The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) has started a Twitter campaign for ex-Muslims to share their stories of how they came to leave the faith.
Watch the #ExMuslimsBecause campaign video put out by the CEMB:
Ex-Muslims from the UK and around the world tweeted their reasons using the hashtag #ExMuslimBecause. Many cited theological justifications such as not being able to believe in God. Others cited abuse from Muslim families, teachers and leaders as the reason.
There was a large backlash against the #ExMuslimBecause campaign from sections of the Muslim community. Muslims accused ex-Muslims who are speaking out as siding with anti-Muslim bigots to defame Islam. Some claimed to support the campaign in principle but objected to the timing.
Given Islamist violence has become a year round phenomenon, sparking an international discussion about the ideology spawning the killing, criticisms over timing were dismissed by supporters of the campaign. There is simply no time where Islam is out of the media.
At the prestigious Goldsmiths College, in the UK, founder of the campaign and President of the CEMB Maryam Namazie was aggressively heckled and intimidated by members of the Islamic Society during a talk arranged by the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society. There are some reports of death threats being issued by students against Namazie during the event.
Ex-Muslims suffer discrimination and hatred from many in the mainstream Muslim community and can even face death.
"Whilst in the Muslim world ex-Muslims fear their physical safety and their lives, in the Western democratic and secular world they fear and indeed suffer from excommunication by their family, friends, and indeed their entire communities" explained ex-Islamist Sohail Ahmed, who supports the campaign. "As for those teenagers still living with their parents, they fear being made homeless. And of course, they are made homeless, as I myself was last year.
The fact is that the very existence of ex-Muslims offends Muslims and makes many of them angry. And a number of Muslims respond to vocal ex-Muslims with threats of extreme violence."
It is also practiced by the Islamic State as well as extra-judicially by Islamists worldwide. In Iran, apostasy does not carry the death penalty by statute, but courts can and have handed down the death penalty in sentencing, based on fatwas.
The #ExMuslimsBecause campaign highlights the number of ex-Muslims who feel their freedom of religion and expression has been stifled by extremists.
The backlash worryingly shows even among the mainstream Muslim community targeting ex-Muslims is seen as acceptable. Even Shaista Gohir, a Muslim women’s rights activist who runs a helpline for Muslim women facing abuse and has been outspoken against honor violence, attacked #ExMuslimsBecause on Twitter.
Wider society has a duty to realize the specific risks posed to people from Muslim backgrounds who choose to leave the faith. Freedom of religion includes the freedom to have no religion. The backlash from Muslims proved the need for the campaign in the first place.
The Kyle Kulinsky Show discusses #ExMuslimBecause: