Ruled by fear: young Muslims who choose to abandon Islam

Ruled by fear: young Muslims who choose to abandon Islam October 5, 2016

In a new documentary that exposes the fear felt by young Muslims wanting to leave Islam, Maryam Namazie, of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and a columnist for the Freethinker, told the makers of the film:

There is nothing, nothing, more intolerant than religion.

According to this report, Exposure: Islam’s Non-Believers, is scheduled to be broadcast by ITV on October 13.
The documentary reveals that young Muslims are too scared to let go of their religion over fears of violent backlashes from their community, and that Islamic families in Britain have abused and attacked their own children for choosing to refuse the teachings of the Koran.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain revealed young people have turned to them after being hurt by their loved ones.
Cases include a former Muslim girl who was threatened with death by her own mother for rejecting Allah.
Former Muslim Sadia, told the documentary makers:

I remember saying to my mum, I don’t believe in God any more. And her saying, ‘you can’t tell anybody else because they’ll kill you, we are obliged to kill ex-Muslims’. And that it would put me at extreme risk if anybody else was to find out, so that conversation ended there.

An ITV press release says that campaigners claim young Muslims risk discrimination, ostracism, psychological abuse and violence if they renounce their faith.
Featuring contributions from British and Bangladeshi ex-Muslims, Islam’s Non-Believers paints a vivid picture of the dangers facing those who renounce their faith. Some are at risk of suicide, or self-harm, or have been physically and psychologically abused by their closest family members. Most are terrified of being shunned by their own family and friends if their true beliefs become known.
Made by award-winning film-maker Deeyah Khan, above, who also directed the acclaimed Jihad – A British Story and Banaz: An Honour Killing for ITV, the programme finds that many young British ex-Muslims live in the shadows hiding their true beliefs, running huge risks if they “come out” as atheists within their religious communities. Some of those who speak in the programme have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.
The film follows the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, a volunteer support group led by Iranian-born activist Maryam Namazie which supports ex-Muslims, often referred to as apostates or unbelievers, both in the UK and abroad. Maryam says:

They see us as people who are troublemakers, deviants, apostates and blasphemers… There is nothing, nothing more intolerant than religion.

Sadia also talks about her brother Razaa, who killed himself. She says it was partly because he felt sidelined and misunderstood by his community all his life, one reason being his atheism. She says:

I feel like when you leave Islam, your intelligence gets attacked. They make you feel like you’re stupid for making such a decision, which he felt like his entire life. Leaving Islam, becoming an ex-Muslim, all of a sudden you feel like you’re dirty, and you become unimportant within the community.

Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, above, from the Muslim Association of Britain says people can leave the religion of their own free will and should not be punished. But he says it is not surprising that those who do leave are shunned. He says:

The Muslim community is a community based on religion, so if a person chooses to stop being a Muslim they can’t really expect that the Muslim community is still going to say to them, ‘You are still part of our community.’

The programme also reports on how the danger for ex-Muslims who live in Islamic countries can be even higher. Apostasy carries the death penalty in a dozen Islamic countries. Atheists face a double threat – persecution by their own government, and the risk of murder at the hands of Islamist gangs.
Bonya Ahmed, whose writer and blogger husband Avijit Roy was brutally killed in the streets of Bangladesh, speaks about the attack and how she is trying to rebuild her life in America. Avijit was murdered because he spoke out against religious fundamentalism. They are just two of many atheist bloggers and intellectuals who have been attacked by Islamist gangs wielding machetes in Bangladesh.
Also featured is an international network of atheist writers, bloggers, academics, intellectuals and artists who form a resistance movement against what they see as the growing oppression, violence and political power of Islamic fundamentalists. Many live in Muslim countries where leaving Islam carries the risk of prosecution and discrimination.
Arif Rahman, a Bangladeshi blogger now in hiding in London, says he sees bloggers as a resistance movement against religious extremism. He says:

When we started writing in 2006, we did not think the people would be killed over this. And in 2013 our first colleague Ahmed Rajab Haidar, he was an architect, was hacked to death in front of his house. That was the first time we realised this was real this could potentially happen.

The programme finds that a number of senior British Bangladeshi imams, mainstream figures in society, have called for the execution of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, claiming they have insulted Islam, and making a number of anti-atheist statements.
Imad Habib, from Maryam’s organisation, is filmed on his way to help two girls escape from their Muslim family while they are on holiday in London. He says he had undertaken a similar journey – after he came out publicly as an ex-Muslim, he had to leave Morocco to escape prosecution by the authorities and attacks by religious extremists. He says:

First of all you suffer, you suffer, there is no one to help you, if you speak out at any moment you are going to be at risk, you speak out you feel afraid that anyone might find out who you are really, it is a really risky journey that those people take.

This documentary sees how ex-Muslims continue to struggle to be heard and to express themselves, with radical Islamist protesters often trying to shut down their talks and events. Deeyah Khan  identifies these as a part of a growing international movement which is confronting radical Islam both in the UK and the Islamic world.

Maryam Namazie says they remain defiant:

The internet and social media is doing to Islam what the printing press did in the past to Christianity, because it’s one way in which masses of people can connect with each other, can hear ideas that are taboo and forbidden.

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  • L.Long

    And in the USA the rePUKEians and their religious backers are trying really hard to do the same things by making it a xtian nation – a theocracy with xtian style Sorry-Ass-Law. When your government gives more respect to any one religion you are on a downward slide to terror!!! In fact religion deserves no more respect then you give to a person who sees alien space ships everywhere.

  • barriejohn

    Those of us who have left other tightly-knit religious communities will sympathize, though we may not have experienced the violence. The following report sheds further light upon this ghastly situation:
    A secular society provides the only safeguard to religious rights, despite all misconceptions and misrepresentations!

  • H3r3tic

    This has been going on for years. At least twenty years ago a good friend of mine was at Uni with a Muslim lad who did not believe in Islam and lived what would be considered a Westernised lifestyle. As soon as he had graduated and secured a job (it was 20 years ago when graduates could get decent jobs) he effectively disappeared, severing all ties with his family and friends. He had explained in advance that his family had already decided on his bride, a girl he had no attraction to nor connection with, and that he would face physical harm if he did not marry her. He thought he may be killed if he admitted that he no longer believed in a God. This was one of my first exposures to the intolerance of religion in general and Islam in particular and, once I accepted that he was deadly serious, made me realise what a blight on our world religion is.

  • Laura Roberts

    Wow — death threats from your own parents? When I told my (Christian) parents I was atheist, all I got was a decade or two of snarky remarks. Although, 500 years ago I would have been a candidate for burning or hanging.

  • barriejohn

    Laura: Most British Christians are only nominally so, or at least willing to allow others the luxury of holding their own views. Although violence may not be used, emotional pressure can be very strong. This young man had experiences somewhat similar to my own:

  • Lucy

    Exactly, @Laura Roberts. Xtians only tolerate apostasy since they can’t get away with things like burning and torture any more. And part of the reason is that, as Barrie says, fewer people believe it any more.

  • Har Davids

    Keep them ignorant, scared and poor and they’re like putty in your hands, while decency is thrown under the buss.

  • Stephen Mynett

    We are lucky that there are so few religionists in the UK now, imagine a society run by the likes of Andrea Minchiello Williams, Bob Hutton etc, it could easily as be as despotic as Islam is now. You only have to look at some of the nastiness coming from church members to realise that it is only the lack of majority that stops them forcing odious lifestyles on us.
    Islam is by far the worst at the moment but we should never dismiss the danger of any fundamentalist from any religion.

  • An obscure book that has nothing to do with Islam, called the Quran, commands Muslims to kill those who leave their faith (2:217 and 4:89). Of course Islam is the religion of peace and their charitable works (for instance, taking millions of Muslim refuges into oil-rich Muslim nations) are well known. But a tiny minority of extremists have read and do follow the Quran.
    Did I get it right?

  • How will the Liberals and Leftists and Spokespersons for the Muslim Community attempt to explain this one away? With accusations of Islamophobia? By omitting to even mention the phenomenon? By counter-accusations attacking the evils of Christianity, especially those going back centuries? Probably. We shall see. I can’t wait to see an article about the programme in the Guardian! They’ve probably written it already, before even seeing it!

  • Tom Petty

    Dr Omer El-Hamdoon … What a shit.
    Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, above, from the Muslim Association of Britain says people can leave the religion of their own free will and should not be punished.
    Yes, he knows that they should not be … but knows damn well they will and no doubt supports punishment.
    Islam is the shit stain on the map of the world.

  • Broga

    They needn’t expect any support from our religion riddled government.

  • jay

    To compare most Christians to Muslims in this issue is a false equivalence. The difference is orders of magnitude. They may harass and dislike you, but atheists lives are non serious danger here.
    In the US,though Obama and his allies continue to insist that there is no radical Islam because, unlike the imams, he knows that Islam is peaceful.
    The US left, including much of the Democratic party insists on waving away all this obscene violence.

  • barriejohn

    Jay: I don’t think that anyone is implying that the way that Christians treat “apostates” comes anywhere near this in this day and age, but the attitude is the same where fanatical believers are concerned, and if you had been “disfellowshipped”, or excommunicated, especially by your own family, you might have a different take on it. Forcing a teenager to eat alone, or disbarring them from family outings, celebrations, etc, amounts to mental cruelty.

  • 1859

    Attacked by your own parents for being honest? Hummm, when I was 12 I declared to my mum that god was a shit, jesus a nutcase and all religions were con tricks that promoted ignorance, superstition and greed. I said I was going to piss on my pious antie’s crucifix and shit on the picture of jesus with his bleeding, shining heart that my antie had hung at the top of the stairs. After my juvenile tirade my mum looked up from her newspaper and said ‘OK’. Then I added I was going to marry a prostitute from Africa, to which she replied while still reading the paper, ‘Sounds good.’ This was the sweet sound – at least to my pubescent ears – of tolerance.
    Yes, there is nothing, nothing so deeply poisonous as religion.

  • barriejohn

    1859: The only reason that you have not been struck down by some dreaded pestilence is that your dear, godly aunt prayed earnestly that your precious soul might be saved, and your sins forgiven. You might at least show some gratitude!

  • Dionigi

    “The Muslim community is a community based on religion, so if a person chooses to stop being a Muslim they can’t really expect that the Muslim community is still going to say to them, ‘You are still part of our community.’”
    Whilst the muslim community holds these belifs there will never be integration in western society.
    Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. 3:28
    They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve … choose not friends from them. 4:89
    Choose not disbelievers for (your) friends in place of believers. Would ye give Allah a clear warrant against you? 4:144
    Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. … He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. 5:51
    They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve … take them and kill them wherever ye find them. 4:89

  • RussellW

    Yes, what a very sly comment from El Hamdoon. He knows very well that ‘apostates’ are shunned by their families as well.
    Could we ever have a better demonstration of the intellectual weakness and sterility of this barbarous ideology, the religion of the sword?

  • Great Satan

    There are no large swathes of muslims ready to give up islam – this is just taqiya on the part of marxist-leninist immigrant groups.

  • barriejohn

    Dionigi: The Bible says practically the same thing, and Mohammed, if an actual person, probably got the idea from the Bible, as he borrowed so many of his ideas from that book, claiming them as his own (much as another deranged megalomaniac – Adolf Hitler – didn’t have an original thought either, but claimed to be inspired).
    Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
    I was taught not to make friendships amongst “the world”, nor to join unions or other associations. As my parents and other family members were not “saved”, I was encouraged to treat them as “the enemy”, which caused a rift for many years. The problem is that Christians today don’t take their religion anywhere near as seriously as Muslims tend to.

  • barriejohn

    Great Satan: So what if some are Communists?
    Namazie has also spoken against cultural relativism in regards to human rights and equality, denouncing the fact that Western propaganda disregards violations of human rights and the oppression of women in countries ruled by Islamists, under the excuse that these actions are part of the culture of the countries where they occur. She has also pointed out that she believes the greatest opponents of sharia law and Islamism are precisely people who have lived under its rule, and that no one should have lesser rights for having been born in the place where they were born.

  • The Western world is heading for ruin. I wonder what the situation will be like fifty years from now? I think I can guess the answer to that one. Perhaps it is best not to dwell on such a disturbing and depressing prospect. Perhaps it is best not to care.

  • AgentCormac

    Here’s one muslim woman who doesn’t seem to give two hoots what the rest of her ‘community’ think of her.

  • barriejohn

    AC: They’re very brave. Who knows what nutter is going to “take offence” at their views or actions, and decide that it is his “divine mission” to dispense summary justice?

  • barriejohn