If you had ask me this question, even five or eight years after the tragic events of 9/11, I would have said “It means nothing, there’s really no difference between being a Muslim and a Ex-Muslim” but lately, this isn’t the case anymore, being apathetic to current events especially those pertaining to Muslims and Islamic affairs is a luxury an Ex-Muslim can no longer enjoy.
There’s no denying it, Islamism is on the rise. Islamism is the ideology of instating Sharia through political means, using democracy to defeat itself, like in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This politicization of Islam has ignited a war of identity politics with Muslims around the world. Where a majority of Muslims see themselves as Muslims first as evident here in Singapore, the last General Elections where all but 2 political parties had their Malay candidates flaunt their piousness, and their ethnic cultures second and this drive and passion to be the best Muslim one can be is destroying communities and splitting apart families. Making it even more of a taboo for apostates to go public, as one does not simply leave Islam, you could say because doing so in certain countries warrants social suicide, jail time or even death.
I, myself, was found out to be an atheist early this year by a nosy relative who read one of my replies to a friend on facebook. This was a shocker to many in my family, so I took it upon myself to come out publicly to my relatives and up to this day, some of them are still upset that I’ve left Islam for a whole 16 years, urging me to return to the faith, to reeducate (be indoctrinated again) myself, which I respectfully declined. As an Ex-Muslim, there’s absolutely no reason for me to go back to Islam, why would I? I view Islam as I do other religions, ancient fairy tales to police morality, and often these outdated moral codex are often out of touch with the present, condoning genital mutilation, wife beating, slavery and sex slavery.
And before someone tells me that I have to respect Islam and the Quranic verses, don’t you think if I had respected them, I would have remained a Muslim? I respect the right of Muslims to believe in what they chose to believe in, even if it means that they cherry pick parts of Quran that advocate peace and only peace. Religions do not have rights, religions have rites, these rites end where human rights begin and I have the right to disagree, oppose and challenge Islamic teaching, Muslim beliefs and leave the religion.
And this is what has changed in the last decade, this idea that Islam is deserving of respect and immune from scrutiny. This is what happens when an ideology gets politicized, we have prominent figures like the Pope victim blaming the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo saying they shouldn’t be making fun of other people’s religions. We lose sight of our priorities treating a Muslim boy who was held in remand for a day after making a bomb hoax with more regard than focusing on the young Shiite Muslim man, Ali Mohamed Baqir Al-Nimr, (and his uncle) who are sentenced to death by beheading then having their headless bodies crucified by the Saudi government for being apart of a pro democracy protest.
Muslims are not a minority in the same way an ethnic group can be considered a minority. You do not become a minority for choosing to be apart of a religious ideology that is not popular in a certain part of the world. The more you treat Muslims as a minority the harder it is for Ex-Muslims to leave Islam without repercussion because you’re enforcing the idea that religion and ethnicity are one and this is dangerous as it is already supported the identity politics of Islamism.
Islam is a choice, do not forget that. This choice apparently has been forgotten by a lot of Muslims who condemn apostates to death and chase them out of their home countries.
The plight of Ex-Muslims also not helped by the rise of “Political Correctness” either. Recently 2 ex-Muslim women were barred from speaking at university campuses so Muslim students won’t be offended, Maryam Namazie from Warwick and Ayaan Hirsi Ali from Brandeis. Warwick later overturned it’s decision after an online petition had garnered thousands of support and Ayaan Hirsi Ali was invited by secular Muslims from another University campus to speak but the fact remains that we’re treating Muslims like children who cannot handle an opposing view point and that we must protect their delicate sensibilities as they’re a minority group and evil Ex-Muslims are oppressing them.
When in reality, it’s the reverse, that the ex-Muslims are the minority and the Muslims are oppressing people like us. People like Raif Badawi who has been sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment for “insulting” Islam when the only thing hes been guilty of is promoting secularism. Niloy Neel, and other Bangladeshi apostates who have been murdered by mobs of vigilante Muslims. Taslima Nasrin an author from Bangladesh who now lives in exile because a fatwa was issued against her for literary works, one of which speaks out against Islamic philosophy. Salman Rushdie another author who has a fatwa on him for his literary work. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag who apostatized from Islam into Christianity who was sentenced to death in 2014 but had escaped from Sudan. And all the ridiculous laws inspired by Sharia in Muslim majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Brunei to protect the sanctity of Islam that seeks to silence any and all dissent.
Silencing dissenting voices like the people I’ve mentioned, mine and anyone who criticizes Islam and Muslim practices that violate human rights, like the amputation of the hand of a thief or genital mutilation, by calling us Islamophobic in the name of Political Correctness so you can appear to be an uber liberal is more damaging to Secular Muslims than anyone else. Throughout my writing of this article, I have not mentioned the term “Moderate Muslim” once because to me that is an insulting term to call someone a moderate, an average person, as though the radicalized Muslims are the true representation of Muslims, something no Ex-Muslim or prominent critic of Islam has ever said.
If they’re not a secular Muslim, they’re just a Muslim. One of the many silent “majority”, we don’t know the real number of Muslims who do oppose Islamism so in good faith, lets assume the majority is just apathetic to Islamism. Secular muslims are unique in this equation because I believe the reformation of Islam into a personal belief instead of a political tool is in their hands and it serves no purpose to other secular Muslims who want their voices heard when they know it will just be drowned out by accusations of Islamophobia and bigotry. I don’t know how a Muslim be called islamophobic and bigoted to their own group but it does happen to people like Maajid Nawaz and Irshad Manji, practicing Muslims who uphold secular values and speak out about Islamism while advocating a more personal non politically motivated Islam.
The reformation of this religion cannot happen through an external influence, non muslim critics and ex-Muslims alike. We’ve seen what happens when an Islamic regime in Iraq was overthrown, ISIS took power and the ideology of Islamism flourished. So where does this leave ex-Muslims like us? We’re not responsible and cannot be the force behind its reformation but we still have a role to play.
If you’re an ex-Muslim and you feel safe enough to be open about your apostasy, make yourself heard, share your stories. (with us if you’d like) Engage would be Muslim Apologists who play hide the ball from the media by calling Islam a “religion of peace” when it clearly isn’t. It’s a religion like others from the Abrahamic religions, containing warlike parts, More so than the predecessors. Stand up for your rights when the “politically correct” attempts to play the oppressed minority card when they try to silence any criticism Islam. Help those on the fence realize that leaving Islam is a choice and there others out there like them. And most importantly, if you’re from a country that registers you as a Muslim, get yourself unregistered (Assuming no harm would come to your person) so the media stops saying that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and realize that apostasy from Islam is on the rise.
This is what it means to be an ex-Muslim, for me.
And I hope more ex-Muslims join me in Speaking out against Islamism for the sake of those who can’t.
Council of Ex-Muslims of Singapore