Hi, are you liberal?
Do you stand by the minorities?
Are you a friend of the underdog, an ally of the marginalized?
There is a minority of the minority in town that just won’t trend on Twitter.
Hello, I’m a brown, gay, bi-gender, ex-Muslim atheist. Please notice me.
Like a lot of things, ‘privilege’ is a spectrum. Muslims are a marginalized community in Europe and America, often subjected to dangerous stereotypes. I supported Tahira Ahmed, the Muslim woman refused an unopened can of diet coke aboard a flight for “security reasons”. I yelled at Richard Dawkins – a person who I usually admire – on Twitter, for his paranoid rants against a Muslim child arrested for making a clock.
I stand up for Muslims wherever they face persecution, but they don’t stand up for me. Oh, and if you object to my use of the word “they”, notice that I’m making use of the same language you’d use for white people. You must recognize the context in which I speak.
In my part of the world – the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – Muslims are not an oppressed minority. They are the ruling class. If they find out who I am, I would be legally executed, if not lynched – not even because I’ve said anything blasphemous, but because I’m an ex-Muslim, an “apostate”.
Islam here is not a counter-cultural phenomenon. It is the writ of the establishment. It is the bane of the minorities, dissidents, freethinkers and liberals such as yourself who refuse to abide by the “official” customs. Things like hijab, niqab, dupatta or any form of pardah are not an “identity” here; they are garments either imposed by law, or enforced by sanctioning the social harassment of women who refuse to wear them.
People like myself, dear friends of mine, have fled to countries like UK, Canada and the United States. These ‘blasphemers’ and ‘apostates’ of the East, the first-hand witnesses of the effects of unmitigated Islamic power, often become ‘Islamophobes’ in the West. Why wouldn’t they be fearful of a religion that has been used to justify all forms of cruelty against them?
‘Good’ Atheists like CJ Werlerman, wouldn’t know the difference. We have often been accused of being “native informants”. We are guilty of not putting the full weight of our support behind a community that treats us with derision, not just in Pakistan, but abroad as well. It is more than just ‘possible’ for a group to be oppressed in some way, and be an oppressor in another.
Who’s defending us? Werlerman? Lean? Greenwald? Ben Affleck?
Many of my people are locked in accidental alliances with the neo-cons, the anti-Muslim bigots – the likes of Pamela Gellar and Pat Condell – both of whom I intensely dislike. Again, what choice do we have? You defend, and even celebrate Islam as a courtesy to its marginalized adherents in your countries, but that ideology is poison to us; and our only consolation is that not all Muslims follow it uniformly.
Why would you ask us to make peace with a scripture that refers to my kind as the “worst of all beasts”? Why would you want me to get along with a religion that throws Sodom and Gomorrah in my face when I try to speak up for LGBTQ rights? Why would you expect me, as a feminist, to not condemn a book that justifies domestic abuse of women, denial of their equal inheritance rights, and the practice of having a woman’s testimony being valued as only half that of a man’s.
Would you like us, the “native informants”, to pretend that there is no culture of shunning and mistreating ex-Muslims in the Muslim community, so not to intensify anti-Muslim prejudice that is abundant in Europe and America? Do you want us all to go down quietly, because the needs of the many (Muslims) outweigh the needs of the few (ex-Muslims)?
What about my friend, Irtaza, who committed suicide because his Muslim family and community wouldn’t accept him as an atheist?
You expect us to join you in the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry, and I want to. I get you. But in the struggle against anti ex-Muslim bigotry, we stand alone. We remain unacknowledged.
People deserve advocacy. People deserve not to be reduced to their religious, racial or gender identities. But bad ideas and cultures deserve no sympathy. Neither must the baby be thrown out with the bathwater, nor should the bathwater be rescued along with the baby.