DoctorE

Turtles all the way down

Losing their religion: the hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims

Posted by doctore0 on May 18, 2015


As debate rages over the radicalisation of young British Muslims, are we overlooking a different crisis of faith? Ex-Muslims who dare to speak out are often cut off by their families and fear for their lives. A brave few tell us their stories

Sulaiman Vali is a softly spoken 32-year-old computer engineer. A natural introvert not drawn to controversy or given to making bold statements, he’s the kind of person who is happiest in the background. He lives alone in a modest house on a quiet street in a small town in East Northamptonshire. He doesn’t want to be any more specific than that about the location. “If someone found out where I lived,” he explains, “they could burn my house down.”

Why should such an understated figure, someone who describes himself as a “nobody”, speak as if he’s in a witness protection programme? The answer is that six years ago he decided to declare that he no longer accepted the fundamental tenets of Islam. He stopped being a believing Muslim and became instead an apostate. It sounds quaintly anachronistic, but it’s not a term to be lightly adopted.

Last week the hacking to death in Bangladesh of the blogger Ananta Bijoy Das was a brutal reminder of the risks atheists face in some Muslim-majority countries. And in an era in which British Islamic extremists travel thousands of miles to kill those they deem unbelievers, an apostate’s concern for his or her security at home is perhaps understandable.

“Oh yeah, I’m scared,” agrees Nasreen (not her real name) a feisty 29-year-old asset manager from east London who has been a semi-closeted apostate for nine years. “I’m not so worried about the loonies because it’s almost normal now to get threats. What worries me is that they go back to my parents and damage them, because that’s not unheard of.”
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