An Ex-Muslim’s Letter to his Muslim Friends

ideas

I understand, I really understand your confusion and frustration in why I speak about Islam negatively.

You ask yourselves why I no longer believe in Islam after I had been a Muslim, and even if I do not believe in it, why do I have to criticize it.

Some of you observe that it is not just that I do not believe in Islam, but also that I dislike it, and then wonder why it is so. Also some wonder, even if I do not like it, why I do I have to express my dislike for it and why I cannot just remain silent.

But I will try to explain, so please keep an open mind, and understand my words with your mind and reason, not with your prejudice and emotions.

Firstly, I assure you the main purpose of my criticism of Islam, is not to try to make you angry or provoke you. I actually believe the less emotionally charged the dialogue and more based on reason, the better.

You have to understand there is a difference between respecting people’s right to believe in what they want, and respecting those beliefs in themselves. So I do respect your right to believe in Islam, but that does not mean I have to respect Islam as well.

To avoid confusion, I want to be clear about what I mean by ‘Islam’. Islam for me is simply the scripture, the Quran, the Sahih Hadith and then secondly the historical actions of Muhammad. ‘Islam’ for me is not ‘Muslims’. The former is an ideology, the latter is people, and there is huge difference between being against ideas and being against people.

It is not that I have just simply lost my faith and now I am neutral about Islam. I am not neutral. I dislike it, and that is ok. Same as you like it, and that is also ok. You have the right to express your admiration of it, and I have the right to express my dislike of it.

Why do I dislike Islam? Well, I dislike all religions, because they rely on supernatural fiction and not reason, and because they foster superstition and ignorance. Also because religion, more often than not, leads to religious supremacy / religious nationalism and destructive tribal behavior and the oppression of the individual.

I also especially dislike Abrahamic religions because of their more violent and oppressive nature. I just happen to know more about Islam and have more of a personal connection to it because I was raised as a Muslim in a Muslim family and in a Muslim society. So it is only logical that my knowledge and personal experience would make me more interested in the issue of Islam than Hinduism for example.

I dislike Islam, simply because I believe Islam, as an ideology is in direct contradiction with my values, which are liberal secular values, the values of human rights and equality.

As a feminist I cannot accept the sexism and misogyny contained in the scripture. I cannot accept that the husband is permitted to beat his disobedient wife, or that the scripture permitted making sex slaves of captives of war, or that Muhammad said that women are the majority of the occupants of hell and that they have deficient intelligence, or that a woman’s testimony is half that of a man.

As someone who is pro gay rights I cannot accept the homophobia that is contained in the scripture. I dislike it for claiming homosexual relations are abominable acts and should be punishable.

I dislike the hate that is embedded in the scripture against non believers. The violence of spreading the message of Islam, the ideology of conquest and submission of people. The notion of Islamic supremacy that leads to dangerous tribal religious nationalism. I dislike it because I see Muhammad and his companions as warlords and not as role models.

I dislike the threats of an angry God with eternal hell fire for those who do not believe in him, simply for not believing. Fire for the Christians who believe that Jesus is son of God. Fire for the Jews who deny Muhammad is the prophet. I dislike the anti-semitism which the scripture is full of, to the extent that Muhammad said Muslims will kill the Jews before the last hour comes. It is also appalling for me personally, that apostates like myself who leave Islam, their punishment in Sharia is death.

I dislike it because of repressive sexual puritanism. I dislike it because for me, it is an oppressive ideology that is anti-freedom and anti-human, anti-reason and anti progress.

I also know and understand that there are other verses in the Quran and other Hadith that are more peaceful or “good”. However the majority of them were during Mecca period and were later abrogated by the more violent and oppressive ones in Medina. Even if the scripture would contain both equally, I still do not view this as a good thing. For example, if I knew of a man who beats his wife and gives money to the poor, I would still not call him a good man and I will speak against him.

Furthermore whether the “good “ verses were replaced “bad” verses or whether they both exist simultaneously, either scenario casts more doubt about Allah and Islam.

How can an omniscient god who sent this as the perfect final message for humanity, a god who knows the future till the end of time, not be capable of sending a better message, and instead sends one that is so human in its violence and at times self contradictory?

How can we believe in the finality and perfection of that message and that Quran is the literal word of that all knowing God, yet despite that, we find ourselves struggling to justify some of its horrific content, and at times have to say it is only the ways of the past? If so, for example,why would God prohibit drinking which was common in that time, yet still permits slavery and wife beating? If anything, in my opinion, all this supports that the scripture is merely the work of men in ancient times, and not the work and words of a divine, all knowing, and merciful God. Or perhaps that it was a doctrine meant for people in those ancient times, and it is not valid for our day and age, and hence should be discarded.

I understand that many of you do not really focus on thinking about these issues or analyzing them, and of course that many or even most of you, would not be in favor of applying the violent and oppressive parts of the scripture, but this does not change the fact that they are written in the books you hold sacred, from the God you worship and the prophet you idolize and revere.

I ask you, if you had my values, and have never heard of Islam or religion or God before, then someone came one day and gave you the Islamic scripture for you to read and asked your opinion on them, what would you think about what is written? Would you think everything contained there is good and is in harmony with your liberal secular values? When I had asked some of you that question, you could not say yes. Maybe then you can try to understand my position.

So there you have it, I criticize Islam, because of all the above, simply because I think the doctrine is oppressive, harmful, and incompatible with values of human rights, and because I have the right to express myself, as you also have the right to express yourselves.

In the end, I understand that we see Islam differently, and that’s ok. We do not have to agree on it. You can admire it, you can love it, and you can express your thoughts and feelings about it, but in the same way, I also can express my thoughts and feelings about it. I will never try to silence you, and I would appreciate it if you do not try to silence me.

That is not to say that I do not want you to discuss, or criticize or argue against the content of my statements or arguments. On the contrary. I welcome dialogue, but “it is offensive” is not dialogue, “you should be silent” is not dialogue, you “should respect other people’s beliefs and not talk about religion” is not dialogue.

This article’s purpose is not to convince you of my views on Islam. I write this merely to explain to you my thoughts and why I talk about Islam and to ask you to respect my right to freedom of thought and expression, as I respect your right to freedom of thought and expression.

Me talking about Islam in that way does not constitute oppression of you. None of the words I say will force you not to believe in your religion,or prevent you from practicing it. Nothing in my right to free speech damages freedom of religion. My words are just that, words, that I use to express ideas, and in the end words and ideas are our only means of communication and hence open dialogue is the only way to social progress.

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20 thoughts on “An Ex-Muslim’s Letter to his Muslim Friends

  1. This was a fabulous article. One thing I find so fascinating is that religious people all tend to have the same knee-jerk reaction to an apostate. I’ve noticed that both Christians and Muslims alike act kind and loving when evangelising or giving Da’wah. This causes outsiders to want to convert/revert. But once the believers see that an individual truly cannot be reformed to their religion, the most nasty and vile personality comes out of them. I’ve noticed that Muslims are able to retain calmness when giving Da’wah whereas the best of Christians tend to snap at a certain point while evangelising. I think this is due to the lack of training in Christianity. The end result on either side is still the same with Muslims becoming more verbally vile of the two.

    The overly sensitive and fragile faith of many Christians and Muslims causes them to launch into a dissection of the apostate’s character, motives, and past. The “you were never a real believer!” accusation begins flying high from either side. They all conclude that something awful must have happened that made us leave the faith or that, inwardly, we just wanted to sin. When I saw this happening to me years ago from Christians that was how I realised that I had been in a cult. The doctrine was actually abusing their minds and filling it with stress. Due to all the ways Christianity damaged me and ruined my life I still, to date, have more tolerance for Muslims than I do for Christians.

    I hear all the same things as an ex-Christian: that I can be a former Christian if I want but I should keep it to myself, that I’m “spreading hate”, or that I need to “show respect”. I’ve noticed the only real difference between Christians and Muslims regarding apostates is a lack of death wishes/threats towards former Christians. I noticed this when I was still in Christianity that both pastors and church members demanded my silence in the face of injustice and mistreatment. I was told I should keep silent or “give it to god” rather than actually having a voice. In Christianity the Bible says to treat someone as a heretic after the first or second admonition then reject the person.

    Yesterday I read a comment from a former Muslim who said that, since Islam as a religion cannot be reformed, Muslims can reform themselves. What the world actually needs, this person wrote, is more ex-Muslims. I really hope that the logic and sincerity in your article can reach people farther than their often emotional and impulsive reactions of “hurt feelings”.

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  2. I think you bring up something important in this article, which is your definition of Islam and that it is based on scriptures, not on muslims, but for me as a muslim- and maybe for so many other muslims- we cannot follow the book letter by letter, we will end up being extremists, but meanwhile we cannot help feeling their holiness and that there we sent for a teason(whatever the reason is). My point is: what is the point of critisizing as ideology that only exists in a parallel world. The world inside the book, which is more of a fairytail to me.
    Another thing I want to react to in this article is the image it gives, or the feelings it could excite among christians, Juesh or even etiests, you build an idea that gives a negative picture on one verse and forget about the loving- and- respecting one another- stories that are given in Hadith which you previously used as a representater of Islam.

    I may not be the most intellectual or objective person to put an argument together but I wanted to point out what I could find logical, without being emotional.

    At the end, I have to say: well written!

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    1. Thanks for your reply Hadeel and for taking the time to read it and think about it!
      I understand the points you raised and I agree with you to some extent, I will try to clarify what I think on those points.
      – For me any ideology should have a fixed reference point by which to judge it, and for me it is the written manifesto of this ideology, because for me this contains what is the ideology is about. There is the question who speaks for religion, to me the scripture does. It would be very difficult to say the religion has no objective meaning at all and it is only dependent on each single individual’s actions. So would that mean a muslim person who drinks, makes alcohol not haram in Islam? A gay muslim who has a sexual relationship with his boyfriend, then that makes homosexual relationships not haram in Islam, and so on.. You understand what confusion it could cause then? So for me the rules are written in the books.

      – Of course I know and I pointed that out in the article that many or even most Muslims do not act on everything in the scripture. But the question is do they not act on it because they think it is bad and they do not believe in it or because they think it is difficult to put to practice? And either way, it does not change the fact that those parts of the scripture are still there as the words of God and his prophet. Also, if the scripture was perfect as the words of God and Muhammad, wouldn’t that mean that the more the practitioner sticks to it the better? Which means that the more someone would follow it to the letter, the more virtuous and good the person would be. But it is the case? There was this quote from another ex-Muslim “If an ideology is peaceful, we will see its extremists and literalists as the most peaceful people on earth, that’s called common sense.”.

      – I also know that there are other good and peaceful verses as I pointed out in the article, but a few of my thoughts about that: -The abrogation (Naskh) many of those good verses were before the later Medina verses. -Even if both exist, if someone holds all of those violent and oppressive ideas and also the good ones, would that make them a good person? In my opinion not, this is why I gave the example of a man who beats his wife (something bad), yet gives money to the poor (something good). I will still call that guy an asshole! haha
      – Another thing, if there is so much self contradiction in the message, is this a good thing? Again in my opinion it is not, it causes tension and confusion and also in my opinion casts doubts on the authenticity of the message. And it makes it very difficult that it is probable that this message was sent by an all powerful, all knowing (who knows the future), all merciful God, as the final and perfect message for humanity, in my opinion.

      But my main point in the article was rather to explain what I think and why I talk. The purpose of the article was more to stress the idea and importance of of free speech, but the words kept flowing when I started writing haha. But I think now you understand what goes through my mind a bit better and understand why I talk. And I thank you for the compliment and I compliment you for your ability to put reason over emotions! 🙂

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    1. It is only growing because of the growth of Muslim population. People will realise that secularism is too good of a thing to throw under the bus for Islam. A religion in which leaving it can be punished with the death penalty in more than 10 Muslim countries. I don’t think everyone in the West is stupid enough to give up their freedom of choice to the tyranny of Islam.

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  3. Very well written. As an ex-Jehovah’s Witness with similar views as your own now, I found it struck several chords with me. Thank you.

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  4. I am an Ex Muslim and really appreciate your article. Islam for me is the Islamic texts such as the Qur’an, Tafseer, Hadith, Sirah and even Fiqh. Similar to you. Your differentiation of Islam and Muslims is simple, clear and logical. However, people still struggle with this. Unfortunate indeed.

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  5. Superbly expressed and reasoned writing.
    I read the Quran because I could not reconcile the claim that it is a book of love with the violence and hatred that it seemed to generate.

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  6. Thank you for being more nuanced and balanced than some other ex-Muslims whose opinions that I have read. Many people who have experienced Religious oppression and left the Religion, often seem to have an “all or nothing” perspective on Religion, similar to how many Religious fanatics think.

    The reason why I’m not against Islam in itself is the fact that it is possible to re-interpretat Islam even though it is difficult. It would be possible to use the concept of maslaha in order to re-interpret Islam in order to promote democracy and human rights. It’s difficult, but not impossible. I don’t think that the majority of Muslims would prefer to abolish Islam. Neither do I think that abolishing Islam or other Religions would be preferable.

    The opinion you have on Islam can also be applied in homosexuality. One doesn’t have to believe that homosexuality is a good thing. But no-one has the right to oppress anyone. It’s possible to find support or inspiration for democracy in Islamic scriptures, and it’s also possible to find support for oppressive governance.

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  7. Regarding homosexuality one can interpret Islam in different ways too. I’m traditional Islam, sex before marriage is haram. I’m more liberal interpretations, the verses about Lot is about rape and not voluntarily sex between consenting adults. I think it would be possible to have different branches of Islam just like there is in Judaism: reform, orthodox, and more. It is a huge challenge, but I won’t give up hope that it is possible.

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