In September 2017, two of our members took part in an interview with Scott Douglas Jacobsen of Canadian Atheist. These exchanges, covering a wide range of issues pertaining to Islam and the Muslim world, are reproduced here most faithfully. Links are also provided to the Canadian Atheist website.
Published: September 12th 2017
Jacobsen: As a law graduate from Pakistan, what was your experience there?
Asad: What I observed in Pakistan became the main reason for my apostasy. Whenever I asked questions about the creation of the universe – and ultimately the creation of Allah, the maker of the universe – I was shushed. I was told that good Muslims never ask such questions. I did not know then that Islam had no answers. Islam needs submission and for people to follow the faith blindly, so blindly that they blow themselves up without asking why they should be deprived of a happy and fulfilling life.
The test of questions is so dangerous for Islam that Muslims have lobbied for blasphemy laws in their home countries and ‘hate speech’ laws in Western countries to avoid it. One can easily see that Islam has become a privileged religion, one that cannot be questioned. Muslims are given a free pass to rape young women, to preach hatred in the mosques and to wage jihad against non-Muslims, but if you question any of this, then you are labelled a bigot, a racist or an ‘Islamophobe’. The media directs its ire at you, not them.
In Pakistan, no politician actually practices Islam, as proper Muslims are supposed to. I have seen religious clerics on the payroll of the politicians. No resistance or revolutionary movement can prosper in Pakistan because the Mullahs preach in their Friday sermons for the Muslims have patience, because patience is what Allah wants. Allah is testing his followers’ strength, that they might be rewarded in Paradise. People believe this nonsense and keep calm, because they have been raised not to question their faith.
There are also violent clashes between the various different sects of Islam, who have severe differences with each other – so severe, that we have entire countries based on them, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. During the recent migrant crisis, many Gulf countries refused to accept refugees from Syria because of these sectarian differences.
In Pakistan, mosques use loud speakers for the pronouncement of the azan, i.e. the Muslim call to prayer. Since different sects have different timings for it, with the prayer being five times a day, you have to listen to this noise pollution between forty and fifty times. This drives people crazy, but they can’t question it for fear of being charged with blasphemy. These are just a few examples of Islam’s brutality and stupidity.
Jacobsen: What prompted the need to flee the country?
Asad: I have been very active as an advocate in my country. I did a lot of Public Interest litigation and stood for the rights of my fellow citizens on many issues, including hikes in oil prices. I challenged the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the corruption surrounding his trumpeted laptop scheme for students. I questioned the legitimacy of Sharif’s nomination papers before the elections. I even challenged the then Foreign Minister’s right to hold office due to her default in the electricity bills, which amounted to 10 million rupees at the time.
With the same devotion and determination, with the help of a friend, I started a project to highlight the issue of child sexual abuse in religious schools. We decided to write a novel about it, for which I wrote the preface. We based the characters, stories and places on the real world, but changed the names. We wrote the novel in English so that it would reach the Pakistani elites, for whom English is a second official language.
Once published, the novel captured the attention of various classes of people. Part of the reason for this was my personal popularity on a local level as a lawyer and political worker. Naturally, the book drew criticism from religious fundamentalists, who quickly issued a fatwa against us and the novel.
Soon afterwards, I was threatened by a group of people outside of the High Court. Following this, I was attacked and shot at by two bikers, who thankfully were not on target. My friend and co-author also came under fire: the local people protested in front of his house, demanding that he be killed. Petitions in the High Court were also advanced by various individuals who invoked the blasphemy laws to see us punished. In the face of such hostility, we considered it necessary to run from Pakistan.
Jacobsen: How did you survive when people wanted you dead?
Asad: In Pakistan, there is zero tolerance for criticism of Islam. However, the same can be said for Muslims all over the world. No matter where you encounter them, the moment you begin to question Islam, Muslims become furious. In Muslim majority countries, any anti-Islamic sentiment is dealt with under the blasphemy law, often resulting in the death penalty.
Honestly, the main reason for our survival in Pakistan was that we did not contact the authorities about it. There are many cases of alleged blasphemers who have died in police custody. Every honest Muslim wants blasphemers dead.
Jacobsen: You are an ex-Muslim and a blogger. How has this impacted your life, simply writing words?
Asad: To put it simply, it has forced me to live a dual life. I am not open about my apostasy for fear of my life, as well as abandonment by friends and family.
Understanding all of the deceptions of Islam is not easy. Until you critically examine the scriptures and their sources, you cannot reason yourself out of it. This is not made easy by the constant promotion of ignorance in Saudi-funded mosques. It’s a business racket for the Kingdom: they earn a fortune from the millions of Muslims who make the Hajj pilgrimage every year. They are getting richer day by day, while treating other Muslims as second-class citizens, e.g. Shi’a Muslims. Ordinary Saudis are not troubled by this, because they have been blinded by faith.
When I studied the objectionable content in both the Qur’an and the hadith, I felt deceived and downtrodden. I could not rationalise the killing of infidels to spread the faith, owning female slaves and using them for sexual pleasure, marrying girls as young as six years old, female genital mutilation, death for apostasy and blasphemy, and many other inhumane practices.
I felt as if my life had no meaning. I wanted to burst with anger, realising that I had wasted my life on this nonsense.
Islam compels each of us to become a ‘true Muslim’, which is a deliberately unattainable goal: no matter what you do, you will always fall short of the Prophet Muhammad. This imperfection creates a deeply ingrained sense of guilt, which the deceptive preachers of Islam readily exploit. For some, this guilt is so powerful that jihad In the name of Allah is the only means of overcoming it.
One example would be how teenage boys are made to feel guilty for experiencing sexual desire. Naturally, these boys begin to feel suffocated, and are thus drawn to the idea of an imaginary paradise of eternal virgins, obtainable only by jihad. For many, the puritanical doctrines of Islam make martyrdom the only way out of this physical and mental torture.
Jacobsen: How do you fight for human rights?
Asad: I have been actively fighting for the rights of Pakistanis by filing Public Interest litigations. Nowadays, I am focused on defending the rights of ex-Muslims and waking Muslims up to the evils of their faith. This is made difficult by the sinister collusion of the Left with Islam, but we are doing what we can. Keeping silent and feeling angry is not gonna get us anywhere. I thus maintain a blog and engage with people on Twitter.
Jacobsen: What is your next step in fighting for the rights of the non-religious?
Asad: We are living in the era of social media. Facebook and Twitter are the best ways to spread our message far and wide. Alliance of Former Muslims (Ireland) gives us an organized platform to voice our concerns. I really appreciate Kareem and other members of our group for being active on this front. This struggle is hard, but we are relentless, we are determined, and we hope to achieve real breakthroughs in the near future.
Published: September 8th 2017
Jacobsen: What is the state of irreligion in Ireland now?
Kareem: Well, the influence of the Catholic Church has waned rapidly in recent decades. Lifting the ban on contraception in 1980, legalising divorce in 1996 (despite Mother Teresa’s best efforts), legislating for same-sex marriage in 2015 – none of these would be possible if the Catholic Church were as powerful as it once was, though abortion does remain a criminal offence under Irish law.
Now of course, the Catholic Church will gloat over census figures indicating that most Irish people still identify as Catholic. They know full well, however, that this is in quite a lapsed sense: most Irish Catholics don’t even go to mass anymore. Census figures do not reflect the real collapse of Catholic belief in Ireland: indeed, I don’t know a single person of my generation who firmly believes in the Trinity or the Resurrection.
Undoubtedly, this decline is due in large part to the horrific revelations of child sexual abuse by priests and other clergy. This, combined with other horror stories relating to the Magdalene Laundries and the Tuam babies, has created a general sense of distrust in the Church, previously seen as a guiding force in Irish society. Inevitably, this distrust has extended to its doctrines: for it is our beliefs that dictate how we behave.
I would love to grant equal weight to the rise of scientific thinking in Irish society, but that would be wishful on my part. Giving up religion doesn’t necessarily mean embracing a secular view of the universe: a great many Irish people are now content to identify as ‘spiritual’, believing in an undefined Higher Power. Neither does it necessarily mean abandoning dogma: I know plenty of irreligious youths who spout all manner of sanctimonious nonsense about “white male privilege” and such.
Thus, while the Catholic Church may be on the way out – their last vestige is their stake in public schools and hospitals – the battle for Irish minds is well and truly on. As ex-Muslims, we have a responsibility to ensure that this spiritual void isn’t filled by Islam. Thus, we take to social media and blogging to engage with ordinary, decent people on the moral and factual absurdities of the faith.
Jacobsen: How does the public see Islam?
Kareem: Without suggesting that Muslims are a race, it is important to note that Ireland is still quite an ethnically homogeneous country. The first real influx of Muslims into Ireland happened as a result of the Balkans Conflict, in the mid-90s. Thus, it is only recently that Islam has become part of everyday Irish discourse.
I worry that Irish people are too welcoming in their attitudes to Islam. Undoubtedly, if a terrorist attack were to happen here, there would be many who insist that “we must have done something to deserve it”. While this tendency is hardly exclusive to the Irish, given how notorious we are for our hospitality, I fear that it could be especially prevalent.
This hyper-civility has plagued successive governments in Ireland, who have turned a blind eye to homegrown extremism for the past ten years. In February 2007, when I was seventeen, I attended a youth camp in the Wicklow Mountains. The point of this camp was to identify potential jihadist recruits: they had us dig graves for ourselves, which we would climb into to “get a feel for death”. We were ordered to march barefoot across sub-zero ponds, reaching up to our waists. We were made to climb a mountain in the pitch black of night and to find our own way back.
This camp, and many others like it since, was organised in part by the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), informally known as the Clonskeagh Mosque. The mosque is the largest one in Ireland and functions as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the Imam of the mosque, Hussein Halawa, is a senior figure in the organisation. Halawa answers to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chair of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), who has openly described the Holocaust as “God’s punishment upon the Jews”.
We made a video about the mosque, which is pinned to the top of our Twitter page. We would urge your readers to view it, along with our blog posts for a more in-depth analysis of the Islamist threat in Ireland. The Clonskeagh Mosque is just the tip of the iceberg.
Through lobbying and direct action, we hope to shift public opinion and government policy against the creeping menace of Wahhabism. We want to restore the confidence needed for ordinary Irish people to discuss these issues without the fear of being called racist or ‘Islamophobic’ – an Orwellian term designed to render Islam immune from criticism, by implying that any such criticism is irrational. It is manifestly not.
Jacobsen: How does the Muslim community view the irreligious, in your experience?
Kareem: In my experience, Muslims are unparalleled in their intolerance for disbelief. Even in Ireland, a liberal democracy, our members have to remain anonymous. I am less cautious about using my real name, but it’s still a major risk. I look at the example of Nissar Hussain, a British ex-Muslim and father of six, who was attacked with a pickaxe in northern England. Even now, his Muslim neighbours intimidate him by using axes to simulate beheading in their front gardens.
Many of our Pakistani members fled to Ireland after having attempts made on their lives. Indeed, the suffering of atheists in Pakistan is at an all-time high: the mere charge of blasphemy is often sufficient for lynch mobs to spill blood. The perpetrators of these extra-judicial killings are rarely ever brought to justice. On the contrary, prominent online activists against the blasphemy laws have been detained – including the blogger Ayaz Nizami, vice-president of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan, who joins the list of over 1,300 accused from 1987 to 2014.
All of this is to be expected, of course, given how clear-cut the scriptures are on how apostates are to be treated. The Qur’an says in no uncertain terms that “whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him” (3:85). The hadith literature, too, abounds with exhortations to kill disbelievers. It is universally accepted among Muslims – with the possible exception of esoteric Sufi sects – that the penalty for apostasy is death. It is an inescapable part of the faith, not least because it was easier for Muhammad to assassinate his critics than to refute them.
Jacobsen: How did evolution disprove Islam for you?
Kareem: When I was a believer, the idea of God as creator was at the core of my faith: because of course, if God didn’t create the world, then what exactly did he do?
For the longest time, I resisted learning how evolution actually worked. I had emotional reasons to keep my faith, so I would just read creationist material, such as that of Harun Yahya. It was only after renouncing Islam that I discovered Yahya’s books are all plagiarised from Intelligent Design groups in America.
I became religious, you see, out of a desire to make friends. I didn’t get along very well with my classmates in secondary school, so I went looking for company elsewhere. I eventually settled on the faith of my upbringing, which I had hitherto only paid lip service to.
That all changed when I came to college. I found myself surrounded by genuine, wonderful people, who did not require religion to behave ethically. That was a real eye-opener, causing my emotional reasons to vanish. As they did, bit by bit, I became more accepting of evolution – accelerated in no small degree by my decision to study genetics.
As I did, I found myself redefining God’s role in nature, from creator to ‘intervener’, then from intervener to ‘inspiration’. Eventually, I reached a stage whereby God had no place at all; he had become a mere shadow, totally removed from the mighty figure of Abrahamic lore. At that point, thankfully, I was honest enough to give up the ghost. That was the beginning of my apostasy, which has since extended to the particulars of Islamic doctrine.
I honestly think that if Muslims understood evolution, if they were humble enough to dispense with human exceptionalism, their situation – and ours – would be so much better. Sadly, the Muslim world appears to be moving backwards in this regard: Erdogan has recently moved to ban the teaching of evolution in Turkish schools, being the philistine fascist that he is.
Jacobsen: What are your next steps for irreligious activism, for equality, now?
Kareem: Our primary function will always be to provide moral and material support to other ex-Muslims, particularly those resident in Ireland. Beyond that, yes, we want to normalise apostasy from Islam. We want to create such a shift in public consciousness that, if an ex-Muslim is ever threatened by some Wahhabi fanatic, his fellow Irishman will not hesitate to defend him. We aim to cultivate a strict intolerance among Irish people for the evils of Wahhabism and Islam itself, from the subjugation of women to the burning of literature, from the cruelty of halal slaughter to the barbarity of shari’a courts.
At the moment, our main means of doing that is via Twitter, our website and interviews such as this. As we become more recognised, however, we do expect to host public talks and seminars in conjunction with other secular groups, such as Atheist Ireland. I believe there is a moral duty to do this: for if ex-Muslims don’t speak about the Islamic threat, then given the cowardice of the Left on the issue, it will inevitably fall to the Right to do so. We have no desire for that to happen, for what should be obvious reasons.
In talking about equality, we would be remiss not to mention the plight of ex-Muslims in Direct Provision. Under Irish law, asylum seekers are forced to subsist on a weekly pittance while their cases are considered – often for years at a time. Many of our members are languishing on €19.50 a week, while Muslim preachers who advocate shari’a law are allowed to claim benefits. The Irish State is in thrall to multiculturalism: thus, since ex-Muslims belie the notion of a moderate Islam, our asylum claims are put off for as long as possible. We deplore this, and would urge the reader to check out our article on the subject.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Kareem.
Kareem: It was a pleasure, thanks for giving me the chance. I look forward to future exchanges with Canadian Atheist and its affiliates.