From the London School of Economics Student Union Atheist, Secularist, Humanist Society on Wednesday, requesting a name change.
The significant change is supplementary: we would like to include “ex-Muslim” in our name, resulting in our new name: The LSESU Atheist, Secularist, Humanist and Ex-Muslim Society (LSESU ASHES). We are very excited about this, since we believe it to be a highly positive change that has the potential to improve the lives of some of our peers in some small way, as we will explain below.
The status of ex-Muslims in Islam is particularly precarious, and the historical and present-day Islamic response to people who become ex-Muslims is one that justifies our inclusion of the term in our name. We do not ask our members for their beliefs, but we estimate that approximately 20% of our members are ex-Muslim or from a Muslim background and we want to be inclusive and welcoming toward them.
People of a Muslim background face unique difficulties in abandoning their religion, both in predominantly Muslim countries and in Europe. A name that openly represents them will provide a visible support option: a society populated by like-minded people who have survived similar experiences, from whom they can draw support. We feel this is no different to, say, a society for students of a certain country, of which there are dozens. A German student may well find comfort or in the German Society by virtue of the fact that it will count many Germans among its ranks. A society with “ex-Muslims” in the name would attract former Muslims in much the same way.
While it is true that someone may leave Islam for another religion, and that such people may face many of the same difficulties as someone who turns away from organised religion altogether, most Muslims who turn away from Islam do not then join a different religion. Accordingly, we feel that combining outlooks such as atheism, humanism and secularism with ex-Muslim is complementary. Practically speaking, the number of members in an independent ex-Muslim society may prove too low for it to maintain a significant presence on campus. Further, there is a significant overlap of interests and concerns for atheists, humanists, secularists and ex-Muslims. In fact, our scepticism brings us all together into a loosely shared identity. This is underlined by the fact that the name change was approved after a discussion and free vote by our members.
Yesterday the LSE Student Union told the Student Union Atheist, Secularist, Humanist Society that the name change would not be allowed.
The Activities Committee have decided not to grant the name change that you have requested.
We decided not to grant the name change because given the email that you sent us as why you would like to change the name, we feel that by adding ‘ex-Muslim’ to the society name it will no longer become a safe space for ex-Muslims; in the sense that it may be an indication as to where ex-Muslims can affiliate to. For this reason would you please consider replacing the ‘ex-Muslim’ part of the proposed name change to either ‘Atheist, Secularist, Humanist and ex-religious’ or ‘Atheist, Secularist, Humanist and ex-religion. This will be in order provide the safe space for all students who join your society and potentially increase your society membership.