And talked and talked.
“I was so happy, and so shocked,” Abdallah, 33, said. “We both felt, ‘I am not the only one.’ It was huge.”
Now, several years later, Abdallah is on a mission to create the kind of safe space for questioning Islam and all matters of faith that he wishes he could have had.
Last May, he founded “Muslim-ish,” a support group for questioning and former Muslims that meets under the auspices of Manhattan’s Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization. The group has about 50 members, both cradle Muslims and converts, and meets twice a month in a secret location.
“Most of these people never saw another ex-Muslim before,” Abdallah said near his Midtown office; bringing a reporter to a meeting was considered too dangerous for some members. “These are people who don’t believe anymore and who have no support.”
It’s support they very much need, Abdallah said, because Muslims who abandon their faith face challenges not faced by those who leave other religions. Divorce and disowning are common, as is the threat of physical violence. Some more conservative Muslims believe Islam sanctions the killing of apostates (those who abandon the faith) and blasphemers (those who belittle Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or other Muslims).