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Islamic Society (10 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Atheists in Muslim World: Silent, Resentful and Growing In Number

By Gilgamesh Nabeel

August 1, 2017

Lara Ahmed wears a headscarf and behaves like a pious Muslim.

But the 21-year-old Iraqi woman hides a secret from her peers at the University of Babylon: her atheism.

“I was not convinced by the creation story in the Quran,” she said. “Besides, I feel religions are unjust, violate our human rights and devalue women’s identities.”

She doesn’t dare share her strong beliefs with strangers.

“I wear a headscarf despite being an atheist,” said Ms. Ahmed, who studies biology at the school, about 115 miles south of Baghdad. “It is difficult not to wear it in southern Iraq. Few women take the risk not to cover their hair. They face harassment everywhere.”

Her fears stem from the remarks of powerful politicians such as Ammar al-Hakim, the head of Iraq’s Islamic Supreme Council, a major Shiite political party and the president of the National Alliance, a Shiite parliamentary bloc.

“Some are resentful of Iraqi society’s adherence to its religious constants and its connection to God Almighty,” Mr. al-Hakim said on his party’s TV channel in May, claiming a rising tide of atheism was threatening the Arab world. “Combat these foreign ideas.”

Statistics on atheism in the Middle East and North Africa are hazy, but analysts say Ms. Ahmed represents an increasing trend based on recent developments.

In 2014, an Egyptian government-run Islamic legal institute, citing a dubious international study, said that only 866 atheists lived in the country of more than 90 million. Recently released court statistics saying thousands of Egyptian women sought divorce in 2015 claiming their husbands were atheists — one of the few ways women can initiate divorce under Islam — suggested the numbers might be far higher.

In 2011, the now-defunct Kurdish news agency AKnews published a survey finding that 67 percent of Iraqis believed in God and 21 percent said God probably existed, while 7 percent said they did not believe in God and 4 percent said God probably did not exist.

Today, the information revolution fuelled by the internet, the freedoms released by the Arab Spring, the growing power of sectarian religious parties and the rise of the harsh orthodoxy of the Islamic State have all fuelled growing unbelief in God and traditional religions, said atheists and others.

“For youths, who are the majority of new atheists, the savagery of the Islamic caliphate established by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 2014 created a reaction that [has] shaken the religion’s image,” said Ali Abdulkareem Majeed, 22, a non-atheist Iraqi sociology student who conducted a study on atheism for a religious body that he asked not to be identified for his safety.

Social Media Shutdown

Last year, Facebook shut down more than 50 atheists, Arabic-language pages in after extremist Muslim groups campaigned to remove them, according to a petition sent to Facebook by the Atheist Alliance-Middle East and North Africa, a U.S.-based global atheist federation.

Many of those Facebook pages have been since been re-launched.

In March 2015, U.S.-based Iraqi and other Arab atheists launched the Arabic and English-language Free Mind television and magazine websites, which promote atheistic viewpoints and have recorded more than 1 million visits so far.

That led scholars at Al-Azhar University, a pre-eminent Sunni Muslim centre of learning in Cairo, to call on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to push Free Mind organizers to repent or face execution by beheading. Mr. el-Sissi responded by suggesting that those who insulted religion should lose their Egyptian citizenship.

Even so, online atheist programming is easily available in Arabic now.

Atheism is not illegal in Egypt or Iraq, but officials often level blasphemy or other charges against atheists in those countries. Those rejecting the faith face the death sentence in Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Mauritania.

Many atheists in the region say their bigger fear is not being punished for their beliefs but that they will become targets of violent sectarian groups seeking political support from the faithful.

“It is a distraction from the fact that Islamists were not able to accomplish anything over the past 13 years,” said Faisal al-Mutar, a U.S.-based Iraqi human rights activist who heads Ideas beyond Borders, a non-profit that supports minorities in the Middle East. “So they want to create ‘an enemy’ to keep [the] constituency united against and avoid being held accountable for their mistakes.”

Keeping their beliefs secret is the norm for atheists of all backgrounds throughout the region.

In Jordan, an Amman-based writer at the Free Mind Magazine — whose last name is Farouki but who asked to keep her first name secret — said she is nearly estranged from her family, angered by her rebellion against religion. “They see me as insane,” said Farouki, 50. “Jordanians cannot accept atheists, and it is highly possible to be killed if you are one.”

Social media has provided atheists with a meeting place and source of information.

“Most of my atheist friends have not changed all of a sudden,” said Osama Dakhel, 21, a fine arts student in Baghdad. “Some were so devoted at first exploring the religion’s minute details. They start to read for Islamic reformers. Then they start to accept other opinions, discuss atheists online and end up atheists.”

Ahmed Abdul-Aziz, 22, a medical student in Upper Egypt, also writes openly for the Free Mind Magazine on atheism. “It is easier to announce your ideas in Cairo,” he said. “Nobody would look after you, but in small rural towns, everyone watches the other.” Even so, Mr. Abdul-Aziz said, he hides his beliefs from his own family.

“They will feel angry even if I call for some modern Islamic ideas,” he said. “I am forced to attend the Friday prayers and fast during Ramadan. I feel uneasy to practice things I do not believe in.”

Ms. Ahmed paid a price for unwittingly drawing notice for not praying or fasting during Ramadan at the University of Babylon. “A colleague called me an ‘infidel’ and insisted on waking me up at dawn to pray,” she said. “I faced problems even for not using the name of Allah to swear.”

Source: washingtontimes.com/news/2017/aug/1/atheists-in-muslim-world-growing-silent-minority/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-society/gilgamesh-nabeel/atheists-in-muslim-world--silent,-resentful-and-growing-in-number/d/112158


  • Dear hats off!

    If your motive is to pick and chose the example of all criminals, evil persons, rulings, maverick individuals, outlandish fatwas, military brutalities and what have you in today's Muslim world and in Islam over the last 14 centuries, without historical or theological relativism - you are being singularly biased against Islam and Muslims, far from scholarly and adding no value from your unrelenting bombardment of Islam/Muslim demonizing comments on this forum - but if you want to write a book demonizing Islam and Muslims, that is a different matter.

    By muhammd yunus - 8/13/2017 8:53:46 PM

  • Hats Off does not mention the fact that he picks news items with the sole and malicious purpose of smearing Islam  and promoting hatred against Islam and Muslims. There are equal number of news items that malign other religions too but he is of course not seeking any balance. 
    He is determined to malign Islam alone and that too on a progressive Muslim website, if we can call NAI that.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/12/2017 12:36:25 PM

  • let us not talk of motives.

    or if we have to talk of motives, let us also talk of your motives too. not just mine.

    i suggest we talk about facts. facts of text, facts of context and facts of history.

    or if you prefer let us talk of motives of the text, the motives of the context and motives of history.

    let us not prance around like the cat on a hot tin roof.

    first set your priorities and then let me set mine. then let us talk or type. either of mutual motives or objective facts. not both in the same breath or in the same text box.

    By hats off! - 8/12/2017 9:40:48 AM

  • knowledge is knowledge. for knowledge we can even go to china. or even north korea.

    myopic, hypermetropic or astigmatic. knowledge is knowledge.

    mine is may be myopic. yours may be is astigmatic.

    we are even.

    By hats off! - 8/12/2017 8:20:06 AM

  • Dear hats off! Your singular motive seems to be to pick up all the bad news from the Muslim world/ theological discourses totally disregarding the fact that there are equally bad or worst news among other faith groups, their theological sources. May be there was something (I don't want to guess) with your upbringing or personal circumstances that has made you obsessively focused on all that is bad in Islamic societies or Islam with complete disregard of theological and historical relativism. I wonder what do you gain from this display of myopic knowledge??
    By muhammd yunus - 8/12/2017 5:13:34 AM

  • i merely pick out the news items. it is the momineen who make those nasty bits of news. not islamophobes. quack psychiatry does not help at all.
    By hats off! - 8/12/2017 1:41:51 AM

  • Hats Off picks up news items  that he thinks would most defame Islam and posts them in the only Muslim site that would accept them. Pretty soon he would make this site as Islamophobic as himself!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/12/2017 12:05:04 AM

  • The theology of Muslims has certainly become an elephant and you cannot make it fly unless you attack the concepts that has made it an elephant.

    As long as the scholars continue to believe that non-Muslim means kafir and that the Prophet was waging battles against "disbelief" rather than against religious persecution, the elephant will not get off the ground.

    Yunus Sb has failed to respond to a pointed question in another thread:

    "If fighting is permitted only against the oppressor, then which verse can still be misunderstood and which verse does not apply today? Unless of course you believe that fighting was permitted against "disbelief" in which case please cite the relevant verse to prove that." 

    Perhaps, Yunus Sb's book does not say what I say and he is reluctant to concede that he made a mistake or failed to point out what I have pointed out. 

    I must however acknowledge that he did change his view point and concede that all the Mushrikin of Mecca are never referred to as kafirin in any verse, although he had hotly debated this earlier with an opposite view.

    The only way to reform is through the Quran by taking its meaning. If the same does not help, then nothing can and in such a case, it is not worth saving. The fact however is that the Quran is free from all the muck that its followers and scholars have heaped on it and its word is incorruptible and its meaning clear to anyone who seeks its meaning. Those who choose to interpret instead, will forever wander around like blind men. They will only find ambiguity, contradictions and confusion because of the filters that they use which distort the meaning.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/11/2017 10:54:19 PM

  •  Dear hats off!
    I am grateful to you for making objective remark.
    I fully agree with you that "it is the vast majority of muslims (entire nations. pakistan, indonesia, malaysia, saudi arabia, morocco, egypt, are full of muslims who believe that apostates should be killed. that statues should be demolished, after statue destruction is sunnah"
    The only difference is that you are looking at the practice and believes of Muslims who do not even know the distinction between the Sharia Law of Islam and Shriah Islam and who will kill you if you say that there is no instruction in the Qur'an to Muslims of all times and regions to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet. They simply cannot reason that had it been so, the Arabs would have retained their seventh century paradigms before they became extinct by rival progressive civilizations. So the beliefs of such people cannot be any yardstick to judge the faith of Islam. You know I have written on this a lot and if you are frustrated by what is happening in the Muslim world, I am no less. But I look forward and you look backward. I am trying to do something positive and you seem to be determined to highlight all negative aspects of Islamic societies without any historical or theological relativism.

    Next point: In one way you are correct that I am singularly talking about and defending in a logical and compelling manner what the Qur'an says. When you blame the Qur'an for sex-slavery, you are drawing on the practice of the Muslims and not the tenets of the Qur'an which I have captured as follows in my draft critique of Irshad Manji's work:

    3. “On p. 41 2nd para. Irshad Manji states, quoting only one Qur’anic verse without numbering it: “Read it closely and you’ll find that the Qur’an doesn’t direct us to release all slaves, just those whom their owners decide..” This statement betrays blatant denial or ignorance of the Qur’an’s clear intent to phase out slavery.

    Thus one of its very early passages declares:

    “(Do you know) what is the steep highway of life? “(It is) freeing a slave, or feeding anyone close by during time of famine, or the wretched poor lying in the dust” (90:10-15).  

    Since slavery was entrenched in the pre-Islamic Arabia as elsewhere in the world with all its stake-holders defending it, it was virtually impossible to eradicate it by a single decree. So initially the Qur’an accommodates it such as in the early Meccan verses 23:5/6 and 70:29/30 when the Muslims were in Mecca and were struggling for survival and the din (social, moral code) of Islam was beginning to emerge. However, in the later years, as the Muslims settled down in Medina, a series of rulings were introduced to phase out slavery as summarily listed below:

    ·         4:92 commands the freeing of a believing slave and paying compensation for any accidental killing of a believer.

    ·         5:89 lists the freeing of a slave as an option to expiate a false oath taken in the earnest.

    ·         2:177 includes the freeing of slaves among the virtues of the truly pious.

    ·         9:60 includes slaves regardless of faith in the category of people entitled to receive charity.

    ·         58:3 requires the freeing of a slave as expiation for breaking an oath called zihar, which absolved a man of all conjugal responsibilities to his wife, but did not give her the freedom of divorce

    A Qur’anic passage also carries explicit instruction to free and marry slaves:

    “Marry off the unmarried ones among you and those among your slaves  and bondmaids that are ready for marriage. If they are needy, God will enrich them of His bounty. (Remember,) God is Boundless (in mercy) and All-Knowing (24:32). Yet those who have no (financial) means to marry should wait until God enriches them of His bounty. And as for those under your lawful trust who seek a contract (for freedom), draw it up for them if you know any good in them, and give them out of the riches God has given you. And do not coerce your bondmaids into prostitution seeking the gains of this world, when they want to be chaste - seeking the pleasure of worldly life. But should anyone coerce them (sexually), God will be Merciful (to them) after they have been so coerced” (24:33).

    Thus Irshad Manji’s claim that “the Qur’an doesn’t direct us to release all slaves, just those whom their owners decide” grossly plays down the epoch making role of the Qur’an in dismantling the institution of slavery that gave the slave-masters absolute rights over their slaves – to collar them, brand them, whip them mercilessly, knock out their teeth and kill them by law, and offer them and their posterity no possibility to earn freedom, let alone treating them like cattle that can be herded, shipped overseas in chains and sold in the slave market. .    

    Next. When you talk about repeated reference to 'killing' in the Qur'an, you inspire me to do a focused article on the defensive character of the Prophet's mission. I have done a long article and if you wish
    you can read:


    URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/muhammad-yunus,-new-age-islam/islam-is-a-religion-of-peace-and-pluralism/d/108249

    The problem is it is 10,000+ word history of the Prophet's mission based on the Qur'anic allusion - since it covers a span of some 2 decades, it needs a great of patience and sympathy to read. I will shortly post a crystallized version

    By muhammd yunus - 8/11/2017 9:44:07 PM

  • enjoy the infinite tolerance of the arabian retards.
    By hats off! - 8/11/2017 6:56:06 PM

  • thelocal.ch/20170811/winterthur-imam-charged-with-incitement-to-murder
    so another islamophobe enjoying free western lunch and inciting the momeen to murder the murtad.
    nothing to do with islam of course. everything to do with switzerland.

    By hats off! - 8/11/2017 6:28:15 PM

  • finally mr muhammad yunus, the so called "article" you are popinting out is not even an article. it is just a whole tiresome repetitive list of web links to your yet other tiresome articles.

    i have been through them all. many times. but you cannot attach wings to an elephant and expect it to be able to fly. but then may be a to a momeen like you it could be entirely possible.

    By hats off! - 8/11/2017 5:01:47 PM

  • no shit is polluting my mind. i am giving you current events. i am not a professional white washer like you are. you are trapped into your number 19 box. i am not. maybe it is the shit that is polluting your mind. so first clean up that shit before you talk of my shit. deal?
    By hats off! - 8/11/2017 4:57:47 PM

  • it is you who seem to have a one track mind. it is the vast majority of muslims (entire nations. pakistan, indonesia, malaysia, saudi arabia, morocco, egypt, are full of muslims who believe that apostates should be killed. that statues should be demolished, after statue destruction is sunnah. what did the prophet do after he returned triumphantly to mecca.) who have single track mind of kaffir hatred, hindu hatred, buddhist hatred and just plain vanilla hatred

    so look who is having a one- track mind. your one track mind wants to white wash all the crimes of islam by proposing that one needs to read the Qur'an with the best intention. how can we read about sex slavery with a good intention? how can we read "kill wherever you find them" with a good intention?

    maybe you can pretend to have a good intention and white wash the gory stuff you are promoting. i cannot fool myself. like you are trained to fool yourself.

    recently chief justice of pakistan supreme court saqib nisar said in a public speech the following "sir syed ahmed said that in india there are two nations. one islam and the other's name i don't even want to utter..."

    so whom are you trying to fool? yourself maybe?

    By hats off! - 8/11/2017 4:54:59 PM

  • What a stupid Malayan minister does becomes an instant weapon for Hats Off in his hate war against Islam! What medieval Europe went through and what India's cow-belt is going through today are trifles that he can safely ignore!

    While moderating religious fervor is a legitimate subject, for Hats Off it is nothing but an anti-Islam monomania, aided and abetted by NAI.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 8/11/2017 12:26:51 PM

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