Critical Commentary: Muslims Embracing Unbelief Often Face a Lonely Journey

Posted on March 8, 2013 by


While many of us are proud citizens of the United States, a free country that protects the religious and conscious pursuits of its people, there are some who do not feel so safe, especially regarding the abandonment of their faith.  Ibrahim Abdallah is one such person.  When he made the change from Muslim to atheist, he felt that he was alone in this world.  Alone, that is, until he met a fellow Egyptian Muslim-turned-atheist at a party.  That was when his life changed.  “We both felt, ‘I am not the only one.’  It was huge,” Abdallah says.

Now Abdallah is working to make a safe space for people in the same situation as him.  There are large amounts of people who question their Muslim faith, but are afraid to say so.  Muslims apostates (those who abandon their faith) are unique in the way that they treated compared to other religions.  Divorce, disowning, and threat of physical violence are all common reactions.  There are sections of the hadith (the collected sayings of Muhammad) that call for the death penalty.  In fact, there are currently eight countries that punish apostasy with the death penalty, including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iran.  And while this isn’t the case in the United States, there are emigrants from these countries that discriminate against the atheists in their communities.

But another argument comes from those who quote the Quran itself, which states, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”  And here, we come to an impasse.  Two documents from the same religion seem to contradict one another.  Where do we go from here?  Abdallah, through his work with “Muslim-ish,” is attempting to promote the second part of this argument.  Groups are forming all over the nation for Muslim-turned-atheists.  Hopefully, this can be the start of a movement towards complete religious freedom, not only for people in the U.S. but also for people all over the world.

This article comes from an American news source, in a country that is already cautious of the Islam religion.  Certainly, many who read this editorial would agree that it does not do much to help ease their anxiety and discomfort with the Muslim faith.  But while it gives off some negative vibes, it gives off positive ones, as well.  The reader is presented with a growing feeling of hope for these distressed people.  Abdallah is leading a movement that embodies the essence of America: freedom.

What would strengthen this article would be the opinions of the persecuted peoples living in the Islam world, particularly the countries mentioned above.  There is a tendency in America to assume that someone else will solve the problems.  It is difficult to begin a movement without a large amount of people sympathizing with the problem.  Perhaps this issue could be more easily solved, and more American-Muslim apostates helped, if this article included heartfelt, first person accounts of the difficulties of being an atheist in the Islam world.  Additionally, this story was not given front-page assignment.  Not anywhere near it.  It was found in the On Faith section of the Washington Post.  There is no doubt that this article would catch more peoples’ eyes and gain more followers if it were given priority.

Source: Winston, Kimberly. Muslims Embracing Unbelief Often Face a Lonely Journey. The Washington Post. March 4, 2013.

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