We, non-believers, atheists, and Ex-Muslims, are establishing or joining the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain to insist that no one be pigeonholed as Muslims with culturally relative rights nor deemed to be represented by regressive Islamic organisations and "Muslim community leaders".So begins the manifesto of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, a new group launched last Thursday. If their demands were limited to "freedom of religion and atheism" and "unconditional freedom of criticism and expression," I believe they would enjoy the support of the majority. If their desire were to give an alternative platform to the Muslim Council of Britain, to provide a voice for the many nominal Muslims whose more moderate and inclusive opinions go unheard by this Government, then they would not be so easily dismissed by the Muslim Council of Britain. However, while accepting that the ex-Muslims in the group have been courageous in publicising their rejection of Islam, I suspect the ex-Muslims will quickly lose out to the atheists in their midst.
Those of us who have come forward with our names and photographs represent countless others who are unable or unwilling to do so because of the threats faced by those considered "apostates" - punishable by death in countries under Islamic law.
By doing so, we are breaking the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam but also taking a stand for reason, universal rights and values, and secularism.
Whilst religion or the lack thereof is a private affair, the increasing intervention of and devastation caused by religion and particularly Islam in contemporary society has necessitated our public renunciation and declaration. We represent a majority in Europe and a vast secular and humanist protest movement in countries like Iran.
For, they oppose "the tolerance of inhuman beliefs" and call for the "separation of religion from the state and legal and educational system" and "prohibition of any kind of financial, material or moral support by the state or state institutions to religion and religious activities and institutions." Yet, faith-based schools and charities are increasingly recognised as providing a service unrivalled in their excellence in the words of a recent report from The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, helping "to define a sense of place and contribute to community well-being." Any modern, British Bill of Rights will therefore need to accept the contribution that individuals and groups motivated by their faith make to their communities, not attempt to obliterate them.
Hat-tip: Archbishop Cranmer