Ex-Muslim Gets Death Threats for Speaking Out in Tulsa

Sabri Husibi is a former Muslim who recently spoke at a gathering for the Tulsa Atheists (Oklahoma).

He became an atheist at a young age when, while attending Quran school (to become an imam), he discovered he no longer had faith in the religion.

“The more I learned, the more paradoxes I saw,” he said.

Husibi said his rejection of Islam was cemented during mandatory military service in the Lebanon civil war in which more than a million people died, a war he says was religiously motivated.

After becoming an atheist, Husibi felt a sense of relief “that these silly stories cannot control me anymore,” he said.

He said he loves the freedom of American society and the respect and understanding of the people.

Husibi also realized that the Quran was written by men, not God. Just like the Bible. And every other “sacred” text.

Sounds like a kind, rational, decent man.

Which must explain why he’s now getting death threats from the Muslim community.

It’s serious and it’s frightening:

Husibi, who has an unlisted telephone number, said he received about 30 calls Saturday from people who were cursing him, calling him a traitor and threatening him.

Most were foreign-born, Tulsa-area Muslims whom he knows, he said. He also received angry calls from friends and relatives in Syria.

One caller, whom Husibi would not identify, said that if he spoke at the meeting and said anything against Shariah (Islamic law), he would be killed.

Another caller offered Husibi’s young Muslim wife $10,000 to leave him and return to her native Syria, he said.

“Someone from Tulsa called my 76-year-old mother in Syria and said, ‘You’re not going to see your son anymore,’ ” he said.

The original article came out on Saturday, in anticipation for the Sunday talk. The organizer of the Tulsa Coalition of Reason offered to cancel the talk in the wake of threats.

The courageous Husibi refused the cancellation. He still refuses to silence himself:

On Tuesday, a clearly shaken Husibi asked that any future articles emphasize that he is not attacking Islam alone but all religions, including “fundamentalist Christians like Timothy McVeigh and fundamentalist Jews who kill Muslim children in the Gaza Strip.”

He said Tulsa Muslims are awaiting an apology from him.

“I won’t apologize,” he said. “I’m not going to be a chicken. This is my right, to give my point of view.”

I spoke to Husibi via email. His English isn’t perfect but it’s very clear what he’s saying.

He verified those threats mentioned in the article and added that his brothers are now denying they know him (whether out of fear or shame, I don’t know). He’s lost his friends and relatives in a very short amount of time. He’s still getting threats. He worries someone is going to shoot him. It doesn’t help that he recently had open heart surgery…

I urged him to go to the police. He told me he would do so today.

Hopefully, they can investigate the people making the threats and offer some protection for the time being.

(Thanks to Richard for the link)

  • Valdyr

    Behead those who say Islam is a violent religion!

  • P

    You’d think such a controversial and socially important issue like this would warrant something in the front page of the Tulsa World, or at least in that first big section, yea?
    I live in Tulsa, and have often heard we have more churches per square mile than anywhere else in the US, and though I can’t confirm that, I don’t doubt it all too much. Surely an area with such a strong foundation upon the religious (Tulsa is also home of the annual meeting of Rapture Ready freaks) would be interested in something as twisted as this, amirite?

    Oh, no. No, this guy got a small article at the bottom of the local section. They didn’t even bother to put this in the much adored ‘Religion’ section of the Sunday paper.

    Great job, Tulsa World. And great job Islam, for establishing yourself as such an awesome ideology.

  • Colin

    A couple of thoughts:

    I thought it was difficult for me to come out as an atheist, I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were under the threat of physical violence.

    Second, did you look through those comments on the newspaper article? I already live in a fairly conservative area, but this serves as a reminder never to move to Oklahoma!

  • JulietEcho

    How sad and scary. Many atheists, like myself, from fundamentalist Christian families were/are afraid to speak publicly about our atheism for fear that we’ll lose friends, respect, jobs, etc. Very few of us are in a position where we have to fear for our safety or our lives.

    While the Muslim community here in America doesn’t often respond to blasphemy/mockery/etc. by non-Muslims (when PZ ripped up the Koran and threw it in the garbage with the cracker, he heard from thousands of Catholics but almost no Muslims), they don’t seem to tolerate dissent from their own ranks. Liberal Muslims and former Muslims who convert to other religions or become atheists seem likely to be targeted by zealots who want to see them killed rather than let them share their stories.

  • http://godlessartist.blogspot.com/ Kilre

    Religion of peace, indeed.

    Where are the moderates and liberals loudly decrying these acts?

  • Kaylya

    One thing that I’ve realized over the past year or so that has really.. saddened me is just how common getting death threats over opinions can be.

    There was a principal here who decided that his school would no longer sing the national anthem every single day, and instead sing it only at monthly assemblies. To put this in context, while it’s sung or played every single day at many schools, there’s lots of schools in the country where it’s less frequent. This eventually got media attention after one parent who felt very strongly about it pursued it with the media. Headlines were along the lines of “Principal bans O Canada” .

    The guy got death threats by phone and e-mail, and at least one threat of assault delivered in person by a parent at his school (only after the issue received national media attention, of course, which was in January when the change had occurred in Sept). one guy was convicted, but his sentence is a slap on the wrist. The principal ended up stepping down.

    I mean, I *sort of* understand a death threat in the case of someone who you think is doing something completely and utterly morally repugnant, or who has wronged you in a very serious way. If you think an abortion doctor is murdering babies.. or someone stole / conned a huge sum of money from you..

    But a principal deciding not to play a song every day? By all means call him up and tell him that you feel strongly that he should play the song every day. But a death threat?

    In another unrelated case, someone I know has apparently gotten at least one death threat because his *father* is the *lawyer* for an accused in a Ponzi scheme.

    Now, in the case of Mr. Husibi, both the number and the likelihood that they’ll be carried out is likely a lot higher. And Islam’s distaste for people who convert away from it is almost certainly a huge contributor. I just want to point out that death threats aren’t necessarily as uncommon as you might think, in contexts where fundamentalist religion isn’t a factor.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    Why are these believers so afraid of non-believers? If their god existed and was omnipotent and omnipresent, wouldn’t He deal with a “problem” like Mr. Husibi Himself? Why do these humans feel they have to defend a god?

    Perhaps these believers afraid that Mr. Husibi might be right, that there is no god and that they’ve been wasting their lives? Now, rather than pretend he doesn’t exist, they want to make him not exist all so that they can keep some cherished illusions.

  • sksfreund

    Is there somewhere that we can go to show and/or give Husibi support?

  • ennui

    “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
    —Blaise Pascal

  • Claudia

    It would be nice to think that the famous “moderate majority” of Muslims we always hear about in these situations would stand up for him. I understand that there is fear in protecting someone under fear of death, but surely there is some moderate imam that has enough prestige to be a more difficult target?

    One imam protecting an ex-Muslim without expectation of conversion would do wonders for the image of Islam in the area. Yet we hear nothing. You can bet cash that we’d be hearing from them loud and clear if this was a still believing Muslim getting threatened by Christians.

  • Polly

    Don’t I feel like a wimp. Coming out as a an atheist was NOTHING for me compared to what this guy is going through. More power to him. I hope these threats are just so much hot air and that he doesn’t wind up a martyr for free-speech and atheism. Wouldn’t that be ironic after a stint in the Syrian army…in Lebanon!

    The Tulsa article mentions executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations stating:

    Husibi’s comments are protected as free speech. He has the right to make them without being threatened

    He also quotes something from the Koran to the effect that a person shouldn’t be compelled to be religious.

    CAIR is a well known organization. I can’t dismiss Muslim reactions AGAINST the threats altogether. But, I do wish they’d make the point forcefully and persistently.

    If they are serious about tolerance and free speech, they should preach it from within the mosques rather than just in response to incidents that make the papers.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Sabri Husibi may have lost his friends and family to this, but I think there is another community out there more than willing to be by his side. I hope we have readers and friends in Tulsa who are willing to back this man up, and show the world that atheists know how to stand together in the face of threats and death as well.

  • bill

    just curious and off topic, but when did mcveigh become a fundie? weren’t his motivations purely political?

  • http://riotingmind.blogspot.com BeamStalk

    There is a good atheist community in Tulsa who are more than willing to back him. I know Hemant has already contacted them as I am member of the group, although I don’t speak for the group. He will be gladly accepted by the Tulsa Atheists just like anyone else in the area.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Is there somewhere that we can go to show and/or give Husibi support?

    I’m working on that. I’ll post if I find out anything…

  • DreamDevil

    Ah, the Religion of Peace strikes again.

  • geru

    Is this what religious people talk about how religion gives them a way of seeing the world in a different way?

    I mean if this alternate view can make you wish death upon your closest friend in an instant simply because you learn that they think differently about a certain subject than you, I’m not so sure I’d want to experience this myself.

    C.S. Lewis said something along the line of that religion(/Christianity) is a light that illuminates to world for believers to see etc, I guess he forgot to mention that it only lets you see the world through a bloody red haze of anger and fear.

  • thilina

    Where’s the voices of all the people that claim Islam is the religion of peace? That these acts are committed by extremists and don’t actually represent the majority?

    I wonder if the people involved in this would have considered all the people making death threats and cutting off all contact with Sabri to be extremists before all of this started. More and more, it seems like religious moderates are denying their own nature until something pushes the right button to piss them off.

    Good on Sabri for standing his ground and standing up for his rights to freedom. I just hope this story doesn’t end with a shooting.

  • Ex-Muslim

    I lost almost all of my friends and my family when I exercised my right to think for myself and quit Islam. I’ve endured threats and harassment, and have already had to move once. I lost my livelihood. What he’s going through is not unusual for us. The quote from CAIR (note that it is a local chapter, not the national) made me want to puke. (Local chapters tend to be more flexible and tolerant than the national one, but even as a Muslim I felt they were untrustworthy and have a hidden agenda). Most ex-Muslims that I know, though not all, are atheists. You can read http://www.councilofexmuslims.com/index.php for more ex-Muslim views.

    I would love to see a so-called imam stand up for us, but I doubt it would happen. Apostasy is punishable by death in the Shariah, and doing so reduces you to a status of being less than human in the eyes of many Muslims, even the ones who don’t practice or who drink beer. Go see what Taha Abdul Basser, the chaplain of Harvard, said about apostasy and human rights. The best that you usually get from the scholars and the imams is that we shouldn’t be attacked physically here in the West because they don’t have shariah law here.

    Even the so-called progressive / liberal Muslim movement doesn’t want to have anything to do with us (they say we shouldn’t be killed, but quite a few of them believe we’re going to burn in hell forever). There are a handful (and I mean, literally a handful) of progressive Muslims who will stay friends with you as long as you don’t criticize or question Islam (it’s okay for them to do it as Muslims, but not us). I’m saying even gay Muslims won’t touch most of us with a 10 ft pole, even though they’re mainly in the same boat as us.

    Hemant, you are welcome to email me if you would like to ask more questions or anything.

  • The Other Tom

    Kilre Says:

    Where are the moderates and liberals loudly decrying these acts?

    Uhm… right here. Why do you ask?

  • http://scaryreasoner.wordpress.com SteveC

    BTW, does anyone know what happened to Kafir Girl? No posts since January with no explanation.

  • Staceyjw

    I think Sabri is a leader, I admire anyone willing to speak their mind in the face of such deadly opposition.

    If he’s not married (and under 50), he sounds like someone I would like to meet ;) !!!

    Finding a partner willing to walk around openly as an atheist is tough enough, meeting someone with the strength of conviction this guy has- the odds are small.

    Hope all goes well for him. Maybe he’ll move to CA ;)

    Staceyjw

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    man, that’s tough, please keep us updated. I would like to help in any way i can.

  • andrew

    This story pains me…that people could act this way…makes me want to cry…

    :(

  • Pingback: É-U: Ex-musulman menacé de mort « Le blog Libre sans dieu!

  • muggle

    I admire his courage. This world would be a better place if more had that kind of courage.

    I also fear for his safety. Keep us posted, Hemant.

  • Deborah

    To Staceyjw – He is married to a Muslim woman. Since he’s been ostracized from the Muslim community, his wife has received an offer of a large amount of money to leave him and go back to Syria. Now, THAT’S immoral! He’s quite good looking by the way, and he would probably be safer in CA than here in Tulsa.

  • Robbie

    I am not fond of religion period. I just wish all the major monotheistic religions would quietly disappear and not be heard from. It seems monotheistic beliefs irritationally demand respect from people. How can one respect a religion that promotes hatred and violence against people. Example Gays,Lesbians,Transgendered,Bisexuals. I grew up Presbyterian and became a born again Christian once. I left religion because of the intolerance and hatred. I quit respecting religion and just decided to further piss off religious people is to just be yourself and do what you like to do and be happy even if it offends religious people. So what if they don’t like sexuality. That’s their irrational expectations that we have to obey their rules. Wrong. They don’t rule everyone. We have to live our lives and not worry what they say/do, even if they try to make your life miserable. I do believe in karma though. Karma is not a religious word it means action.


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