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Being ex-Muslim is not anti-Muslim

Posted by Secular on February 7, 2019

Melbourne Conference, Saturday 9 February, 2019

If you leave a religion, it is because you don’t believe in it any more, or don’t like it. That does not necessarily mean that you have animosity towards all those who still believe in the religion. Those who remain probably include your family and friends, your loved ones. Those ties remain.

However there is animosity towards those who renounce Islam. Those who leave are  castigated, shunned, or worse. The penalty for leaving Islam is death, in Saudi Arabia and twelve other countries. The beliefs that give rise to such imperatives are worthy of criticism. This does not mean that all Muslims should be blamed. It is the beliefs that are the problem.

Many ex-Muslims face this dilemma. They don’t like the bigoted rhetoric that targets their former co-religionists. But they want to be able to exercise their human rights, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

What we should always strive to do, is to distinguish between the beliefs and the believers. Religious beliefs should never be beyond critical examination. If religious beliefs cause otherwise good people to do bad things, then the beliefs that cause such actions should be identified and criticised. To simply denigrate the believers is counterproductive.

Last week, NSW Supreme Court judge Desmond Fagan called on Muslims to publicly disavow violent verses of the Koran that he said have been used by Islamic extremists to support terrorism in Australia. This was a laudable development. The notion that violence in the name of Islam has nothing to do with Islamic doctrine is one that should be dispelled.

No doubt there are many who would disapprove of Justice Fagan’s comments as unwarranted, targeting Muslims, stirring up community hatred and so forth. But nothing is to be gained by such denial. On this issue we must face facts. Aspects of the Koran do inspire violence. Many would also say the Bible contains violent passages. The difference is that violence in the Bible is descriptive, whereas in the Koran it is prescriptive. This should be recognised.

To say this is not to denigrate Muslims. Blame the beliefs, not the believers. In fact the vast majority of Muslims should be congratulated for not always following what the Koran commands. Progress can only be made if problems are identified and faced. Hiding behind euphemisms and obfuscation just perpetuates the problem.

It is the lack of open discussion about the religious causes of human rights abuses that is the real problem. Almost all religions seek primacy and seek to deny certain human rights, especially the rights of children to be able to make up their own minds. If we agree to suppress any criticism of religion on the grounds that some believers may be offended, then what we have is the implicit imposition of blasphemy laws. This must be resisted.

Islamic terrorism has created fear in our society. Given the nature of Islamic doctrines, this fear is rational, to some extent, so it is not a phobia. But such fears can be overblown. The chance of being a victim of a terrorist attack is much less than many other everyday risks.  Yet this fear has been politically destabilising, and has fomented populism. Debate has been stifled, due to fear of Islamism, or fear of being labelled Islamophobic.

So, what is needed is more public debate about human rights and Islam. As the case involving the Saudi woman Rahaf al-Qunun has shown, women are often the biggest victims. We need more ex-Muslims like this, with the courage to speak out about the abuses they suffer.

Thankfully, this is happening. An online group called Atheist Republic now has over two million members worldwide. This group was formed by video blogger, podcaster and former Iranian Armin Navabi. He, and a group of other ex-Muslims are speaking out. Their am is to normalise dissent in Islam. Let freedom of speech reign. Let reason decide.

John Perkins

Secular Party of Australia

0411 143744 PO Box 6004 Melbourne 3004

Please note: details of the conference, are as follows:

Losing Your Religion: Ex-Muslims Speak Out
A conference on the plight of ex-Muslims, their persecution and their human rights.
Saturday, 9 February 2019, Bayview On The Park, 52 Queens Road, Melbourne


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