Recently The Economist published a brief article describing Muslims leaving their faith entitled Losing My Religion. It describes Muslims becoming vocal at great risk to out themselves as ex-Muslims in majority Muslim countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan where recent polls show those brave or crazy enough to identify as no longer submitting to the will of Allah have reached 1.4% and 1.1% of the population respectively.
I say “crazy” with undeniable admiration for their incomparable bravery. Bangladesh you may recall has seen two openly atheist bloggers hacked to death in public recently by hardcore Muslim groups.
Many will say, “Well, there’s extremists in every religion”
Not like Islam.
Thirteen Islamic countries include death for apostasy in their laws. Most others either directly through their penal code or through adoption of Sharia law make it a crime to leave the Muslim religion or blaspheme it in various ways prescribing varying levels of punishment, some quite severe other than death: imprisonment, whippings.
Additionally, polls in Islamic countries show significant portions of the population, often the majority support death for apostasy. Various schools of Muslim thought find plenty of support for such thinking in the Quran and hadith.
Bangladesh for example, has a 90% Muslim majority, and although no law prescribing death for apostasy exists there, nearly half of the population agrees with punishment for leaving Islam and over a third approve of death. Some imams in the country openly recommend death for apostasy. And despite no law, such punishment is carried out with approval of religious leaders and a good portion of the people.
This is another huge difference with Islam versus all other religions. The average Muslim believer, moderate tho they may be in their own behavior and like the vast majority of citizens of any other country, or like adherents of any other religion will never be compelled to kill another human being, their religion unlike any other still calls for death to apostates in its current interpretation and so it is openly approved by many if not most of the faithful.
So the extremists who carry out a death sentence on their own such as hacking atheist bloggers to death on the street do so either with the sanction of the legal code, sharia law and/or the explicit agreement of many or most of their fellow Muslim citizens.
Avijit Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed, who survived the horrific attack.
There is nothing comparable to this situation in any other religion or non-Muslim country.
From the Economist report:
“Many do not divulge their unbelief to their families, let alone the wider community.”
The Economist article however was referring to Muslims coming out as ex’s in Britain where the threat of being hacked to death is hoped to be quite minimal:
“Former Muslims’ reluctance to admit to their lack of faith rarely stems from a fear of violence, as in countries such as Sudan where laws make apostasy punishable by death. Rather the worry in Britain is about the social stigma, moral condemnation and ostracism that follows, says Simon Cottee of the University of Kent, who has written a book on the subject.”
My first thought on that comment is I wonder what Maryam Namaze, Iranian blogger and secular activist, co-founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB) might have to say about that.
So I went straight to her blog, scrolled down a bit (no shit, that quick, less than minute?) and found the following: (ya gotta love the Internet, fuckin’ eh!)
“Apostasy is punishable by death in 13 countries and pressures and intimidation make it hard to leave Islam even in more secular societies. There are many ex-Muslims right here in the west who lead double lives as “closet atheists”. Whilst a lot has changed for the better since CEMB was formed, women are generally invisible in much of the public space even though many outspoken ex-Muslims are women. This is because the persecution is considered “private”. Violence and discrimination against women are considered “people’s culture”, thereby making it more “respectable” and tolerated.”
Yup, I betcha Maryam might have a thing or two to add to Prof. Cottee’s data set about the very real risk of violence that especially women would face as members of a Muslim community, even one in a Western nation like Britain as a matter of course.
The Economist piece ends on this note:
“Some interviewed by Mr. (waz note: it’s “Dr.” he is a PhD.) Cottee were wary of putting their testimonies online, anxious to avoid giving ammunition to those who would vilify Islam. Until Muslims feel more at ease in Britain and Britons more relaxed about Islam, the number coming out will be small.”
From what I have read from Ms. Namaze, Irshad Manji, Aayan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, Faisal Saeed al Mutar, Taslim Nasrin, Salman Rushdie and many other sources it is not Britain, nor the fear of Islam being vilified but violence, the very real threat of violence that keeps the majority of questioning Muslims and closeted ex-Muslims quiet wherever they live.
end religion now