Saturday 7 December 2013

The ex factor

I didn’t hear the programme ‘Leaving the Faith’ last Wednesday when it was first broadcast, but a thread about it on Harry’s Place tempted me to ‘listen again’. 

Sarfraz Manzoor’s programme illustrates that leaving the faith is a delicate and problematic issue within Muslim communities in the UK. Extricating yourself from the stifling Islamic religious lifestyle literally puts your life in danger, and the dreaded curse of a family member’s apostasy tears families asunder in a brutal and unnatural fashion. You’d think the BBC, which is notoriously obsessed with Islamic affairs, would have heard about this and duly brought it to our attention before now.

Observe the dismay that’s currently been so apparent over a Maoist cult allegedly tearing its followers away from their families, which was the subject of a major news story for several days. If driving a wedge between parents, siblings and extended family is bad for the goose, surely it’s bad for the gander. 

‘Coming out’ to family members who might recoil in horror at discovering a son/daughter’s closet atheism almost certainly leads to being rejected, disowned and told “You are no longer my son/daughter!”  To coin a well-worn generic BBC phrase “How does that make you feel?” 
A stigma descends upon the apostate’s family and brings dishonour to the entire community. Not only that, but there appears to be a genuine threat to life and limb to the poor soul whose crime is merely to come to his/her senses. One speaker contends that, currently, second generation European Muslims are more rigid adherents to religious edicts and practices than citizens of most Islamic states. He says here and now, in Britain in 2013, a fanatical interpretation of Islam has taken hold, which inter alia substantively endangers the life of the apostate. No wonder ex-Muslims don’t go around boasting. The punishment for apostasy is in the Koran, and it’s death.

The BBC has considerable interest in the topic of Islam. It’s their specialist subject. Good on them for letting this programme be aired, but it’s not as if the existence of the death penalty for apostasy was a secret. It’s just that we weren’t told how close to home it is, or how seriously British Muslims take it. Nor were we made aware that some of the evasiveness  and dissembling over the issue from the ‘expert’  talking heads and Muslim representatives who insist ‘there’s no compulsion in religion” is misleading and inaccurate. If we weren’t before, we are now.

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