Identifying as an Ex-Muslim, Pros and Cons

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar

I’ve met Maryam Namazie (the spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, One Law for All, and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain) several times now. I will be speaking at her conference in London in October. Namazie is one of the leading proponents of adopting the label “ex-Muslim” as one’s principal identifier, in preference to, say, “atheist” or “humanist.” She argues for this because atheists or humanists who come from a Muslim background face great difficulties that other atheists or humanists might not. Of course, those living in Muslim-dominated countries face greater difficulties still.

I think I agree with her partly in principle. I hail from a Muslim-dominated country (Iraq), where I faced extensive discrimination and even death threats. Thirteen countries prescribe the death penalty for atheists, all of them Muslim-dominated: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Paki­stan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. I would add Iraq to the list as well; although Iraqi law does not define atheism as a capital offense, atheists (Christians and secular Muslims too) are constantly targeted by the militias that pretty much control most of the country.

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