Ex-Muslims: A community in protest

Jul 5, 2018

By Maryam Namazie

When the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) started 11 years ago, in June 2007, we were hard pressed to find 25 people who would come out publicly to break the apostasy taboo. Today, we are witnessing an international ex-Muslim ‘community’ – a tsunami of atheism.

But for me, this has never been about building a community as it is understood within identity politics, which implies people being boxed into homogenised, segregated communities with culturally-relative rights managed by ‘community leaders’. Rather, I see ex-Muslims as a community in protest: insisting on freedom from religion, and freedom of conscience. For the right to apostasy and blasphemy, without fear.

Like the LGBT, anti-slavery, anti-colonialist, anti-apartheid, suffragette or civil rights movements, it’s a movement which insists upon our common humanity and equality – not upon difference or superiority. It’s a movement of people who refuse to live in fear and in the shadows, and who are speaking out for social change in unprecedented ways.

This movement matters because thirteen states punish atheism with the death penalty and all of them are Islamic. Because a series of laws in Saudi Arabia define atheism as terrorism, where Ahmad Al-Shamri has been sentenced to death for atheism. Because Sina Dehghan has been sentenced to death in Iran for ‘insulting Islam’. Because a Pakistani High Court Judge has said that blasphemers are terrorists and Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty there. Because even in countries without the death penalty, such as Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government turns a blind eye. Because in Bangladesh, the atheist poet and publisher Shahzahan Bachchu was dragged out of a shop and shot dead mid-June this year. Because the Egyptian government is producing a national plan to ‘confront and eliminate’ atheism. Because in Egypt, the atheist blogger Sherif Gaber has not been seen in public since his arrest at Cairo airport on 2 May. Because a Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be ‘hunted down’ and ‘re-educated’. Because even in secular societies, ex-Muslims can be shunned, ostracised, and face ‘honour’ related violence.

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5 comments on “Ex-Muslims: A community in protest

  • Brave, very brave people. Let’s hope that soon there will be so many of them that they will be impossible for the fanatics to murder. Let’s hope that soon there won’t be room for any fanatics in our societies.

    I have never understood how attacking a belief can be called racism, phobia or hate crime. Attacking a belief is not attacking a human being – besides which belief, religious or otherwise, tends to cause turmoil, domestic conflict, violence and war. In The Summing Up Arthur Koestler writes about the connection between belief, group membership and suspension of self-interest and moral values. Pages 90-92 in the Picador edition (1979) are particularly succinct, and should be required reading for politicians, anti-terror police and cult de-programmers.

    Since reading The Summing Up I have striven to rid myself of all belief; saying I have no belief gets you out of boring arguments about being an atheist. You can have a great linguistic philosophy argument about the different meanings of the word, which usually bamboozles ’em, and makes them think your’re mad, which would have pleased Koestler, who thought that the whole of humanity was mad anyhow.

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  • eejit

    Attacking a belief is not attacking a human being –

    I’ve had good results in discussions by saying this very statement. It seems that the general public is somewhat murky in their understanding of who or what is under protection and who or what just isn’t. But in discussions when I criticize some aspect of religion in general or one religion specifically, I always get that offended expression and response, even if it’s not their religion under fire. I have to explain that I’m not insulting them personally, just some old ideas that don’t work anymore.

    We need to prompt people to separate themselves as a person with rights from the ideology that they choose to define themselves. It’s a choice. They can walk away when they want to but until then, if they proudly label themselves as Christian, Jew, Muslim, Communist, Capitalist, Libertarian, Republican, Conservative, or any other ideological label then they must be informed that they will be held responsible for those labels that as an adult, they can join or quit as they like.

    It doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a bad person but if they voice support for more and more of the nasty dogma then I have to inform them that there’s no more excuses. If they support prejudice, brutality oppression, injustice then I will have no choice but to declare them a bad person. You want to belong to an antiquated tribal organization? There will be inevitable clashes with the progressives in the society who strive to live their lives based on a framework of ethically derived morality. When the ideologue is accused of immorality then that person needs to own it and not mount a defense based on a super offensive display accusing others of trampling their rights and hating them for something they can’t help.

    Yes, I agree that ex-Muslims are some very brave people.

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  • eejit #1
    Jul 5, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    I have never understood how attacking a belief can be called racism, phobia or hate crime. Attacking a belief is not attacking a human being – besides which belief, religious or otherwise, tends to cause turmoil, domestic conflict, violence and war.

    That is because you use evidence-based rational thinking!

    However, if you had been indoctrinated in the standard knee-jerk response to criticism of the effects of dogmas and doctrine, you would have no difficulty in BELIEVING that the phobia badge should be applied to people exercising concerns about real issues, as a means of side-tracking the issues and avoiding looking critically at deeply held [delusional] personal beliefs! !

    In the UK there are two sets of believers’ knee jerk allegations circulating in the main political parties!

    One from the Tory token Islamic/female former party chair, who could not handle the job when she held the position:-


    The Tories’ handling of allegations of Islamophobia has been “woefully inept” and they must now hold an independent inquiry, a former party chair has said.

    .. and one from history illiterate, Labour Party muppets on its National Executive, , who repeatedly attacked Ken Livingstone with ignorant shrieks of “anti-Semitism”, despite him politely correcting their ignorance with factual information!

    Those knee-jerk responders, just keep coming across those “offensive facts” which they really, really, really, don’t want to look at or hear! !

    They call for grandiose “investigations, – presumably because they are too incompetent to carry out their own investigations into Wikipedia etc. to find information for themselves! ! 🙂

    Baroness Warsi said her party should learn from Labour’s response to anti-Semitism allegations and not seek to use promises of action as a “fig leaf” to hide the true extent of the [imaginary] problem.

    “Nothing tangible” had happened since she first raised the [non-] issue, she said.

    All parties should “learn from Labours’ farcical antics over empty chants of “anti-Semitism” and promises about “action” in response to non-events, but not by making fools of themselves by treating Wasi’s knee-jerk chants of “Islamophobia”, as matters requiring some sort of investigation or action!

    The indoctrinated delusional, cannot respond rationally to objective criticism, so let’s not pander to their delusions of “superior” self-importance, by allowing them to use political machinery intimidate and silence critics!

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  • The right term for Islamophobia emerged a while ago and is used by change advocates like Maajid Nawaz.

    Anti Muslim Bigot.

    This orders the concept rationally. It is people, Muslims, who are harmed. It is not an irrational fear that is most to be feared but intentional and malign bigotry… the former is an act of education and cultivating familiarity. Muslims are as devout or irreligious/cultural as many a Christian or other group. Pretending to know what is in their mind is as poisonous as coercing what they think.

    I propose and A to Z of the Social Justice Warrior terminology. Social Justice Advocate to Social Justice Zealot. The zealots who had taken over the SPLC terrorist list have been brought up short. The richest not for profit in the USA (with a $320m endowment) and made mostly of lawyers crumbled at a suit pressed after spending $25,000. They could have ridden this out but they simply knew they were palpably in the wrong. The great intentions of the Zealots can never protect them for the consequences of their wish thinking a simple world of goodies and baddies.

    SJWs too often don’t see the bullies at the gates of belief, too quickly support those wolves whimpering like an underdog and miss those many suffering and silenced.

    Just bought the Koestler.

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  • We need to prompt people to separate themselves as a person with rights from the ideology that they choose to define themselves. It’s a choice.

    I totally agree with you Laurie – trouble is they don’ see it as a choice, they see it as truth, which they must defend.. At least they profess to. I tend to agree with Oscar Wilde, that people only die for beliefs that they are terrified might be false. Who knows what they really think?

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