Why are young Muslims leaving Islam

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Source: Telegraph online

And it is not just an American or Western phenomenon. Even deeply conservative countries with strict anti-apostasy regimes like Pakistan, Iran and Sudan have been hit by desertions. The Saudis were taken aback when the American journal, The New Republic, revealed the scale of Muslim conversion to atheism in their country, and more widely in the Muslim world. The numbers were eye-popping, ranging from hundreds to thousands in some countries. The Editor-in-chief of FreeArabs.com says:

When I recently searched Facebook in both Arabic and English, combining the word ‘atheist’ with names of different Arab countries I turned up over 250 pages or groups, with memberships ranging from a few individuals to more than 11,000. And these numbers only pertain to Arab atheists (or Arabs concerned with the topic of atheism) who are committed enough to leave a trace online,’

(Invisible Atheists, Ahmed Benchemsi, The New Republic, 24 April 2015)

The journal cited a 2012, WIN/Gallup International poll which found that 5 per cent of Saudi citizens—more than a million people—self-identified as ‘convinced atheists,’ the same percentage as in the United States. ‘19 per cent of Saudis—almost six million people—think of themselves as “not a religious person.” In Italy, the figure is 15 per cent. These numbers are even more striking considering that many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Yemen, uphold the Sharia rule punishing apostasy with death,’ it pointed out.

It is claimed that the atheist-scientist Richard Dawkin’s God Delusion is the most downloaded book in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia. It is now being translated into Arabic and there are plans to offer it free to Arab readers. The trend is catching on despite the fact that in many Islamic countries, apostasy is punishable by death. Most Islamic countries oppose the universal declaration of human rights and have refused to sign it because it provides for the ‘freedom to change religion or belief.’

The exact figure of former Muslims may never be known as most remain in the shadows to avoid detection. Those who have ‘outed’ themselves say they live in permanent fear for their own lives and safety of their families. In Pakistan, preachers have called for the houses of apostates to be burned down. They communicate through anonymous online forums claiming tens of thousands of followers, and loose global networks under the umbrella nomenclature, ‘Ex-Muslims’ and ‘Muslim-ish.’ A Twitter campaign in Britain in 2015, had thousands of ex-Muslims from across the world tweeting their reasons for choosing to abandon their faith. These ranged from intolerance and inferior status of women to absence of freedom of thought and the idea of immutability of a seventh century doctrine. One -@Lib Muslim wrote: #ExMuslimBecause Misogyny, homophobia, stoning people to death, and killing apostates don’t suddenly become “respectable” when put in a holy book. (Ali A. Rizvi, Huffington Post, 23 November, 2015)

Extracted from Who Killed Liberal Islam by Hasan Suroor, with permission from Rupa Publications

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Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

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