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 Topic: Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum

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  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     OP - February 19, 2013, 09:51 AM




    Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum



    In 2007, a group of people who met on websites sceptical of religion and Islam decided to create a forum specifically focussing on the many issues facing ex-Muslims in the modern world.

    They felt uncomfortable with the atmosphere and attitudes of many existing forums which were critical of Islam. Too often these websites existed to service Christian proselytising, or a political agenda that fitted into wider far-right  nationalism.

    It was felt that there was a lack of a space sympathetic to the experiences of those whose free conscience rejected Islam, who wanted to express this rejection in the spirit of secularism, humanism, feminism, individual rights, atheism, science and rationalism.   

    In some ways, the need to create this space suggests the dilemma of those who reject Islam in liberal, secular non-Islamic countries. Despite having members from around the world, those who founded the forum were ex-Muslims from the West, and the general orientation of the forum originates from this experience.

    To be critical of Islam, and to reject Islam in a society like Britain, is to be assailed by immense pressures and contradictions.

    On the one hand, certain reactionary values and precepts of Islam, and the violent, often murderous hostility towards those who leave Islam can crush an individual. These pressures emanate from family, peers, and the wider Muslim community.

    But another pressure exists externally, the pressures caused by those whose concern for Muslim apostates is rooted in an agenda that seeks to assert general hostility to Muslims collectively.

    The rise of organisations like the EDL and other far-right xenophobic movements in Europe and America presents an extremism that mirrors the extremism of Islamist identity-politics. In so many ways these movements feed off each other, and ex Muslims are caught in a paralysing bind by these tendencies.

    So navigating this landscape is difficult, and doing so presents moral dilemmas and inhibiting pressures that can be intimidating and silencing.

    It is not surprising then that the voice of ex Muslims is so stifled, both by the theological and socially sanctioned hostility towards apostasy within Islam, and by the treacherous waters of modern multicultural politics.

    Because one of the tragedies of the ex Muslim experience is that too often a section of the social tendency that should be their natural home is either tacitly or actively hostile towards them.

    There is a sense that some parts of the Left would rather ex Muslims, and their criticism of Islam, did not exist. This is understandable in some ways.

    Instinctively, the Left seeks to be inclusive and sympathetic to minorities, especially in the face of far-right activism.

    But this means that sub-minorities, in this case dissenters and apostates from Islam, are neglected, and sometimes betrayed by those who should be their natural friends.

    The values that should be fought for by the Left as inviolable; of secularism, the struggle against misogyny, free speech, free conscience, scepticism towards clerical power, are the values that ex Muslims are fighting for.

    The rigidities of religious identity politics in a complex world all too often negate the religious dissenter and apostate.

    And so it is that often even in societies like Britain, taboos against apostasy, and the open rejection and criticism of one particular religion, Islam, prevail.

    This is despite how the freedom to criticise and reject religion is one of the foundations of our rights as Britons. The idea that the rights of the individual must be privileged over the rights of a collective has been established after centuries of slow, incremental struggle, and this struggle had central to it a rejection of the taboos of the Christian church.

    To be part of a secular, liberal society, to be equal in this society, then, is to have the same freedom to participate, without being the victim of coercive silencing, in the kind of dissent against religious authority that ex Christians and dissenting Christians take for granted.

    Given this brew of pressures and difficulties it is no wonder that the founding members of the forum of the council of ex Muslims felt the need to create a safe space for those whose voices are silenced by taboo, coercion, bullying, demonisation and neglect.
                                                       

    How classical Islam considers that those who leave it are the very lowest of the low, worthy of death, is often difficult for non Muslims to comprehend.

    It is such a starkly brutal attitude, totally at odds with every value that liberal, secular societies believe in. Despite there being voices from within Islam who believe that this attitude is inimical to ‘true’ Islam, the fact remains that mainstream opinion within Islam considers apostasy to be a crime of such gravity that it warrants punishment and theoretically an ultimate sanction of death.

    This reflects in social attitudes in which even the notion of leaving and questioning Islam is a petrifying taboo. It can be dismissed as being merely an abstract issue, and that in the day to day life of Muslims and non Muslims it has little relevance.

    But this misunderstands how the dynamics of this attitude affects individuals and the mechanisms of fear and demonization such an official belief imposes.

    The atmospherics it perpetuates is defined by fearfulness and tyranny. Fear leads to ethical and theological paralysis and an attitude of petty inquisition.

    Psychologically it signals to believers the immensity of the dictate of Islam. To be deemed to betray it is to be worthy of being vilified, neglected and dehumanised.

    And so it imposes a psychological oppressiveness and inhibited silence, becoming a living taboo that regulates individuals and their conscience, and makes of dissent a possible crime worthy of mortal punishment.


    Tariq Ramadan, who has a high profile as a supposed moderate reformer of Islam amongst parts of liberal opinion in Britain, has said of the issue of apostasy:

    “My point of view, a minority point of view in historical terms but justified in religious terms...is to recognise the right, but to ask of those who change their religion what one asks of all human beings: ‘Change your soul and your conscience, but do not insult or cause prejudice to those whom you leave behind. Wherever you go, whoever it is you forsake, leave them in a noble and dignified manner.”

    In other words, leave Islam, but be quiet, or you will hurt the feelings of Muslims. A plea for immunity from criticism, and an attempt to guilt-shame ex-Muslims into silence, and position them as vessels of 'prejudice' simply for following their free conscience.

    In the five years of its life, the forum of the council of ex Muslims has been a sanctuary for many people from a world that is hostile to their conscience and beliefs.

    The forum functions as a refuge, as a place of debate, discussion, for the sharing of experiences, and as a lighthouse for those dissenters from Islam who feel isolated. Its mere existence tells them they are not alone.

    As a space of refuge and safety the forum isn’t just devoted to serious discussions surrounding Islam, religion and apostasy.

    There is a sense of community and mutual understanding, and much of the forum is devoted to discussions of everyday life, light heartedness and simply shooting the breeze.

    This is an important therapeutic aspect of the forum’s existence, to provide a place where ex Muslims and liberal Muslims can hang out with people of a similar background who understand them and the issues they face.

    Most markedly though, the forum has produced incisive and powerful testimony and perspectives about Islam. These are displays of free conscience in the raw, uninhibited by taboo or fear, hot and fresh as forum discussions tend to be, conversational and un-edited, unrefined and truthful. These are testimonies of examined lives, of individual voices shattering a muzzle that has been placed over their mouths for too long. They are straight from whichever part of the body in which the free conscience resides, and they are utterances of liberation, of snuffed out, repressed conscience regaining its dignity by expressing itself.





  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #1 - February 19, 2013, 11:08 AM

    <3 the article.
    <3 the forum.


    Quote from: ZooBear 

    • Surah Al-Fil: In an epic game of Angry Birds, Allah uses birds (that drop pebbles) to destroy an army riding elephants whose intentions were to destroy the Kaaba. No one has beaten the high score.

  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #2 - February 19, 2013, 02:21 PM

    This is an important therapeutic aspect of the forum’s existence, to provide a place where ex Muslims and liberal Muslims can hang out with people of a similar background who understand them and the issues they face.


    This. 


    I've only been on the forum for about two years but just talking to other ex muslims on this forum has helped me to cope with the extreme religious atmosphere in my house.

    I would also in fact argue that it is the most important service provided by the council of ex muslims.

      It allows ex muslims from all around the world to talk to connect and talk to each other.

    It is us humans that assert purpose onto an otherwise purposeless cosmos and then claim divine inspiration 

    In my opinion a life without curiosity is not a life worth living

    My Philosophy: " Fear no one and challenge everyone "
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #3 - February 19, 2013, 02:22 PM

    Deserving of a standing ovation indeed.

    Mahna mahna.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #4 - February 19, 2013, 03:39 PM

    Quote
    “My point of view, a minority point of view in historical terms but justified in religious terms...is to recognise the right, but to ask of those who change their religion what one asks of all human beings: ‘Change your soul and your conscience, but do not insult or cause prejudice to those whom you leave behind. Wherever you go, whoever it is you forsake, leave them in a noble and dignified manner.”


    Tariq Ramadan can kiss my ass.

    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #5 - February 19, 2013, 05:47 PM

    I remember in those early days we had far too many of the rightwignuts and Christian apologists for my liking and I'm afraid I went into meltdown a few times at the fact they all followed us here.

    I'm afraid I played a part in chasing off a fair few decent people and people I liked very much (Zaephon & Sparky come to mind - I would be glad to see either of them come back)

    And I hope they accept my apology for being a bit of a dick head.

    And since I mention Sparky here is his (almost) last post here - and yes he's right we - we did want a place where ex-muslims and questioning muslims could feel comfortable and yes we achieved it - and I'm so proud to have played a small part in that. Thanks to all of you - you are the forum.

    Smiley

    Dear all,

    A couple of weeks ago I returned from 6 years living in Afghanistan (interrupted for a year due to a security incident).  Somehow its seems that I'm going to have less time for this back in the UK (not that I was ever very regular) so I figured it was about time to say goodbye.

    I first got interested in on-line discussions about Islam back in 2005 when I had only been overseas for a year and someone recommended FFI as a place where there was some no-holds-barred debates going on.  While I enjoyed learning a bit about Islam, I also more often found myself in discussions with atheists and agnostics.  I have really enjoyed being able to talk about things with people who think differently to me (I'm a Christian) - particularly when such conversations are rarer in real life.

    When Ali Sina start seeing little green men, many of the atheists came here and I followed shortly after.  That was pretty much my only reason for being here - well that and I had always enjoyed Berberella's posts at the other place.  I'm sorry that there are those who felt that the only reason a Christian could be here would be to prey on vulnerable new ex-muslims.  That really wasn't why I was here.

    Lastly I wanted to say well done to Os, Berbs, Aziz, Hassan, Cheetah and anyone else who has worked so hard to make this forum what it is.  You wanted it to be a place where ex-muslims and questioning muslims could feel comfortable and you've achieved that well.

    So all the best for the future!

    Cheers,
    sparky


    Hell is an absurd & wicked fiction. You're not a bad person for rejecting something that's cruel, irrational, unjust & lacks evidence. You have nothing to fear. Nothing to feel ashamed about. Enjoy your life. Do the best you can. Make yourself & others happy.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #6 - February 19, 2013, 05:51 PM

    btw Sparky's reference here:

    I'm sorry that there are those who felt that the only reason a Christian could be here would be to prey on vulnerable new ex-muslims.  That really wasn't why I was here.

    He was referring to some things I said  grin12   Embarrassed

    Sorry Sparky - you were a nice guy - it wasn't personal.

    Hell is an absurd & wicked fiction. You're not a bad person for rejecting something that's cruel, irrational, unjust & lacks evidence. You have nothing to fear. Nothing to feel ashamed about. Enjoy your life. Do the best you can. Make yourself & others happy.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #7 - February 19, 2013, 06:27 PM

    The tone over here is so chill, but you learn something new every day. I still spend my nights reading old topics with information about Islam that I never knew - all conveniently compiled...
    Sometimes I get curious about all the ffi drama the older members talk about, but whatever. I'm just glad I found this place and kept my sanity thnkyu

    Quote from: ZooBear 

    • Surah Al-Fil: In an epic game of Angry Birds, Allah uses birds (that drop pebbles) to destroy an army riding elephants whose intentions were to destroy the Kaaba. No one has beaten the high score.

  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #8 - February 19, 2013, 06:37 PM

    ^

    Correct me if I'm wrong but I think the reason we new members come here instead of FFI is because CEMB is alot more well known than FFI.


    CEMB is an organization with meet ups, activism, support and everything where as FFI is just some random forum on the internet.

      In addition to that we also have an international presence. we have several regional branches including: Ex Muslim council of Germany, Ex muslim council of Scandinavia, A branch is about to open up in France and i think there is also one in the U.S.A.

    Plus the design of the CEMB website is alot more appealing than FFI so it draws more members in here I guess. The few random ex muslim forums out there aren't able to compete with us.

       In my opinion FFI is probably going to die out completely in two to three years.

    It is us humans that assert purpose onto an otherwise purposeless cosmos and then claim divine inspiration 

    In my opinion a life without curiosity is not a life worth living

    My Philosophy: " Fear no one and challenge everyone "
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #9 - February 19, 2013, 06:43 PM

    No idea. I joined here a couple of months ago, and only know FFI because of what members here say. Yeez told me to go and check it out  so I had a little lookie. (And where the flip is Yeez anyway, that old geezer?)

    Quote from: ZooBear 

    • Surah Al-Fil: In an epic game of Angry Birds, Allah uses birds (that drop pebbles) to destroy an army riding elephants whose intentions were to destroy the Kaaba. No one has beaten the high score.

  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #10 - February 19, 2013, 09:39 PM

    I think the reason that many people are not comfortable with FFI is that they do nothing to hide their hatred of Islam and Muslims. I am an ex-Muslim, yes. I find many things about Islam absolutely repulsive, true. But I know that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Muslims the world over , including myself when I was one, were law abiding, kind hearted, honest and decent people. I don't hate them. To see all the talk about never trusting Muslims and banning the practice of Islam and the downright demagogy that was promoted on that site was enough to completely put me off of it.

     I came across that site sort of haphazardly one day. I actually remember exactly how it happened. It was 2010, the year that Lebron James decided to leave Cleveland to go and play for the Miami Heat. It was the same year I had internally lost my faith. Lebron leaving was kind of a big deal here, and its safe to say that his former fans had turned on him. People were throwing the word “narcissist” around quite a lot to describe him.

    Given my love affair with researching things, I began looking into Narcissistic Personality Disorder. As I was reading through the traits, I began to notice stinking similarities between those suffering from the disorder and the personality of Muhammad. I thought there must be someone else out there who had made the connection as well, so I googled “Muhammad narcissist.” I came across the writings of Ali Sina.

    While I agree with his premises that Muhammad likely suffered from NPD and possibly epilepsy, his book was filled with so much unnecessary hatred and xenophobia that I wanted nothing to do with him. Make your observations, quote your sources, and stay objective. That is the scientific approach.

    Anyway, I got the impression that ex-muslims online must all have some personal gripe with Muslims and Islam. I honestly did not. I was not a fanatic. I was not a xenophobe. I was just a man who sincerely had changed his mid after a lot of soul searching, research, and contemplation.

    When I formally left Islam, I had no where to turn. I was the only ex-Muslim I knew. No other atheists’ experiences seemed quite to mirror mine. Sure, like me, they did not believe in God. But what I had gone through as a practicing Muslim seemed to be so unique to me that I thought that there was no one else out there like me.

    I spent over a year having nothing to do with anything even remotely related to Islam. It was hard. This thing that had been a part of my life for decades was now just a memory. Coupled with all of the other personal things I was going through at the time, it was a very dark period for me. I began to question whether or not I had even made the right decision. After all, there were plenty of people smarter than me who were still Muslims. If they could reconcile the faith through logical gymnastics and apologetics, why couldn’t I? But I knew I simply did not believe in it. I could not, even if I wanted to. And  at times, I did want to. I felt alone.

    That all changed when I found this forum. This place and what it means to me at this point in my life is really beyond the capacity of words. I feel in touch with myself when I am here. I feel that I am among family—people who actually do understand me and what I’ve been through. This place makes me proud of the part of my identity that is Ex Muslim.

    Mahna mahna.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #11 - February 19, 2013, 10:01 PM

    Trust me HM, your contributions to the forum are at least of equal worth to us as you feel the forum's worth is to you.

    "we can smell traitors and country haters"


    God is Love.
    Love is Blind. Stevie Wonder is blind. Therefore, Stevie Wonder is God.

  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #12 - February 19, 2013, 11:19 PM

    Quote
    the overwhelmingly vast majority of Muslims the world over ....... were law abiding, kind hearted, honest and decent people.


    I wouldn't go that far.

    The majority of muslims condone and/or support the violent persecution of homosexuals, apostates and religious minorities like ahamdis etc. 


    Supporting or condoning the persecution of any group let alone the violent persecution means they are NOT decent, kind hearted people by definition.   

    Now I am not saying we should treat muslims badly. We should treat them just the same as we would treat any other human being.

    I'm just stating the facts.





    It is us humans that assert purpose onto an otherwise purposeless cosmos and then claim divine inspiration 

    In my opinion a life without curiosity is not a life worth living

    My Philosophy: " Fear no one and challenge everyone "
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #13 - February 19, 2013, 11:21 PM

    Touché

    Mahna mahna.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #14 - February 20, 2013, 09:40 AM

    Great article Afro and yeah, where is yeez? I don't think FFI will die out, while there's not as many ex-Muslims there as there are here, they've  got plenty of Christian evangelists and right-wing nuts to keep the place running; they also produce some good articles every now and again.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #15 - February 20, 2013, 09:44 AM

    Dark Rebel has a point. Take an aunt of mine for instance; she's seems like an incredibly nice and kind person (and she generally is) but then you'll hear her going on about how non-Muslims who die in terrorist attacks deserve it. Even my parents have a bit of a soft spot for Al-Qaeda. I think the ummah is a lot more sympathetic to terrorism than it is polite to say.

    ...but then again you could argue Americans support wars and what amounts to senseless killing in other countries...

    Humanity is fucked up.
  • Reflections on Six Years of the Ex-Muslims Forum
     Reply #16 - February 20, 2013, 02:51 PM


    Anyway, I got the impression that ex-muslims online must all have some personal gripe with Muslims and Islam. I honestly did not. I was not a fanatic. I was not a xenophobe. I was just a man who sincerely had changed his mid after a lot of soul searching, research, and contemplation.

    When I formally left Islam, I had no where to turn. I was the only ex-Muslim I knew. No other atheists’ experiences seemed quite to mirror mine. Sure, like me, they did not believe in God. But what I had gone through as a practicing Muslim seemed to be so unique to me that I thought that there was no one else out there like me.

    I spent over a year having nothing to do with anything even remotely related to Islam. It was hard. This thing that had been a part of my life for decades was now just a memory. Coupled with all of the other personal things I was going through at the time, it was a very dark period for me. I began to question whether or not I had even made the right decision. After all, there were plenty of people smarter than me who were still Muslims. If they could reconcile the faith through logical gymnastics and apologetics, why couldn’t I? But I knew I simply did not believe in it. I could not, even if I wanted to. And  at times, I did want to. I felt alone.

    That all changed when I found this forum. This place and what it means to me at this point in my life is really beyond the capacity of words. I feel in touch with myself when I am here. I feel that I am among family—people who actually do understand me and what I’ve been through. This place makes me proud of the part of my identity that is Ex Muslim.



    Wow.  I felt every line of that post.

    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
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