Freedom of Expression

Ex-Muslim’s Facebook group comes under attack

Saif Rahman was raised a Muslim, but gradually began to question his faith, He found it difficult to believe in a God whose existence couldn’t be proved, and was particularly troubled by reactions to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. He describes here how a conversation with his cousin helped make him realize that he could no longer consider himself a Muslim, and how the questions his cousin couldn’t answer formed the basis for his book The Islamist Delusion. And here’s an interesting shorter piece he wrote for The Commentator, ‘Islamism as a memeplex’.

He was troubled by feelings of guilt and loneliness after leaving the religion, but found in the Council of Ex-Muslims a great source of support.  But rather than simply preaching to the deconverted, Saif wanted to reach out to Muslims and debate Islam with them as well.   However some people have not wanted him to succeed in this goal; his attempts to exercise his freedom of speech – and help other people express themselves too – have been repeatedly hampered and indeed thwarted by zealots.

First his YouTube channel was hacked by Pak Falcons (a group which targets accounts critical of Islam), after it had reached half a million hits.  Maryam Namazie reported on this here, and here’s another response, from a Muslim commenter. Then he set up a new Facebook group, Debating Islam.  Until a few days ago this had 8000 members, and was thought to be the biggest such ex-Muslim group in the world.

On 5 June Saif reported that Debating Islam had vanished.   The Council of Ex-Muslims speculated:

@SaifRRahman + Islamist’s spamming the report button? Did you see this? http://apirights.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/pakistan-gov-blocks-access-to-popular-portal-dedicated-to-secularism-and-human-rights/ … Its a deliberate tactic

It seems as though malicious organisations or individuals have been ensuring that floods of complaints about the group are sent to Facebook, triggering automatic deletion.  Saif has sent three reports to Facebook trying to get the decision reversed but has had no response, so has had (yet again) to set up a new group.

Religious groups should be able to preach and proselytize without hindrance.  Atheists should have the same freedoms – including Da’wah in reverse.  There’s hatred from all sides on the internet, and Muslims are often its victims.  But ex-Muslims are also vulnerable, and Saif Rahman is not the only ex-Muslim I’ve seen being bullied and intimidated online.  It doesn’t take a death threat – and in this interview Saif noted that he had received 139 – to nudge ex-muslims (and their allies) into changing their behaviour.

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