While I was in Washington DC a while back, I got to talk with Sarah Haider for a bit. She’s one of the leaders of the Ex-Muslims of North America, and they are trying to build up a greater profile — slowly and cautiously, though, because as she explained to me, there are a lot of non-ex-Muslims who want to infiltrate their group and expose their membership for apostasy. So if you’re an ex-Muslim who is in the closet about it, and you’re looking for a group that takes sensible precautions to protect their membership, you might want to reach out to EXMNA. I was very impressed with their professionalism and thoroughness.
I also wanted to mention this other aspect of their work. Sure, there are Muslim fanatics they have to be on the guard against, but also they’re imbedded in an unfortunately xenophobic culture that has turned all Muslims, even the ex kind, into boogeymen; and then there are the apologists who go too far the other way and pretend that hard-line Islam is benign and must be sheltered.
These days, there is a stark polarity that exists in media, academia and public life when it comes to discussions about Islam and Muslims. There are those who propagate racist, bigoted and xenophobic ideas against Muslims, against anyone who comes from a Muslim background, and even against people who are not Muslim at all (e.g. Sikhs). These types of people (the bigots) tend to treat all Muslims (or all those perceived to be Muslim) as a monolith, a horde without internal differences or dissent. On the other hand, there are those who react to the bigoted, xenophobic types by trying to justify the violent parts of Islam and the harsh actions of some Muslims. This second type (the apologists) often shields Islam and Muslims from any and all critique and scrutiny, even the kinds of critique and scrutiny they themselves apply to other ideologies like Christianity, Capitalism, Communism, and others.
I don’t envy them the narrow tightrope they have to walk, but these are people doing it as well as possible. Check out Ex-Muslims of North America. Don’t expect them to embrace you immediately, though — they’re understandably wary.