Most people assume that because Al-Mutar is an Iraqi refugee, he is Muslim. This is not the case. Al-Mutar is a secular humanist, and an outspoken one at that. Reared in a moderate Muslim family that encouraged him to think for himself and make up his own mind, Al-Mutar said he became an atheist at an early age.

Though Islam is taught in public school in Iraq, Al-Mutar said “reading philosophy, keeping an open mind, being curious about the world, made me finish all my education in Iraq without losing my brain in the process.”

Earlier this year, Al-Mutar fled Iraq. He received asylum in the U.S., partly due to his conflict with Islamists over his secular humanist identity and partly because his brother, cousin and best friend were killed in sectarian violence there.

After landing at LAX, Al-Mutar spent some months in Houston before moving to Washington, D.C., where he now lives and runs the Global Secular Humanist Movement, a group that aims to use reason, evidence and scientific methods of inquiry — rather than faith and mysticism — in seeking solutions to human problems. On Facebook, the movement has 221,000 fans, and as Al-Mutar speaks at national events, that number continues to grow.