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Fighting for Freedom, Fight for Place: Australian Ex-Muslim Network


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/10/28

Identity: people die for it; they kill others for it. As Douglas Rushkoff has noted in the past, if not to have others believe in it — obviously not the dead ones, then to keep believing in it ourselves.

Australian society works within a number of systems. Some operate underground, off the grid, but not quite underwater. This comes in the form of the ex-Muslim community, for the protection of the ex-Muslims in unsafe conditions at the moment.

The circumstances for the worlds hundreds of millions of Muslims remains plural and will continue to be plural throughout the 21st century. Insofar as I can discern with international right documents, the fundamental human rights to belief, conscience, and religion permit individuals to adhere to a faith.

In its corollary, persons deserve and reserve the fundamental human right to leave a religion without qualms or queries. The nature of human rights becomes reciprocal in this regard, utilitarian or a Golden Rule ethic.

The rock upon which freedom can be built stands in the light of the choices in front of us: to do one thing or another, and then to choose one over the other. (If only one option, not much of a choice.) Unfortunately, a minority of the Muslim population in the world — alongside other faiths, though less prominently in this regard — who begin to disbelieve confront familial, social, and theocratic-legal pressures to cease and desist the questions about the religion.

In some news items, we can discover the stories of those murdered based on disbelief; in other case studies, we can see the escape from the family members hunting them. Ex-Muslims in the latter category comprise the network managers and entrants around the world in the increasing numbers of the non-religious who come from an Islamic religious heritage.

Now, they stopped believing and fled the nation. Others work to help individuals who want to believe or not, based on personal reasons. These can be ordinary Muslims with an activist bent. In some reportage, in June mind you, ABC reported on the ex-Muslim network in Australia.

One woman named Aisha spoke of not wearing a hijab, having friends placing a photo on social media of this, and then the parents finding out. The parents called Aisha a whore; that she would “end up in the gutters,” in her words.

Her parents became physically violent. The police became involved in the conflict. Her parents asserted Aisha was a compulsive liar. Now, her identity is protected based on a fear of the potential repercussions from the family. Many members of the underground network speak on the disownment of family. The being forced into a life of silence.

The reality of being demonized and stigmatized, and traumatized, in the public sphere, by the clerics and community leaders. These ex-Muslims or former believers in a religion begin to live dual lives in order to appease the insanity of the community retribution against non-believers.

This becomes an issue to health and wellbeing of the person involved with the abuse coming in numerous forms while also remaining financially dependent on some people. For example, the abuse may come from one’s job or parents.

This forces ex-Muslims into false identities in public while keeping their lack of faith hidden from the public eye. Obviously, they want to live a free life as they are, as everyone reserves a right; however, their lives become topsy-turvy, and black-and-white — at the same time.

For other communities with a longer tradition of open doubt or outspokenness, this becomes an issue. Because the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the number of Muslims in the nation will remain artificially inflated with ex-Muslims simply stating, “Islam,” as their faith on the census forms to appease the family in some form — even with the family none the wiser.

Members of the Australian ex-Muslim network described the fear and terror of coming out. This seems akin to gay men coming out in the middle of the 20th century in the United States of America.

Another profiled woman, Nadia, ran a blog called Nullifidian. There, she wrote about the personal experiences of homeschooling in a conservative, strict Islamic home. Now, she is ostracized from family and living in her 20s.

She covers hair and remains disguised in various representations, e.g. online. Nadia explained the fear of “disownment, isolation, imprisonment or death.” She remarked in some writing on the chosen anonymity online with the abuse and threats, even while living in a secular Western nation.

As with those who leave Judaism and feel a nostalgia for the traditions, many ex-Muslims may feel a sense of wanting the ritual and structure of the belief system and practices back into their lives; it may also reflect the loss of structure and support, where the yearning for these things reflects an unhealthy nostalgia, too.

This Australian network does not limit to the nation. The network links with other collectives of ex-Muslims, secretive and public, from around the world. One such organization is Faith to Faithless founded by Imtiaz Shams. Others include the various ex-Muslim councils from around the world.

Shams stated, “If you talk about ex-Muslims, you have to talk about the internet… When I left Islam, I thought I was the only one in the world… I spent my time building ex-Muslim communities that are like Fight Club style, you know, you have to know someone to get in across the world with my friends… We were just kids on the internet, we were not activists.”

Then he moved to the online world of Reddit, where the ex-Muslim community has begun to thrive more than others. Same with social media platforms including Facebook and Whatsapp. Ex-Muslims enter into a world of abuse at times: lies, abuse, violence, death threats, and slurs thrown at them with venomous tongues intended to cause harm.

Another narrative from Fatima described the dual-life, where she lived as a Muslim in public but as a non-Muslim in private. She wants to live life without the religion, but she cannot do so with the pressures from within the community.

Other prominent people, with their real names known, have been killed, as in the American-Bangladeshi case of Avijit Roy. He was hacked to death at a book fair in Bangladesh. Roy created an online community for freethinkers, humanist, and atheists from South Asia or who are South Asian.

Other prominent groups include Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) and the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB). It is important to note one of the statistics reported in the article. That, in the United States of America, 23% of those who were raised as Muslims no longer identify as Muslim. About ¼ of those raised in the faith in America leave it.

The number of unbelievers or nonbelievers in other countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, are likely in significant or non-trivial numbers; however, they fear coming out.


Khalik, J. (2018, June 10). Secret ex-Muslim network in Australia fear disownment and abuse. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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