Who said anyone was excluded? Practicing Muslims are allowed to attend. In fact, I’m sure the speakers would have welcomed that. Some venues are for sharing experiences. Some are for dialogues. Some are for debates. Why must everything be a debate? That’s pitching it as confrontational from the get-go.
Realize that EXMNA is an organization that espouses the motto, “No bigotry. No apology.”.
They don’t condone bigotry towards Muslims (or anyone else). And they also do not apologize for taking a critical look at Islam (the ideas) and deciding, “Not for me”.
Now, a group who has been silenced for so long from even sharing their reasoning in public wants to speak out. To no longer be muzzled.
Most ex-Muslims have Muslim family whom we love. We do not support anti-Muslim bigotry. You must realize at the same time, to criticize an idea is our human right.
I left Islam because I looked at gender issues in the Qur’an, and my mosque’s imams admitted to me that they didn’t have answers for me. That I should just “pray and have faith”. I was disappointed, but I appreciated their honesty and kindness. Now, why cannot people like me share our findings? Why can’t other questioning Muslims get to hear the experiences of those who have gone through this journey?
Do you realize how hard this is? To even speak at a university? Then watch this video of activist Maryam Namazie giving an address at Goldsmiths University in the UK. Guess who couldn’t wait for the Q&A period, and decided to disrupt the audiences’ ability to even hear what the speaker had to say?
Please note that this event didn’t exclude anyone. Practicing Muslims were allowed to attend. In fact, I’m sure the speakers would have welcomed that. Some moderate/progressive Muslims support the free speech rights of ex-Muslims. They understand that it is about ideas; not about maligning people.
Realize that EXMNA is an organization that espouses the motto, “No bigotry. No apology.”
They don’t condone bigotry towards Muslims (or anyone else). And they also do not apologize for taking a critical look at Islam (the ideas) and deciding, “Not for me”. Trying to leave Islam is a much bigger deal than trying to leave any other faith, in modern times.
Now, a group who has been silenced for so long from even sharing their reasoning in public wants to speak out. To no longer be muzzled.
Most ex-Muslims have Muslim family whom we love. We do not support anti-Muslim bigotry. You must realize that at the same time, to criticize an idea is our human right.
I left Islam because I looked at gender issues in the Qur’an, and my mosque’s imams admitted to me that they didn’t have answers for me. That I should just “pray and have faith”. I questioned my inherited faith to pursue a vision of the world that was more just.
I was disappointed, but I appreciated the honesty and kindness of Muslims leaders whom I was fortunate enough to know. Now, why cannot people like me share our findings? Why can’t other questioning Muslims who might be struggling with their identity and beliefs, get to hear the experiences of those who have gone through this journey?
If any of you are curious about why the ‘ex-Muslim’ term is so pivotal to the movement, you can read a section of an essay of mine, that touches upon why we have decided to speak up.
It is really hard to get to speak at a university without cancellation or disruption. Watch this video of activist Maryam Namazie giving an address at Goldsmiths University in the UK. Guess who couldn’t wait for the Q&A period, and decided to disrupt the audiences’ ability to even hear what the speaker had to say?
We needn’t do this to one another. I believe we should all be able to have a voice in the conversation.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know they come from a well-intentioned place. I’ll take one more attempt to try to convey my sentiments and reasoning.
EXMNA was started but a few years ago, as a support group for ex-Muslims. People who are often shunned by their own communities and families for vocalizing that they no longer believe. Yes, even in the West. Yes, even in Canada. The most common thing EXMNA security screeners hear from new members is, “I thought I was the only one who had left Islam!”.
Why? Because it is so, so taboo in Muslim families and Muslim communities, even in the West, to openly say, “Sorry. Respectfully, I don’t actually believe in this anymore”.
For someone who hasn’t grown up in a Muslim household, this can be a strange and difficult concept to grasp. It is for this reason that ex-Muslims, risking their own personal safety, are trying to raise awareness of our own mere existence.
Is it not possible for a minority within a minority, to be oppressed? Let me answer that for people who aren’t sure: it is.
Not too far from Waterloo, over in Toronto, an ex-Muslim young adult male shared his story with me of being forced by his parents to go to the mosque for Friday prayers, etc. He cited the Quranic verse on, “There is no compulsion in religion”. He was told that this verse has been abrogated, and he doesn’t have a choice in the matter.
Stories of this sort play out in thousands of Canadian families, I’m certain. Some of us were lucky to have more understanding Muslim families. They were upset that we no longer believe, but they still love us, and we them.
Yet, they too plead with us, “Please don’t share the fact that you’re ex-Muslim”. So many ex-Muslims exist who keep it bottled up inside and don’t even realize that leaving or staying in Islam, is a choice.
Let’s consider the two events just canceled in southern-Ontario:
- University of Waterloo SEP20 event: Normalizing Dissent – Moderates, Radicals, and the Muslim world
- University of Toronto SEP21 event: Ex-Muslims Speak Out: Islam and Identity
And now to you’re point:
You’re literally criticizing someone’s entire belief and not allowing them to respond.
Actually, neither event is entitled, “Why Islam is Wrong”, or anything remotely of that sort (though I defend the free speech rights of ex-Muslims to hold an event with that title and focus, as well as the right of Muslims to hold a “Why Islam is True” event without it having to be in a debate format).
The Toronto event title speaks more to what I was referring to: exploring identity and the provocative concept of letting go of labels that we were born with, if they no longer reflect who we are.
I take your point about the title of the Waterloo event, but here too, it’s not a “let’s dissect the Qur’an to show why Islam is false”. There are brave souls on YouTube (both ex-Muslims and never-Muslims) discussing that, and Muslims can and do create response videos.
But must we turn every provocative conversation into a debate at the very same time and place?
If we’re going to be consistent, then if Muslims at the university wanted to hold an event entitled, “Evidence for Islam”, should people raise their voices in opposition until it’s put into a debate format where ex-Muslims are invited to respond? Think about it.
Let’s try another example. Let’s say Muslims at the university want to hold an event entitled, “Jesus: A Prophet of Allah”. Here, they’re going to share why Jesus isn’t God or the son of God, according to their beliefs. Should this event be canceled until it’s turned into a debate where Christian speakers are invited to challenge them on it?
At such a hypothetical event, it’s likely this verse would be cited, Qur’an 9:30:
“The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah”; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?“
Should the event be canceled because of slander, hate speech or not giving Christians a chance to respond?
Perhaps you think that the Q&A session at the end of the event is sufficient for people who disagree, to chime in. Or perhaps you feel that Christians can hold their own event the next night, week, or month entitled, “Why Jesus is Lord” in response.
1. Regarding Ex-Muslims thinking, “I thought I was the only one”
This is a reference to the early days of EXMNA a few years ago. It is BECAUSE of speaking out (mostly online) that people then realize that they are not alone, and hence join EXMNA. Before the online search, especially just a few years ago, many people (not all) struggled with their doubts, feeling isolated.
I myself left Islam over a decade ago. I only found EXMNA a couple of years ago because I stumbled upon an article about some ex-Muslim group in the Toronto Star.
I wish I had such events on campus when I was in undergrad. It would have gotten me thinking more and earlier in life, about the issues of religion and identity.
For so many years, I had just internalized that I didn’t fit in and that I didn’t believe, but I didn’t go out seeking a community of like-minded people. I knew there would be others like myself, but it didn’t occur to me that they would be organized and that some of them would even be speaking out, etc.
In short, I didn’t realize what a wonderful community it was that I was missing, until I joined EXMNA.
2. Certainty about the stories that play out in Muslim families across Canada
You know, if you weren’t so hostile to ex-Muslims and us holding events, in person dialogue might disabuse you of so many assumptions you have about us.
Why am I certain, as you so gleefully mock? Because being in an organized community of ex-Muslims, I’ve already seen, heard and read hundreds of stories of this type from North America, from people I actually MEET. I just gave one example in my comments above.
It doesn’t take a genius to extrapolate this, given how many Muslim families are already in Canada.
3. Criticizing Beliefs
From the rest of your comments, I can see that the fundamental area where we disagree, is that you believe criticizing beliefs (ideas) should not be done in a forum without people who hold those beliefs being invited to speak at the very same time and place. I disagree.
You want to fight bad ideas and bad speech? The solution is to use better ideas and better speech. I don’t like hate speech myself. I, however, don’t want to ban it. I want to know what radical imams are saying in some mosques, so that those ideas don’t go underground. I want them out in the open so we can rebut them. If there are former Muslims inciting hate against Muslims, I want to know about it, so those ideas can be challenged too. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
- “No idea is above scrutiny, and no people are beneath dignity” — Maajid Nawaz
I like the approach Ahmadiyya Muslims have with respect to mosques. Much to the chagrin of many orthodox Muslim communities, the Ahmadis are open to having law enforcement monitor the speech/sermons in mosques, because they are a very peaceful denomination. They see it as an opportunity to bond with police officers over tea, donuts and their peaceful teachings/sermons.
How many ex-Muslim Atheists run speaking events can you point me to that promoted hate? Please share video links. I can show you a lot of clips of radical preachers in mosques. And you want to shut us down? Makes a lot of sense.
I am reasonable enough to acknowledge that the radical preachers do not represent all Muslims. I am also reasonable enough to acknowledge that Islam can lend itself to different interpretations, including very peaceful ones, like that of the persecuted sect, the Ahmadiyya Muslims.
You realize that ex-Muslim does not mean anti-Muslim, right?
Muslims are still our family members and for most of us, people we still love dearly, even though they can struggle to accept us.
4. Events and Counter-Events
Here’s another event coming to Waterloo in October, from the Muslim Al-Kauthar Institute and led by preacher Hamza Tzortzis. It’s entitled “The Mirage of Atheism”:
Do you want to complain about that event being hosted without any atheist speakers invited to challenge the ideas right then and there?
From your own comments, you feel that a Muslim group holding an event, “Jesus: A Prophet of Allah” at the university, would require some kind of moderator. You do realize right, that faith groups organize all kinds of similar talks that espouse their beliefs which run counter to beliefs of other faiths?
With this position, I think you’re in the minority with respect to anyone else who opposes the ex-Muslims Speaking Out tour.
It’s a room full of people that have a personal bias against Islam. It could turn into hate speech in a blink of an eye.
On this basis, any gathering of Muslims or Christians (who have a personal bias against Atheism by definition) should also be banned from holding events, because it “could turn into hate speech”.
Now you’re really grasping.
Regarding hate speech, it’s important for me to clarify that I don’t like it either. I’m no fan of hate speech. The reason why I believe all speech (short of an incitement to violence) must be allowed by law is that we otherwise run into a slippery slope of censorship of legitimate speech.
Take Saudi Arabia for instance, who is now classifying Atheism as terrorism. Under the guise of restricting hate speech, societies can shut down the speech of any group they don’t like or a group who is misunderstood.
In cases like the situation with ex-Muslims, shutting down our speech is effectively victim-blaming. I do not require a chaperone to police my speech about a belief system and ideology that I grew up in.
Your earlier comment also seeks to punish people for crimes they haven’t committed. You want to prevent the opportunity for an event discussing Islam to slip into having a hateful comment being uttered. You don’t have good (any?) evidence that ex-Muslim atheist activists spread hatred of Muslims, but you’re okay with Muslims holding events where one of many Qur’anic verses slamming those who disbelieve in Allah, might come up in conversation.
This is a double standard. You actually expect less of Muslims when you take this stance. This is the soft-bigotry of low expectations directed at Muslims, by you. I just don’t think you realize it.
Remember, it’s noble to try to protect a minority. Just realize that there can be minorities within that minority, that need just as much of our consideration; yours and mine.
The problem is the event is marketed as this unbiased logical look at Islam through people’s eyes who have had the experience of being a Muslim when we all know it’s clearly not.
Actually, I think you’re reading into the connotation and the consequences. “Ex-Muslims” is in the title. Obviously, it comes from people with a particular perspective on the theology.
So the question returns to why cannot we hear what opinions they have to share?
Why must we assume, a priori, that it is going to misrepresent Islam? Even Muslims cannot even agree on what “Islam” is.
Sometimes, comedy explains it best. So here’s a 3 min animation on Islam as the fastest growing religion. Notably, it’s the part about who is and isn’t a Muslim, that I draw your attention to.
I don’t think you can say you are fairly assesing the disruptive roles of Islam and it’s beliefs without a muslim present.
This is a requirement that no one ever puts on any other group. You are treating Islam with kid gloves. Special treatment.
It is the definition of a double standard.
We ex-Muslims are from Muslim families and from the Muslim community. We have every right to hold an event voicing our perspective and opinion without it having to be in a debate format.
Do Ahmadi Muslims have not the right to give their perspective on Islam without Sunni’s present to challenge them on it? Perhaps Shia’s don’t have the right to talk about their views on succession after Muhammad, without a Sunni present to challenge them on it? These are differences of opinion from within the Muslim world. Another such difference of opinion from within the Muslim world is to say, “Hey, this doesn’t add up”. To the Sunni and Shia Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims are apostates. Are you going to start policing who is a true Muslim and who isn’t?
So long as we profess Islam, we can share our opinions about radicals and moderates. But if we’ve lived Islam for most of our lives, and then made a choice not to believe in it, suddenly, our right to our opinions are gone. We can no longer voice them until right then and there, we have someone invited to challenge us.
When it becomes more normalized as we are working to do, when we have more people in the movement, we will be seeking out provocative debates with Muslim speakers. Let us walk before you ask us to run. Not everyone who wants to speak out and share their views wants to be in a debate. But it is coming. It’s started on YouTube already. It will eventually happen in person.
So far, more prominent online personalities in the Muslim community have made excuses and shyed away from live online debates with online ex-Muslim personalities.
Consider the incident where Ali Dawah (Muslim) challenges Abdullah Sameer (ex-Muslim), then Ali Dawah makes some pretty lame excuses and backs out.
But why must such restrictions and conditions be placed on our ability to hold an event where we share our insights and perspectives? It’s a ridiculous position. You ask this of no other group.
Yes, anti-Muslim bigotry exists out there. In your noble efforts to protect a minority, you are trying to silence the voices of a minority who are often the victims of the very ideology you are so quick to defend.
I’d be more sympathetic to calls for a debate format if ex-Muslims were trying to slander a contemporary Muslim personality. But this event is talking about ideas, not specific people. Some ex-Muslims used to be hard-core Salafi Muslims. When they realized the Qur’an was flawed, their world came crashing down. They were close to being radicalized themselves. And you want to silence these voices unless it is a debate? That is so ridiculous, it’s beyond the pale.
How many Islamic events run at the university have you criticized because an opposing view wasn’t present? I’m guessing ZERO. Please send me links on Reddit to such. Why haven’t you stepped in before?
Your motions to shut down a voicing of our perspective is a censorship that encourages silence, which perpetuates a stigma, which feeds into more silence, as Noura (see 2m video below) so eloquently explains.
— ExMuslim TV (@ExMuslimTV)
Please don’t be part of the problem. Please be part of the solution.