View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. World
  2. Middle East
4 February 2008updated 27 Sep 2015 5:44am

Losing my religion

In the week of the New Statesman's special edition on God, Maryam Namazie explains why she rejected

By Maryam Namazie

I find it slightly odd writing for a faith blog, when I don’t have any. It’s like writing for an Automobile Association blog when I take the bus.

But I do understand why it is so. In this day and age everything is framed within the context of ‘faith’, especially for those of us deemed to be Muslims – no matter how clearly and loudly we profess and live otherwise. I think this is in large part due to the existence of a political Islamic movement, which strives to gain legitimacy for its terror and misogyny by claiming to represent vast number of people under the label of Muslims.

In a sense, labelling people with innumerable characteristics as Muslim and Muslim alone is part of the process of constraining them in order to feign ‘representation’. This labelling in the media, government, and mainstream society is a further capitulation, which effectively hands over millions of people – despite their never ending resistance – to this movement.

I know that the organised religion industry is on the rise everywhere and religious labelling of entire populations is becoming the norm, but with political Islam having state power in many places, and vying for power in others, it makes it a very different phenomenon. The label of Christian today is unlike the same label during the inquisition and crusades.

Correspondingly, I have only become more visible after calling myself an ex-Muslim with the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain in June 2007. Ironically, even once one has left Islam and renounced religion, one can only be visible by mentioning their former affiliation to it.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

It is a huge contradiction and one which I am often asked about. Why call myself an ex-Muslim if I am an atheist? Why renounce religion publicly if I believe religion or its lack thereof must be a private affair and strictly separated from the state and educational system? Why label myself on their terms if I desire a society without labels other than human and citizen?

It is because being an ex-Muslim, or an apostate, is punishable by death in countries ruled by Islamic law; even in a place like Britain people will be surprised at the threats and intimidations those who want to leave face. Which is what makes this public renunciation crucial. It is similar to gays who came out of the closet to highlight the situation and make it easier for others to do so.

Yes, your religion or lack thereof is your business but not when you are killed for it. Then a public challenge becomes a form of resistance.

Oh yes, and why have I renounced Islam and religion? Well, I suppose if you live in a society where you can claim to be of a certain religion, choosing the bits you like, ignoring most of the rest, and just getting on with your life without it having much relevance or impact, then there may never be a need to call yourself a lapsed Christian for example.

But when the state sends a religious official to your school to ensure that you don’t mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, hangs girls on street corners for crimes against chastity, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends to those read by boys, and drags your loved ones away for corruption, immorality or blasphemy – you have no choice but to look at and confront it. Religion in power is very different to one that has been tamed by an enlightenment.

And why renounce all religion and not just Islam? Because in my opinion, another religion may seem better right now to some people, but it’s only because it has been reigned in.

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU