Condescending Attitudes Towards ExMuslim Issues

In the Muslim part of the online world it has become common for western Muslims to speak dismissively of Ex Muslims as people who don`t have any real grievances and are only speaking out to seek attention through demonizing Muslims.

An example of this ignorant mentality can be demonstrated using a facebook post of a Muslim apologist by the name of Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi. This is not meant only as a reply to Asadullah but to conservative Muslims as a whole since many of them tend to make the same arguments as those presented below.

Let’s go through his points one by one.

  1. Muslims suffer through occupations, invasions, genocide , murder and oppression by dictators.

It’s true that people in Muslim majority countries suffer through all of the grievances mentioned above.  The fact of the matter is that exmuslims and liberal Muslims share the same ethnicities, nationalities names and social family backgrounds as  Muslims and as a consequences suffer through and they share many of the same grievances.

Apologists like Asadullah would prefer to erase the existence of Ex Muslims and liberal Muslims (who are considered apostates and deviants by traditionalists) but we live in every country and community where Muslims are present. When Buddhist extremists attack Muslims in Myanmar they don`t go up to Muslims and question them on their beliefs before attacking them. They target their bigotry based on outward appearances and community backgrounds.

 

2) Muslims suffer discrimination in the workplace and face bigotry because they look foreign.

The same applies to bigotry in the west. A conversation with Ex Muslims will reveal that many have had anti Muslim slurs thrown at them by racists because of the color of their skins and wearing of foreign clothes do not differentiate between what type of Muslim they are. Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims , Ismaili Muslims, Secular Muslims and Ex Muslims are all perceived in the same way by bigots.

The same is true for workplace discrimination and racial profiling. To a biased recruiter in the workplace there is no difference between the resume of a Muslims and an Ex Muslim. We both have Arab sounding names and have the same racial backgrounds. The level of discrimination we face is the exact same.

3) The extra discrimination faced by Ex Muslims from their own communities.

Now that we`ve established that Ex Muslims face the same discrimination and external social pressures its worth noting the additional internal social pressure faced by Ex Muslims that can make the life of an average Ex Muslims more difficult than the life of an average Muslim.

A) Kicked out of The House: Many Ex Muslims come from extremely religious households where having a child that left Islam is seen as damaging the `honor`of the family. The community will often blame the parents for not having raised their child “properly”.

In order to safeguard their reputation among  the community as god fearing Muslims the parents will kick the child out of the house for dishonoring them. This is a very similar type of mindset that is held by parents who commit honor killings.

B)  Risk of Violence: For those countless Ex Muslims unfortunate enough to be living in muslim majority countries they also have to suffer through countless other difficulties. If exmuslims or even liberal minded muslims are open and public about their views the most direct risk is the threat of violence from islamists.

Examples of this type of violence have been witnessed by the killings of bloggers such as Avjit Roy in Bangladesh and the killing of human rights activist Khuram Zaki in Pakistan.

C)  Discrimination and Persecution: In addition to the risk of physical violence Ex Muslims in Muslim majority countries also have to deal with discrimination in the workplace and looking for employment. It has been well documented that religious minorities in Pakistan such as Christians have been subject to a very dehumanizing level of discrimination. An example of this is the sanitation worker who was refused medical treatment in a hospital because of his religious identity. The situation is much the same for atheistic and agnostic Ex Muslims who choose to go public with their beliefs.

And of course the most ridiculous accusation against Ex Muslims I’ve heard is that we are only doing it to get rich (I’m looking at you Mariam Sobh ). All I’ll say on this conspiracy theory is that if Ex Muslims could get wealthy simply by criticizing Islam then there would not be countless Ex Muslims trapped in abusive household due to financial restraints. And this fact makes that accusation all the more disgusting and deplorable.

 

So in conclusion we can see how ridiculous Asadullah and other muslims’ condescension towards Ex Muslims really is given that we not only endure the same grievances as our Muslim friends and family but we also have to suffer and work through an additional set of issues as well.

BOOK REVIEW: Islam and the Future of Tolerance by Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris

I want to preface this book review of Islam and the Future of Tolerance by saying that I have been a longtime admirer of Maajid Nawaz’s activism and think it is sorely needed in today’s world. As a former Islamist recruiter turned liberal activist he has a very in depth understanding of the issue from not only a policy perspective but an intensely personal perspective as well.  He is the person I refer people to when it comes to the topic of how to solve the global problem of islamist and jihadist extremism. I have also read Maajid Nawaz’s autobiography Radical which I found to be very well written. I will leave my detailed opinion of that book for a future blog post.

I have also enjoyed Sam Harris’ atheist activism when I was still going through my early atheist phase. I consider his most valuable contribution to the atheist movement to be his popularizing of spirituality in a secular and naturalistic context with his book “Waking Up”.  However I do not agree with some of the political views he has recently expressed in his podcasts though despite my disagreements I do concede that his podcasts are also very informative given the interesting guests he often brings on.

The reason I feel it was necessary to provide this background info is that my review of this book will be a critical one however I still want readers of this blog to know that while I disagree with many of the arguments in the book I do find value in other works produced by the authors and appreciate the intellectual contributions they have made in the past. While my review of this book is mainly critical I do think the discussion had some informative value for introducing people who do not have much knowledge of Islamism and the religion of Islam.

To start off I think Maajid does a good job of arguing there is no one interpretation of Islam but many different ones and so Muslims can choose the more liberal interpretation to reconcile their Islamic faith with liberalism. However he fails to argue why his reformist interpretations are more theologically valid than orthodox ones. As a result what Maajid ends up advocating as his methodology to interpret the Islamic texts is to use secular moral reasoning to figure out whats morally right and then trying to squeeze and stretch passages of the Quran and Hadiths to fit his preconceived conclusions.While this approach has the potential to provide comfort to muslims who already identify with liberal principles it is not an approach that will convince theologically traditional Muslims to change their conservative views and adopt a more liberal interpretation of the texts.

Second point of disagreement I have is that there are certain discriminatory aspects of Islam you can’t simply reinterpret to fit liberal values. For example one cannot justify LGBT rights in Islam when the Quran and Hadiths are explicitly and violently homophobic. Even a metaphorical interpretation would not make any sense. The same problem of scriptural rigidness exists when it comes to the topic of muslim women marrying outside of the faith and muslim men marrying someone outside of the Abrahamic faiths. The Quranic verses explicitly prohibit that and there is no reasonable way to reinterpret them to mean something else. 

Third point of disagreement. He says Sunni Islam has no clergy so muslims have freedom to interpret islamic texts as they see fit. However mainstream islamic institutions and sheikhs have become an informal clergy of sorts and if someone voices an interpretation that is not in line with the mainstream mosques they will be seen as heretics and deviants that do not really “understand” Islam. They might even be declared to be “outside the fold of Islam” (takfir)  which is basically a form of ex communication. This effectively discredits dissident interpretations in the same way that a Catholic promoting doctrines that are not in line with the official church position would be discredited by the official Church.

At a couple points in the book Maajid tries to use examples to show how certain passages can be interpreted in a more liberal way but he leaves out key information that if presented would undermine his argument.

One example is when he discusses the hadith that says anyone who leaves his religion should be killed. He says that this hadith should be discarded since if it was read “literally” muslims would have to execute converts to Islam since they had left their religion when they converted. What he neglects to mention is that there are several hadith that contain the command to kill apostates and they are worded differently. For example there is another hadith that says a muslim should be killed under three circumstances; for adultery, murder and for abandoning Islam. When other variations of the hadith are taken together it seems clear that the command is directed towards executing muslims who leave Islam not anyone who changes their religion.

At another point in the book he used the example of the rulings of Hanafi jurists on alcohol to demonstrate the flexibility of interpretation even in a traditional Sunni context. He mentions that some Hanafi jurists distinguished between the rulings on wine and the rulings on beer since the prohibition against alcohol mentioned in the Quran was in reference to wine. The implication being that one can interpret the Quran to say certain types of alcholic beverages are allowed. However what Maajid neglected to mention was that the debate the hanafi jurists had on distinguishing between Wine and other alcoholic beverages like beer was not whether they were prohibited to consume or not but whether there should be different punishments for drinking wine over drinking beer.

In conclusion while I do think this book provides a good introduction to the debate on Islamism and Conservative Islam for someone not familiar with the debate Maajid fails to make the case for reconciling Islamic texts with a progressive and liberal worldview.