Ali Rizvi: Islam and Identity for an Atheist Muslim

Aug 9, 2016

July 18, 2016

Host: Josh Zepps

alirizvi1Religions have always gone through transitions over time. Not only do the faiths themselves evolve, but the role they play in day-to-day life adapts to fit the needs of a given culture. As the youngest Abrahamic religion on the market, all eyes are on Islam, as a debate rages as to whether there is any chance of reform or secularization within a religion that is so deeply woven into the fabric of the Muslim world.

Ali Rizvi is a Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician, and author of the new book Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason. Rizvi is one of many Muslims who assert that while they have lost their religion, they haven’t lost their Muslim identity. Rizvi considers Islam to be a religion with a set of ideas that are fair game to be criticized, but he also sees Muslims as distinct, as a culture of which Islam is not a mandatory component. After losing his faith while studying as a scientist and physician, Rizvi continued to participate and identify with many of the cultural aspects of being Muslim. He found that he wasn’t alone in his feelings, and predicts that today’s young Muslims will be the start of the transition toward secularism for Muslims around world.

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43 comments on “Ali Rizvi: Islam and Identity for an Atheist Muslim

  • The very fact that religions are obliged to adapt to changes in different cultures to survive is evidence that they are human constructs, otherwise cultures would have to adapt to them.

    Nature, is constant world wide, and we have to adapt to it, but religions are regional and differ everywhere.

    The reason IS so fractious and violent is because it is so anomalous, such a twenty first century anachronism, so out of line with reality that it can’t even begin to adapt or evolve.

    Again, my sympathies go out to individual Muslems who have suffered the misfortune to have been born into the religious tradition which has spawned this monstrous death cult.

    Indeed, death is its only option; it needs to be contained and left to self- destruct.



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  • Again, my sympathies go out to individual Muslems who have suffered the misfortune to have been born into the religious tradition which has spawned this monstrous death cult.

    Indeed, death is its only option; it needs to be contained and left to self- destruct.

    How true. The question that follows is: What does a practical means of containment looks like ? Evidence that mass migrations into ‘outside’ regions is actually exporting the misfortune and is not a mechanism to obtain the desired self-destruction, is showing itself clearly these days.



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  • while they have lost their religion, they haven’t lost their Muslim
    identity

    Oxymoron. Islam is all-encompassing, governing every aspect of Muslim existence from birth to death.
    From how to wipe your ass to which foot to enter or leave the mosque.
    Separating Islam from “Muslim identity” is a ludicrous concept. I’m not sure I trust this guy.



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  • JimJFox @ # 3.

    Unless I’m very much mistaken, and as always I stand to be corrected, Islam, in Arabic or Amamaic, means Submit; “Submission to the will of God and obedience to his Law.

    Which is of course a doctrine predicated on the existence of God, a supposition which I find somewhat problematic.

    I contend that it is a crime against humanity to inflict that sort of idea on a child.

    A form of intimidation or emotional blackmail; terrorism!

    It’s more or less equivalent to the maxim: Beat a child once a day; even if you don’t know what its done wrong, it will.

    I rather like Daniel Dennett’s comparison between religion and the common cold; both are ubiquitous, and neither do anyone any good.



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  • On the contrary, Stafford, the cold, although not well understood, does serve a function; it is a response to an infection; and religion satisfies a great many needs. Dennett can be banal.



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  • Right Jim Fox. Every one of 1.5 billion Muslims follow the Koran to the fucking letter. Right.

    if you claim to be “Muslim” – then by definition you are governed by the Koran, Hadith and the Sira. If you do not believe that the Koran is the absolute word of god then can you seriously claim to be Muslim? It all depends on subjective definition, I was christened in a proper Xtian church and I own and have read the Koran, does that make me a christian or indeed a Muslim? I think that Atheist Muslim IS AN Oxymoron!



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  • RD being a “cultural Christian”.

    I certainly DO NOT consider myself to be culturally christian!
    My culture is Mancunian, Manchester United fan with a proclivity to eat anything that moves or indeed is put on my plate and I love progressive rock music and science books. I’ll take anything from any CULTURE that I find palatable and in line with my liberal attitude to life.
    RD has been labelled that because of his schooling in the upper echelons of the British two tier education system I suppose.



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  • 12
    Pinball1970 says:

    @11″My culture is Mancunian, Manchester United fan with a proclivity to eat anything that moves or indeed is put on my plate and I love progressive rock music and science books.”

    Difficult not to up vote that.

    Mancunian, scientific, Man U, Focus, Yes and ELP is a concoction made in heaven.

    Very good cultural combination and I am sure you weighed each criterion up carefully using the scientific method.

    However associating oneself to ones religion country or culture just because you want to part of some big gang can lead to trouble.

    Anyone who thinks they are great just because they are British is an idiot, a ten second conversation with these sort of people can usually tell you that.

    Samuel Johnson put it better, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

    We can apply the same thinking to Christians and muslims too.

    Teaching a kid that he is better than the other religions just because he was born in the right parish or country or had the correct religion his parents had is very dangerous.

    The late great Caroline Ahern put it beautifully, “God does not only love Catholics, he loves protestants, Jews and the Anglicans too…….He just prefers catholics. Who doesn’t?”

    We can all be a lot of things and in a lot of different clubs but the criteria is the key, accepting that these are come by a lot of the time by chance and are highly subjective, is an important point to get across to a child.

    Give them a book and tell them written by a god that tells them they are better is as bad as telling them not to trust science.

    I know I am very lucky being a Mancunian, that is the first step.



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  • 13
    Pinball1970 says:

    My friend is a cultural muslim

    He has Western dos and donts and muslim dos and donts.

    It sounds silly but Christians did exactly the same thing not that long ago- cherry picking the ok stuff and ignoring the other stuff.

    Sex before marriage eating meat on a friday missing mass … just go to confession in the week and wipe it all clean again.

    As long as you prayed thanked god and dragged yoursef to church now and again St Peter would let you in probably.

    I dont know any christians who sold everything and went to help the poor. We did not follow scripture to the letter.

    Big difference is Jesus did not order the murder of rival groups, he just implied they would get punished when they died.

    “Wailing and gnashing of teeth.”



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  • M27Holts #11
    Aug 12, 2016 at 7:34 am

    I certainly DO NOT consider myself to be culturally christian!
    My culture is Mancunian,

    I am not a Mancunian, but Mancunian culture has a lot to recommend it!

    My brother studied for his MSc in engineering at University of Manchester Institute of Technology, and after all! – It is the habitat of Brian Cox!



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  • 15
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#14 I am not a Mancunian, but Mancunian culture has a lot to recommend it!

    Yes loud mouths like myself and Holts!

    A tongue in cheek, healthy rivalry between scientific groups, sport teams and bands can be great fun and extremely productive and creative.

    The things that spring to mind are ATLAS and CMS teams at CERN Man City/ UTD, Beatles and stones and Lennon and McCartney.

    Fantastic stuff.

    Supremacist ideas based on nothing other than being a muslim/Christian leads to the most backward lazy thinking.

    Cultural muslims will lead the way against extremism.

    They will do two things, demonstrate to both groups (non muslim and conservative muslims) co-existence is possible.

    And also present an opportunity for change, conservatives wont come to the pub after a match with me but my friend will.

    There I will tell him Islam is made up nonsense stolen from the OT.

    He will disagree and we will then talk, no gets hurt and we both get drunk.

    That is how it will happen, chipping away bit by bit.



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  • 16
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#5 Laurie B

    How many of the 1.5 billion muslims will stand and publically say (in a country where they would not be lynched) Mohammad was wrong to have ordered that be written down?

    He should have left the lines about a woman being half the value of that a man?

    I think Allah was wrong when he said that stuff about burning non believers in hell, we should try and convert them not scare them in this way?

    I think Mohammad was wrong to have fought and killed so many jews, I know a few jews and they are ok?

    Acting on the texts is one thing and agreed not many do it and do not follow it to the letter.

    But how many agree with other muslims that do do these things?

    That stand by and do nothing?

    Please remember I am not talking about terror activity specifically I am talking about the poisonous passages in the Koran.

    How many agree and would NOT denounce them even if they personally would not have the blood on their hands?

    According to the polls this group is large in the UK on some issues relating to my points.



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  • @OP – Religions have always gone through transitions over time. Not only do the faiths themselves evolve, but the role they play in day-to-day life adapts to fit the needs of a given culture.

    It looks like some of this evolution and adaptation, is to be put to the test in Cannes!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37056742

    The mayor of Cannes in southern France has banned full-body swimsuits known as “burkinis” from the beach, citing public order concerns.

    David Lisnard said they are a “symbol of Islamic extremism” and might spark scuffles, as France is the target of Islamist attacks.

    France is on high alert following a series of incidents including July’s truck attack in nearby Nice.

    Anyone caught flouting the new rule could face a fine of €38 (£33).

    They will first be asked to change into another swimming costume or leave the beach.

    Nobody has been apprehended for wearing a burkini in Cannes since the edict came into force at the end of July.

    This is not the first time that women’s clothing has been restricted in France. In 2011 it became the first country in Europe to ban the full-face Islamic veil, known as the burka, as well as the partial face covering, the niqab.

    Earlier this week a private waterpark near Marseille cancelled a burkini-only day after being subjected to criticism.

    “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism.

    “Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order.”

    Mr Lisnard confirmed to local media that other religious symbols such as the kippah (Jewish skullcap) and the cross would still be permitted, and the ban would not apply to the veil that some Muslim women wear over their hair.

    He said: “I simply forbid a uniform that is the symbol of Islamic extremism.

    I’m not sure how they are going to deal with the “full body” wet-suit, which gives similar coverage!



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  • Pinball

    That stand by and do nothing?

    I just have to tell you that in the ‘middle east’, word on the street asks the same of the western world while bombs drop on their heads. Guilt by association which I think is suggested by your line there?



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  • Dan @ # 7.

    Of course cold viruses build up our immune system, which is advantageous to us, but all the little buggers are doing is hitching a ride in order to survive.

    But what “needs” do religions serve precisely?

    I reckon that the needs are probably imagined, and in many cases neurisis based wishes; either self induced, or imposed at an early age by adults with dubious or non existent authority.

    As for Dennett, I don’t think he’s banal; I’d say he has a refreshingly original way of looking at things; his metaphors amuse me.



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  • Pinball

    How many of the 1.5 billion muslims will stand and publically say (in a country where they would not be lynched) Mohammad was wrong to have ordered that be written down?

    A number that is so insignificantly small that we only need one hand to count them. Threat of death and exile from family and friends is an effective tool to keep the seculars shut up

    He should have left the lines about a woman being half the value of that a man?

    The writings in the Koran that deal with women are a source of conflict amongst all of the Muslims I know. Of all the sacred writings they have, these are the ones that, based on my observations, cause the most heated discussion amongst them.

    I see Muslim women using those guidelines in their own favor – mostly with the rules that require men to support them and their kids financially, and then these women forcefully reject the rules that restrict their freedom of movement and reduce them to a childlike status in every way.

    They are especially angered by the right of a husband to beat his wife for no reason at all. This has caused heated argument amongst women and I’ve watched them rail against this and then sure enough one of them will come out with a victim blaming statement – this is so predictable and aggravating – that some women are just evil bitches and have it coming to them. This is like pouring gasoline on the fire and the argument goes to the next level. Another will be sure to remind others that the Koran is the word of Allah and never makes mistakes. Everyone ends up with hurt feelings and simmering anger.

    I’ve told this story here before, but as I’ve mentioned, my husband is Algerian. Once at a social gathering of assorted Mid-Easterners this topic came up. It was all the women talking about the infamous wife beating lines in the Koran. Probably I made inflammatory statements about it right away. Probably something indicating that it was completely unacceptable and by the way- against the law of the country that we were all currently living in. So my Lebanese friend (female) said that this rule from the Koran is the source of significant disagreement amongst Muslim women (which I already knew) and sure enough the whole crowd started in with back and forth statements about it like I just explained above. So the interesting thing is – my Algerian husband, a Sunni due to where he was born, and the only Sunni in the room, said loudly, “It’s never ok for a man to beat a woman no matter what. I don’t care what the Koran says!”

    The minute he said that I was so happy. It took a lot of guts to say that in a room full of Muslims. I was really proud. Of course you could hear crickets for a minute after that as they took it all in. But not a single person argued back at him. Some of them nodded yes. Everyone, including all of the guys and one of the women, a fundamentalist, just sat there silently. They know he’s right.

    I realize that these are just anecdotal stories and don’t prove anything but I relate them because I believe they give insight to the state of affairs inside Muslim families currently. They are in a state of flux right now and they know it.

    I’m pretty sure that any of us who have a close Muslim friend can elicit the same information that I have access to, if they really trust you. Remember that the religiously devout of all stripes have a natural paranoia about outsiders that blocks them from trusting, a persecution complex that is installed at the time of their indoctrination. It takes persistence to work around that.



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  • Stafford

    I am not saying that Dennett is always banal; I said he can be. Saying that religion does no good does no good, as it is obvious to everyone but the religious; he’s preaching to the choir.

    What needs does religion satisfy? All the ones we know about: a false sense of immortality, as Laurie said, a sense of community. Those are two powerful ones right there. And there are other deeper ones. How do we influence people, by looking down on them and reminding each other that they are pathetic and stupid? Maybe. But I don’t think religion is going anywhere soon.

    As for being a cultural Muslim, why not? These are just words, sounds. This guy Rivsi can call himself that if he wants to. Give him a break, M27. And if someone from a religious family likes Christmas time and Carols and that’s it, and wants to call himself a cultural Christian, I say why not? It’s progress. Better that than a fundamentalist. Gradualism, as Phil says…



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  • Stafford

    I am not saying that Dennett is always banal; I said he can be. Saying that religion does no good does no good, as it is obvious to everyone but the religious; he’s preaching to the choir.

    What needs do religion satisfy? All the ones we know about: a false sense of immortality, as Laurie said, a sense of community. Those are two powerful ones right there. And there are other deeper ones. How do we influence people, by looking down on them and reminding each other that they are pathetic and stupid? Maybe. We have to keep our sanity; ridicule and humor and satire have their place, for sure. But I don’t think religion is going anywhere soon.

    As for being a cultural Muslim, why not? These are just words, sounds. This guy Rivsi can call himself that if he wants to. Give him a break, M27. And if someone from a religious family likes Christmas time and Carols and that’s it, and wants to call himself a cultural Christian, I say why not? It’s progress. Better that than a fundamentalist. Gradualism, as Phil says…



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  • Laurie @ # 20.

    Of course! And that is it!

    Everything has a price, and the price of life is death!

    So make the most of life!

    Too many exclamation marks, due to too many glasses of wine!

    Oops!

    Oh shit!



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  • Gradualism, as Phil says…

    Its the way down for those less intellectually compelled. There are a lot of those folk.

    Besides with death (or living hell) for apostasy appearance can be all.

    Don’t let any crypto-tribalist tell you otherwise.



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  • 32
    Pinball1970 says:

    @18

    I dont remember killing anyone Olgun I dont remember asking my government to do so either.
    I remember a demo of people walking through cities with the slogun “not in my name” in fact.

    I dont remember trying to kill muslims for revenge for 911 or 7/7 or Madrid Mumbai Turkey Tunisia Boston Orlando Brussels Paris or Nice.

    I dont remember celebrating when a bunch of school kids were murdered in North Pakistan or Lawyers in Quetta either.

    Muslims have to take control of their religion if they want to continue it in the west, we are not responsible for the actions of our governments we vote them in and hope the serve us that is all we can do.

    They keep telling us they should not apologies for the muslims who killing people on a daily basis, stop asking us to.



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  • 33
    Pinball1970 says:

    @21It takes persistence to work around that.

    Yes it takes people in the middle, thoughtful intelligent ethical.

    Cultural Muslims.

    We can get to these these people, bargain with them debate argue.

    It only takes a generation or two.

    Anecdote, my granddad and all his generation were racist and sexist.

    There was no “hate” there he just thought they were closer to tribes people they way he spoke.

    He mentioned drumming and bongos (seriously, not in a Alf Garnet kind of way) but he loved Nat King Cole Sammie Davies and saw no contradiction

    If you look at some of the things on TV in the UK at the time in the 1970s it was totally ok to be racist, it was all a big joke.

    Looking back on some of the comedies and stand stand up you would just cringe at the language now.

    1980s things changed and now you would not dream of talking like that.

    It took work, high profile black men and women being “normal” in the community on TV sports people in films and of course immigration.

    Black people next door in schools your GP your window cleaner.

    Only the most lazy thinking hateful people still kept groups like the EDL NF combat 18 and other neo fascist organisations.

    Apply that to women and gays too, all upward.

    Muslims are in the 1970s with the EDL, because of the books the koran and Hadith.

    Jews gays women and non muslims, it says it there clear as day and it is ordered by Allah.

    That has to be broken down, some of them will realize those passages do not fit in the 21st century.



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  • Pinball

    I really can’t see why you can’t see that it is the same for the ordinary Muslim. They asked for none of it either and I as an arhiest still get asked to apologise.

    If you are not responsible for your government then how can they be? There seems to be no consistency here. We are either responsible and in control or we are not. How does that chance for Muslims?



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  • 36
    Pinball1970 says:

    @34
    I voted the government in and trusted them to act.
    If they mess up a war to remove a dictator what am I supposed to do?
    I am not apologizing for that.
    If the power vacuum in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been filled with democratic governments supported by the people without the internal civil and religious unrest no one would have had a problem with it.



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  • 37
    Pinball1970 says:

    @35BTW… Have you seen how FB posts are baying for Muslim blood? How are they different?

    I cannot account for idiots either. the EDL and groups like them do not represent me so I will not apologizing for them.
    Perhaps they want to kill certain groups?
    If they did I would not secretly applaud them without getting blood on my hands.



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  • 38
    Pinball1970 says:

    @olgun

    You forget that fascism tried to take power once before and the civilized west rose up against it.

    You think the UK would stand by and do nothing while racist thugs targeted innocent people?

    Every time there is a march by the EDL in this country there is counter demonstration by the anti fascist league.

    They are uneducated loud mouthed thugs.

    They are not killing people though are they? they just need starving of O2 (metaphorically)
    Surveys in the UK suggest significant % of muslims SUPPORTED the charlie Hebdo slaughter SUPPORT anti Semitic anti women anti gay laws.

    The EDL is a tiny minority of the UK not worth wasting time on, yesterdays football hooligans.



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  • No one, normal anyway, is secretly applauding. This question is getting confused with political opinion. Yes, if the west is interfering in the rest of the world then they deserve a little of what they give. That does not mean that I will actually do it but don’t ask me to be totally against it when asked in that content.

    And please don’t take what I say personally. I am just trying to understand how people see the same things differently.



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  • Pinball @ # 16.

    “Please remember I am not talking about terror activity specifically I am talking about the poisonous passages in the Koran.”.

    Which, if taken literally, as they are being by some, can provide motivation for malcontents, thugs, ignoramuses and other types of inadequate, as well as the innocently mentally ill, some of whom may well be driven over the edge by various Qur’anic diktats, since Islam is all embracing of a Muslim’s life and they are unwell and vulnerable to its pressures.

    But I think it’s even worse and more weird than that, the 9/11 bombers were well educated and well heeled, likewise the Glasgow Airport bombers, who were reputedly medical doctors, and Osama wasn’t short of a penny or two.

    Meanwhile, the poor benighted Muslim, trying to just get on with their life, is bogged down in the mire of twelfth century twaddle.

    In once asked our Muslim neighbour how Ramadan was going, and he said it was hard, but he knew in his head and his heart that he had to do it; at least I’m losing weight, he quipped.

    I was tempted to ask him why he had to do it, but it might have caused some hard feelings, and anyway, in Britain people are entitled to lead their lives in peace, as long as they don’t frighten the horses.

    I’ve digressed somewhat.

    But, as if things weren’t bad enough, there are articles and pronouncements by apologists, which confuse and compound the situation even further.

    But at least, some politicians are at last waking up to the reality that there are more important things in life than votes, and that turning a blind eye or cocking a deaf’un to unholy conduct in the community, brings little or no long term gain too anyone.

    The pussyfooting around the problem needs to stop, and a beeline made straight to the Islamic instruction manual, and the murderous passages identified for what they are, or at least what they can be interpreted as being; declarations of war against every non Muslims.

    Imagine what it would be like if Christians started enterpreting The Old Testament literally nowadays, because that is precisely what Islamists are doing with the Qur’an.

    Fortunately, although I have rather a lot to say about the problem, I don’t have a clue how to deal with it, but I am most grateful that there are those who do, and are highly skilled and dedicated to doing precisely that.



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  • Meanwhile, there is a liberation going on!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37066304
    Residents in the northern Syrian city of Manbij have been celebrating new freedoms after being liberated from the rule of so-called Islamic State.

    They have poured into the streets enjoying basic rights they had been denied for two years, including shaving off their beards and smoking.

    US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters fought 73 days to drive IS out of Manbij, close to the Turkish border.

    About 2,000 civilians being used as human shields were also freed.

    Reuters news agency spoke to a resident of Manbij who described a spot where people were beheaded. “For anything or using the excuse that he did not believe [in God], they put him and cut his head off.

    Life under IS

    Women are forced to cover up; in one case, a woman in Mosul, Iraq, was challenged for not having her hands fully covered
    The minimum punishment is flogging, which is applied for things like smoking a cigarette.
    Men caught smoking have had their fingers amputated, while a female dentist who treated men was publicly beheaded, the UN said in a report in 2014
    Men are not allowed to be clean-shaven
    Prayer checks are carried out on the streets
    Men are ordered to attend compulsory Sharia classes if their trousers are too long



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  • Stafford

    I’ve digressed somewhat

    No you haven’t. It is all part and parcel of it all and it is the forgetting and cross referencing that I don’t understand.

    Making reference to the education of terrorists is one. What does that tell us? Was it purely because of religion? It may well sound like a conspiracy theory but Osama was educated with those he fought against. Was it personal, political or religious or all of those? I was once approached by one of my lobby group to allow religion to come into it as we would get much more support. I flatly refused to have any part of it and it fizzled out.



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  • 43
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#40 The pussyfooting around the problem needs to stop, and a beeline made straight to the Islamic instruction manual,

    One of the main issues in the UK

    A panel talked about radicalizing of young people who then go to Syria on UK TV BBC2 this weekend.

    Islam was hardly mentioned and then only in a positive sense.

    As far as they were concerned anything connected to terror is nothing to do with Islam, you cant say it is on TV anymore without being labelled a bigot.

    I am afraid it is part of it, just because most mulims do not act on the verses it does not mean those verses are not there.

    You have remember Christians have the, “that was the angry OT not the Jesus NT.” Get out clause for the violent verses but muslims dont have that.

    The nasty stuff is littered throughout so simply saying the Koran is not relevant or responsible for terror or medieval thinking is wrong.



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