Well sort of.
This week the impressive Ali A Rizvi had an excellent piece in the Huffington Post in which he quoted one of my blog posts at some length. This was Rizvi’s follow-up to his previous post in which he described himself as an “atheist Muslim”, and he was questioned so much about that description of himself that he decided to explore the idea in more detail. As it happens that was a subject I had also considered myself, and I’m honoured that my sentiments struck a chord with Rizvi and that he gave me such a generous nod in his most recent post.
Just to clarify, though, and not that it changes any of the arguments anyway, I’m not a Muslim atheist as Rizvi assumed I was. I’m just a standard ex-Christian atheist. That said, I am occasionally tempted to convert to Islam and then immediately leave, just to feel an even greater sense of solidarity with my ex-Muslim and atheist Muslim friends.
In fact I don’t often describe myself as an atheist anyway. I feel I shouldn’t have to. That’s because it should be irrelevant to how I live my life and how I’m treated by the state and others. I consider myself incredibly privileged to live in the UK with its de facto secularism because by and large for me being an atheist generally is irrelevant. I wrote a post about the word atheist, and how and why I avoid it, here.
But for many people being an atheist is far from irrelevant to how they live their lives. Take just two recent stories as examples.
Last week an estimated 70,000-100,000 people dosed up to the eyeballs on a high octane cocktail of neat religion and intolerance went on the rampage in Dhaka, Bangladesh, calling for the death penalty for atheist bloggers. Sadly I didn’t hear strong condemnation from the UK government. Strangely, our “Minister for Faith” Baroness Warsi called for “restraint on all sides”. Restraint on all sides? Do you remember the hordes of atheists calling for death to Muslim bloggers? I certainly don’t. Perhaps when she says “restraint on all sides” what Warsi actually means is, “people shouldn’t use their freedom of speech to criticise or even disagree with Islam”.
Religion thrives on false equivalence: exercising free speech to discuss, criticise or even mock Islam is considered the same as inciting the murder of actual human beings. You need to remember this is the same Baroness Warsi who is rather chummy with the thugs at the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC, similar to the sound a pig makes), who call for a global blasphemy law.
And today is International Imad Day, to give support to the 22-year old Moroccan Imad Iddine Habib who has set up the Council of ex-Muslims of Morocco. This is the first ex-Muslim council to be established in a country that has Islam as the state religion. Predictably and depressingly, Imad has gone into hiding because of threats against him.
We atheists really should stop being so aggressive.
If only there were a nice peaceful religion out there for us.
Anyone care to name one?