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

The Defiance of Pakistani Atheists

Sep 3, 2019

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

For Pakistani atheists, a hitherto intangible demographic, the 2010s was a decade that simultaneously gave them an identity and took it away. The voice they found in the digital sphere at the start of the 2010s, albeit under the cloak of anonymity, has largely been stifled.

With the boom of the internet and the rise of social media, Pakistani atheists and agnostics found safe spaces online around the turn of the decade. This grew into the creation of a Facebook group, Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics (PAA), and an official website in 2011 – the same year that the country saw its most high-profile victim of a blasphemy accusation, former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer.

The atheist boom online was a grand paradox in itself, given that not only was Islamic terrorism at its apogee at the time, but the Taliban and their apologists enjoyed wide approval and sympathy. And yet mainstream media gave coverage to atheists in the country, with English publications even providing space to some camouflaged critiques of Islam at the time as well.

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