Apostasy & Islam: Saying no to faith

Apostasy & Islam: Saying no to faith

Yogesh Pawar
As the debate about what pushes the young towards radicalisation gathers momentum with the rise of the Islamic State, Yogesh Pawar speaks to young Muslims who are shunning not just radicalisation but the religion itself.
  • Amit Bandre dna

Fakeer Mohamed Althafi speaks so softly that you have to strain to hear him. The 32-year-old physiotherapist from Tamil Nadu says he’s been an introvert since childhood and loves blending into the background. At the bachelor’s pad which he shares with a trio of peers in midtown Mumbai, he insists that no more details about his address be given. “If someone found out where I lived,” he explains, “they could come attack me or worse.”

And no, Althafi is not a controversial political figure/activist. So, considering he admits to being no more than “a regular bloke”, what is he so scared of? Just this — five years ago, this native of Ramanathapuram told his family that he no longer believed in the fundamental tenets of Islam. “I stopped being a believer. I know the word apostate sounds funnily anachronistic, but I’m not saying this lightly.”

Isn’t that borderline paranoid? “I wish it were,” Althafi smiles wryly. He recalls how T J Joseph, a professor of Malayalam at Newman College in Kerala’s Thodupuzha town had his hand cut off at the wrist as punishment for allegations of blasphemy. As the radical fringe of organised religion becomes more vocal and extremist in its views, there are many other instances, cutting across countries. “The deadly assault on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French newspaper that satirised religion, or the hacking to death of several bloggers in Bangladesh (Ananta Bijoy Das in May, Washiqur Rahman Babu in March and Avijit Roy barely a month before that) for openly supporting atheism may seem far away, but the threat here too is very real and close,” says Althafi.

When he confessed his atheism to his horrified family, his eldest brother reminded him that the penalty in Sharia law for apostasy is capital punishment. His family was ready to forgive him if he remained Muslim. “They wanted me be a religious hypocrite. I can’t do that. I don’t mind the qawwalis, pathani suits, the biryani and the phirni but how could I pretend to follow a faith I simply didn’t feel.”


Over 2,000 km away, Selina Bi Sheikh of Motijil village in Murshidabad district of West Bengal is angry. It has been two months since she was stripped and brutally beaten allegedly for converting to Christianity. She doesn’t mince her words when asked if she minded being named. “Why should I be ashamed? Ask the local Muslim extremists who have resolved to ostracise me till I return to Islam that question,” she says firmly.

It’s almost funny, she says, that her opponents find a 54-year-old widow who lives with her two young sons threatening. “I’m not allowed to buy even soap or toothpaste from the local shop or the grocer.”

Though it means having one of her sympathetic neighbours fetch water for her from the village well, she says she will not give up Christianity. “Why can’t I choose?” she asks defiantly… a defiance which has seen several complaints registered against her at the Murshidabad police station for “disturbing peace and harmony.”


Sherbanoo, a 28-year-old Bohra banker from Pune, is being accused by her mother of doing the same to the family. “It has been nine years since I opposed the clergy in our mosque,” remembers Sherbanoo. “After my genitals were forcibly mutilated when 19 and this was sought to be given a religious rationale to keep me quiet and compliant, I developed an aversion for everything Islam. A brief stint at the Cardiff University on an exchange programme gave me the strength to tell the clergy what they’re practising is not Islam but unbridled

Expectedly, what she calls “the loonies and their threats” came fast and thick. “What I hadn’t prepared for was the way they manipulated my parents and family. When my brother joined my father in beating me up for ‘shaming the family’, I left home and began living by myself.”

Doesn’t she miss family? “I do. See, in Islam you’re only part of the community group. There’s no individual identity. It is like one would be lost without the collective. Having found my independent voice, going back to my folks would mean becoming part of the same claustrophobic reality I’ve turned my back on.” She feels the creation of an umbrella organisation on the lines of the Council for Ex-Muslims of Britain would help a lot in reassuring others like her to come out.

Althafi, Selina Bi and Sherbanoo aren’t alone. Though the number of Muslim non-believers is on the rise, not everyone is leaving the religion. At a time when the radicalised are willing to travel across the world from as far as Britain and Australia to enrol as warriors of the Islamic State to kill non-believing kafirs (infidels), perhaps wisely so.

“The mob baying at the doorstep is not the biggest risk ex-Muslims face. Loneliness and isolation of ostracism from loved ones, the stigma and  rejection prevents many ex-Muslims from going public with their apostasy,” says Dr Simon Cottee, author of a new book The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam.

A broader and long-standing interest in deviance and transgression saw Cottee – a faculty member of the School of Social Policy, Sociology & Social Research, University of Kent – research Islamic apostates. “From the perspective of Islam and many Muslims, apostasy is a profoundly deviant, since it involves a rejection of the very foundations of Islam. Apostasy is more than criticism; it is renunciation. And people of the faith take this personally since their belief in Islam is so intimately tied to their core identity. As one of my interviewees put it to me,‘People get very emotional about it. It’s not just that you’re criticising Islam. You’re actually criticising its very foundations and people take it as an attack on their identity, not just their belief’.”

“Attitudes need to change,” says Cottee. “There has to be a greater openness around the whole issue. And the demonisation of apostates as ‘sell outs’ by both left-liberals and reactionary Muslims must stop. People leave Islam. They have reasons for this, good, bad or whatever.It is a human right to change one’s mind.”

He further adds, “Because they had once known the ‘truth’, their subsequent rejection of it is all the more unsettling and confusing for true believers. ‘The apostate,’ wrote the classical Muslim jurist al-Samara’i, ‘causes others to imagine Islam lacks goodness and thus prevents them from accepting it. But that is not why apostates arouse disquiet among Muslims. That happens because Muslims find them confounding. Because if one person can be persuaded to leave Islam, then why not all?”

Touchy subject

Cottee admits it’s a subject many avoid. “Few touch this subject, although there is a keen sociological interest in conversion to Islam. I think this reflects the liberal and radical biases of sociology. Sociologists don’t want to offend Islamic sensibilities by studying themes unsettling to Muslims – this could be one explanation for the neglect. Or maybe it’s because they fear being called Islamophobic. It doesn’t reflect well on sociology, which has become a moral and intellectual wasteland.”

This is echoed by others like Imtiaz Shams, who runs a group called Faith to Faithless, which aims to help Muslim non-believers speak of their difficulties. The 26-year-old’s strong YouTube presence and several of his well-attended talks at universities across the UK have left him at grave physical risk. “Nobody likes to be in the firing line, but I had to do this because no one else was.”

Like Shams, Pakistani-Canadian writer-musician-physician Ali A Rizvi who is working on his book, The Atheist Muslim, often gets trolled on social media for his views. “Is it extremists that are corrupting Islam, or is it moderates that are sanitising it?” he tweets, questioning the moderate Muslim who says s/he doesn’t believe in misogyny, murder, or homophobia. “Why then revere a book that endorses them?” he asks. “The dissident Muslim/ex-Muslim is always caught between the right’s bigotry and the left’s apologism.” According to him, it should be acceptable to criticise Islam as long as this does not amount to demonising all Muslims.

In fact Dr Cottee likens leaving Islam to the coming out for gays in countries where homosexuality is still criminalised. “The fight for the right to be recognised in both cases comes at the often prohibitive cost of shame, rejection, intimidation and very often, family expulsion.”

Those who disagree

Some like relationship coach and sensitivity trainer Altaf Shaikh question what he calls “notion” of apostasy. “I use the bigotry and intolerance against Islam to help fortify my faith,” says this Mumbai resident who survived the 1992-93 riots by the skin of his teeth. “These ‘apostates’ are taking the stand they do, because of ignorance.”

According to him, Islam is facing two crises from within and without. “The ill-informed radical voices tend to give their own twisted interpretation to scriptures and using that to justify everything from wars, misogyny to human rights excesses. On the other hand, there are those who are using this to further their ‘otherising’ agenda for Muslims. As the persecution and discrimination gets stronger to the point of vilifying an entire people, this has led to a backlash of sorts with misguided youth often becoming easily influenced by the shrill radical call-to-arms voices.”

Imtiyaz Jaleel, TV journalist-turned All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen MLA from Central Aurangabad in Maharashtra, echoes this sentiment. “The radicalisation among Muslims can’t be seen in isolation. The negation of the community’s aspirations by both the saffron parties and the so-called secular ones is what needs to be seen along with that narrative.” According to him, “Asking questions from within the fold is understandable and can be welcomed. From without there is always the lurking suspicion of hidden agendas coming into play.”

Not only Islam

“While its true that apostasy continues to be criminalised by only 19 Muslim majority countries – 11 of which are in the Persian Gulf – Islam isn’t the only one concerned with the phenomenon,” explains socio-cultural historian Mukul Joshi. “This has been the case with all proselytising religions historically. Christianity too frowns on what the New Testament twice refers to as the ‘wilful rejection of Christ by a practising Christian.” According to him some of the human rights excesses in the past under the Vatican’s watch had to do with apostasy. “Classically Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism welcomed apostasy and many of their canonical texts are replete with debates and arguments that support this,” he explains and adds, “Unfortunately current times have seen hardening of stances all around with bigotry and intolerance becoming the dominant sentiment of our times. Its saddening that some political and religious outfits in these religions too are now beginning to talk of annihilation of non-believers.”

He is quick to point out how often the denunciation of a faith itself takes on a zeal bordering on the religious. “The shrillness on the other side then only finds a match on this side too. Any real understanding will require the complete abandonment of the shrill by both sides. Only then can they talk and find a way of working with/around each other.”

Did someone say, easier said than done?

World NUT Daily Crazy Called For Political Witch Hunts, Purges and Ultimately, Executions of Liberals if Romney Had Won!

WND Columnist: Prosecute Liberals, Journalists for Treason
Submitted by Brian Tashman

For years, conservatives have claimed that liberals seek to criminalize Christianity and conservative opinions through imaginary hate speech laws. But today, WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush writes that the government should prosecute liberals and members of the press… in order to defend freedom, of course. He accuses journalists of “treasonous collusion” with the Obama administration and said the Founders would have wanted journalists to be “found guilty of high crimes.” “Trials for treason and the requisite sentences would apply,” Rush says, “and I would have no qualms about seeing such sentences executed, no matter how severe.” He claims that progressives’ “seditious, anti-American” speech is “excepted from protection under the First Amendment,” hoping that “the political disenfranchisement of liberals, progressives, socialists and Marxists can begin in earnest, and in the open.”

Assuming that all goes well and that we are rid of Obama in January, there will be a nation to repair – but what about the causes for this necessity? Yes, many Americans are now cognizant of the fact that progressives have “progressed” America dangerously close to being a Marxist-socialist nation and that we are collectively responsible for not having checked that progress. But aside from grass-roots efforts toward electoral and political reform, there are other widespread, organized threats to America’s ongoing concern as a representative republic with guaranteed personal liberties, free speech foremost among them.

Here, I am speaking of the press, the conglomeration of national broadcast, digital and print media organizations that has been incrementally packed with ideological liberals and socialists, and so has disqualified itself as the impartial government watchdog it once was. During my lifetime, I have seen the press become an advance force for social engineering and global socialism. The degree to which they have deceived Americans and enabled the agenda of radicals in recent decades is beyond shame. As former Democratic pollster Pat Caddell said recently, the press has become an enemy of the American people. In the matter of this president, the press largely facilitated the ascension of Barack Obama. The instances wherein they have promoted, shielded and aided him are beyond enumeration.

This goes beyond such things as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and his man crush on Obama – I’m talking about treasonous collusion. One particularly scandalous incident occurred during the second presidential debate, when CNN moderator Candy Crowley made an interjection that appeared to have been as spontaneous as Ambassador Chris Stevens’ murder, and which led to a solid point scored for Obama. Most recently, after Mitt Romney brought up Obama’s 2009 “Apology Tour,” the press did their best to support Obama’s claim that this never happened, despite boundless reams of footage that exist chronicling the event.

It is improbable that the framers of the Constitution anticipated a situation in which the press were entirely given over to seditious, anti-American policies. If they had, it is likely that their modus operandi would be similar to that for any faction found guilty of high crimes. Trials for treason and the requisite sentences would apply, and I would have no qualms about seeing such sentences executed, no matter how severe.

This is not likely to occur, however. Radio personality and nascent media mogul Glenn Beck has the intention of putting the establishment press out of business. While I wish him every success, it doesn’t seem likely that he will accomplish this through his organizations alone. In addition to the advent of powerful alternative media sources, I believe it will be necessary to codify – or reaffirm – the nature of crimes against the Constitution and the American people. In this manner, we can thwart the designs not only of the press, but all global socialists operating in America.

Those whose speech and actions impinge upon the God-given rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution are, by definition, excepted from protection under the First Amendment (as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment). This is a very important concept to consider, because it is based on these presumptions of protected speech and equal protection for all that progressives and socialists have engaged in their predation upon our liberties.

If these truths can be acknowledged and widely accepted as such (as opposed to progressives’ Orwellian interpretations), then the political disenfranchisement of liberals, progressives, socialists and Marxists can begin in earnest, and in the open.

Why I’m Voting to Re-Elect Barack Obama

Why I’m Voting to Re-Elect Barack Obama
Via:- Charles Johnson

I have to admit I’m making a deliberate effort to ignore the political world today, at least more than usual. I made up my mind a long time ago to vote for Barack Obama, and against anyone the Republican Party put up. I don’t agree with everything Obama has done, but overall he’s achieved quite a bit in his first term, despite ferocious and often deranged opposition from Republicans, and deserves a second term as much as any President I’ve ever seen.

The GOP is a serious danger to the future of this country The Republican Party … well, if you’ve been reading the site for the past couple of years you know what I think about them. They’re lost in cloud cuckoo land in so many ways and on so many levels, there’s just no doubt that they represent a serious danger to the future prosperity of this country — not just for their magical thinking on economics, but in their denial of many areas of modern science (based on either religious fanaticism or cynical political calculation for personal profit), their continuing, relentless attempts to roll back progress on women’s reproductive rights, and the shockingly prevalent racism and xenophobia that have bubbled up to the surface in a highly disturbing way since the election of our first black President.

At this point, it’s not even really about Mitt Romney, although he’s an especially cynical example of the Republican brand. Nobody the GOP could prop up and nominate would ever convince me to vote for a Republican in the foreseeable future, because of what the party as a whole represents: reactionary paranoia, manifesting as authoritarian rule whenever they gain power.

In my life, I’ve voted twice for Republican presidents, and Democrats every other time — and the second time I voted for a Republican (John McCain) it was with grave misgivings.

I’ll have no misgivings at all about casting my vote for Barack Obama.

Why I’m Voting Against Mitt Romney

Why I’m Voting Against Mitt Romney
Tomorrow I’ll tell you why I am voting FOR President Obama
Via:- Randall Gross

There are many reasons I’m voting Democrat this election but prime among them is that Mitt Romney has no core, no soul, no integrity. There are many words that you would never apply to him after his several years of unsuccessful campaigning, but chief among them are the words “courageous,” “consistent,” “principled,” “honest,” and least of all “caring.”

Instead you can see him lie every day, blandly smiling and glad-handing the crowds as he puts another baldfaced whopper across. You have to wonder if he’s chuckling inside and thinking, “I wonder how many of these hapless rubes bought that one.”

There’s nothing worse than frat boy weasels who lie to your face knowing that they are lying, knowing full well that you see through their lie. It doesn’t matter if they are trying to sell a junker off a used car lot or running for president, most people can smell them coming — but others seem defenseless against their toothsome grins. Anytime that Mitt has seemed to say something solid on the campaign trail, the next day he sends his staff out to walk it back, since he seems not to have the spine required to retract it in person, or to stand for something specific himself.

Maybe you’ve been willing to accept the lies because Romney’s a “member of the GOP team,” or because you hate our current President — but politics is not a sport, and you need to be bigger than just a rooter for your team. The US can’t afford another second generation elitist sliming their way into office, not here, not now, as the economy is just recovering from the worst recession since the great depression. We don’t need more of the same deregulation, the same laissez faire, “who cares about all those bad loans” attitudes at the helm. We certainly don’t need a president who has so little faith in our country that he off-shores most of his money made after years of off-shoring our jobs and dumping insolvent and Bain debt-saddled companies into bankruptcy.

Almost worse than Romney are the people who would come into power with himWe don’t need a president who thinks 47 percent of us don’t matter, because the president is elected to serve everyone, not just the people who financed their campaign or who voted for them.

Almost worse than Romney are the people who would come into power with him, as the reactionary fundamentalist wing of the party is in full control of the GOP right now. With Mitt, we would get people from the clash of civilizations crowd (like John Bolton), who won’t rest until they get us into another world economy-wrecking war. Anti-science blustering blowhards for the oil companies and religious right, like Joe Barton and Todd Akin, are clinging tightly to his coat tails, and we sure don’t need “strict Bible constructionists” on the Supreme Court either.

We really can’t afford another anti-science administration — the world is changing much too fast and our children’s futures are entirely dependent our ability to adapt and foster new technologies. Mitt would bring a whole crowd of reactionary Luddites with him.

I can’t vote for Mitt as well because of his stance on gay marriage, I can’t vote for him because of his stance against women’s rights, I can’t vote for him because of all the misogynist cavemen that he would bring with him were he to win. And I can’t vote for him because there’s a chance that the Senate could flip this year, and I think we need checks and balances. The GOP in full control of all branches of government is the prime ingredient in a recipe for future disasters.

Most of all, I can’t vote for Mitt because there’s nothing behind the bluster and puff: he’s just a spoiled pile of meringue whipped together from bile and the last century’s GOP bumper stickers.