Dear Mr Zuckerberg,
I am a Muslim. I believe in God and love my Islamic faith very much. You may find what I am about to ask you to be very strange indeed – I would like to make a plea for you to protect the Atheist Republic page and other pages of atheists, freethinkers, secularists which were banned from Facebook recently. But before I make my plea, let me first share my opinion with you about the Atheist Republic and their allies:
I do not like these folks.
Their beliefs do not bother me at all but they are also are incredibly biased, obnoxious individuals who use really superficial arguments in order to make their point (Remember the ‘science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings’ meme?). They choose to ignore the complexity of our religious traditions and depict us as a single stream of thought. Worse still, they are feted by various institutions as ‘experts’ in the field of Islamic studies when in fact they can hardly navigate the discipline.
But all that I said above, sir, is not the point.
The point is, it is their right to do so.
The Atheist Republic was founded by an Iranian ExMuslim atheist and so you can imagine the persecution he must have gone through. It is also true with many ExMuslims I know. They had to experience great trauma through religious indoctrination and so their hostility and lack of discernment is completely understandable. I deeply sympathise with them and hope some Muslim attitudes can be reformed
The Atheist Republic page was the target of a mass report, co-ordinated by Islamofascists (Muslims who use Islam to oppress others) in order to ‘save the Muslims’, or so they think. In truth, the Islamofascists are not doing anyone any favours, not even themselves. Faith is not a given. One cannot simply profess faith and be saved. Rather, one has to face the possibility that one’s beliefs are mere delusions. Only when we have faced this possibility and transcended it can we truly attain faith. Yes, faith is an attainment and the Atheist Republic is actually helping that process by testing us. That is how I see it. People who expect faith to be untested are not worshipping God but rather their own egos.
If Facebook bans the Atheist Republic, where will it end? The Islamofascists and other religious fundamentalists would simply grow bolder and consider even variations of their own faith to be ‘an insult’ to themselves. The Sunnis would try to ban the Shias! Even within the Sunni sect, there is enough variations to call for banning each other. The Salafees and Sufis normally despise each other and call each other deviants and innovators. Everyone is someone else’s heretic, Mr Zuckerberg.
Yes, the Atheist Republic attack our most cherished concepts (god, prophecy, scripture, prayers) but are we, the people of religion, not also attacking theirs? They prize freedom, joy, living life to the fullest and what they consider to be Truth. In following a religion, I am negating all that they hold sacred by stipulating that God has rules for humankind. So how is my right to express my beliefs any different than theirs? All beliefs are infringements of other beliefs.
The people of the Atheist Republic say that they attack ideas, not people. This is a naïve assumption, of course. When you attack ideas, you are indirectly attacking its adherents, especially if your criticism is without nuance and oversimplifying. But once again, this is not the point. Even if they do not make these attacks, the sentiment is already there, especially Islamphobia. Banning them is like putting a cap on a live volcano. Its eventual eruption after suppression will be far worse. Let Atheist Republic have their say and ease the tensions by normalizing the discourse. For those who are offended by their expressions, I have a novel suggestion – simply do not ‘follow’ them. Block them and I promise you, that will be the end of it.
So Mr Zuckerberg, once again I ask you, please protect the Atheist Republic page. It is time we the religious folks realise that we are not privileged just because we profess a belief. Everyone has a right to express their views. Instead, perhaps you should seek to ban those who misuse the report facility to cause nuisance to their enemies.