First Stage: What are Ex-Muslims

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What is an Ex-Muslim?

An Ex-Muslim is usually an untold and little-heard story about a person going through an important journey in life, making choices along the way, and one of those choices involve leaving Islam. Does this mean something negative or positive or offensive or acceptable?

Your decision would depend on how you perceive an Ex-Muslim and their choice of leaving Islam, based on what you believe and know and don’t know.

We are humans, who make choices and changes over time as we go through life, trying to overcome challenges, valuing love and support. Ex-Muslims are no different. Every person should be able to count on the love and support of his or her family, no matter his or her beliefs. Losing that love and support is the usual consequence for those who choose to leave Islam behind. They are made apostates for going through a personal journey and believing something different, while questioning ancient ideas with which they don’t agree.

Sadly, this is not a story or a perspective that is easily heard. Many Ex-Muslims must censor themselves or cannot publicly identify as Ex-Muslims for fear of being targeted, harmed, or even killed. Those who have mustered the courage to speak often have had a blind eye turned to their story. There are Ex-Muslims who still receive love and support from their family members and friends who are Muslims, but that is not the norm.

Few Ex-Muslims escape the detrimental consequences many Ex-Muslims face, for choosing to leave Islam. The ex-Muslim experience has been hidden for a long time. How should a truly progressive conversation inviting Ex-Muslims to participate be conducted? How can Ex-Muslims be given support and love they deserve? How can Ex-Muslims receive the help and awareness they need?

Muslims and non-Muslims are vital to this conversation with Ex-Muslims. We are all connected in our humanity and choices. Taking turns to listen and speak, we are crucial connections and collaborations, as critical pivots in time and history based on our choices.

The word “Critical” has two meanings. First, it defines a situation that is particularly important, severe, and timely. It also describes someone with skillful judgement and a willingness to open his or her mind, examine contexts, and think carefully through potential solutions.

The former applies to the circumstance in which ex-Muslims find themselves, and the latter describes the people who stand a real chance of starting a conversation and challenging the flawed power structure of misinformation and confusion that continues to harm ex-Muslims.

Governments and much of the media do not have the cultural freedom or motivation to recognize the ex-Muslim perspective or work to solve these problems, but ordinary citizens are not bound in the same way. They are empowered to balance facts with empathy, to leave bias at the door, and to come together for an open and honest dialogue.

Citizens, real people who see a problem and want to solve it, form the foundation of any kind of meaningful change. If enough people make it clear these problems are real, those in power cannot help but take notice. That’s all it takes to start changing the tide and building a world where people such as ex-Muslims can feel accepted, and hatred finally starts to ebb. This conversation is made for the people who are invested in taking two critical steps of an important conversation.

Everyone is welcome. To do so, participating in both stages of this conversation is necessary.

Every day, this world and what happens is comprised of intersecting stories, with details and facts you may or may not be aware of. Ex-Muslims have formed organizations to offer love and support to others who are in the same ship or facing similar negative circumstances, while raising awareness of their existence.

Speaking up about their choice is a decision of courage, because many Ex-Muslims cannot speak up or face horrendous consequences for doing so.

These organizations are necessary for many reasons, such as helping Ex-Muslims face ostracization, help Ex-Muslims forced to escape their countries, help stave off depression and suicidal urges due to losing love and support from family and friends, and more than that. Depending on where the Ex-Muslim lives, there can be many official and life-threatening repercussions for doing so.

Each person has their story, and every organization has different stories to share. They vary in their approaches and manifestos, while possessing certain similarities. Being an Ex-Muslim is not about hating Muslims or hating Islam. Being an Ex-Muslim is about choosing to leave Islam and wanting to have rights accorded to citizens in a First World country, wanting freedom of speech to be able to have discussions while respecting freedom of choice related to personal beliefs, and being able to speak up to also criticise violations of universal human rights.

Ex-Muslims can be atheists, secularists, or people who have chosen to join a religion such as Christianity, after leaving Islam. Ex-Muslims are usually the children of one or two Muslim parents, and being born to two Muslim parents automatically classifies the child as a Muslim within Islam. Ex-Muslims can also be people who converted to Islam but eventually left.

Ex-Muslims have friends and family they love and respect, who are Muslims and non-Muslims. Making a choice to be an Ex-Muslim does not equate to hating friends or family or Muslims. Ex-Muslims have a variety of views, and are not a homogeneous group, which can also be said of Muslims and non-Muslims.

Organizations of Ex-Muslims offering outreach support and a community include the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, with partnerships throughout various countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and the Pacific. Their partners include the Ex-Muslims of North America, Freethought Lebanon, and more. Faith To Faithless is a non-profit organization raising awareness for discrimination against ex-believers such as ex-Mormons and ex-Muslims, while providing a platform for people of no faith to come out publicly and speak up.

Ex-Muslims can be former refugees such as Kacem El Ghazzali [1] from Morocco, who has a certain amount of safety to speak out in countries such as Switzerland, but people such as Sherif Gaber [2] and Mohamed Hisham [3] are facing dire societal and legal consequences for daring to speak up about their choices in their home country of Egypt, choosing to be Ex-Muslims who became atheists.

The Economist published an article on 15 March 2018 titled “The number of Ex-Muslims in America is rising”, covering the difficulties Ex-Muslims face in North America [4]. Owen Amos wrote an article for BBC in February 2018 titled “Ex-Muslims: The American who fled ‘gay conversion’ in Africa”, detailing the ordeal of ex-Muslim Mahad Olad who fled Nairobi for New York, refusing to be sent by his mother to Somali Sheikhs responsible for gay conversion in Africa [5].

Vice published a noteworthy article and video containing the views [6] of Imtiaz Shams, one of the founders of Faith to Faithless. Aymann Ismail and Jeffrey Bloomer also have an interesting video and important article available on Slate, titled “The Ex-Muslims go public” being produced due to increasing numbers of requests to raise the plight of Ex-Muslims, and Aymann Ismail learned to change certain misconceptions he once held about Ex-Muslims [7].

Ex-Muslims living in countries adhering to mostly-secular or secular constitutions protected by secular laws have many challenges to overcome, including being disinvited for talks and experiencing death threats in those countries. Iranian-Austrian Mina Ahadi knows this, as the founder of the German Central Council of Ex-Muslims whose group received death threats while she copes with living under police protection [8].

To hold offline meetings, each person claiming to be an Ex-Muslim who wants to join an Ex-Muslim-only event must be screened. Would you expect Ex-Muslims to be receiving death threats in European countries or the USA?

It is not easy to be heard, when your voice is being silenced or threatened. It is courageous to attempt speaking up for fellow Ex-Muslims or yourself, when you can be threatened with more than violence. It is also easy to be treated with contempt and disgust by strangers, friends or family, who may not want to listen to you.

When you look at the challenges Ex-Muslims face in such countries and numerous precautions many Ex-Muslims must take, have you considered the challenges faced by Ex-Muslims living in countries governed by Islamic law? Apostasy is punishable by death in 13 countries [9], and other legal punishments can also be meted out. Are you aware of the reality of millions of Ex-Muslims living in the Middle East who cannot speak out, or they face all sorts of repercussions including death?

Rana fled Saudi Arabia to Germany and survived a gruelling ordeal to protect a choice and she is considered fortunate [10], if you compare her situation to the likes of Ex-Muslims Raif Badawi [11] and Ashraf Fayad [12]. Ashraf Fayad is a Palestinian poet who was initially sentenced to death, but had his sentence reduced to 800 lashes and 8 years in prison, for apostasy.

There are other Ex-Muslims whose stories did not have the fortune of being known and present in this modern age, where technology helps to establish connections between strangers separated by geography and time. The earliest outcomes of what happened to Ex-Muslims being apostates is detailed in history known as the Riddah wars.

With regards to apostates in the Middle East, “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins was translated by a Scandinavian-residing Bassam Al Baghdidi into Arabic and converted into a file with the extra commentary “this book is banned in Islamic countries”. After Arab atheists brought attention to this pdf in Arabic via various online mediums, download numbers soared. As of 27 March 2018, the pdf file has been downloaded more than 13 million times [13].

At the 10-million-download milestone, 30% of downloads were from Saudi Arabia [14]. In comparison, Richard Dawkins’ officially published “The God Delusion” sold approximately 3.3 million copies since 2006. The number of apostates in the Middle East is sorely overlooked [15].

Ex-Muslims are victims, but they are not the only victims. They exist in South-east Asia, Europe, North and South America, and are still growing in numbers. How can we help Ex-Muslims, especially Ex-Muslims living in the Middle East? How can we be fair to everyone in a conversation requiring Ex-Muslims to be involved, regardless of whether you identify as Muslim, non-Muslim or Ex-Muslim? With different viewpoints, and different topics of possibilities, what kind of a conversation should we conduct, on a global and local scale?

It is time to hold a vital ground-breaking conversation, at a local and global level. The first stage of such a conversation is about awareness and acknowledging Ex-Muslims have rights and challenges to overcome, some more so than others. Ex-Muslims need you to acknowledge their right to exist, the dangers and challenges they face [16], and their need to be treated as fellow humans. These are truths they have been denied for far too long.

Raif Badawi was charged with apostasy and has served six years of a ten-year-prison sentence while officially supposed to also receive 1000 lashes, even as his wife and children have asylum in Canada to painfully await his release [17]. Zerin M. Firoze is a Bangladeshi woman who has endured more than rape threats and death threats, flying to the USA to seek asylum [18].

Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaïtir was sentenced to death in 2014 for apostasy, due to posting a certain article [19]. His sentence was later commuted to a two-year prison sentence and a fine but as of 4 May 2018, he remains in “administrative detention”. On 27 April 2018, a new law was passed by the National Assembly of Mauritania whereby anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” or “sacrilegious acts” faces a mandatory death penalty. If you were him, and your life depends on others, what would you want for yourself?

Ex-Muslims are targeted by certain Muslims who feel offended at the existence of Ex-Muslims, are ignored or lambasted by some people who claim to stand for social justice or minorities, while receiving unfair treatment from bigots [20]. Having to fend off different attacks from different groups of people requires more than heavy-duty multi-tasking, which is why they must take so many precautions prior to a meet-up, even in the USA.

Ex-Muslims have family members who are Muslims, and they love their families. Where is the conversation of frank facts, healing and reconciliation they need, for fairness to them? They need a local, national and global conversation which they have been denied, for more than 1000 years.

The trials of ex-Muslims who are not reported by international news can face more severe repercussions than those who have been reported. The stories are endless, too many go unheard, the suffering and anxiety is tortuous. Ex-Muslims need your help [21]. They are not the only ones who are suffering.

Regardless of labels you use to identify yourself and classify others, a revolution usually leaves someone behind, being too divisive and enabling many of you to easily forget: People you have derided or disagree with are not reduced solely to “others”.

Your criticisms are directed at people who share common values which may or may not be distorted such as love, teach strangers and friends while learning about life, make small and big mistakes, may get issues right which you don’t, laugh and cry over different issues, and can change. A vital nuanced conversation of evolution involving everyone and enabling voluntary choices is balanced, so we can move forward together.

How many problems, conflicts and suffering in history could have been alleviated or prevented, if all of us are willing to sit, use modern technology to present and share the necessary, listen to what people have to say, then evaluate the information alongside relevant evidence where applicable, eventually agreeing to recognise where we need to change?

Please peruse the resources in this summary, before attempting to go to the second stage of this conversation.

The second stage of this vital conversation is centered around necessary talking points, to enable everyone to move forward in a democratic manner. The goal is to be fair and beneficial to all involved, especially the Ex-Muslims who cannot speak up and need your help. This second stage requires a continuation of openness and honesty about vital facts with accurate context. Love and intellectual integrity is as essential as making vital connections.

This second stage would not exist, without the first stage. Taking the second step online and offline will help Ex-Muslims, Muslims and non-Muslims who need what you are about to irreversibly discover. If families and friends are to heal, or do more than that, then certain truths must be faced.

When you have perused this page and what the first stage comprises, please scroll down to the final link titled “The Second Stage”. What you learn will change lives forever, if you are willing to Shift The Script, and help others understand necessary paradigm shifts.

[1] https://www.kacemelghazzali.com/

[2] http://www.cairoscene.com/In-Depth/On-The-Run-An-Interview-With-Wanted-Atheist-Sherif-Gaber

[3] https://conatusnews.com/mohamed-hisham-public-athest-egypt/

[4] https://www.economist.com/united-states/2018/03/15/the-number-of-ex-muslims-in-america-is-rising

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43066082

[6] https://news.vice.com/article/why-i-left-islam-and-now-help-others-who-are-doing-the-same

[7] http://www.slate.com/articles/video/whos_afraid_of_aymann_ismail/2017/11/ex_muslims_face_criticism_and_danger_for_leaving_islam_but_they_re_holding.html

[8] https://conatusnews.com/mina-ahadi-womens-rights-revolution/

[9] https://www.indy100.com/article/the-countries-where-apostasy-is-punishable-by-death–Z110j2Uwxb

[10] https://it-film.com/v-rana-ahmad-interview-being-an-atheist-in-saudi-arabia-8PngV3wtq3k.html

[11] http://time.com/5228667/saudi-arabia-crown-prince-mohamed-bin-salman-raif-badawi/

[12] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/02/palestinian-poet-ashraf-fayadhs-death-sentence-overturned-by-saudi-court

[13] http://maryamnamazie.com/demand-for-atheism-rises-in-countries-under-islamic-rule/

[14] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/05/11/the-arabic-translation-of-the-god-delusion-has-reportedly-been-downloaded-10-million-times/

[15] https://newrepublic.com/article/121559/rise-arab-atheists

[16] https://www.raifbadawi.org/news/item/505-apostasy-from-islam-in-britain-%E2%80%93-in-god-we-trust.html

[17] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/24/raif-badawi-justin-trudeau-saudi-arabia-king-salman

[18] https://faithlessfeminist.com/blog-posts/journey-ex-muslim-atheist-bangladesh-usa/

[19] https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/04/mauritania-mandatory-death-penalty-blasphemy

[20] https://www.facebook.com/AtheistRepublic/photos/a.199993620087505.50762.130148817071986/1899695176783999/?type=3&theater

[21] http://sister-hood.com/halima-sidat/i-left-islam-family-left/

[ The Second Stage begins with Critical Summary 3 and 4… ]

  

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