On Ex-Muslims

There are so many obsessively redundant stories about Muslims and Islam. They are too familiar: stories about the veil, Jihad, the status of women, minorities and apostasy. Western reporters love to search and find a Muslim in the West who tells a story of persecution by Muslims. These stories are sexiest when the person elaborates on his new freedoms in the West and how he/she was not able to breathe until their arrival in the West. They tell about their past suffocation and how they could only read and enjoy “Lolita” in Western countries.

But the stories of apostasy still resonate. Westerners don’t know that apostasy laws were common at the time when they were promulgated in Sharia. The Economist is sometimes reasonable, but other times indistinguishable in its resort to lazy clichés about Muslims. The new issue of the Economist has a long article about “Atheists and Islam.” In the article, all the familiar clichés are squeezed in to draw a most dramatic picture that is worthy of movies about medieval Europe. It operates under the classical premise: that one story about one Muslim suffices to tell the story about all Muslims. And in singling out a story or two about Muslims in the West, the writers don’t know that they often fall victim to deception.

In the last few decades, Western governments developed asylum laws which permit a person to obtain legal status if she/he can establish real concern for safety in his/her homeland. I have served as a consultant to many lawyers and law firms in the West and saw the most bizarre stories by people who are desperate to stay legally in the US. Some people talk about how their tribes (even when “the tribe” does not even apply in Damascus or Beirut) will kill them, because they once told a cousin that they are secular. Another claims that his tribe – again – kills its members if they exhibit effeminate tendencies. And many have stumbled on the legal premise of fear of apostasy. They tell a judge (with no background or knowledge of the Middle East) that governments there typically behead apostates.

The Economist’s article belongs to this genre. It talks about how only in Turkey and Lebanon atheists can live safely, but only quietly. Where do they get this information from? This doesn’t seem to be from someone who know people in the region. I, for one, became an atheist in my teens. My friends and comrades in Lebanon (Lebanese and Palestinians) were also vocal atheists, and none of us faced persecution or even harassment for our views. There is no evidence for any such persecution. Many of my “Facebook friends” are young Arabs who identify their religion as “atheists.” And no one is persecuting them. The Saudi government is a rare exception in this case. But Saudi Arabia is often the exception, although it gets good press here in the US. The Economist says that eight states in the region have apostasy punishment on the books, but does not say that no one can find one case of implementation of the law in this case, even if you go back decades in time. There is a clear concoction of a dramatic alarmist sensationalism that does not conform to the facts.

The Economist in fact admits that “such punishments are rarely meted out” but does not admit that they are NEVER meted out. The Economist in this article befitting Fox News or the National Inquirer, even talks about “vigilantes inflicting beatings or beheadings,” but gives no examples or specifics. And the article assumes that the rise of the Islamists is adding to the dangers ostensibly faced by atheists, but fail to notice that atheists and secularists have in fact become more assertive and more self-confident. And in referring to the past, the article refers to medieval Arab and Persian poets and writers who were atheists, but then adds that “several were famously executed.” But such judgment has now been discredited by historians. We don’t believe, for example, that Ibn al-Muqaffa` or Bashar Bin Burd were executed for their atheism, but for their political inclinations or for their involvement in palace politics.

The shoddy quality of the article is further revealed when it concludes with an interview with “Ibn Warraq,” who is a right-wing Zionist propagandist who lives in the West under a false name because Muslims around the world – according to his tale – are chasing him because he is an ex-Muslim. But I have been an ex-Muslim since my mid-teens and I have not been chased by Muslims: not in the Middle East and not in the US, and I never hid behind a pseudonym.

The question is this: Why are some Western reporters so easily fooled, especially in cases when the lie and tale befits the paradigm of hostility to Islam and Muslims?

Comments

I have to add though that the article didn't leave out the subject of social constraints and pressures to atheist individuals. In particular Muslim countries, converting to another Abrahamic religion is supposed to be considered better par excellence than refraining from believing in a God altogether.

That doesn't surprise me to read that you're an atheist
i felt it from the way you have a hate relationship with even moderate islamists
well you're right about the 60-80s most Arab youngsters were not religious
they were practicaly agnostics (and not atheists) or simply undecided
I'm not gonna rise my doubts over the philosophical and scientific basis of hard atheism (the Richard Dawkins kind)
for example my father started praying after he returned from URSS and married
(he wasn't forced to) a girl older than him (my mother)
here at least in Algeria people arn't persecuted about their religion (
but more about their ideology and politics
and yes if you are simply an agnostic or a calm atheist (because most atheist are not so cool headed) you can live peacefully
but most atheist who had to leave were mostly to blame because
they thought they have cart blanche to ridicule other people beliefs (calling them names) as if they are looking down on them or as if they are animals that can't undersand or be offended by name calling
for example Rashid Boudjedra is self-confessed atheist and wrote about homosexuals in his works yet he well living in Algeria
and even during the 90's bloody decade he wasn't targeted
and yet other muslim writers were targeted by "terrorists" ?
it was all about affiliations
ironicaly he received a death centence during Houwari Boumadian reign
well last word atheism comes from physicalism and physicalism is based on Aristotelian philosophy which have many flaws
I'm more of a Platonist, check "Digital philosophy"

Did the Economist mention those US Atheists I have to spoken to online who, living in the Bible belt, fear to mention their standpoint for fear of losing their jobs. Because right-wing American Christianity isn't nutjob central, is it? Not as long as they can point our fingers at those evil foreigners and accuse them of crimes they routinely commit.

"Did the Economist mention those US Atheists I have to spoken to online who, living in the Bible belt, fear to mention their standpoint for fear of losing their jobs."
Yes it did. There is an article about the rise of atheism in the US, which does mention the discrimination/bigotry of the american christian right against atheists.

Muslims in USA are object of discrimination as well. And it is done not by Atheists, but by "local" religious bigots, from the top down.

Before USA is going to teach others how to threat people who not belong to main faith, they should look into the mirror.

What about Cristopher Hitchens?

"Muslims in USA are object of discrimination as well. And it is done not by Atheists, but by "local" religious bigots, from the top down."
I know.

"Before USA is going to teach others how to threat people who not belong to main faith, they should look into the mirror."
Well, apart from the fact that they do look in the mirror (not all of them of course, but there is an ongoing campaign against racism decades old), them having the same problem at home does in no way make it bad to point out the same problem somewhere else.
I know it's a popular rebuttal to point fingers at another group when your group is critizised, but it does not make any logical sense.
Someone else's problems change nothing about yours.
Also it would be easy to find a mirror image of what you just said, like a redneck who argues muslims have no business to complain about bigotry in the US, as long as there is bigotry in the muslim world. And I seriously doubt you would accept that lousy excuse for an argument in that case.

"there is an ongoing campaign against racism decades old",

There is a racism centuries old, even before the foundation of the USA and its "culture", and Islamophobia is worse then ever. Not mentioning the waging endless wars against non-whites.

"them having the same problem at home does in no way make it bad to point out the same problem somewhere else."

I see, Muslims are waging colonial wars against Markus "culture", so Markus has all rights to blame Muslims ?

"a redneck who argues muslims have no business to complain about bigotry in the US" - sure, it is all about a "redneck", not about state policy, police, prominent public and media persons. Rednecks are guilty in spying on all Muslims in NYC, not the authority; rednecks were foaming at the mouth about "mosque on the Ground Zero"; rednecks are making movies and TV dramas about "Muslim threat".

One more time Markus is an apologist for USA institutional racism and colonialism. So, Markus is an Islamophob and tries to blame "rednecks", not the core of USA "culture".

"There is a racism centuries old, even before the foundation of the USA and its "culture", and Islamophobia is worse then ever. Not mentioning the waging endless wars against non-whites."
Which does not make the people who critizise that dissapear, or prohbit americans from critizising bigotry elsewhere.

"I see, Muslims are waging colonial wars against Markus "culture", so Markus has all rights to blame Muslims ?"
WTF? I just said it's fine to critizise people who do bad things even if you don't have your house in order.
How the hell did you manage to interpret this like that? Did you actually read my post?

No persecution of atheists in Turkey huh? Tell that to Fazil Say and Bahadır Baruter. Sure, they aren't having their heads cut off but blasphemy laws are used to keep non-Muslims in line in all Muslim countries, and to ignore the obvious facts and pretend it's only a Saudi problem is to ignore reality. This is true in Egypt, Tunisia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, anywhere Islam is dominant, freethinkers and non-Muslims are persecuted.

The numbers don't lie:

When asked about the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion, at least three-quarters of Muslims in Jordan (86%), Egypt (84%) and Pakistan (76%) say they would favor making it the law; in Nigeria, 51% of Muslims favor and 46% oppose it. In contrast, Muslims in Lebanon, Turkey and Indonesia largely reject the notion that harsh punishments should be the law in their countries.

Source: http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-...

There's no place for an atheist in the Arab world. And, believe me, leaving in fear for years among hostile people in a hostile environement is not the best the world has to offer.

We understand that, we know that, and we also know that if sharia's upheld we will all die a gruesome death.

And moslems being incapable of rational thinking is the worst of excuses.

if you insult muslims like that then dont be surprised if the get 'upset' with you

'inapable of rational thinking' ???? this just reflects your own predudice

Actually that is a common excuse for crimes commited by muslims.
People who purposely offend Muslims are accused of causing the violent mayhem that comes as a response, as if muslim cannot be expected to not riot and kill unrelated people if someone makes them angry.
Women who are harassed or even raped are accused of dressing provocatively, as if muslim men cannot be expected to control their sexual urges.

I agree that this is an appalling view, but it is pushed by muslims and people who try to defend muslims, not "Islamophobes".

Markus the racist tells us that ONLY muslims rape and then accuse victims "of dressing provocatively'". The typical racist slander - they rape "our" women, as racists are rapists, but prefer to blame others.

Not mentioning Muslims being not just "offended", but bombed, kidnapped, tortured, robbed and so on by USA, for ex.

No, I did not say only Muslims do that. That's what you chose to see, so you have an excuse to dismiss my statement and can feel persecuted. How pitiful.

"The typical racist slander - they rape "our" women, as racists are rapists, but prefer to blame others."
That statement does not even begin to make sense. Are you saying muslims never rape and are always just framed by evil westerners, or are you somehow under the gross illusion that westerners raping muslims somehow prohibits westerners from critizising rape by muslims?

"Not mentioning Muslims being not just "offended", but bombed, kidnapped, tortured, robbed and so on by USA, for ex."
Which has what exactly to do with some muslim extremists attacking people over an insult to their religion?

1) Markus mentioned the pretext of every rapist and then point to Muslims, as if only Muslim rapists use it. So, Markus is not interested in defense of women, but in Islamophobia
2) Markus is OK with his "culture" mass-murdering people in other countries, not discriminating between Muslims and non-Muslims, so Markus is not interested in well-being of non-believers in Muslim states, only in Islamophobia
3) So, Markus is bigot and should be treated as such, and his attacks on Muslims are pure bigotry.

By the way, I an an Atheist.

1) This article is about Muslims, so I only talked about muslims.
These accusations of bigotry when you say some muslims do bad thing X, but fail to mention other groups doing it, are getting ridiculous.
2) I'm not ok with it. It's just not an argument. US imperialism and muslim bigotry are seperate issues.
3) You should stop being angry and start thinking.

1) The article is about anti-Muslim bigotry, so Markus shows by his reactions that he is a bigot
2) USA imperialism and anti-Muslim bigotry are two sides of the same false coin, the same coin which Markus uses
3) The red herring trick of imperialists is to all everyone who unmask them "angry". I do not need pop-psych by Markus, the question is not whether I am angry or not, but the anti-Muslim bigotry of USA imperialism and of Markus
4) Markus should stop seeing all of us as stupid and prone to believe to imperialist propaganda, including anti-Muslim bigotry.

1) No, it's about how muslim bigotry towards atheist is totally made up by racist westerners. Which is not true.
2) I don't use that "coin", you do. I didn't mention the US and I don't think muslim crimes are an excuse for those of the US. I also don't believe american crimes excuse muslim crimes, which you seem to do, since you bring up the US in response to critizism of muslims.
3) I think you are angry, because you are replying to statements I did not make and grossly misinterpret things I said to fit the Islamophobe clichee. Also, you keep calling me a bigot over and over again.
But maybe I'm being too charitable. You could just be a really bad and dishonest debater.
4) I don't. But how would you know? You don't pay attention to what I say and just assume I'm a Islamophobe straight out of the big book of cliches.
5) Why does lidia refer to me in the third person? Does lidia realise how ridiculous lidia sounds?

You know the answer to that, As'ad... It's because those reporters too are racist and sensationalist, and they're just looking for an avenue to express their orientalism without having it reflect on themselves.

It's because those reporters too are racist and sensationalist, and they're just looking for an avenue to express their orientalism without having it reflect on themselves.

I'll concede that a lot of reporters are sensationalist but Islam and Muslim are not races. Disliking/Hating/Fearing/Questioning/Criticizing/Ridiculing/Reporting on events about Islam and particular followers of Islam is not racist or phobic it's freedom of thought and expression. It's the peacful way to solve differences: bombs may end wars but reporting and descussion leads to real change, at least in our civilization. If that offends you, too bad. I'm offended when the follower's of the "Religion of Peace" burn my nation's flag, attack it's citizens, and demand we give up the freedom our ancestors fought and died for, but do you see me trying shut to you up? Sure I'll argue against your Iron Age fantasies and I'll use the power of my vote (I live in a country where we vote) to stop you and those like you from making me live by them, but you're free to say what you will. But your imaginary deity save you when you take your childish tantrums out on people like 9-11, because although we are fine with you wagging your tongues at us, violence like that we do not tolerate; it brings us down to your level, and we don't play at killing.

And save the "it's the extremists not all us peace loving moderates!" BS. When Islamic countries start changing their laws and the people come out in the street and protest against these "extremists" then I'll accept that argument, until then the silence of the "moderates" is defining.

Jews are not "race" as well. Neither are Slavic people, neither Sinta and Roma people.So, Nazis were not racists?

If Anon's "culture" all the time invade, bomb, kidnap, rob and so on Muslims (and others, by the way), and Muslims and the others then burn anon's "culture" flag, too bad.

By the way, all crimes of anon's "culture" against others very often justified by anon's "culture" imaginary deity. Anon's criminal army is chock-full of chaplains.

Of course, anon is also full of arrogance and address others as a bully and then anons are hurt "why they hate us"?

i dont think its just some kind of adventurous cliché story invented or exaggerated by westerners. i d like to agree about muslims who decided to be atheists, but i think muslims who have been accused of ridda are or have been an - maybe not representative at all but still - interesting issue. for eample mahmood muhammad taha has been sentenced to death 1985 in sudan because he had been accused of ridda, nasr hamid abu zaid has been divorced from his wife because he was accused of being murtadd.

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