students know more about computing than they do, and after one term of teaching the new computing curriculum, four-fifths wanted more training and development; and that more than half of their students believed they knew more than their teachers about programming and creating websites.

Simon Peyton Jones, chairman of CAS and TEDxExeter alumnus, has been involved in launching the QuickStart Computing programme. This was launched by the Department for Education this week, and is aimed at helping to train teachers in delivering the new computing curriculum. Simon’s TEDxExeter talk, badged as “Teaching creative computer science”, features in Section 2 of the CPD toolkit for secondary teachers.