The Importance of Being Exmuslim (in India)

July 10, 2020

I am an atheist. But for the longest time I used to be a Muslim. When I left Islam, I wasn’t aware of the term exmuslim. There were atheists online but I didn’t come across an exmuslim atheist until years after my apostasy.

I prefer the label atheist over exmuslim but exmuslim is what I choose to identify as when religion is discussed. The reason is awareness. I want other exmuslims to know they aren’t alone and that leaving Islam is possible.

India is not a Sharia state- it’s a secular nation. So I didn’t have to worry about the government prosecuting me for my apostasy. My family no longer harasses me for not practising but it took years of patience and persistence to reach this point.

So Islam is no longer the burden it once was. The battle was hard fought and won.

So why am I still talking about it?

While my struggles with Islam ended, there are many whose struggles have just begun. There are more exmuslims online today but it will be a while before leaving Islam is normalised. I don’t expect that to change in my lifetime but we have to pave the way.

The other reason I use the label of exmuslim is the deteriorating situation in India. India is a secular nation but the way things are devolving, I don’t expect that to remain in my lifetime.

Every day, I gain a greater appreciation of the struggles of exmuslims living in a Sharia state - that sense of impending doom coupled with a fear to speak out openly.

The Muslim population of India is the second largest in the world but Muslims are a minority in India. India’s secularism has always had its ups and downs but the last decade has shown an alarming erosion of secularism with the Muslim community being one of those who suffer for it.

As an atheist, secularism is what keeps the madness of religion at bay. While India’s secularism is a compromise compared to France’s secularism, it is far better than the threat of living under a religious state. A Hindu rashtra is as desirable to me as an Islamic caliphate.

Socially speaking, atheists are often considered to ‘belong’ to the religion of their birth. If I tell someone I am an atheist, the next question would be “But what religion is your family?’’. Atheism isn’t officially recognised in India - for administrative purposes, you’re still considered as belonging to the religion of your birth.

So even if I didn’t give a hoot about my Muslim family or if I lacked a conscience, you can see why the recent troubles of the Muslim community affects me. Whether I like it or not, I am forever tied to their fortunes. It’s one thing to have to deal with the Muslims and Muslimophobes but another to deal with a threat from the current government and my fellow citizens emboldened by them.

It’s a unique dilemma and not easy to explain. I know this because I’ve been called a Muslim by Hindu nationalists, a Hindu nationalist by Islamists, a never-Muslim by Muslims and an Islamophobe by the rest. I am fairly sure one can’t be all four at the same time and I know I am not any one of those.

I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of my situation. I struggled for years to be rid of one religion only to have to deal with the threat of another.

~ A member of Exmin

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Exmuslims of India or any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the blog are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s) – and, since we are critically-thinking human beings, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. Please do not hold us to them in perpetuity.

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