The Economist on Ex-Muslim Atheists: A Bigger Sin Than Murder

The Economist covers the struggle of being an atheist in Muslim countries:

In a handful of majority-Muslim countries atheists can live safely, if quietly; Turkey is one example, Lebanon another. None makes atheism a specific crime. But none gives atheists legal protection or recognition. Indonesia, for example, demands that people declare themselves as one of six religions; atheism and agnosticism do not count. Egypt’s draft constitution makes room for only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy — a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences.

People like Alexander Aan and Alber Saber Ayad are currently dealing with the aftermath of authorities discovering their atheism. But one bright side, if I can call it that, to their struggles is that they have alerted a lot of us in the west to what it means to be an atheist in their countries. We’re still trying to figure out how best to combat the persecution, but I’m optimistic the tide will turn soon if we keep fighting. We complain about Christians overstepping their boundaries in the U.S. all the time, but seeing what those atheists are up against puts it all in perspective.

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