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Jun 03 2013

Happy Anniversary, Muslimish

Thursday was the one year anniversary of the first meeting of Muslimish, an organization made up of people who have left Islam in the United States. It is affiliated with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and has meetups in New York City, Detroit and Washington DC. My friend Hassan Khalifeh, who runs the SSA club at Wayne State University, writes about some of the unique problems facing those leaving Islam:

This group is a little different, given the nature of the religion that they have been brought up in. A friend of mine, Monica Harmsen, points out that Islam is very good at making itself seem like it’s the default religion. It’s also a religion that severely diminishes followers’ sense of influence over their actions in an almost predeterminist way. Islam is a religion whose higher power is very dictatorial and totalitarian, making departing from the religion emotionally difficult. Even worse, Muslim families, communities, and governments sometimes make it one of the most taboo and dangerous of deeds to denounce Islam. This is why questioning and ex-Muslims require extra support and the utmost acceptance and empowerment. And if there’s one thing that we have learned from successful movements such as the Gay Rights Movement, it’s that when more oppressed people come out of the closet, the more comfortable and acceptable it is for others to do the same.

Coming out is becoming easier with the help of organizations like the Secular Student Alliance, Center for Inquiry, and many others who have shown tremendous support for those leaving their faiths. A newer, up-and-coming organization—Muslimish—is a promising one, whose mission focuses on supporting questioning and ex-Muslims, in association with The Richard Dawkins Foundation and the Center for Inquiry.

Secular activists and organizations, being a major force of good in helping and supporting others, should not forget or fear to actively reach out to the Muslim community. Many questioning and ex-Muslims have secretly come up to me, relieved to know that there are other ex-Muslims out there that they can meet with and talk to safely. I hope to make that clear to any questioning and ex-Muslim afraid to talk, and to other secular activists out there.

We have some ex-Muslims involved with CFI Michigan, including at least one who has to hide his identity for fear of reprisals. Muslimish has meetings in the Detroit area because the city of Dearborn has the largest Arab and Muslim population in the United States (Arab and Muslim are not synonymous here; many of the Arab residents are not Muslim are Chaldean Christians). This outreach is very important. We must do what we can to create a safe space for Muslims to leave their faith.

17 comments

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  1. 1
    Synfandel

    Thursday was the one year anniversary of…

    <nitpick type=”language”>
    This usage is fairly new, but absolutely ubiquitous these days. It’s amazing how fast it has become ‘normal’. Thursday was the first anniversary. The concept of ‘year’ is already built into the word anniversary and is redundant in the expression “one year anniversary”. I speculate that the new usage came about because of the attempt to celebrate something like a “three month anniversary”, which is gibberish. Coining a new term, such as ‘lunaversary’, would be preferable.
    </nitpick>

  2. 2
    Zeno

    I’m as cheerfully prescriptive as any other (sane) person, but “lunaversary” and similar hypercorrect coinages would just clutter up the language. The “year” connotation of “anniversary” has faded to the point that no one blinks at “four-week anniversary” or similar constructions (except perhaps to wince at the thought that your girlfriend or boyfriend is fetishizing meaningless milestones and expects gifts).

  3. 3
    lldayo

    You know, you could really replace Islam with Christianity in that quote regarding the stigma and difficulty in renouncing it as well. Both make them seem to be the default religion (depends where you’re born, really) and both can lead to being ostracized from the community. The higher power is also dictatorial and totalitarian and as one who was previously Christian knows it can be an emotionally trying time.

  4. 4
    Spanish Inquisitor

    I read over the weekend somewhere that something like 5% of all Saudi Arabians are atheists. Considering it’s a crime there, I think that’s a pretty high number.

    Need to go see if I can find the report….

  5. 5
    Trebuchet

    I read over the weekend somewhere that something like 5% of all Saudi Arabians are atheists. Considering it’s a crime there, I think that’s a pretty high number.

    Need to go see if I can find the report….

    Right here at FTB on Mano Singham’s blog:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2013/05/29/where-the-worlds-atheists-live/

  6. 6
    Reginald Selkirk

    Islam is a religion whose higher power is very dictatorial and totalitarian, making departing from the religion emotionally difficult.

    With the whole ‘death to apostates’ thing, I would say it is more than emotionally difficult.

  7. 7
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Spanish Inquisitor #4 – It is my understanding that, to many Muslims, “atheist” simply means someone who does not follow one of the “acceptable” religions, namely Islam, Judaism or non-Trinitarian Christianity. Everyone else is “without god” and thus an atheist.

  8. 8
    slc1

    Re Gregory in Seattle @ #7

    What is non-Trinitarian Christianity? Also, Judaism isn’t too popular amongst Muslims these days.

  9. 9
    Modusoperandi

    slc1 “What is non-Trinitarian Christianity?”
    Non-Trinitarians reject the Trinity, because it’s outrageously ridiculous to them. For Unitarians, Jesus wasn’t God but was a prophet and [sort of] the son of God, which is acceptably ridiculous to them.

  10. 10
    dcsohl

    No, not lunaversary… Mensiversary. Annus is Latin for “year;” Mensis is Latin for “month.”

  11. 11
    Ace of Sevens

    There are other non-trinitarians who Believe Jesus is God and not a separate person, just one of several roles God plays, kind of like how you might distinguish Ben Affleck the director, Ben Affleck the writer and Ben Aflleck the actor.

  12. 12
    Reginald Selkirk

    There are other non-trinitarians who Believe Jesus is God and not a separate person

    Every Analogy for the Trinity is a Heresy

  13. 13
    Gregory in Seattle

    @slc1 #7 – Based on what appears in the Quran, Muhammad was referring to Nestorians when he spoke about Christians. Nestorianism was condemned as heresy by several of the early Councils, but survived as a force into the 10th century. It held that Jesus and the Christ were separate beings, united in purpose but not in nature. In particular, there was a gnostic sect of Nestorians in Arabia during the 7th century which held that Jesus was never crucified: as a reward for being a “vehicle” for the Christ, Jesus was assumed bodily into Heaven and instead God provided a sacrifice who merely looked like Jesus; this doctrine made it into the Quran, 4:157-158. Nestorians explicitly reject the doctrine of the Trinity: the Christ was God, not a “Second Person” in the godhead.

    By extension, many Muslim scholars hold that the doctrine of the Trinity is incompatible with monotheism, and that Trinitarian Christians (which is pretty much all of them) are polytheists who worship false gods. Historically, Islamic countries have been quite tolerant of “People of the Book” who are explicitly monotheist, and have refused to extend quranic protections to polytheists like Roman Catholics or Greek Orthodox.

  14. 14
    slc1

    Re Gregory in Seattle @ #13

    It is my understanding that the Islamic position on Yeshua of Nazareth is that he is one of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and that, apparently like the Nestorians, he was not the man who was executed on Calvary but was told by Pontius Pilate to get out of Dodge. As I understand it, it is the Islamic position that it was Judas Iscariot who was executed on Calvary. They’re a little uncertain as to where Yeshua went, although, apparently, some Muslim scholars think he hied himself off to Damascus, possible along with Mary Magdalene. This seems to be based on the theory that Saul’s journey to Damascus was to check up on rumors that Yeshua was residing there.

  15. 15
    slc1

    Re Gregory in Seattle @ #13

    I was under the impression that when Muslims refer to people of the book, they are referring to people of both the Hebrew and Christian bibles. Clearly if Trinitarian Christians are not considered people of the book, then does that mean that the Christian bible is not included as part of the book?

  16. 16
    iangould

    “With the whole ‘death to apostates’ thing, I would say it is more than emotionally difficult.”

    If the majority of Muslims lived up to the bigoted stereotype you seek to promote, it would be.

  17. 17
    Gregory in Seattle

    @slc1 #14, #15 – 4:157-158

    “And they said we have killed the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him. On the contrary, God raised him unto himself. God is almighty and wise.”

    From this, Islamic tradition has long held that Jesus was assumed into Heaven and everlasting life. He didn’t so much as get out of Dodge as flee to a different continent.

    As for Christianity, the Quran is very explicitly against the Trinity; see 4:169, 5:77 and 5:116. When Muhammad spoke of Christians, he was speaking of a very specific doctrinal group within the larger Christian movement, a group that had been hounded and persecuted for centuries by what eventually became the orthodox belief. Only this group was properly Christian.

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