By Alom Shaha
The Apostates by Simon Cottee claims to be “the first major study of apostasy from Islam in the Western secular context” and the book will no doubt become a useful text for other academics who might wish to study this or related subject matter. It includes an exploration of what it means to be an “apostate” – not just in Islam but in general – and provides interesting insights into the reasons why people apostatise. But the real focus of the book is on the stories of the 35 apostates from Canada and Britain who Cottee interviewed as part of his research.
Cottee addresses the fact that apostasy in Islam has become intensely politicised and polarised. He asserts that the right often portray apostates as “brave dissidents who live in fear of violent reprisal from fanatical Muslims” whereas, for the left, “the question of apostasy barely registers and … concern over apostates is typically derided as Islamophobia”. Cottee claims that “ex-Muslims deserve better” and his book is certainly an invaluable contribution to making sure that the experiences of ex-Muslims in the West will be better understood.
A large part of the introduction is devoted to pre-emptively making excuses for what might be considered the shortcomings of the book as a work of sociology. The author describes the difficulties he encountered in trying to conduct his research: like many of the “ex-Muslims” I know, most of his interviewees are “closeted” and “actively conceal their disbelief”. Cottee found all of his interviewees through the CEMB Forum, an online “self-help” forum set up by The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Relying on a single source like this makes the data unrepresentative and in my opinion, Cottee doesn’t provide a convincing argument otherwise.
Read the full article by clicking the name of the source located below.