This is one of the most interesting articles I have read in awhile. Who knew? Somalis and other Muslim immigrants are leaving Islam in growing numbers, or at least hiding their rejection of the ‘faith.’
I’ve heard it said that there would be no Islam if there was no severe punishment for renouncing it. Around the world “apostasy” is a death sentence. Honor killings here in the US are a prime example of how Islam instills fear in its ‘followers.’
Here is The Economist with the fascinating news:
AS SOON as he stepped off the plane on a family holiday to Kenya, Mahad Olad knew something was wrong. His mother, a “very devout, very conservative, very Wahhabi” woman, was acting strangely—furtively taking phone calls when she thought he was out of earshot. His suspicions would soon be proved correct. Mr Olad’s family, Somali immigrants to America and devout Muslims, had discovered that he had not only renounced Islam but was also gay. The holiday was a ruse, an intervention to save his soul.
Mr Olad was told he would leave college and be turned over the next day to the care of Muslim clerics who would restore his faith. “I was aware of the horrors of these camps,” Mr Olad says. “They operate them in the middle of nowhere, where you cannot escape. They subject you to beatings, starvation and trampling.” He tried to contact the American embassy, but it could not send help because of recent terrorist attacks nearby. Luckily, he also managed to reach a Kenyan atheist group. In the dead of night he sneaked into his mother’s room, stole his passport and was whisked away by taxi to the embassy, which eventually returned him safely to America. He has not spoken to his family since.
Though few have such harrowing stories, hundreds of thousands of American Muslims might recognise something like their own experience in Mr Olad’s tale. As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims. According to the Pew Research Centre, 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most of them are young second-generation immigrants who have come to reject the religion of their parents. Some, however, are older when their crisis of faith arrives, already married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran at weekends.
The vast majority, whether young or old, are silent about their faithlessness.
Publicly leaving Islam is difficult because many Muslims live in tight-knit communities. Many apostates are left closeted, afraid to put at risk their relationships with their parents, on whom they may still depend, or with their siblings and their friends. Non-believing Mormons, Hasidic Jews and evangelical Christians find themselves in a similar predicament. Within Somali enclaves in Minneapolis and Pakistani ones in Dallas, renunciation of Islam is tantamount to renunciation of an entire social circle. “The most frustrating part is living knowing that my life has to be guided by the rules I don’t agree with,” says one still deep in the closet.
Then there are those in more religious households. They tend to have cleaner breaks, sudden realisations while studying the Koran or the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Often the verses that trigger this are controversial ones about slavery or gender that family members and imams cannot explain satisfactorily. Coming across the writings of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens sometimes has the same effect.
Despite all the pressure of family and community, more ex-Muslims seem to be going public. Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), an advocacy organisation, has pushed for those who safely can to publicly declare their renunciations.
“The goal is to change things enough so that we no longer need to exist,” says Sarah Haider, EXMNA’s director.
I’m chuckling as I wonder —- has the Southern Poverty Law Center declared EXMNA a hate group yet? After all, showing what a bunch of buffoons they are, they named Ayaan Hirsi Ali an Anti-Muslim Extremist in 2016, here.