Monday, June 10, 2013

Support Your Local Ex-Muslims!

Sam Harris's Twitter feed is an interesting place. Here is a recent tweet of his that stuck out in my mind:

I don't know what the context of this reply was; he very well could have been making a valid point. It was the phrase "doctrine of Islam" that  caught my eye. Islam, a religion with billions of adherents around the world, the manifests in multiple regions on the globe, each of which of which have their own unique cultures and Islam somehow manages to retain a single "doctrine". The idea is ludicrous.

I believe I have written before about how important it is to criticize Islam, but how awful secularists in the United States and Europe are at doing so. I think it's safe to say that a fair amount of white, formerly Christian American secularists don't have a very good grasp of the nuances of Islam, its philosophies and its practices. Our lack of understanding creates problems, not only for Muslims in the west, but for the ex-Muslims that we would ideally like to welcome into our community and movement.

I am ex-Muslim. Most people are surprised to hear this from me. To quote Sean Faircloth at a dinner we  both attended last fall:
"You used to be Muslim?? But you don't look... well... wait..."
When I became friends with Hassan Khalifeh, also an ex-Muslim, I felt comfortable talking to him about the experiences I had had in my not-too-distant religious past. Before these conversations, I had kept most of feelings about that time a secret. Even though I as an Atheist activist, I have been treated differently by people in the movement who find out that I'm ex-Muslim. I have had friends who seemed sincerely frightened of my former religion and who insist on me not talking about it.

I doubt that I'm the only ex-Muslim who has felt this way. My case is special because I was born and raised in the West. I can't begin to imagine how ex-Muslims from parts of the world with a Muslim majority might feel being a part of such a white-washed, Christianity-centric secular movement in the United States. When I see displays of ignorance like Sam Harris's above tweet, I am not given hope that ex-Muslims in secularism will be met with the type of understanding that they may need to come to terms with themselves as nonbelievers. I am not given hope that our movement will be able to adequately reach out to questioning Muslims and welcome them into our community.

Thankfully, there are others who also feel that ex-Muslims deserve a community of their own. Hassan recently posted on the Course of Reason blog about The Importance of Support Ex-Muslims. In his post, he writes in support of the new secular group called Muslimish. This CFI-affiliated group is geared towards questioning and former Muslims. It holds regular meetings in cities with high Muslim populations such as Detroit and New York City. While I haven't had much time to be personally involved with Muslimish, I hope to do so in the future and I wholeheartedly support their efforts. 

If you are a questioning or ex-Muslim, make sure to check out their Facebook page or the contact information provided by Hassan on his blog post. If you are a nonbeliever who is not ex-Muslim, by all means criticize Islam and the actions of Islamic theocrats. However, make sure that you are doing so with the same fairness and rationality that you use to criticize Christianity or Judaism. Support your ex-Muslim allies in secularism. They aren't from another planet... and they never were.