Musings of a Godless Outsider

Those who know me as a collection of orderly lit pixels on the screen, know very little about me indeed. I do know identify myself in real life as Nayeem Aftab, the Atheist. I do not parade around the streets wearing a T-shirt with a large “A” printed on it (if you’re a fan of The Scarlet Letter or the recent teen movie Easy A, note that this particular “A” does not stand for “Adultery”).

This is not just due to the lack of freedom in my country, Pakistan. I’m not an Atheist warrior dedicated to trashing religion online and irritating religious people, especially Muslims, for the sake of personal entertainment. I do it because it’s pretty much the only outlet I have for my opinions – opinions that I cannot, for my own safety, divulge anywhere outside the internet. That has been made distressingly clear by the flurry of death threats I receive almost daily.

My close Muslim friends, on numerous occasions, have warned me against criticizing religion, especially Islam. This is not because they’re personally offended by my writings (though I’m sure they are at times, but try their very best to ignore it), but because they seem genuinely concerned about my safety. I have a habit of browbeating my friends into checking out my blog every time I update it. It mustn’t be easy for them…accessing my site nearly every day and reading things that they know they’ll find disagreeable or even offensive. One must give them credit for their patience.

I neither get paid to “propagate Atheism”, nor do I have an exquisite obsession with the liberal agenda. I’m simply a person expressing his honest opinion. My caustic tone on the internet is reactionary to the silence I’m forced to maintain in real life, thanks to the criminally intolerant nature of my countrymen – to nod each time I hear some guff about Islam being a religion of peace and tolerance.

The worst part about being an Atheist in Pakistan is that it’s next to impossible to find people you can relate to. With your kin declared loons, or even wretched criminals deserving death, by the vox populi, it’s a folly to disclose your true identity, no matter how passionately you feel about it.

Pakistan is a society comprising largely of cowardly Muslims mindlessly patting each other on their backs, afraid to look at the other side of things. Their obsession with killing people for what they call “blasphemy” (and I call “whistle-blowing”) is the epitome of their lack of faith in their own beliefs. It is only those who know that their web of deception is too weak to withstand the onslaught of positivism and logical thinking, who attempt to silence the opposition through threat of violence.

Those who are confident, never scurry away when opposing ideas when they present themselves, but rather listen patiently to what others have to say and try to answer their questions. People who are rational, do not beat around the bush on failing to answer such questions because they’ve grown overly attached to their ideas, but change themselves for the better.

People call me biased, which is one thing that I’m not. I’ve been a Muslim for 19 years, and had I been biased person, I would never have left Islam in the first place. I was made aware of the abundance of moral and scientific problems with religion itself, which is why I left it. I still consider myself a spiritual person, except that now I’m deriving the same satisfaction from science rather than superstitious nonsense.

I’m simply trying to carve out my a sanctuary in the middle of a rapidly fanaticizing world – a place where I can express myself without feeling threatened. I fail to understand why anybody in the world would have a problem with that.

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    • Omar
    • January 24th, 2011

    The best way is to pose yourself as a Muslim and to create doubt amongst the so called believers. The ‘Munafiqs’ are the most hated people in Islam, and even though we don’t want to be that, that is the only way to undermine this all true and all peaceful religion – the other option being killed by the followers of peace. Create doubt through reason amongst the majority.

  1. Not incisively related to your post, but I would like to ask this.

    Don’t you think being an atheist is rather arrogant? I mean denying the existence of something super natural, which on this planet earth we call god, out out and out like that? Facts on basis of science may lessen the probability of something but not the possibility? Don’t you find it rigidity?

    • loneliberalpk
    • January 24th, 2011

    Au contraire, I find it arrogant to believe that a God built the entire universe for no other purpose than to obsess over us humans, the insignificant inhabitants of an insignificant planet that is a drop in the ocean of milky way, which is a speck of dust in the universe.

    Science reduces the probability of God’s existence to nearly the same as that of an invisible spaghetti monster flying across our galaxy. It can happen (since the Hubble telescope will undoubtedly miss the invisible critter), but it’s just very, very unlikely.

    This is because we have no reason to believe in the spaghetti monster, and no reason to believe in God. Everything in the universe can be explained through causality and naturalism alone. Invoking God would only complicate things needlessly.

    • SomeGuy
    • January 24th, 2011

    I find it funny when religious people think atheists are the arrogant ones.

    Really? You people are the one going around proclaiming to everyone how great and virtuous you are because of your religion. How amazing your God is and how perfect your religion is. Pakistani Muslims have a distinct lack of respect for others. Not only that but they are really hypocritical.

    as an agnostic myself I am tired of this society. Even friends who are “ok” with my giving up Islam judge behind my back.

    • a friend of yours
    • January 24th, 2011

    It’s true that radicalization is increasing in this part of the world (which was evident through the reaction to Taseer’s assassination). However, there are still people out there who believe in religion and reason. A lot of people believe in the blasphemy law, but how many of them are ready to pick up a gun and shoot a blasphemer themselves (i’m sure the numbers are in tens of thousands, but remember Pakistan has a population of 200 million!), so the ‘real’ fanatics remain a minority. The majority still care about their family, and their lives, and fear the law and would not take up arms in the name of religion. I agree, a lot of people supported Taseer’s assassin, but the guy who actually picked up a gun was only one. To support this argument, here’s another example. There are a lot of jihadi minded people out here. But how many leave their friends and family and join the taliban in the North or to the west? The number of ‘Taliban’ in Pakistan is in thousands (almost all estimates point to a total of less
    than 20,000). I repeat, the majority still fear the law (Pakistani law).

    The point I’m trying to make here is that, when someone from abroad reads blogs like yours, the impression that comes across is that Pakistan’s a country of men who carry weapons all the time and are ready to shoot people instantly if they get the slightest hint of liberalism. The media has done a great of job of that, and I’d hate for people from within Pakistan to propagate the same image. I’ve been trying really hard for the last couple of years to get my western friends to come to Pakistan, and this kind of a representation makes my job more difficult.

    Also, there’s been a rapid increase in liberalism in Pakistan. Finding atheists who ‘attack’ theistic believes is difficult, but i know tons of ‘non-practicing believers’ and agnostics who don’t care about religion in Pakistan. Again both these groups don’t want to talk about religion in normal conversations (religion is a very rare topic of conversation in the west as well) and so finding someone like you is difficult and you find yourself isolated. But trust me, you’ll find yourself isolated in the west as well if you want to attack theistic beliefs at dinner table conversations. The only difference between here and there will be that you’ll be able to criticize beliefs publicly without feeling your life in danger. But you’ll be isolated and lonely there are as well, because the west believes in ‘freedom of religion- freedom to practice your beliefs without being judged, belittled, your religious beliefs attacked etc’ and they sideline people who continue to be vocal about other people’s beliefs. There are very few ‘gregory houses’ and ‘denny cranes’ out there, and their lives aren’t as pleasant as the media makes them out to be.

    Also, i have no idea why i’m commenting without my real name? nayeem, this post will tell you my email address right (which reveals my identity to you)?

      • tehreem
      • January 25th, 2011

      This is a very good post.

    • SomeGuy
    • January 25th, 2011

    @friend of yours

    //I agree, a lot of people supported Taseer’s assassin, but the guy who actually picked up a gun was only one.//

    There are crazy people everywhere. A crazy person shot and almost killed a congresswoman in the US. The main difference between Pakistan and the US is how the rest of the country reacted. There were no lawyers showering petals on the US killer.

    People who are for the blasphemy law and who morally support the Taleban are the main problem. Why? Because they are the enablers. Bigots like them allow the crazies to operate with impunity. Unless the majority rises up against such hate there is no hope.

    Btw you are right about the west. Attacking theistic beliefs here gets you nowhere either. And there is a lot of bigotry against atheists in the US too. But nowhere in the post did he mention the west…i dont know why Pakistanis always have to point out flaws of other countries to minimize theirs (also known as the “B-b-but India!” argument)

      • a friend of yours
      • January 25th, 2011

      I totally agree with you on ‘how the country reacted to the murder’ was really sad. I was really depressed when all this reaction was going on in the streets, because I for one believe that there is still hope for Pakistan and that I should continue working towards it’s betterment, and this event signified the challenges that lie ahead for people like me. But you’ve got to analyze everything, and try to get to the depth of things. Here are the conclusions i drew when i analyzed taseer’s death and the kind of reactions it drew.

      (a) Thanks to the media, Salman Taseer had become notorious for being a ‘bad-muslim’ (just google salman taseer and see the kind of images-especially the captions that pop up). Now I’m not judging his religious convictions (I believe that a persons actions are a matter between him and his God), I’m just trying to make a point. The media had him ‘branded’ as one with loose morals, and with his stance on the Aasia case, they were labeling (or hinting towards) him being a ‘gustakh-e-rasool’. With his previously poor moral record in the public eye (again this isn’t my personal opinion), it wasn’t difficult for the average uneducated Muslim Pakistani to believe the media’s judgement on him ‘and celebrate the death of an ill-moralled blasphemer’. Had it been anyone else who was opposing the blasphemy law (like Imran khan- whose image in the public eye is much better), it would have been very difficult for the media to ‘pin the tag of a blasphemer’ on him and had he been assassinated on his stance on the blasphemy law, the public reaction would’ve been a lot different. I’m not trying to justify the reaction to Taseer’s death, I was very upset at it myself, I’m trying to find reason for the majority of the population being so unreasonable (as i still believe that the Pakistani people aren’t a lost cause).

      (b) The blasphemy law is a very controversial topic even amongst religious scholars (google ghamidi’s views on it), but is sadly one of those topics regularly visited by the ‘mullah’ to perpetuate his (mullah’s) message into the hearts of people (for e.g. the wests’ hatred again islam in the case of the danish cartoons, america’s hidden agenda to screw muslims worldwide during the time of the ‘burn a quran day’ etc). Now when such hate is spread to illiterate people in the mosque every friday by religious clerics, you can’t blame the general populous for falling victim to such an agenda and celebrating taseers death. The people who ‘morally support the blasphemy law and the taleban’ aren’t the main problem, they are the victims of such trickery and deceit. If I were to take a guess, I’d say 60% of Pakistani’s supported Taseer’s death, and 70-80% support the blasphemy laws. Now if i were to take these guys as ‘the main problem’, i could very well forget all kinds of hopes for a better future, and pack my bags and leave. In my opinion, the main problem are the people in power who let this kind of hate-mongering go on (why doesn’t the government try the mullah’s who gave fatwa’s against taseer in a court of law?), and the people who fund such madrassa’s. It is high time we counter such propaganda using media as a tool to spread our message (you’d be surprised how many people take hamid mir or talat hussain’s opinion more seriously than the mullah’s). Islamic jurists and scholars who’ve studied Islam in light of the modern day world, and can comment on controversial issues like the blasphemy laws need to come forward and become more vocal. Also, a lot needs to be done to strengthen our education system. If the literacy rate is increased to 70% and our syllabus is not focused on rote learning, things can change. The populations primary source of education on Islam/religion should be the school and not the madrassa where they can openly question what is being preached. Our politicians not confronting the mullah’s in order to play the religious card have brought us to where we are right now. but the solutions aren’t as tough, only need to be thought at more carefully.

      As far as the west debate is concerned, I’m sorry it is not a reply to the current thread, but something i wanted to talk to nayeem about from another conversation. But I wasn’t pointing a flaw in the west (when I say ‘the west’ i mean the educated world open to free thinking and speech), I’m a big fan of their ‘freedom to practice your religious believes-without having being frowned, belittled or judged upon’ and I believe that it should continue (and hopefully be imported to Pakistan as well). The analogy that i was trying to draw was that even in the educated world, a person who publicly scorns at other people’s beliefs (whether he be a muslim bashing the jews, a christian making fun of hindu believes, or a godless person scorning at muslim believes) will remain an outsider. While freedom of speech exists, criticizing someone else’s beliefs remains to be a topic that is frowned upon. And i hope that it remains the same. At the same time, I welcome questioning religious beliefs (and the logic behind them) in an bid to understand religion more thoroughly and become better followers. I enjoy reading blogs such as nayeem’s that comment on the affect of religion on society, but try to shy away from criticizing other peoples beliefs (no matter how ridiculous they seem to the outsider) 🙂

    • loneliberalpk
    • January 25th, 2011

    A friend of yours:

    For chaos to prevail, all it takes is a minority of fanatics working within a majority of enablers.

    In Pakistan, Islamization has become a fad and people are giving such fanatics their silent consent, if not outright support! As long as the masses keep tolerating such acts of fanaticism because of their religious teachings, terrorists will continue to run rampant.

    Pakistani masses are not fanatics, but they’ve created an environment that hails fanaticism as “cool”. We’re a veritable petri dish of terrorists.

    Having said that, I appreciate you taking time to comment on my blog. Thanks.

      • a friend of yours
      • January 26th, 2011

      couldn’t agree with you more on these points:

      (a) pakistani masses are not fanatics
      (b) For chaos to prevail, all it takes is a minority of fanatics working within a majority of enablers (which is exactly why we have chaos in Pakistan today).

      Disagree with you on:
      (a) created an environment that hails fanaticism as “cool” (Most Paki’s hate the suicide bombers who regularly bomb public places).
      (b) As long as the masses keep tolerating such acts of fanaticism because of their religious teachings, terrorists will continue to run rampant. (

      as i outlined in my reply to someguys post, it’s not the masses that need to bring about the change. you can’t expect uneducated people whose sole source of religious information is the mullah to one day wake up and realize that they’re being conned. A ‘minority of freethinkers’ can change the masses view through the media. When i was growing up, news anchors weren’t allowed to take off head scarves, and you’d almost never see a woman wear jeans and a top in the market. Now the media is showing all sorts of stuff, and you can see the change in society. Girls from uneducated, narrow minded households are wearing jeans in public. If one man’s view of ‘enlightened moderation’ can go so far as to achieve this, imagine what people like you and me can do if we consolidate our forces to counter extremism through the media! I repeat, the secret lies in the ‘mullah not being the only source of religion for the general public’!

    • loneliberalpk
    • January 25th, 2011

    SomeGuy,

    “People who are for the blasphemy law and who morally support the Taleban are the main problem. Why? Because they are the enablers”

    Precisely

    • loneliberalpk
    • January 26th, 2011

    A friend of ours,

    Pakistani public thinks fanaticism is “cool” (or whatever appropriate alternative for that is in Pakistani vernacular) as long as they themselves are not on the receiving end of it. So naturally, suicide bombings are not welcome. It is for that reason that we’ve seen a major decline in suicide bombings.

    Removing mullahs from power alone won’t be enough, because the society will simply produce more of them. We’re in the midst of a positive feedback loop and it’ll take a very, very determined and very, very liberal government and media to break the spell.

    Unfortunately, such would require a national lobotomy. We just don’t have enough secularists to rise up against the vicious tide of Islamism.

    • loneliberalpk
    • January 26th, 2011

    By the way, I thought you didn’t like participating in such discussions? What changed your mind? :p

    • Moiz
    • January 26th, 2011

    Most pakis are tolerant …

      • loneliberalpk
      • January 26th, 2011

      Not my experience..

  2. /The worst part about being an Atheist in Pakistan is that it’s next to impossible to find people you can relate to./

    How true. Which is why this blog makes me so very happy. Agreed that going around wearing an A on your shirt wouldn’t make you many friends, but sometimes I wish I could do the equivalent, if only to provoke discussions and get more people thinking. Even if it means being socially ostracized or abused or whatever. Sometimes I think my fears about extremists are irrational, but then sometimes…

    your friends are right waisay, you should watch out too man.

    • Ali S
    • April 8th, 2012

    I suggest you look into immigration options. It’s clear you hate this country and its religious ideology, and the feelings are mutual on the other side too.

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