The hashtag #ExMuslimBecause began trending worldwide on Twitter last week. Many of those brave enough to speak out about Islamic apostasy taboos via the hashtag risked threats, intimidation and even violence. Yet the BBC chose to defend Islamists and attack the hashtag as “hateful”, “Islamophobic” and “bad timing” due to the Paris attacks.
There are no less than thirteen Muslim majority nations on earth where apostasy and atheism are punishable by death. And in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and Mohammed, atheists are classed are terrorists.
Those lucky to escape with their lives face lashings, imprisonment and exclusion from the job market. Even ex-Muslims in the West face being disowned from their families, ostracised from their communities and even murdered by their own families in “honour killings.”
“Tell us why you gave up being Muslim. Go to #ExMuslimBecause. It’s an encouraging, uplifting hashtag to read. Maybe there’s hope”, tweeted biologist and famous atheist Richard Dawkins.
“#ExMuslimBecause we reject dogma, superstitions, notions of omnipotent sky tyrants, flying horses, talking snakes/ants, concept of hell etc”, tweeted the Ex-Muslim Forum, the group who started the hashtag.
#ExMuslimBecause i know being a woman doesn't make me lesser. I shouldn't have to worship *behind* men, or be segregated from them.
— Eiynah — (@NiceMangos) November 20, 2015
“We never expected [the hashtag] to start trending in this way… it really shows just how much people needed to express themselves”, explained Maryam Namazie, founded of the Ex-Muslim Forum, to the BBC.
The BBC’s program featured presenter Anne-Marie Tomchak talking with two male Muslim “community experts”, almost exclusively about how the hashtag was “problematic” and “hateful”. The words “Ex-Muslim” were put in quotation marks, as if to suggest ex-Muslims did not really exist, and there was little discussion about the bravery of the participants and the positive message behind the campaign.
— Mobeen Azhar (@Mobeen_Azhar) November 28, 2015
The presenter said Mrs. Namazie was adopting a “strident tone”. BBC journalist Mobeen Azhar said she was “uncompromising” and said some people think of her as an “opportunist”.
“I think in terms of Maryam’s tone, it might make Muslims feel attacked again”, he said. However, Mrs. Namazie had already explained that, “being ex-Muslim is not being anti-Muslim. It’s just criticising an idea.” Plus, there is zero evidence of atheist ex-Muslims physically attacking Muslims, just their ideas.
The presenter also asked Mr. Namazie: “Can you speak is one thing. When you speak is another. And if you look at the recent new events—say for example what happened in Paris, lets look at the refugee crisis around Europe—did it occur to you that this is possibly not the time to put out a hashtag like this?”
Maryam responded by explaining that killings and persecutions have been going on in the Muslim world for centuries, and to view this whole debate through the prism of the recent Paris attack is wrong.
In reference to the point about timing, Mrs. Namazie also explained in a blog post later:
“Whilst we mourn our dead in Paris, we must not forget the countless others killed by ISIS and Islamists, including this very month in Lebanon, Nigeria, Mali, Iraq, Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan… as well as those executed perfectly legally via Sharia laws in Iran, Saudi Arabia… The refugee crisis is in large part due to this unbridled brutality.
“In fact, if there ever was a “right” time to challenge Islam and Islamism, it is now”.
Ms. Tomchak and her “community experts” also attacked her use of the word “Islamist”, which signifies those committed to political Islam, who might be prepared to kill in the name of their religion.
Ms. Tomchak said: “Quite a strident tone coming from Maryam Namazie and the way she uses the term Islamists”. Mr. Azhar added: “it’s quite uncompromising since there are many shades of grey amongst Islamists; lumping Islamists together is not going to be most helpful”.
In her blog post, Mrs. Namazie responded to the BBC’s deliberate conflation of the terms:
“By doing so, they intentionally blurred the distinction between the criticism of Islam (an idea) and Islamism (a far-Right political movement) with bigotry against Muslims. For far too long, apologists like the BBC have conflated the three in order to silence critics by deeming any criticism of Islam and Islamism as bigotry against people.”
“Community expert” Mobeen Azhar appeared to think that the real victims of the Paris attacks were in fact Muslims. “To see Islam as the victim in the Allahu-Akbaring of 130 mostly non-Muslim Parisians is vile”, Tweeted Canadian ex-Muslim Ali A. Rizvi at the BBC journalist.
“People are saying #ExMuslimBecause is “hateful”. How can telling people why you left a religion be “hate”? By what bizarrely twisted logic?” Tweeted Richard Dawkins.
Ex-Muslim blogger ‘Atheist in a Headscarf’ wrote:
“The BBC should really be ashamed of for further silencing us by promoting the idea that somehow, SIMPLY STATING we are Ex Muslim and why is tantamount to Islamophobia, and for overwhelmingly interviewing Muslims on a show about Ex Muslims.
“Imagine the outrage if a show on Islam and the challenges Muslims face was dominated by Ex Muslims. Or Christians. Or Jews. Or non Muslims in general.”
— Ex-Muslims Forum (@CEMB_forum) November 29, 2015