Friday, June 22, 2007

Spiritual departures by Andrew Copson, British Humanist Association

Andrew Copson

Spiritual departures

Today's launch of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is a brave move, which will provide support for those who wish to leave the faith.

June 21, 2007 4:15 PM Reposted from The Guardian

"I recall being very frightened at the time as it was explained to me that to reject Islam was one of the worst things one could do and that the penalty for that was death. This incident and others which contribute to an intimidating and hostile environment for me and others in my position have meant I have been unable to openly express my humanist convictions to my family and other Muslims."

This extract is from the longer testimony of one former Muslim, published (pdf) by the Cabinet Office's Equalities Review earlier this year.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, launched today, is, as others have pointed out, a brave move by those raised in one religion to stand up against religious tenets which they feel oppress them and to campaign for freedom of belief. The problem that they highlight by launching this group is undoubtedly a growing one, exacerbated by the increasing tendency of the media and of the government to define people in religious terms, and too often according to the religion of their upbringing or of their family.

Just as importantly, however, the new council will offer former Muslims - like the former Muslim quoted above - a network of support. To depart from the culture or religion of your own upbringing can be an alienating and traumatic experience - it can leave you feeling rootless and isolated. Salman Rushdie may have been recognised with a knighthood only last weekend, but by and large, people who have moved away from Islam, as a group, are off the public radar, and perhaps the recent reaction to the honouring of Sir Salman the "apostate" tells us something of the reason why.

When the British Humanist Association was approached by the former Muslims who conceived of this project, we were happy to give it our support - not in a spirit of anti-religious animus, but because it is clear that non-religious people in this position need our help. It is the absolute human right of everyone to make up their own minds in matters of religion and to have freedom of thought, religion, conscience and belief - if the child of two humanist parents grows up to decide that he or she is a Muslim, or the child of two Muslim parents decides that he or she is a humanist, they have the right to be so, free of intimidation or threat.

Britain has a long-evolving tradition of freedom of conscience, and the enjoyment of that right belongs to everyone; forces that impinge on that freedom have to be countered and individuals seeking that freedom have to be supported.


1 comment:

  1. maninthemoon
    Comment No. 653795

    June 21 17:16

    Its not just muslims who have to be brave to leave their religion. Most religions have systems in place to fill those who leave with worry and fear. With Catholics you are excomunicated and go to hell, Protestants say you leave the 'protection' of the church . Mormans and Jehovahs Witnesses tell your freinds and family that you are dead in the eyes of God. All of them pretty nasty for such 'god fearing people. The only difference is that other muslims may kill you wereas those 'christian ' people will treat you as if you are dead. Don't we just love religion. And pe-eleASE don't post and tell me how this isn't true of your religion. It is, and if you don't believe what I say, you havn't studied your religion properly. Its all in black and white in all your silly ' holy' books. Well done these brave humans ( no longer stuck with a religious label)