"Fattah Pasha Mosque" by Mahmoudalrawi / CC BY-SA 4.0

Iraq’s atheists go underground as Sunni, Shiite hard-liners dominate

Apr 8, 2019

By F. Brinley Bruton

Fadi does not believe in God, and he is terrified.

In a Baghdad cafe, the medical student sits far from other customers, and glances over his shoulder to make sure nobody is watching and listening.

“I am afraid of being discovered — then I would be killed,” he says in a voice that rarely rises above a whisper. “This may also harm my family, although none of them know that I don’t believe.”

Fadi, 23, says that he could be targeted for believing that God and all of the world religions are human inventions. To avoid detection, he deletes all searches on his computer and cellphone.

Like all of the 20 atheists NBC News spoke to, Fadi asked to be identified by a pseudonym to avoid being targeted by militias or police.

Although Islam is the state religion and it is against the law to slander or insult any faith, atheism itself is not illegal in Iraq, according to legal expert Ali al-Timimi. Anecdotal evidence suggests a small but growing community of Iraqi agnostics and atheists in the Muslim-majority country. One Facebook page called Iraq’s Agnostics and Atheists has nearly 13,000 likes and 17,000 followers.

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2 comments on “Iraq’s atheists go underground as Sunni, Shiite hard-liners dominate

  • Ufukninatta,

    Are you one of them? If so, please be careful. I hope someday atheists in islamic countries will feel safe enough to be honest with their friends and family and with their society. There ARE atheists in islamic countries. Exposure to Western media will present ideas of freedom from religion and Muslims will see what it’s like to live in a secular democracy. Young people don’t want to be told that they have to live exactly like the Prophet did one thousand years ago. They want love and families and decent jobs and travel just like our Western young people want. They are moving forward but there have been difficulties in the transition.

    Right now, Algeria is on the edge of a revolution. The young people there are a force due to their sheer numbers and because they are a generation that has come of age with access to the internet, satellite TV, and travel.  A few days ago, it was announced that there would be a mass demonstration of everyone out in the streets for a day of public prayer for the revolution. The young people refused it and the event never took place. This is a sign. It gave me hope.


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