Secular trends in the Arab world have been long ignored in Western media and even scholarship. Furthermore, Saudi and Qatari media, which dominate the bulk of pan-Arab media, will certainly suppress such news, but there is a new phenomenon. Arab atheist groups are spreading on the Internet and Facebook groups dedicated to Arab atheists are increasing in popularity. And the Egyptian newspaper al-Wafd even took note and published an article about “the secret world” of atheists. There are reasons for this phenomenon.
To be sure, Arab atheism is not new: There is a long history of free-thinking in Arab countries throughout Islamic history. Long before the appearance in the late 1990s of Sarah Stroumsa’s fine book, Freethinkers of Medieval Islam: Ibn al-Rawandi, Abu Bakr al-Razi and their Impact on Islamic Thought, Arabs and Muslims were curious to learn about the history of atheists and free-thinkers in Islamic history.