The LSE Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society has replied to the Student Union’s rejection of ASH’s request to change their name to the LSESU Atheist, Secularist, Humanist and Ex-Muslim Society.
We are glad that you acknowledge that the situation of ex-Muslim students is precarious and deserving of special attention, and that they are in need of a “safe space.” On a less enthusiastic note, we are saddened by the fact that you did apparently not consult with ex-Muslims before taking your decision, as Imtiaz had proposed.
We also appreciate your concern about the safety of ex-Muslims, but disagree with your contention that adding “ex-Muslim” to our name would in fact create an unsafe space for ex-Muslim students, in the sense that they would be marked out. The risk of danger that ex-Muslims face in many places does not exist on our safe, quite secure and liberal campus. If we were to follow this line of thought, we should also do away with the LGBT Society and LGBT events, since they also face danger from extremists in this very country – their events have suffered attacks from bigots in the past.
On a related note, we would like to point out that the situation of LGBT people in many countries is quite similar to that of ex-Muslims, in that they also face persecution and lack support options, and we seek a safe space for ex-Muslims for similar reasons.
This safe space must be as accessible as possible. Like any minority group, ex-Muslims will benefit greatly from a kindred community where they can expect support, representation and a wealth of analogous experience. The credibility and stature of such a fellowship in an ex-Muslim student’s eyes would gain immensely from a permanent, emphatic statement of commitment to their interests, which is precisely what our change seeks to establish. As such, it is important that we specifically include “ex-Muslims” in our name. Our idea has already received the endorsement of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the London Ex-Muslim Collaboration, whose calls for greater attention to the ex-Muslim plight are corroborated by reams of empirical and anecdotal evidence that document the unrivalled alienation, estrangement and despair that define the ex-Muslim experience.
I wonder if the Student Union consulted with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the London Ex-Muslim Collaboration before replying to ASH. If it did it must have ignored their advice. That seems high-handed.
With regard to your proposal to change our name to substitute this change for “ex-religious”, we feel that this would defy the purpose of the name change, as explained in our initial statement and above. Our name already implies ex-religious, and the case for ex-Muslims is a separate one entirely. We are in agreement that ex-Muslims are a specific group with different needs to other ex-religious people due to their unique situation, and consequently they are in have a more pressing need for representation and a safe space than other ex-religious groups. The reports of many of our ex-Muslim members and friends testify to this need for special attention.
I wonder if the SU will reconsider. That would be sensible of it.