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An Interview with Sadia Hameed on Developments for Ex-Muslims in Britain (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/06/01


Sadia Hameed is a Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She discusses: asylum seeker screening and key issues; English and language issues; assistance within and across organizations; women and men coming to CEMB; and handling of male and female cases by the British authorities.

Keywords: Britain, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Ex-Muslims, Islam, Sadia Hameed.

An Interview with Sadia Hameed on Developments for Ex-Muslims in Britain: Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (Part One)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In terms of the Spring of 2019, what have been some of the more prominent initiatives that are a continuation of initiatives that have been ongoing before? What have been some of the outcomes?

Sadia Hameed: One of the things that the CEMB has done is work with refugees and asylum seekers and working in an advocacy capacity. People are wanting help all over the world to get in touch with us.

If they are coming into the countries, it is making sure that they are safe and writing letters of support for their asylum, letters of support for their cases. That is grown quite substantially in the last couple of years.

When I first joined the CEMB, we were working on 300 cases per month. Now, we work on 600 cases per month. Generally, our workload is 50% international and 50% national.

So, my asylum seeker caseload has doubled in the last two years as well. We are doing more advocacy work as well. We are doing more campaigning around the asylum issue as well.

The issue of Home Office treatment of asylum seekers. That has grown quite substantially as well.

2. Jacobsen: In terms of the asylum seekers as well, what is the screening process for them coming to you? What are their key issues?

Hameed: So, we do not have an official screening process because we do not need one. When someone has been in touch with us internationally, largely, we take this at face value. There is no one.

Thankfully, we have no one who wants to cause us harm from the international community. Nationally, we have a couple of basic screen questions. They are more questions to assess what the support needs are.

Through that, if there is not anyone that is not genuine, this helps generally sift those out as well. We ask them about how they became atheists and what made them become atheists. The basic questions around that and what their family situation is like.

It is less of a vetting process and more of a risk assessment to find out what their needs are. That they are safe. It is trying to find out what they are needs are. If it is an issue that we can meet it, we can meet their needs. But if we cannot, then what additional services can help them.

3. Jacobsen: For those, does the English language as a lingua franca become an issue for them?

Hameed: Not always, largely, the people who get in touch with us speak English. On the occasion that someone emails in another language, we have Google translate and bilingual or trilingual staff.

If we do have any issues, then we can outsource interpreters for that. But largely, I would say it does not happen. Maybe, 1% of my caseload has this happen.

4. Jacobsen: If you are looking at the reasons for coming to CEMB rather than other organizations, if they are looking for asylum or assistance, why CEMB? What have been some of the feedback based on some of their stories?

Hameed: I have never asked why someone went to CEMB and not another organization. It would not seem like a question to ask someone when they are asking you for help.

I would assume it is because we are quite visibly people who have left Islam specifically. Also, there are atheist, secularist, and humanist organizations out there. But we focus on people who have left Islam specifically. We challenge Islamic states like Iran.

Religion and religious institutions have been, unfortunately, simply used to making interfaith stuff rather than continuing the stuff for specifically atheists. There is a stigma for atheists. It seems like we are going backwards. There always has been a stigma for atheists.

Those organizations wanting to distance themselves from atheism and apostasy. Apostasy not so much, they can come out in apostasy – they feel, but do not find the word helpful.

To me, as an atheist, I find this as a huge betrayal of the atheists who come to us. Because those atheists who get the support of their loved ones on the grounds that they believe what their family members believe.

If the nonbelieving community all the sudden says, “We’re not atheists. It is a dirty label,” they are being re-victimized, essentially. They are being told once again, as they have been told all their lives.

That they are not believing exactly as what they believe; that something is wrong with them. It is confirmed again, essentially, when the nonbelieving community also does that. Who cares how people want to identify?

If they want to identify as atheist, that is their fucking right. I think it is just as disgusting when a lot of nonbelieving organizations are proselytizing. I know a lot of atheists who want to turn the entire world atheist.

It is not your problem. It is not your job. You could have behaved badly as a religious or a nonreligious person. It is allowing anybody to identify how ever they want whether belief or nonbelief.

If they call themselves an atheist, I think it is a huge betrayal if organizations call atheist a dirty word. You should use an alternative label. That must change. That must change right now.

Because, right now, atheists are still being killed around the world.

5. Jacobsen: Are more men or women coming to you? Why?

Hameed: Largely, we have more men. It is growing more in terms of the females coming to our service. We have done everything that we can to make it more accessible for female atheists.

When a few years ago, it was largely men. Because it is easier. When women become atheists in the Muslim community, they are visibly distancing themselves. They start challenging the whole modesty culture.

Their appearance; their personality, shifts. For men, it is always easier. It always has been easier for them. They are visibly becoming different. A man and a woman who both pretend to pray or not pray. They lie to their families saying, “We are praying.”

Women change their attire. Their behaviour changes. The basic things that change for them. It is much, much harder for them. It incurs a backlash, which it would not do for the men. There is a saying. After marriage, the men come back into line.

So, they must be patient with the men, but they are not patient when it comes to the women. Women are a commodity in our community. The modest, quiet, meek, virgin as it were, is more sellable.

You must think about her marriage. If she is too loud, too abrupt, too brash, she is not going to get married. There is no hope if she has left Islam. Although, we do have one of those key issues that ex-Muslims in Britain face.

It is not so easy to kill an ex-Muslim in Britain. I am not saying that it has not happened. We have families secretly killing their kids. We have honour killings. It happens, but rarely in comparison to Pakistan or Afghanistan, or Iraq or Iran, where the state condones the murder of apostates.

It gives small protection. In Britain, we see forced marriages to bring women back in line – men too, but mostly women. We see statistics with the male-female ratio as the same with a 1% fluctuation.

We see 80% more women and 20% men. You can see that it is a larger number of men. But for our cases, forced marriage, it is a huge, huge, huge risk, which then entails daily rape. If you have corrective rape, too, in one instance, it is raping girls to bring them back to faith and bring them back into line.

I have a case in Pakistan; I am working on where the dad tried to rape his daughter to bring her back in line. The brother had to rescue her. The brother had to escape the house with her three sisters. The dad and family are hunting them like dogs.

Then we see corrective rape in the LGBT cases, largely lesbian cases. Obviously, there are some gay cases as well. There are cases of raping lesbians to make them straight again. This is happening again right in Britain.

6. Jacobsen: How are the authorities in Britain handling the male cases and the female cases? What are the consequences in the differential if there is one?

Hameed: It is a bit of a lottery. It depends entirely on where you are in the country. If you are in London, you will get the same shit response. They will give the same shitty response every time. “We haven’t got the resources. We haven’t got the workforce.”

Who does not? I am working on my own time. I get calls 2, 3, or 4 in a night when somebody needs help. But that is not a good enough excuse anymore. Nobody has the money or the resources. The failing of victims. Other excuses are about not enough training, etc.

In one part of the country with a lot of cases, they do not have the workforce or the resources. It depends on the willingness on the constabulary to deal with it. Outside of London, I have spent the last 10 years working with the police to understand some of the cases that we work with.

Their response is much, much better. However, when you focus on some place like London, it is its own standalone place. It is like its own country. Nobody can compare themselves to it.

I had a case last year. An ex-Muslim told me that a Muslim attendant said, “I will kill you.” The police said, “He hasn’t killed him yet. There is no crime yet. There is nothing that we can do.” He was a male.

In terms of male-female response, again, it is the same. It depends on the constabulary and the willingness to learn. Some constabulary knows this is an issue in their part of the country. But there is not a willingness to learn.

You point out the mistakes. But they get defensive; that is not the time to become defensive. How many more of our members need to be killed before they take us seriously? It is an issue.

Most of our ex-Muslims face honour crimes. It could be forced marriage, honour crimes, and honour-based depression. It has not gotten to abuse. But they know that they have instilled enough fear and terror in their kids; they know that they will not kick back.

Then they know that they are not a problem. We have done all of that. However, in cases of honour killings with honour killings painted as not existing, it is an apostasy issue. One of my female clients contacted an organization focusing on honour-based violence, and so on.

They become the famous face of it in the UK. However, the moment that she mentioned apostasy. She ran away from home to make a call and got home before anybody noticed. The woman on the phone said, “Parents and children have disagreements all of the time. It is best to go back home and try harder.”

If this is the police response, how is it that organizations that focus on honour crimes do not understand these issues? If we put apostasy to one side for one moment, if you look at the number one cause for honour-based crimes and honour violence in the UK, it is ideological differences between parent and children: how they believe, what they believe, or a different way to live one’s life.

We have seen this in the country. One girl was murdered wearing jeans and a t-shirt and was living a more Western style of life. Those who were Pakistani Muslims. This problem is that apostasy fits into that category.

That’s why maybe all of our cases have this honour-based violence and aggression, and problem; however, people are willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to ex-Muslims when it comes to apostates and ex-Muslims because they do not want the tough challenge of challenging religion and the religious community.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019:


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