Pakistan’s Asayia Bibi: A Foregone Conclusion?

By now Bibi has become an international symbol of Christian persecution, something that should have been used as a catalyst to reboot the indifference towards such global suffering five years ago. Five years later and she remains languishing in a prison cell. Her story in itself is not unique and instead echoes thousands of told and untold experiences: an accusation made by Muslim clerics, communities or individuals against a Christian minority that have ‘blasphemed against the Prophet’ or Islam and years of violence, culminating in detention follows. In most of these cases, families of those accused are at risk of death themselves and so years on the run or in hiding is quintessentially the norm. However, Asayia Bibi’s situation remains unique as she stands to be Pakistan’s first woman to be sentenced to death via its Penal Blasphemy Law Code.
I first came to read about Bibi when I was 15 years old and her name and face has been etched within me ever since. Most people by now have come across enough instances of Blasphemy to not pay attention to the fine print but the details of her plight need to be carefully adhered to. Asayia Bibi was initially accused of blasphemy in 2009, when she sparked outrage among the group of Muslim women she would harvest berries with. The women were offended that Bibi dared to drink with the same water cup as them, since Christians in Pakistan are regarded as inferior and unclean beings.
This accusation of Blasphemy soon led to an official declaration of a death sentence in November 2010 by Lahore High Court, a decision they have refused to reverse and instead have upheld on October 16 2014. The international community may be occasionally speaking out against the treatment of this woman but since they continue to pour billions of aid into Pakistan throughout the years she has been detained, one cannot help but question just how genuinely concerned they are.

Fundamentally speaking, a cup of water has resulted in the beating, mistreatment and discrimination of Bibi and her family who have been in hiding ever since Asayia was initially arrested. A cup of water has led to five young children being deprived of their mother for years on end. A cup of water has resulted in the years of physical infliction and mental deprivation for a woman at risk of being killed by prison mates and prison guards.
Should Asayia Bibi ever be released her persecution will not end there, but instead provide Puritanical Muslims every reason to further call for her death or personally avenge their ‘grievances’ as by now she has become a global figure for the Persecuted Church and an international Christian symbol.
What the West needs to be doing is promoting the ordeal of Asayia Bibi and instilling pressure onto the Pakistani government, instead of distracting the world by parading the likes of Malala Yousafzai around on our television screens. The West in particular must wake up to the fact that a mere cup of water evoked the wrath of the Blasphemy Law and realize just how false this Penal Code actually is. The Blasphemy Law is in use daily, scavenging out minority Christian communities and manipulating it under the false pretence of insulting Islam to settle personal disputes or to impinge upon Christian territory.
Asayia Bibi represents countless of Persecuted Christians worldwide and symbolizes everything that is wrong with not only the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan.

Iran’s Saeed Abedini: A Crime of Christianity

With the exception of the United States, most countries have remained silent while Pastor Saeed Abedini continues to languish in a prison cell, as has been his circumstance since the summer of 2012. I stumbled across his plight a few months ago when scrolling through articles on the CBN webpage. As I scoured through numerous articles detailing his suffering I couldn’t help but feel enraged and betrayed, at how such treatment of a man – whose only crime is his Christianity – could go largely unreported and unpublicised. His story is yet another example of not only political failure, but also a failure of Christendom. Yet again, global leaders have not significantly come together to draw attention to the anti-Christian actions of the Iranian regime, nor to pressurise Iran to abide by its own constitution which recognises Christianity as minority religion.
Global leaders, particularly those who claim to be Christian should not be afraid, nor gingerly approach the sheer discrimination and disregard non-Muslims in Islamic nations are facing, particularly as such leaders afford their Muslim populations ultimate freedom in order to practise their beliefs. Western leaders should be apt to state that if Iranians are awarded the right to practise their Muslim faith in non-Muslim territory, why can’t the same be said for Iran’s non-Muslims in Shia-dom?
Instead, Saeed Abedini’s situation has demonstrated once again that tepidness, that reluctance, that political correctness/weakness. That lack of courage and boldness of our David Camerons, our Barack Obamas, these so-called men of ‘faith’ to publicly express solidarity with the persecuted Saeed Abedinis of the world. To commit themselves to the freedom of these imprisoned minorities in order to deter Islamic regimes from repetitive discrimination, as opposed to rendering such oppressed people helpless; a tacit approval to intolerant authorities who are at liberty to beat, torture and maim those under their charge, who refuse to recant their faith in order to guarantee their survival .
Saeed is a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000. While the minority faith is in theory recognised in the Iranian constitution, in reality Muslim converts suffer discrimination by Iran’s authorities. Converts are disallowed from worshipping or gathering together in fellowship in established churches, forcing many of them to instead opt for ‘house’ or ‘underground’ churches in order to practise their faith more freely. Abedini married his Iranian-American wife Naghmeh in 2002 and subsequently became prominent in the house-church movement in Iran, credited with establishing around 100 house churches in 30 cities. However, in the aftermath of Ahmed Ahmedinejad’s elective victory in 2005, a severe and repression crackdown of such a movement began which led to the Abedini couple returning to the US.
Saeed returned to Iran to visit his family and was apprehended by government authorities who threatened to kill him during an interrogation concerning his conversion, but was released upon him signing a pledge to cease all house-church activity throughout Iran. However, the present turmoil of the Abedini family was to begin in the summer of 2012, when Saeed returned to Iran yet again to visit family and resume his work in building an orphanage in the city of Rasht. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confiscated and placed him under house arrest until he was later transferred to Evin Prison. In January 2013 it was reported that Abedini would be trialled and could potentially face the death penalty. His charges consisted of comprising national security and attempting to sway the Iranian youth from Islam, though of course specific detail were never publicised, due to the fact that the sole and crucial reason Abedini was detained in the first place was on account of his Christianity. Saeed was transferred from Tehran to the Rajani Shahr Prison in November 2013, in addition to being completely cut off from any contact with his wife and two young children in the United States.
Rajani Shahr is a notorious prison within Iran, where inmate violence, executions and beatings are commonplace and therefore to remain in denial of the persecution and intolerance of non-Muslims throughout the Islamic world is unequivocally unacceptable. The fact that a Christian has been transferred to a prison entailing serious offenders, with harsh, penal and life-threatening conditions speaks for itself. Saeed’s immediate family in Tehran have spoken of his deteriorating health, of the denial of vital medical treatment for the infections brought about by severe beatings – all of which has mostly fallen upon deaf ears and international ignorance and inaction.
Abedini was refused treatment in Evin Prison due to being regarded as an ‘unclean infidel’. In early 2013, Saeed’s internal injuries became too much of a concern with doctors stressing they warranted immediate attention at a non-prison hospital. The Iranian regime ignored such warnings for almost a year, whilst his health continued to rapidly disintegrate. In March 2014, Abedini was granted treatment at a private hospital but was returned to prison without the surgery deemed necessary by expert opinion.
Pastor Saeed Abedini continues to experience physical and psychological trauma, shacked up in a penal prison, enduring systemic beatings and a witness to inmate executions. A man imprisoned for his faith and ignored by the international community at large. However, the crucial underlying fact remains: while the story of the Abedini family deeply moves and troubles me – a fellow Christian who has come to know her own version of persecution – Abedini’s story echoes every jailed Christian within the Muslim world. Christians in the Islamic world struggle for their survival while world leaders go about their daily lives, prioritising oil deals and signing policies concerning arms and weapons to the very nations that brutally repress the very citizens that share the same faith some of these leaders apparently follow.
I cannot imagine the misery and pain of his children, the uncertainty and dashes of hope his wife and family have been plunged in since 2012. The resilience, courage and faith displayed by his wife Naghmeh is truly remarkable and is a personal testament to true Christian faith and those persecuted believers around her. At this time where nothing is guaranteed, I will continue to uplift Abedini families in prayer and thought; realising the only crime such a people ever commit is the conscious decision to become a disciple of Christ.

Meriam Ibrahim: Chained for Christ

The name Meriam Ibrahim became infamous throughout the world when refusing to denounce her Christian faith in 2014, leading to her being imprisoned and shackled – a brutal condition under which she brought her second child into the world. I count myself blessed in growing up in the example of two resilient parents, resolute in their decision to stand ground in their Christian faith despite the daily oppression and intimidation. I am very accustomed to the testimony of a Christian convert, both in person and online and over a lifetime I have at times become numb to such stories of pain and suffering, to my own personal shame.
Meriam Ibrahim’s ordeal struck a nerve, in a way I haven’t experienced for some time now. I respect this courageous sister, whose refusal to recant her faith and whose determination to revere solely her God, led to her being chained as a caged animal; as she mercilessly was forced to undergo what must have been an extremely traumatic and restrained pregnancy. It suddenly struck me why this young Sudanese mother affected me: her faith made me see God. God in her. Her faith could only come from the God she lacks no conviction in and that emboldens, encourages and uplifts me if nobody else. Her commitment to her Christianity is an example to the world and reading about her suffering should alert us to reconsider our complacency, our taken-for-granted freedom of conscience if not in practicality. Minorities in countries such as Sudan do not even have this freedom in theory and do not have to be bound physically to be prisoners. Repression of Christians of which Meriam is but an example is endemic.
I feel I owe it to our Meriam Ibrahim figures who are forced to experience trials we could never imagine, to continue in this work this blog was set out to do. To honour such unbreakable spirits. To recognise that faith, faith in God alone can ensure their enduring of unthinkable agony while swamped in a cesspit of human evil. To encourage and show solidarity towards people of similar situations or those who have loved ones in such. A simple blog to create awareness at the very least. Meriam Ibrahim’s story has been known internationally from 2014 onwards and due to my university work schedule I always find myself pushing issues I wish to write about on the back-burner. Upon reflection I decided to change this and try to aim to post a blog every day, even if my posts are mere sound bites. The least I can do is dedicate this humble platform into educating people daily on the perils persecuted minorities are facing. The least I can do especially with the freedom I have to write.
Meriam’s marriage to her Christian husband Daniel Wani prompted members of her family to open a case with Halat Kuku court of Khartoum, by alleging her marriage to Wani constituted adultery. Wani was accused of converting Meriam, deemed a Muslim by family members and Sudanese authorities. According to Sudanese law Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims as is stated in the Koran and therefore the Wani-Ibrahim ‘inter-faith’ marriage was not recognized by Sudanese courts. However, Meriam has always maintained before her trial and during her imprisonment that she had always been raised a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother since her father left them as a young child. Upon failing to successfully establish Meriam’s Islamic identity, her family sought to annul her marriage to Wani, who had emerged from Sudan to the United States in 1998, become a citizen in 2005 and had met Meriam at church during a visit back to Sudan. On February 17, 2014 Meriam was separated from her husband and transferred to the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison with her 20 month old son. March 4 saw Sudan’s Public Order Court in El Haj, Khartoum North charge her with apostasy and adultery.
When interviewed by Fox News some time after her release, Meriam told how she was given 3 days to renounce her faith by Sudanese authorities. When she refused she was convicted of her charges and sentenced to 100 lashes and hanging whilst heavily pregnant, making her the first to have been possibly executed on the grounds of apostasy since the 1991 Criminal Code. Ibrahim’s ordeal did not end when languishing in a prison cell, instead she received daily visitations by Imams, who would recite Koranic passages in an effort to pressure her into renouncing her Christianity.
‘While I was in prison, some people came to visit me from the Muslim Scholars Association, these were Imams that created an intervention by reciting parts of the Koran for me. I faced tremendous amount of pressure, I had my faith in God. My faith was my only weapon that I had in these confrontations with Imams because that’s what I believe in.
Meriam’s weapon of faith was put to test when she forced to give birth to her daughter Maya on 27th May in fetters. I can clearly picture what must already be an excruciating experience, multiplied by this soldier of Christ, bound and fettered, heavily oppressed and restrained as she gave birth to her baby girl on the floor of a cold prison cell. Chained for Christ as she ushered Maya into a country and wider extreme Islamic world of hostility and hatred toward the mother that gave her life. That for me was especially poignant.
I was supposed to give birth at a hospital outside of prison but they denied that request as well… when it was time to give birth they refused to remove the chains from my ankles’.
While it was euphoric for countless across the globe to witness Meriam finally emerge from a plane that saw her and her children touch down safely in the United States to be reunited with her husband, attention needs to be drawn towards the continued repression of Christians throughout North Africa, of which Sudan is just one country. Olivia Warham, director of Waging Peace, a UK Non-Governmental Organisation that campaigns against genocide and systemic human rights violations in Sudan reported that millions of Sudanese Christians faced daily brutality and ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese regime.
‘3 years ago President Bashir made it plain, there would be no room for non-Muslims in his Islamist Sudan. He has been good to his word, crushing dissent and systematically killing ethnic and religious minorities. Regular aerial bombardment by the Sudanese armed forces destroys communities and Christian hospital, forcing people to flee from their fields to hide in the Muba mountains… it is shocking that Bashir’s ideology of elimination provokes nothing more than the occasional words of regret from the international community, when we should be applying smart sanctions on the architect of these atrocities.’
Meriam’s stand against the brutal attempt to lure her away from her faith and marriage, in order to lead her to Islam is inspirational. Her strength shames those who choose to remain silent in the face of such cases of persecution and I truly admire this bold, fellow believer who even when chained and hounded like a lowly animal could display a level of courage, resilience and perseverance to the world in a manner that cannot be articulated. There are very few people in this world who wouldn’t renounce their faith, when locked away with a 20 month old baby while time ticks out on the due date of another.
‘I put myself at risk for the women of Sudan and for Christians living under difficult circumstances, persecuted and treated harshly. There are many Meriams in Sudan throughout the world.’
Meriam Ibrahim has been blessed enough to have endured her persecution and be relieved slightly of her suffering in her move to New Hampshire. That doesn’t mean we should ignore nor forget her testimony, if not for her then for all the Meriam Ibrahims out there, all chained for Christ.

Asylum figures soar as Pakistan’s Christians escape persecution

In recent years 30, 000 Pakistani Christians are said to have applied for asylum or refugee status in Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka – according to the country’s religious and political leaders. The notion of asylum was recently brought to my attention when I came across heinous and downright ignorant comments about my own family regarding our October 3 Dailymail article. In accordance with the uneducated and illogical mindset, the Hussain family had apparently converted to Christianity for the sake of a British passport; solely for the purpose of UK asylum. Personally, I don’t see how this corresponds to family of second generation Pakistani immigrants born in England. In actual fact there are moments where I think I’d prefer to move to Pakistan, where certain areas and communities live in respectful tolerance of each other- in the recognition that despite Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christian beliefs, all are fundamentally Pakistani and diversity of religion cannot alter this fact. My Christian experience in the UK’s ‘Bradistan’ can’t boast of such tolerance. Having spent a year in the Muslim nation of Malaysia where I never felt so safe, so free, I can honestly proclaim that Pakistan’s Christians would be better off there.
I abhor the lack of compassion towards persecuted minorities, or rather the selective welcome by our government. Figures such as Malala Yousafzai are more likely to be granted UK asylum/citizenship than Asia Bibi’s children for example – equally deserving of the long-standing British history of offering sanctuary to those fleeing brutal persecution. The mind boggles at the hypocrisy.
The world needs to wake up. 30,000 Pakistani Christians don’t wake up one morning and decide their homeland is no longer for them. 30, 000 don’t opt for a life of displacement and separation from their loved ones, nor willingly arrive on foreign shores – unsure of their mode of survival. Fate forces their hand. Anti-Christian persecution forces terrified coerces petrified believers into abandoning their homes and everything they’ve ever known and been accustomed to, in order to guarantee the safety of their families.
Christianity and poverty are commonly interlinked in Pakistan and the denial of economic prospects are also an incentive to claim asylum elsewhere. However, the plight of such a persecuted people by no means stops there. In Karachi, Pastor Rafaqat Sadiq of the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan stated that the majority of Christians in the Dastagir, Essa Nagri, Azam Basti and Mahmoodabad districts have claimed asylum in Thailand. Yet, since work permits are denied to many of them they are in a state of limbo, in between a rock and hard place:
’Owing to poverty and lack of resources, some young girls are forced into prostitution to make a living. But they’re still clinging to the hope they’ll be granted refugee status by the UN High Commission for Refugees’’.
Kashif Javed, diocesan coordinator for the National Commission for Justice & Peace noted that the Church doesn’t support what he termed a ‘hasty and risky’ migration of Christians.
We extend every possible legal and financial assistance to victims of persecution instead of sending them abroad’.
Javed’s views stem from the fact that official red tape await many Christian asylum seekers resulting in hundreds of applicants returning to Pakistan or apprehended upon their arrival, detained and deported. To give an insight into the process, upon reaching Thailand for example, Christians file an asylum application with the UN High Commission for Refugees. However, several years can easily pass by before an interview with the Commission is granted in order to ascertain or reject asylum.
One case study is the plight of Karachi-born Nadeem John, who fled to Thailand in March 2014 with his wife and 2 children; leaving behind his business where he earned a decent livelihood. I was disheartened to learn that his interview with the UNHCR was scheduled for 2019. With no work permit and an interim period of 5 full years.
‘’For almost a year I remained jobless and spent all the money I brought from Pakistan by selling my shop and other belongings. Eventually we decided to return to Karachi and re-establish my business’.
It’s that ‘No Place to Call Home’ rhetoric I’ve ricocheted back and forth numerous times on this blog platform all over again. Which begs the question, where and when will it be safe enough to be Christian across the Muslim world?
India’s 15m Christian ‘Untouchables’ forced to deny faith
According to India’s caste system, the Dalit class scrape at the bottom. The Indian government have made the plight of the Dalits no better by forcing those who are Christian to convert back to Hinduism in order to receive governmental benefits. Often referred to as the ‘untouchables’, the Dalits are severely oppressed and live in extreme poverty. Those who profess to be Christian are not only a target for discrimination and persecution but face government oppression, as state officials declare that only Hindu Dalits are entitled to government program benefits, proving a life and death situation for the estimated 15 million Christian Dalits; as such financial relief enables many recipients poverty alleviation.
This deeply religiously-politicised action leaves millions of Christian Dalits to choose between following their faith or denouncing it, in a country where Christians have been systematically persecuted for 65 years. The entrenching of the Schedule Caste Order 1950 which denies routine aid to Dalit Christians is effectively resulting in the denial of the Christian faith. International Christian Concern (ICC) cites the example of a Dalit Christian who they name ‘Mr Batnam’, in which he implores the pastor of his church to write a letter to the government, stating he and his family are not members of any church.
‘I need this letter in order to show the government that we are low caste Hindus so that my son can do higher studies under the Schedule Caste Reservation Quota. I do not want my children to struggle like we do, as unskilled labourers barely meeting the ends. I want my children to study and to escape the struggles that we’re going through because we’re uneducated. Myself and my family could be denied the Scheduled Caste benefits because I go to church and believe in Jesus. We found ourselves in a worse position being Christians. As Hindus we had no status but at least we were given Scheduled Caste benefits.’
Batnam’s situation is not unique. This correlation between government benefits to Indian Dalits and religious identity is a very convenient method of de-incentivising primarily Hindu Dalits from converting to Christianity. It also serves as an enticement used by Hindu radicals to convert Christian Dalits, using the lure of Scheduled Caste benefits. Christian rights activist Franklin Ceaser states that governmental manipulation is unconstitutional.
‘The system is against the fundamental rights provided to all Indian citizens in the constitution. The Presidential Order of 1950 has destroyed fundamental and constitutional rights of Dalits from Christian and Muslim backgrounds, this benefit must be delinked from religion.
This new policy should be viewed as nothing less than an aggressive government campaign in spreading Hinduism and given the dominance of Hindu nationals currently in power and led by Modi, it is highly unlikely the situation will change any time soon.

Iranian regime releases Pastor Saaed Abedini

After a painful, long-suffering and tortuous 3 year-imprisonment, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been released by Iranian officials which has been confirmed by his wife today. Readers of the blog will already be aware of the ordeal of Abedini and his family as I blogged about it back in March 2015 :

Iran’s Saeed Abedini: A Crime of Christianity

This is indeed wonderful, joyous news and whilst God has answered prayer for the Abedini family, the wider issue of Christian apostasy and persecution remains paramount yet renewed hope has been restored for the likes of Pakistan’s Asia Bibi , currently held on death row since 2009.! i

Islamic Holocaust On The Horizon As World Ignores Christian Genocide

A diplomatic report dated 1986 described the Armenian massacres of Christians during the Ottoman Empire in 1895-96: 88,000 dead, 568 Churches destroyed, 328 Churches converted into Mosques, 2,400 villages looted and 646 villages forcefully Islamicised. The brutal persecution of Armenians further continued for over 30 years, reaching its peak in 1915. The total death toll is estimated at 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians. The statistics of this blatant genocide is absolutely staggering and one cannot help but plead: if the Western leaders of 1896 were aware of such an atrocity so early on, why was there no action taken, no intervention, no prevention of further loss of life?
Just as the world stood by and allowed the systematic elimination of millions of Armenians, history has repeated itself through the systematic extermination of mainly Christians in the Middle East through the brutality of the Islamic State. Unlike in the case of the Gaza protests where hundreds of thousands came out in droves in abhorrence of Israel; no capital in the Western world has ground to a standstill in expressing pure outrage and compassion for the persecuted Christian Church. Few have demanded war crime trials for the perpetrators. For this is a war crime – the crime being the mass eradication of Christians from the very continent that gave birth to it and the very continent where Christianity preceded Islam. Across the Middle East, Christians are in the process of being ethnically and religiously cleansed from the very lands they have dwelt in for almost 2,000 years. America wasted no time in purporting a War on Terror campaign in Iraq and beyond in the wake of the horrors of 9/11, but the real War on Terror initiated 1,400 years ago during the birth of Islam, the apex of which we see in 2014;where a genocide, a crime against humanity and an act of evil against civilisation itself unfolds before our very eyes.
And just as the West turned its back on the suffering of Armenia’s Christians, painful lessons have still not been learned as history repeats and re-creates itself into a possible Islamic Holocaust. The West has yet again proved to betray Middle Eastern Christians. Under the tyrannies of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, Christians and other minorities were afforded greater tolerance and protection as these leaders were all aware of the mainly Sunni-sect hatred and persecution they face. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad belongs to a minority Alwaite-sect of Islam and his political party has historically ensured the safeguard of Syria’s minorities. In the removal of these three leader and the current pressure on Assad to step down from power, the West have facilitated a scenario where a sharp proliferation of mainly Christian oppression and brutality has been allowed to flourish. As each of those steely leaderships have cascaded this has paved way for the political vacuum otherwise regarded as the ‘Arab Spring’. During and after the Arab Spring, Christians were especially targeted and successfully so, as the regimes that previously granted them security were in the process of being toppled. Fast forward to three months ago and the Islamic State have seized an area the size of a small nation, free to implement its Puritanical doctrine. Free to follow the Qu’ran in the most unequivocal and literal adherence. Free to carry out unimaginable brutality against everyone and anyone unwilling to conform to their ideology.
The birthplace of the Islamic State has caused utter decimation of Christian property, Churches and Christians themselves – to the point of no return. Mosul, the ancient Christian capital of Iraq has witnessed the Islamic State fulfill its Sharia Law and frequent amputation of limbs, crucifixions and the death penalty for apostasy has fast become the norm. The fate of Christians since the fall of Saddam has been appalling enough, with Canon Andrew White, Anglican vicar of Baghdad attesting: ‘Christians in Iraq are bombed and assassinated leaving Mass, driven out and targeted‘. But never has this ancient persecution of Iraqi Christians experienced thousands upon thousands fleeing from the very cities they have lived and practised their faith in for thousands of years. Mosul itself has been purged of nearly all of its inhabitants, with those remaining at risk of brutal torture and inevitably death.
The Islamic State have enacted a rampage of seizing military weapons and helicopters, freeing over 3,000 Muslim prisoners, looting and torching Churches and Christian villages. On 9 June, local police officers warned senior Christian leaders in Mosul to flee the city. From Niveneh to Kirkuk, Christians have been fleeing for their lives, leaving behind a livelihood they’ve only ever had and known. This scene of carnage and destruction to Iraqi Christian artifacts and edifices led local Mosul Christian Bashar Mansor to conclude: ‘this is the end of Christians. There will be no Christians in Iraq in ten years’.


The fate of Christians in Syria is another example of extreme bleakness and uncertainty as they struggle for survival. While the world has been distracted by Syria’s three year civil war, this has provided a cover for heightened persecution and repression of minority communities. They have been targeted in revenge for the protection afforded them under a stronger Assad leadership. The spread of the Islamic State has launched a far more brutal and violent insurgency that has displaced thousands of Christians; further decimating a people already diminished by over a decade of targeted hatred. The city of Raqqa is one example where Christians were given the ultimatum to pay the Jizya tax, convert to Islam or face death.
The city of Homs has now seen almost its entire Christian population of 50-60,000 fleeing for refuge and where the number remaining in the city is reported to have fallen below 1,000. The organisation Barnabas Fund who work globally with the Persecuted Church stated that: ‘Syrians are scared of the escalation of violence to the point of no control and the lack of security in most areas’
Human slaughter-houses for the purpose of butchering Christians, other minorities and even those Sunnis who do not comply with the Islamic State was recently discovered via one escapee Saif al-Adlubi. Saif relayed how he witnessed Armenian and Syrian Christians, Shiites and Sunnis being physically examined, before being decapitated from the root of their necks, their chest cavities opened, disemboweled and then hung upside down. Such slaughter-houses were first operated by the Free Syria Army before being assumed by the Islamic State. This sadistically barbaric act is done in alignment with the Islamic sacrificing of animals. In Islam it is permitted that a human replace an animal in a sacrificial ritual, referring back to Khalid Abdullah al-Kasri who sacrificed Jaad bin Durham instead of an animal on the Holy Festival of Sacrifice. Fast-track thousands of years later and this utterly depraved ideology sees pure Islam enact the exact cruelties.
We can see that that the West has everything to lose and nothing to gain by allowing the daily torture, kidnapping, enslaving, crucifying and beheading to continue. It is impossible to digest that in just three months, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian ancient Christians and other minority sects have been decimated and driven out – displaced and dispossessed. Unspoken and unaccounted for.
The West must wake up to the reality of this crisis and see it for what it really is: a fast looming Islamic Holocaust unlike anything the world has previously witnessed. A genocide more brutal than the methods employed by the Nazis – individual hacking of persons, from young babes to the elderly. Blood flowing from street to street, city to city, country to country. Blood crying out for mercy from the very grounds of Iraq, Syria and potentially well beyond.
Western governments, Churches and media have fallen mute, largely and shamefully unresponsive; apparently unaware of their duty to our Christians, to our humanity. To this day America makes no mention nor publically recognises the genocide of the Armenian Christians where millions were starved, brutally hung and beheaded. All in the name of Turkish-American relations. Almost 100 years later and the West yet again is proving to be indifferent to the Christians of the Middle East, which is just as destructive as the daily decimation they endure. Three months could easily become three years of this heinous and offensive to the human race: the Islamic State. While Obama tries to make the Islamic State a ‘manageable problem’ and Cameron feebly condemns this act of savagery and that act of brutality, another day in passing is another day too late.
The talk of Western leadership has at large always been cheap. As cheap as the lives of terrorised Christians in the Middle East has become.

Persecuted Global Refugees: No Place To Call Home

The official estimate for the number of refugees globally passes the 50 million mark for the first time since World War II. According to UNHCR reports, over half of this figure belongs to refugee children. In a world experiencing a severe deficit of peace, security and stability, millions of people around the globe are left with no option but to evict themselves from their own homes – their own countries. Whenever the refugee topic crops up, generally speaking many consider war, famine, being in opposition to dominant political leaders and parties, or belonging to minority tribes and castes as among the reasons for why there are so many displaced people worldwide. But what many people fail to recognise is how the frequent and substantial persecution of religious minorities acts as a catalyst to drive millions of inhabitants out of their homeland.
Most of the world’s attention has been focused on the Middle East recently and not for no reason. Place yourself in the shoes of a Syrian Shiite or Christian in this current climate. You are surrounded by unbearable violence and lack all the basic essentials needed for you and your family daily. Your communities are routinely targeted by Islamic militants with your homes and Churches lying in utter ruin. You have had friends and family members kidnapped, sold into slavery or beheaded – leaving you extremely vulnerable and unprotected. Fundamentally you have been deprived of your sanity and humanity. You too would join the countless others in search of a life worth living.
These are the untold stories of the civil war in Syria, the violent instability and upheaval in Iraq, Libya and Lebanon. And not just this continent but throughout Africa, where Boko Haram are persecuting Christians especially in northern Nigeria, to the Central African Republic all the way through to Somalia where the brutal violence enacted against the Christians and minorities by al-Shabaab and other militant groups see millions displaced across the region. The same paradigm can be found throughout South Asia – from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and stretching to Afghanistan.
Recently approximately 600,000 Syrian Christians have been reported to have fled to neighbouring countries, joining a total of the 2 million Syrian refugee population.
The United Nations estimate that a third of Syrians have been displaced by the last few years of war. It is feared that if the migration of Christians from Syria continues then the country will emulate Iraq, which since 1990 has witnessed three-quarters of its Christian population take flight. As much of this minority community has been substantially depleted in both these nations, the Church is in perilous decline to the extent that it faces permanent extinction.
The continent of South Asia fares no better. The usual persecution is daily carried out against the country’s minority Shia, Ahmadi and Christian communities. But especially poignant in Pakistan is its controversial Blasphemy Law used against its Christians who account for 2% of the total population.
Those acquitted of Blasphemy charges remain in constant danger of being targeted and killed. One example is Farrukh Gill, forced to flee Pakistan with his family after being falsely accused of writing blasphemous letters and burning pages of the Qu’ran. Such charges were later dropped but the beatings, police torture and continued death threats saw the Gill family flee to a designated safe-house provided by a Christian charity. Their country of migration is unclassified.
Since December 2012 when a militant Islamic uprising initiated in the Christian-majority Central African Republic, over 1 million people have been displaced by the bloodshed and thousands of Christians have fled to neighbouring countries. In the wake of the abduction of the Chibok girls, Boko Haram have implemented a bloody massacre, butchering thousands of people in villages to the North-east of Nigeria. This has prompted thousands to migrate to nearby countries and 5 million Nigerians are reported to be displaced in recent years.

It is not possible to comprehend 50 million refugees let alone each individual story. The ones mentioned have not even scratched the surface in any of the above countries. But it is imperative to recognise that from all the continents of the earth, persecution of minorities is a daily occurrence and only those financially able, only those fortunate to obtain the relevant documents are able to escape the trauma that is their life. For too many decades have the Kurds been dispossessed and without an official homeland, finding residence in neighbouring Turkey and Syria and yet in this current climate this displacement is further guaranteed. With other minorities such as the Yazidis well on their way to adopting a similar status.

Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamic Movement Establishes Caliphate

By now the ‘Islamic State’ and ‘the Caliphate’ are phrases very familiar globally as the world hones in on the spread of Puritanical Islam particularly in the Middle East. Not much attention is being given to the spread of the Caliphate, an agenda particularly permeating throughout Africa and namely Nigeria these past few months. The world remains silent on the effect IS is having on countless militant Islamic organisations worldwide, nor do they publically establish the connection between this Caliphate Movement (officially known to many as initiating in Iraq) and organisations such as Boko Haram in Nigeria. The key word being connection. Islamic insurgent movements globally are not without their networks and the connection between Islamic State and Boko Haram is no exception.
Both these groups are linked to Al-Qaeda: ISIL emerged as an off-shoot from Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram are known to still be in connection to them. Inevitably then both IS and Boko Haram are of the same ideology despite geographical location and any replication by way of seizing land and beheading of man in Nigeria should come as no surprise. However, Boko Haram hasn’t emerged as a fresh Jihadist organisation as a direct result of the Caliphate Movement. Many are aware they have been in existence for the past 5 years, in a country divided equally between Muslims and Christians. Nigeria’s Muslims are primarily Sunni and concentrated in the north of the country, whereas its Christians predominantly dwell in the Middle Belt and the South.

Designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States, the meaning of Boko Haram translates as ‘Western education is forbidden’. Ignoring the fact they speak english themselves, a Western language however hard they wish to distort the facts. Their goal is to eradicate Nigerian democracy and replace it with an Islamic state governed by Sharia Law and their leader Abu Bakr Shekau reiterated this in his threat to Nigerians on January 28 2012: ‘there are no exceptions. Even if you are Muslim and can’t abide by Sharia we will kill you. Even if you are my own father we will kill you’.

Boko Haram provoked an international outcry on August 26, 2011 with its suicide attack on the UN headquarters in Abuja, but has since made significant changes in its tactics – switching its focus on internally eliminating the Christian factor in Nigeria. Major attacks have frequently been carried out against Nigeria’s Christians living in majority Muslim areas in the north and north-east of the country. Boko Haram’s new phase of anti-Christian attacks can be divided into the following categories:
1) Attacks against local Christians in the Boko Haram core operating area of the Borno and Yobe states, in addition to the adjacent state of Bauchi.
2) Major suicide operations and/or targeted bombings of high-profile Churches in Jos, Plateau State and within the city of Abuja.
3) Violent reprisals against Church/Parachurch personnel throughout the North and Middle-Belt regions of Nigeria.
Boko Haram initiated 2011 with a series of suicide attacks, bombings and targeted murders in Damaturu, Yobe state which killed at least 100. Christmas Day 2011 provided militants the perfect opportunity to target worshipers as they left Christian service. The cities of Jos and Abuja -both containing expatriate populations and cities with wide media coverage -witnessed suicide attacks against its Churches, killing at least 25 on 25 December.
The shedding of Christian blood by Boko Haram continued into 2012, on January 5, 6, 10, 11 and 24 (in the cities of Maidguguri, Adumawara and Jos) , in February 19 (Soleja, near Abuja) until February 25 (Abuja and Jos). The behaviour of Boko Haram indicates a possible civilian war in Nigeria which the world makes no mention of, nor of the militants purposely expelling Christians from mainly-Muslim towns and cities, to the point where much of the Christian population of Maiduguri have been regularly fleeing the city as early as 2010 and 2011.
However, the past 6 months has sparked an unprecedented wave of anti-Christian violence, with thousands finding refuge in neighbouring countries as the Caliphate Movement pervades its way into Nigeria. It has given Boko Haram an ever deeper determination to create a state for Islam and Islam alone. The state of Borno has experienced unbearable suffering at the hands of this militant organisation, from the abduction of the 270 Chibok girls in April to the butchering of thousands of Nigerians this past week.
In the wake of the Chibok abductions 5 months ago, Boko Haram have embarked upon a relentless rampage, seizing churches and occupying lands across northern Nigeria. On June 1, 9 members of a local Church in Attagra village, Borno were killed as gunmen opened fire on a congregation gathered for Sunday morning service. The same day in Gwoshe town, Borno, 2 Churches were torched alongside several homes and local shops. This town is no stranger to Boko Haram violence as 21 Christians were reported to have been killed on 25 May, when militants set upon the Church of Christ in Nations.
Stories of beheadings and forced conversions to Islam of Nigerian Christian women, before being married off to their captors have poured out from the region in addition to reports of petrol bombs and IEDs being used to decimate persons and Christian property.Eyewitnesses have spoken of Boko Haram’s intent to cleanse Nigeria of Christians and even certain moderate Muslim communities. Reverend John Bakeni of Maiduguri’s Roman Catholic Diocese, told Religious News Service: ‘a good number of parishes in Pulka and Madagali areas have been overrun in the last few days. Many civilians are on the run. Many others are trapped and killed. Life means nothing here. It’s so cheap and valueless’. The usual barbarity against Christians has seen a proliferation of the norm, markedly so since August when Boko Haram’s Shekau announced an Islamic Caliphate. This has led many Church officials to see no difference between Boko Haram and ISIL. Bakeni spoke of the connection between the two organisations: ‘the same ideology runs through their methods and disposition’.
As the civilian death toll reaches 2,000 in 2014 alone, this has provoked national and international outcry. The Gwoza Christian Community Association wrote an open letter to the Borno state Governor, accusing him of not acting swiftly enough to stem the violence; highlighting 46 mainly Christian villages entirely destroyed by Boko Haram members. The open letter can be viewed below.
Desecration of Nigeria’s Christians has led Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s (CSW) Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas to denounce Boko Haram as a ‘relentless campaign of religious cleansing. Boko Haram continues to commit war crimes by willfully destroying Churches. Moreover, the sect has illustrated once again its disregard for every religion and the sanctity of human life, not only by targeting the innocent as they pray but also by indoctrinating vulnerable girls for use as disposable commodities, to fulfill its murderous purposes’.
To date, the Nigerian government and security forces seem incapable of responding to Boko Haram and minimising its bloody trail. In fact certain elements of these security forces and political leaders of the Muslim-majority north are either complicit with the organisation or sit back in utter complacence in the face of terror. President Goodluck Jonathan recently admitted his Cabinet contained apparent Boko Haram collabarators, leading him to sack many of them.
This lack of inability to launch an effective offensive against the militant organisation enable them to be virtually unchallenged. Boko Haram have managed to secure Maiduguri in Borno state, as well as expanding its operating area of the major Muslim areas of northern Nigeria. More towns to add to the creation of a Nigerian Islamic Caliphate. Boko Haram now controls a large swath of north-eastern Nigeria, expanding into neighbouring Cameroon. Last Tuesday saw the capture of Bara and Banki located south-west of Maiduguri.

Hussain Monguno, leader of the civic Borno-Yobe People’s Forum spoke of the bodies that littered the streets of Bama, a city containing around 200,000. A city currently overrun by Boko Haram militants. The Nigerian Emergency Management Agency reported that 26,500 residents have fled Bama this week, joining almost 12,000 who fled Gwoza which was seized by the organisations 2 weeks ago. The UN Refugee Agency stated that nearly 650,000 Nigerians have been forced from their homes, now displaced within their own country. Tens of thousands have been reported to be looking for shelter in neighbouring countries. Human rights and aid workers have estimated that a total of 1.5 million Nigerians have been affected.
Nigeria’s semi-dysfunctional society, lacking in basic security and the rule of law has been exploited by these Islamic militants as there as no real tangible government and security processes against them. This has led to serious and dire consequences. Since the country has shown itself to be generally inept in safeguarding especially its Christian and minority communities, it has resulted in the succumbing to Boko Haram’s henious aims. The establishment of an Islamic Caliphate indicates that the future of Nigeria and its surrounding nations to be in desperate uncertainty.

Malaysia State passes Hudud Death Penalty Bill for Apostasy

I am witness to the alarming rate at which Malaysia sways towards religious oppression of its non-Muslims. In further development of this, Malaysia’s north-eastern state of Kelantan is set to propose the enforcement of the Islamic ‘Hudud’ Bill in its Parliament after it was unanimously passed by the Kelantan State Assembly on 19 March. Hudud is a term for the severe, Koran-prescribed punishment for offences that are considered being against God himself. These include amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, flogging for alcohol consumption, crucifixion for armed robbery and execution for apostasy.
This Kelantan bill which was initially passed in 1993 but prevented from being implemented on the grounds of its unconstitutional nature, has been passed yet again and now being set in motion. The Bill is an amendment of the 1965 Syariah (Sharia) Courts Act which currently limits Sharia penalties to a fine of 3,000 Malaysian Ringgits ($800), 5 years imprisonment and 6 strokes of a cane. Sharia law is heavily prevalent in the running of Malaysian law and politics and Kelantan state is of no exception. In Kelantan, Syariah courts function alongside the penal court system and are governed by state legislation rather than federal law.
The Islamic Parti Islam-se Malaysia (PAS) Party is the ruling coalition in Kelantan state and have already proposed 2 Private Members Bills in Parliament during its sitting which concluded yesterday. The first proposal is to enable Syariah courts to legislate on certain crimes currently under the charge of the Penal Code. The second is to enable Syariah courts to sentence those convicted to the aforementioned punishments according to the Koran-prescribed Hudud. Despite the requirement for a majority Parliamentary vote to enact the first proposal and a two-thirds majority to enact the second, given the unanimous passing of the Hudud Bill in the first place, it is highly unlikely that the Kelantan state government will struggle to enforce such punishments.
This PAS Bill states that Hudud can only affect the Muslim population of the state but it fundamentally strips away the right of anyone wishing to leave Islam for any other religion or quite possibly, to simply abandon it. The implementation of this Bill will clearly divide the state along ethnic and religious lines, as under the proposed code for example, women and non-Muslim men are not permitted to testify as witnesses in Syariah courts. This has led political and social researcher, Dr Wong Chin Huat to pose the valid statement:
‘If I am robbed in Kelantan by a Muslim and his case goes to Syariah court and I cannot be my own witness in full competence, how can this be justice?’
It should be pointed out that this Hudud Bill is not unique to Kelantan alone, rather the state is just a latest example of the curtailing of religious freedom within Malaysia. Terengganu state for instance has also attempted to introduce similar legislation. I am still living in Malaysia until the summer and I can honestly say the country’s politics does not shy away from exclusively carving out a Muslim nation explicitly for the Malays and chipping away at non-Malay and non-Muslim freedoms.
Two-thirds of Malaysia’s Christians live in Sarawak and Sabah and the churches of Sarawak have been particularly vocal in its criticism of the Hudud Bill, perceiving its enactment to be in violation of the secular foundation upon which Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia. The Kuching Ministers’ Fellowship (KMF), a network of church pastors and leaders in Sarawak, joined the Sabah Council of Churches in criticising the passing of the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code II Enactment 1993 (amendment 2015) last month in the east coast state run by Islamist party PAS.
“The recently-passed Kelantan Hudud enactment is in direct contradiction to the aspirations of founding fathers of our nation to keep Malaysia a secular state as evidenced in several historical documents that explicitly state this,” KMF chairman Pastor Daron Tan stated.
“The introduction of hudud law is a fundamental breach and deviation from the expressed commitment to complete religious freedom, a key term underpinning the Malaysia Agreement signed in July 1963 between Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya,” he added.
As the original secular roots of Malaysia continues to be eroded and replaced with an ever-present, ever-pressing purer form of Islam, the nation continues to be plunged deeper into uncertainty for its religious minorities. Malaysia is becoming a country of increasing alarm, its politics increasingly embedded and infiltrated by hard-line Islamists. Personally speaking, it has become a country that has gained priority in my nations-to-watch list.


Experiences, Effects, Recommendations
Report Writers & Interviewers: N Lewis & A Hussain
March 2017
‘There are all sorts of rights these days but it is a disappointment that there is no right to protect Muslim converts to Christianity in a Christian country like the United Kingdom with such liberal/democratic values and Human Rights.’
Iranian convert to Christianity (Anonymous at own request)
Typically those who leave Islam face a stark choice – keep quiet about their decision, or face discrimination, hatred and violence. We explore the issues of how many ‘apostates’ there may be, the little available literature, and record the varied experiences of both covert and overt ‘apostates’, chiefly humanists / agnostics / atheists and Christians, as well as, in some cases, their calls for the state to do more to protect them. We conclude with some recommendations for tackling what appears to be a widespread and deeply entrenched problem. Contents : Introduction p2, Interviews p8, Discussion, recommendations and areas for further research p39, Summary p42
Strong anecdotal evidence from numerous sources suggests that there is a rapidly growing population of former Muslims (often referred to as ‘apostates’) in the UK, a phenomenon that holds true in most every Western nation and a good number of other countries too. Strong anecdotal evidence also suggests that ex-Muslims tend to face extremely high levels of harassment, up to and including violence and murder, precisely because of their status as ex-Muslims – in other words, they are a target for hate crime. The most common ‘destinations’ for such ex-Muslims appear to be the Christian faith and forms of secularism or non-faith – humanism, atheism and agnosticism: a number of organisations, particularly Christian charities, operate safe houses for people facing forced marriage and ‘honour’ crime, and a good proportion of these appear to be ‘apostates’. However, due to security issues, we have naturally not been able to get into contact with those whose situation has been so dire that they have been forced to turn to such safe houses. We have, however, talked to one or two who have been forced to move house or city, or anticipate having to do so in the near future.
Despite this strong anecdotal evidence, including multiple media reports in both mainstream and specialist media, such as Christian media, it is hard to find definitive answers to questions such as ‘how many ex-Muslims are there?’ There is next to no academic literature on the subject, and estimates of numbers can vary widely. For instance it is well known that significant numbers of asylum seekers are turning to Christianity, although for some it may well be an attempt to bolster their asylum claims – some people smugglers advise them to do this. However, a good proportion are clearly genuine. One problem is that numbers of asylum seekers, who may leave for other nations or disappear into the ‘black’ economy to avoid deportation, are particularly difficult to assess. There are consistent reports of severe persecution of Christians in general, and converts in particular, in the refugee camps and asylum system in a number of continental nations such as Sweden, Germany and Greece, among others, as documented by such groups as the Barnabas Fund and the International Christian Consulate (ICC). It is hard to believe that such widespread patterns are not replicated to some degree within the UK, and indeed there are some reports consistent with this. The reports indicate Christian refugees , whether converts or not, routinely face targeted violence (over and above the general violence), ostracism, discrimination and sexual assault in refugee centres and in the actual asylum apparatus itself (for example, having to flee for their lives from accommodation provided by the state in Sweden, and having to find their own private accommodation).
The only academic materials we have thus far been able to find are as follows:
A book entitled ‘The Apostates : When Muslims leave Islam’ by Simon Cottee, senior lecturer in Criminology at Kent University. The book contains the accounts of many UK and Canadian ‘apostates’, and also exposes the way some of the academic and cultural elite deride these vulnerable individuals as a kind of traitor, rather than celebrating their expression of the fundamental right of religious Freedom.
Religious Freedom is the central theme of the other work, a Masters Thesis by Anniesa Hussein, herself from a family of badly persecuted family of ‘apostates’: ‘Challenging whether Freedom of Religion exists in the United Kingdom, with regards to the rise in persecution of Apostates from Islam.’ This work contrasts the situation for ‘apostates’ against established International covenants and similar provisions regarding religious freedom, and looks at the interplay of multiculturalism and Islamic communal self-understanding, and expression, particularly in the way it seeks to set up a parallel alternative society system. Apostasy is intolerable because of this hierarchical social system of Islamic orthodoxy. It also delves into the Islamic religious textual justification for hostility to apostates and recounts the history of several apostates as illustration.
Both acknowledge, as we have found, that there is very little academic material out there, but plenty of personal accounts. There has also been work done on the topic by Christian aid charities Barnabas Fund and CSW.
We should note that some people are afraid to talk, or will only talk a little. For instance, in at least one case we were told by other converts that a person we interviewed had had a lot more harassment and persecution than he had let on, but was very wary of talking about it. There is concern that they might be identified by specifics, even though we anonymized most accounts, and tried to be as non-specific as we could be as to location and situation.
Although this report is chiefly about ‘apostates’ of various types, it should be noted that the testimony of many non-convert Asian Christians closely tracks the stories you will read here. Our researchers have heard of reports where new arrivals granted asylum and placed in an Asian (mainly Muslim) area of a large city have faced exactly the same kind of persecution as they fled from as soon as it was discovered they were Christian – such as false accusations of desecrating mosques, and severe physical violence, including at least one case where a council was forced to move a family within a few weeks of arrival because of such persecution. We have also been told – directly by the victims – of cases where Asian Christians have been harassed or attacked for daring to eat in public during Ramadan, where Asian Christian women have been approached and harshly rebuked by Muslim men for not wearing a head covering, and who then aggressively pressured them to convert to Islam when they found out the woman was a Christian – with the husband present, and also where in schools Asian Christian students are attacked and beaten up for refusing to convert to Islam, and the school sought to cover up the incident and not involve the police. We strongly suspect that these stories are not aberrations but part of a widespread pattern of hate crime, much of it underreported because many victims will not bother going to the police, as they believe, rightly or wrongly, that they will not be taken that seriously – a position for which sometimes they have personal experience, or point to the experience of others they know who have been unsatisfied with the results.
Many apostates remain fearful for their lives, and cautious in the extreme. Both Christian and secular ex-Muslim groups carefully vet potential new members because they report facing efforts by radical Muslims to infiltrate them. Of the Christian charities offering help by operating safe houses for converts or those fleeing forced marriages, at least some are reportedly organized on a cell level, so that even if one house or cell is infiltrated, those involved have no knowledge of others. They also operate vetting, and, reportedly, strict rules. The reason for this is that one of the biggest challenges faced by apostates or ex-Muslims is the loss of family and social life – intense loneliness, depression and guilt, moving from what had often previously been warm and supportive family structures to empty lives and flats and calendars – they had suddenly moved from the plus to the negative side of the honour-shame culture. People involved in such vetting have pointed to cases where tangential connections that were kept on were used to lure ‘renegade’ family members back in for forced marriages or violence and even honour killings by telling tales of desires for reconciliation or parents being very ill (again, no-one can really pin down figures, but there is general agreement that a significant number of honour killings, particularly of women, are in whole or in part because they have left the Islamic faith). For this reason, the operators of these safe house systems insist for the sake of safety of people in their safe houses that all contact with their old life is completely severed. They also have told BPCA researchers that as a matter of policy, anyone involved in sheltering apostates should not let their location be known to police, as people with security connections have told them that likely every police force has been infiltrated, and it just takes one person with access to the database to compromise their location, and that at least one police force apparently has something of an unwritten police of actively telling Muslim families the location of (non-underage) family members when they know it.
Additionally, such sources report that there appears to be a system by which mosques have individuals who are tasked with tracking down people of interest to the community, because they are deemed to be behaving in an un-Islamic manner in some way. These individuals will also respond to requests from other mosques, and in effect they form a network of small cells. They said that it is not uncommon when social services move a child or vulnerable person from their Muslim home to somewhere a considerable distance away, that within a few days Asian men will be on the street where the person has been placed, asking after them. A BPCA researcher has had a social worker independently confirm to them that this is indeed often the case. Apostates (in this case converts to Christianity) who have been able or willing to talk have told BPCA researchers that many converts operate in the shadows, moving every couple of months, and there are anecdotal reports of name changes and even in one or two cases new National Insurance Numbers.
The Council of Ex Muslims of Britain say they offer help to about 350 apostates a year who approach them – these are likely to be mostly atheists / agnostics / humanists. One Islamic researcher estimates that that of the approximately 10,000 who convert to Islam each year (mainly women) at least 5,000 will have left the faith within a few years – and this doesn’t include those who were born Muslim but leave the faith. By this reckoning, numbers of ‘apostates’ of various forms and persuasions number at least in the high 10’s of 1000’s, and probably significantly higher.
It is also the case that a good number of what are in effect ‘apostates’ live quietly within Muslim communities, not participating in religious practices, or doing so to disguise their lack of belief when they must, primarily because they are fully aware that there is a often huge difference in attitude in many communities to openly declared ‘apostates’, as compared to merely ‘bad’ Muslims who don’t really practice the faith much.
Whilst we cannot give any better idea of numbers, for all the above reasons, the testimony of these ‘apostates’, whether converts to Christianity, humanism, atheism or other religions show significant common patterns. Their experiences should be read in the light of surveys that have shown that nearly 1/4 of all UK Muslims either strongly support or tend to support the introduction of Sharia law in the UK, and well over a third of younger Muslims (16-24 year olds, although this data is about 10 years old). All, or almost all, schools of Sharia law require apostates to be put to death.
Even those who report that their immediate family was relatively accepting say that their families were emphatic about hiding their new status from the wider family and community for fear both of the shame, and potential ostracism and detrimental effects to siblings and the like, but also because of fear of violence. However, very often it is the immediate family who react violently and vehemently – ranging from extreme verbal shaming, death threats or saying ‘You are dead to us’ or ‘It would be better if you had died’, pressure based about the dishonour to the family name, guilt-tripping over adverse affects to parents health, attempts to control by seizing mobile phones or passports, beatings, keeping them locked up, knives to the throat, evicting them from the house. As we noted earlier, in some cases, tangential connections kept – for instance, through cousins or family friends – can be used to entice lonely apostates back to face violence or murder in so called ‘honour violence’.
The same often applies to extended family, and also to friends – friends who realize that the apostasy is real and not a joke are often reported to start abusing, cursing and threatening such apostates.
All of this does not take into account harassment and attacks by radical extremists, which can also happen. Some apostates, particularly those who have spoken out, report getting well over 100 death threats.
Anecdotally, many converts report little understanding about their situation from the authorities, and many, certainly amongst converts to Christianity, condemn the culture of multi-culturalism as being part of the cause of this lack of awareness and help.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a particularly strong move to Christianity among Iranians. Many converts to Christianity among Iranians, and other groups, feel able to be quite open about their faith, but occasionally even then there are problems, very occasionally even interference from the intelligence services of countries of origin. There seems to be a consensus, though, that generally Iranians are less badly persecuted, but that hostility and persecution is stronger in other communities, with Pakistani’s particularly mentioned by multiple ‘apostates’.
One other trend that some apostates point to as a reason for their increasingly precarious position is that communities have gradually stopped self-identifying by culture or origin (Bengali, etc), and now self-identify as Islamic above all – communities are increasingly religious.
Finally, we should not ignore the elephant in the room – the root cause of such attitudes, over and above (or, perhaps better, beyond and below) community and social dynamics, and honour and shame culture and so forth, is a fundamentally religious and ideological reason, as we touched on briefly earlier. Although the Quran does not – as far as I can tell – contain any command about killing apostates, outside of the Quran, the most authoritative materials in Islam are the Hadith / Hadeeth, collections of the recorded sayings and doings of the Islamic prophet, written down several centuries after his time from oral traditions. This work is not the place to go into the more scholarly debate on these Hadith, but they were assessed and ranked for reliability or validity when the original collections were made, and they are foundational for the tenets of Sharia law (certainly those that are considered reliable), second only to the Quran itself. A number of the converts or apostates interviewed cited sayings of the Islamic prophet as recorded in the Hadith as the reasons for why they fear for their lives, and why the death of apostates is celebrated in front of them. Although some small proportion of the Islamic world seeks to say that the Hadith concerning apostasy are merely later impositions to try and buttress the positions and power of Islamic clerics and other authority figures, for much, probably most, of the Islamic world, consider them very authoritative when thinking about the issue of apostasy. The position in the Hadith can be summed up by one passage that is most often quoted:
The Prophet said ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him’. (Bukhari 9.84.57)
Another saying from the same collection of Hadith says:
[The Islamic Prophet] ‘A Muslim who has admitted there is no god but Allah and that I am His Prophet may not be killed except for three reasons: as punishment for murder, for adultery, or for apostasy. ‘ (Bukharia 9.83.17)
To give an example of how this is discussed in modern times, I will quote from the youtube video of an Islamic religious leader from 2014:
Q : Some of the callers say the penalty for apostasy is not a theoretical concept, but just political. How do we respond to them?
Al-Fawzan :
No. Rather they say there is no penalty for apostasy meaning don’t kill or penalize anyone for apostasy. The Prophet (saas) said : ‘Whoever changes his religion, kill him’. Another hadith: ‘the blood of a muslim is not allowed except in three cases – ‘a life for a life’, ‘stoning the adulterer’ and the one who apostates, separates from the Muslim community.
But they say ‘the people are free with freedom of opinion’ and they cite the verse in Qur’an, ‘No compulsion in Religion’ but they understand this verse the wrong way. ‘No compulsion in religion’ means upon entrance to the religion [of Islam] there is no forcing someone in the religion, because guidance is in Allah’s hands (Might and Majestic). But when he enters the Deen [religion – Islamic], and understands it to be the truth, and holds to it, and yet still abandons it, then he is someone who is corrupt, who will corrupt others with his thinking, so it is a must to kill him, eradicate him, because he will be a source of corruption. The one who knows the religion is true and enters it, then after that apostates (sic), is none but a corrupt individual who will affect others with his thinking, so this is logical in the religion. Therefore it is a must to kill him. (Shaykh Salih Ibn Al-Fawzan)
This gives some idea of how much of an imperative ‘eliminating’ apostates is for very significant portions of the Islamic religion. It also gives an idea of what drives the waves of hate crime that so many apostates face to one degree or another.
Introduction Summary:
The number of apostates in the UK is unknown but at a very minimum is in the high 10’s of 1000’s.
The majority convert to non-belief / humanism or Christianity.
Whilst a somewhat small proportion appear to face relatively few difficulties, many face extreme ostracism, death threats, abuse, violence, vicious verbal abuse, and even actual murder from family and community. They also often suffer from depression, guilt, shame and loneliness. Some feel forced to live in the shadows, in effect on the run, or to move away from their home community, and a relative few end up in safe houses for their own protection.
Whilst honour-shame culture plays an important role, at the root of such attitudes and actions is the firmly established policy of death for apostates that has a history as long as Islam itself, a policy that is explicitly stated in early Islamic religious texts that are generally considered authoritative.
The Interviews
Here we have written summaries, appropriately anonymzied in many cases – only a relative few have been willing to be named, mostly those whose names are already in the public domain – of the interviews that have been conducted so far. There is a wide range of situations, from atheists to passionate Christian evangelists, from those who do not want to be named and try and live under the radar, to those who are well known in their communities. Some talked freely, some would only email in brief accounts of what they suffered. In some cases they were very forthright as to failings in government policy or in other areas of society, and what should be done to combat the threats they face. We have included these comments here. We have sought and continue to seek in the ongoing study the widest pool of input, although we have faced hostility from some atheist / humanist apostates who apparently fear our contact is covertly an attempt to convert them to Christianity.
Shokit (real name, Pakistani background)
Summary : Converted to Christianity from a violent and dysfunctional lifestyle, struggled with several issues for a long time, was beaten and left for dead by family members who got light sentences, he now boldly preaches Jesus in his local community, but still sometimes faces threats and aggressive behaviour, as do those who convert due to his evangelism.
Shokit is becoming a well known name in his local community, a Yorkshire town in which he was born and bred (although he also did spend some time in London and in Pakistan). His family heritage is Sunni Pakistani. He said his parents weren’t especially observant, but they did press their children to go to Mosque and Mosque schools, so he and his siblings were on the whole stricter and more observant than their parents (a phenomenon that is quite common). Shokit in his turn married a Portugese woman who converted from Catholicism to Islam, and had five children, bringing them up strictly in the Islamic faith, ensuring that they too were taught at the Mosque. However, he had major issues in his personal life. He says that several of his family were involved in crime at the time, and he himself had a horrifically bad temper, and was extremely aggressive and violent, scaring many of his family members at times. He was trapped in a mesh of addictions to alcohol and drugs, among other things and was hugely overweight. He says that doctors would use terms such as schizophrenia and psychoses of him. As such, in his late 30’s he describes himself as crying out to God for help, and at about this time he encountered a UK missionary in his local area when he was in Pakistan, and eventually converted to Christianity and was baptized. When his wife found out about his baptism, she kicked him out and also told his family, leading to a period of harassment and abuse: his family called him mental, and a bad man for converting (even above the other issues he had) and two nephews beat him up with baseball bats and left him for dead – he had chosen to react according to the teaching of Jesus and turned the other cheek and didn’t fight back and chose to forgive them. The doctors said that he wouldn’t walk again, but after prayer and believing Jesus had promised him he would walk again, he amazed doctors by standing up in the hospital. His nephews were convicted and charged, yet were not sent to prison, but instead merely given community service, which he felt and feels was inappropriate for a crime of that severity and deliberate nature. Despite his amazing recovery, the attack has left lasting effects – he has no sense of smell, and suffers constant pain in his wrist and other locations from where he was beaten, and also for several years after he suffered frequent panic attacks. The authorities, he says, did nothing to help – he received no criminal or medical compensation and no support whatsoever.
He still had many personal issues, and met Laima, a Latvian lady in church whom he started dating as or soon after his wife divorced him. However, he did so in an inappropriate way that angered both his family and local community as well as the church itself, which kicked him out. At the same time his son had a severe car accident, and Shokit suffered deep depression for some six years. He was forced to move out of the area, although after a couple of years he returned and also returned to church, which had a new pastor and lots of new people and a new attitude. Shokit, despite the continuing effects of the beating, has been transformed from his previous situation and he recently reunited with and married Laima.
He now regularly goes out preaching about Jesus, even going in to Mosques to preach that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and also preaches the gospel to people in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and parts of Africa via Whatsapp. He says that in these locations and locally, many Muslims are getting supernaturally healed of very serious health problems when he and others pray for them: as a result, many Muslims are coming to be prayed for, and are more open to hearing about Jesus and the Christian faith. In addition, significant numbers are actually converting as a result, both abroad and in the UK – however many of them stay quiet and only secretly convert because of fear of honour killings and honour violence. Although Shokit is now a very positive individual, focusing on the good things, he does acknowledge that his activity and status is far from risk free. ‘To die for Jesus is gain’, he says, and will not cease from practicing and preaching his faith, despite the fact that many in the community continue to mock and aggressively criticize him and seek to humiliate and shame him. He reports getting lots of threats over the phone, with swearing and abuse, from withheld numbers, as well as slashed tyres on his car on occasion. However, as word of the healings and the transformation in his life gets around, this is not as bad as it used to be. He gave one example in particular, where he had been talking to some young Muslim men outside a mosque, when the mosque’s cleric came out and started shouting at Shokit that ‘You are Satan. If we were in Egypt or Syria I would cut off your head’. Shokit knelt down in front of him, and said ‘If you kill me, I will go to heaven, and I will forgive you’ and asked if this was the way of the ‘merciful Allah’. This did not mollify the cleric, but after he had gone, the young men watching agreed with Shokit’s comments on the different attitudes displayed.
Shokit says that even though a few members of his extended family are still involved in criminality, many of his family are no longer hostile, in the main due to his radical transformation from hate and violence to being loving. Now cousins and nephews and others often come to him for advice. Other converts that he knows, including a prominent local businessman, still face significant difficulties, and some keep their status secret for fear of persecution.
Mohammed Fyaz (real name, Pakistani background)
Summary: Ostracized by his family when he left home early, he has faced being taken to Pakistan by family members, deliberately keeps his location secret even from his church, and generally hides his status as convert from Muslims. He anticipates being forced to move again once his book comes out, and has deliberately chosen to be single precisely because of the dangers as a convert. He receives death threats on Facebook, and is articulate about what the government needs to do to protect converts like him.
Mohammed Fyaz is from a Pakistani family who he described as nominal or not particularly observant Sunni family, at least when he was growing up. Unlike most others, we have not disguised his identity as he has become a somewhat public figure, having appeared on a BBC program on the issue of converts or ‘apostates’, and is about to become more so with the launch of his life story, a book called ‘Letting Love Win’. However, he says that one of the main reasons he has been relatively (emphasis on relatively) safe so far is that he doesn’t look like a Pakistani, but more like a West Indian, and so he makes sure he lives outside the Muslim community, but currently he can largely move in and out of the Muslim community; he anticipates that will change when his book, endorsed by several prominent politicians and others, is released. He believes, based on his past knowledge and the experience of others, that family members and others will start hunting him down for dishonouring the family once his book is published.
Mohammed was brought up in the north of England, but currently lives in a county bordering on London, and anticipates having to move from there once his book comes out. He is so careful about security that he doesn’t even let anyone at his church, (which is mainly white British, but with some Asian members) know where he lives. He has also made the choice to be single precisely because of the dangers and security risks of his life as a convert, and his need to be mobile to escape threats, something that a partner and children would radically compromise.
His story begins with significant family issues involving abuse, which were the main reasons he left home early, as a teenager. It was also about the time that he rejected Islam, and turned to Christianity, although he says that he didn’t become ‘born again’, or truly a Christian, until a little later, in his 20’s. Although his family are not particularly observant, because of the honour-shame issues, if nothing else, his family will have nothing to do with him, and he has no contact with them, although he misses them, and misses never having met his youngest brother, born after he left.
Part of his story from his teens involved an incident where his family, particularly an uncle who was violent and in and out of prison, tried to trick him into getting on a plane with them to Pakistan, but he managed to escape from the check-in point once he worked out what was going on. It is quite possible that he would not have survived had he not twigged and escaped. It is quite common practice for wayward children to be taken to Pakistan, away from Western values, and for them to be forced into marriage, or worse.
He also says that it from his contact with other converts, it is pretty much universally true that converts to Christianity from Islam have to flee their families and communities. Up until now, he personally has avoided letting Muslims in his personal life know that he is a convert – the only exception was two or three work colleagues in a previous employment in the security industry, something he now regrets. They were not at all happy and asked about his conversion in some detail, but, he says, couldn’t say what they really wanted to say for fear of losing their jobs. Having let them know is one of the main reasons he now believes he will be forced to move from his current location.
Mohammed reports receiving threats on Facebook quite often, including threats to kill him, but he has not bothered to report them, as he believes there is no point – such threats are likely to be from abroad. Like many other converts, his experience is that UK individuals who harass him on social media know exactly how far they can go legally, and so their abuse involves very abusive language and repeatedly telling him ‘You’re a liar, you were never really a Muslim’, which is a standard response across the world to many converts who go public on, for instance, youtube videos.
Like pretty much all the converts we interviewed, he was adamant that government policy had to change to recognize the reality that converts and ‘apostates’ face. To that end, he and several Pakistani-born friends will be walking 300 miles whilst carrying a 12 foot cross to 10 Downing Street with a petition for the Prime Minister on the issue. On his book website he calls for a review of existing police and local authority policies , procedures and training for dealing with victims of honour violence against former Muslims, and to record data on hate crimes against them, saying ‘It is time for the government to take action to protect the religious freedom of those who want to leave Islam…… If we are to remain a free society it is vital that everyone should be able to choose their faith, or no faith. Threats of death for those who leave Islam must be dealt with by Government and the Police.’ He believes that in the west Muslim communities are ‘sleep-walking towards a civil war they cannot win…(they) need to become inclusive and …. practice what they demand and that is freedom of choice… I love my Pakistani community but I will also challenge them where they need to be challenged. My wish is that the Muslim communities would look beyond politics or any foreign policy and respect Britain, a country which has given us so much.’
Of multiculturalism he said this:
Multiculturalism and freedom of speech have not failed Muslims. In fact it is Muslims, in particular the Pakistani communities who have failed to embrace multiculturalism and freedom of speech. My community needs to look hard at itself and come out of its bubble of victim mentality, denial and conspiracy theories. Until this happens, Britain will not be able to continue to sustain or improve on the fragile state of our multicultural community harmony.
Aaidun (pseudonym, Iranian background)
‘Aaidun’ is an Iranian, from a Shiite background, who converted to Christianity in Iran, and came with his family to the UK a year later, and he now is a leader in an expanding Iranian church, currently about 40 strong, in a city in the southern part of England, the city where he has been for all but three years of his life in the UK. He is married with three children in their late teens and early twenties.
Like many Iranian Christians, he acknowledges that Iranian Christians often experience less problems than converts from Islam from other backgrounds. For instance, he doesn’t really ever get actual threats of violence, but he does experience frequent verbal abuse and discrimination from fellow Iranians. (This is quite common – for instance, whilst the researchers were not able to talk to Iranian Christians in Newcastle as they had hoped, a source very familiar with the Iranian converts there said that they experience some verbal abuse, but no real threats.) Aaidun gave examples of discrimination, such as Iranians and other Muslims boycotting shops owned by Christian converts, telling others not to buy from there as the owner is a ‘convert, and not a good person’. They also face the (very common) accusation that the church gives money to people to induce them to be baptized and convert, and that the money is given by the CIA or similar bodies as part of a war on Islam, portraying the Christian converts as treacherous and devious. His church members also face some Iranians going to the Iranian embassy to report them as converts, and similar harassment.
He also reports that when he and his church set up a popular table or stall in the city market square, with literature explaining what they have experienced God doing in their lives as converts, then the face trouble and extremely hostile responses. He said that many Muslims will come to the table and say things like ‘We hate you’ and ‘You are kaffir’ (which roughly translates in tone as ‘infidel dogs’). Whilst Iranians are among those who do this, they also report other nationalities very frequently do this, naming in particular Saudi Arabian and Pakistani Muslims.
Shahriar Ashrafkhorasani (real name, Iranian background, Oxford)
One Iranian convert pointed us to this recent newspaper article indicating direct discrimination against a convert in Oxford University, no less (behind a paywall, but relevant text about his experience below):
A trainee Church of England priest at Oxford University has accused it of discrimination and bias after he says he was told he could not ask a lecturer critical questions about Islam.
The student has filed a formal complaint to the university’s proctors’ office in which he claims the lecturer pointed at him in a seminar and said: “Everybody can ask a question except you.”
The student, Shahriar Ashrafkhorasani, 33, is an Iranian-born convert from Islam who is set to become a Church of England priest in July, while the lecturer, Minlib Dallh, is a research fellow at Regent’s Park College in Oxford on a project about love in religion part-sponsored by the King of Jordan.
Ashrafkhorasani, a master’s student in applied theology at Wycliffe Hall, claims the lecturer refused to let him ask critical questions about his description of Islam as a religion of peace and love, after Dallh discovered in a coffee break that he was a convert from Islam who had been persecuted in Iran. Three fellow students wrote to the proctors to confirm his version of events.
Ashrafkhorasani said: “The lecture was at best a very poor Islamic apologetic, and at worst academically dishonest and misleading. While the government is rightly concerned about Islamophobia, there is no concern whatsoever for Christianophobia.”
Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester and until last year a senior fellow at Wycliffe Hall, said: “There is an atmosphere of wanting to be politically correct. It is very widespread in the university as a whole.
“If people are taking money from these sources, that can limit the critical approach to the study of Islam and Muslim civilisation generally.
…. {Oxford university rejected some of the claims, and issued a standard comment about taking complaints seriously}….
Shahriar Ashrafkhorasani commented:
My intention has been to shed some light on widespread Christianophobia and not to undermine particular institutions such as Oxford University. It is not my calling to get involved in politics, rather to love all as a minister of the Gospel.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Saed (Pseudonym, background details unknown, but living in London)
(We were told by other converts that this gentleman had endured a lot more than he let on in this interview).
‘Saed’ was put into contact with us through a fellow convert we interviewed. He emailed us and wouldn’t talk much on the phone, but indicated that he had originally come from a Muslim Majority country, and feared to go back. He avoids Muslims because of his religious conversion, and reports being ostracised and verbally abused by a Muslim neighbour once that neighbour found out about his status as an ‘apostate’. He was evidently at the same meeting in a London college that ‘Seyyed’ recounted (see below), as he similarly reports three Muslims who came in and filmed the audience to intimidate them. He stated that it is ‘important to outlaw “Kafirophobia”, and Christianophobia.’
Sadia Hameed (real name)
We were not able to fully interview Miss Hameed, but she did submit the following. We also understand that her brother, a fellow apostate, committed suicide, in large part as a result of the psychological pain and issues caused by his status and treatment as an ‘apostate’.
Sadia Hameed is an Ex-Muslim antitheist and radical feminist. Sadia is the Founder of Gloucestershire Sisters, Co-Founder of Critical Sisters and is a Spokesperson for the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain.
As a child Sadia was always inquisitive about the inequalities she faced as a Muslim girl in comparison to her male counterparts. Responses to questions were either inadequate or met with irritation. There were many occasions were she was accused of “being possessed by the devil” for asking questions or was told that she was stupid for simply not understanding Islam.
Sadia left Islam at the age of 15. On disclosing this to her mother, she was told that apostates are required to be murdered and never to talk about it again. Sadia’s mother told her that if she spoke to anyone else, she would be in danger.
For many years Sadia led a double life, behaving in the required manner at home and living how she chose outside the home. This began to take a toll on her mental health as she was living as two different individuals.
Many Ex Muslims are forced to live a double life as they are simply at too much risk of harm if they tell their families (their supposed loved ones), that they no longer have the same ideas as them. Ex Muslims are forced to choose between living how they wish and isolation or living as their parents wish in silence. In both scenarios the Ex Muslim loses out.
Being an Ex-Muslim has social consequences in the Ex-Muslim is left completely isolated from everyone that was once familiar to them, it has financial implications as Ex-Muslims, in many cases, have to leave everything and start from scratch themselves and it has mental health implications in that isolation and being ostracized leads to depression, self-harm and in the saddest cases suicide.
Eventually Sadia moved away to go to University and now lives alone. Today she has dedicated her life to speaking out against inequality, abuses of human rights and Islamist intolerance of Ex Muslims.
Seyyed (Pseudonym, didn’t want background reported)
Summary : Seyyed has faced some level of ostracism from family and friends, even though they were not particularly observant. He reports regular threats and verbal abuse, and also psychological games and intimidation, particularly in universities and colleges by Islamic Societies, and also being ejected from mainstream colleges after talking about his negative experiences and the religious basis for them. He also experienced open discrimination in a university classroom setting, and notes that converts are frequently targeted in a way that keeps just within the letter of the law whilst still intimidating with indirect threats of violence. He recounts the experience of other converts known to him, including death threats, refusal of service in taxis and shops, and taxi drivers trying to reconvert them. He explicitly challenged the government to stand up for converts, and also challenged academia over attitudes and actions that effectively enable and support extremism.
‘Seyyed’ is a Muslim convert to Christianity who is now a UK citizen. They explicitly asked for anonymity due to danger to their family, even though they regularly share their testimony publicly. Their work involves frequent and nationwide contact with other Muslim converts to Christianity, most particularly those of the same cultural/national heritage as themselves.
They were in and out of the UK from their pre-teen years, and described their conversion process as one lasting a long time. They were baptized in their early 20’s in the UK. This was a shock for their relatives and friends who have somewhat cut off their relationships with them. All their Muslim friends, who were all more secular or seemingly open-minded, stopped talking to them because ‘it is a shame for them’.
They said that verbal abuse is the daily lot for most converts from Islam. They personally have not experienced physical violence in the UK. They reported attending a talk in a leading college in London, where they shared their life experiences about Islam and its prophet’s teachings. The College’s Islamic Society sent people to film the talk, and continued to do so secretly even after the organisers reminded them this was against the rules. Afterwards one of these Muslims came up to Seyyed and verbally threatened them not to speak again in such a way, with words to the effect of ‘How dare you speak of the Prophet in that way’, whilst squeezing Seyyed’s hand very hard indeed.
They also recounted how one fellow convert, married with children, from East London who helped out with such talks had petrol poured into their house. The threat was that if they were still there in a few days time, the next time the petrol would be set alight. They fled. Seyyed also reported how another Muslim convert was threatened by Muslims from the local mosque that they would kill them if they won’t stop sharing their testimonies as Muslim converts. They stated that it is obvious that such individuals are there in the education centres and colleges to monitor Muslim converts and report them to Mosque leaders and/or Islamist groups/blacklists, as well as to subtly and not so subtly intimidate such converts, but ‘it’s not something you can prove, because they pretend (following, Seyyed asserts, the Islamic doctrine of Takkiah) to be nice in interfaith events but they show their true colours to those who have left Islam and became Christians’.
Asked to provide additional specific examples of abuse or intimidation, they recounted an incident where they were passing by an Islamic society stand in a city centre. There was something of a crowd watching, and when the person at the stall found out Seyyed was a convert, he asked Seyyed why they converted. Seyyed promised an answer if the man told them whether he believed in the apostasy law under which converts like Seyyed would be killed. The man was reluctant to answer because of the crowd, but eventually admitted he did agree with it. ‘Then why not kill me’, Seyyed asked. The answer was ‘Because UK law does not permit us to’.
Seyyed stated that some of the most damaging practices were the ways that some of these Muslims will play psychological ‘mind games’ – to Seyyed this is worse than the verbal abuse. In one case Seyyed met a man who claimed to be Christian. This man secretly took pictures of Seyyed, but denied he was doing it when challenged. The man also said he had been in the British Army (later police confirmed this was not true). Seyyed said that at times the man would smile in a way that was like that of ‘people with significant psychological problems’, which was unnerving in itself. However, when conversation revealed that Seyyed was a convert from Islam, the man got really angry, and said that he went to Nigeria to train Boko Haram, and that its victims deserved to be killed. The police were called, and investigated. Then Seyyed was told the case had been transferred to another department that was unable to give feedback, something to do with security, but Seyyed was assured the case was being dealt with. However, the man turned up again later for a few days and Seyyed and their family are still under various threats on a regular basis.
Seyyed recounted a common experience of converts – that Muslims who are radicalized always exploit ‘freedom of speech/thought’ and know exactly how far they can go – right up to the limit that is enforced. Thus they can get away with patterns of speech that are distressing and intimidating for converts from Islam – such as saying they agree with the Islamic apostasy law, and celebrating openly when someone in a Muslim majority country is killed on that basis. ‘They still say it, but they are bulletproof, what can the authorities do?’
They expressed deep frustration with the government, saying that it needed to come to its senses and face up to the reality of what is going on. The government needs to be educated about the facts of what converts experience, they insisted, saying that the government should listen to well educated Muslim converts themselves, and ‘real experts’, naming among other people Dr Sookhdeo, and that the government needed to crack down on what they described as the ‘Muslim radicals in the UK and prosecute them’, as that would be a big step towards solving the problem. Seyyed said that ultimately it was a matter of will – if the government really wants to help converts then it will, but at the minute it isn’t. ‘There are all sorts of rights these days but it is a disappointment that there is no right to protect Muslim converts to Christianity in a Christian country like the United Kingdom with such liberal/democratic values and Human Rights’.
Seyyed also talked about the experiences of some fellow converts who were reticent about coming forward, including an impoverished convert from Islam who, like many such people would take advantage of the evening sales of food about to go out of date in his local mini super-market, but once the Muslim owners found out their status as an ‘apostate’, they would remove the items when they came in so they could not take advantage of the offer. Additionally, they said that converts from Islam in a number of cities across the nation reported Muslim taxi drivers who found out about converts status who would refuse service, or else intimidating them by playing the Koran loudly and pressuring their customers to convert back to Islam – reports of such practices include from Birmingham, Bristol, Bradford and London. They also said that converts were told by some Muslim fundamentalists in the UK in various contexts ‘Allah hates you, and so we hate you’ referring to certain Koranic verses.
Seyyed (who studied at a leading UK university) also asked that what follows be especially emphasized – that what was worse than the threats was the enabling of such extremism that goes on in the academic world and elite. They were very much for the governments counter-terror program ‘Prevent’, but like so many other converts in advanced education, Seyyed’s experience is that universities officially organize protests on the basis that Islam is purely a religion of peace and that ‘Prevent’ is discrimination, and put on and promote lectures stating that Muslims are being victimized by the government and that the government is behaving in a fascist manner.
Seyyed also reported that frequently when invited to speak in public events including universities or schools/colleges, after pointing out from personal experience as a former Muslim that Islam is not purely a religion of peace (like many other converts, Seyyed says that an awareness of this fact was an important factor leading to conversion from Islam, and they can point to chapter and verse of Islamic core writings to demonstrate this), the experience is pretty much always that they are suppressed, shut down and kicked out. From their contacts with other Muslim converts to Christianity across the UK, the story is pretty much universally the same, not just in academic contexts, but also interfaith events in general – that if such converts do not toe a particular line – ‘all religions are the same, Islam is totally peaceful’ then they are shut down, excluded from conversation. ‘I am really concerned about Muslim converts’ well being in the UK’.
Saab’ (Pseudonym, Pakistani Background)
Summary : Saab is a covert apostate (atheism), who because of the hostility to apostates keeps his status secret from family and friends, and will pretend to be a Muslim if he really has to, such as at the Pakistani embassy, or when he is pressed to go to Mosque, because of the fear of retaliation, including murder. He anticipates it will impact his marriage chances; it certainly affects his social life and his psychological well-being.
Saab is an ex-Muslim from a Pashtun background in his early 20’s. He became an apostate in 2013 after coming to the realisation that ‘religious ideas were illogical’. This dawned upon him in reading into the Islamic doctrine and ‘thinking’ as he simply put it.
‘I felt like I gave up something, as if it had never existed. I do not have any beliefs right now.’
Saab’s main focus is progressing his career and therefore doesn’t grant much time to considering, much less discussing his apostasy. Although he confided in a few, select number of friends – ‘most of them weren’t Muslims so they reacted normally’.
Yet, the fact remains that Saab tends to avoid his apostasy status due to the intolerance towards it, should family members and members of the Islamic community, both in the UK and Pakistan, learn of his non-belief.
‘My family continues to belief that I am Muslim and I don’t want to change that because I don’t trust anyone. Almost all of my family lives in Pakistan and I think a close friend or family member could use the apostasy rule as a justification to kill me and that is not something I want. I feel safe in Britain because I am mostly around Non-Muslims.
However, around Muslims, I refrain from discussing my apostasy because one never knows what that could lead to. I feel extremely uncomfortable when my Muslim friends pressurise me into going to the mosque with them but I pretend to be Muslim for a short period as I don’t wish to engage in any arguments with them or make enemies as apostasy is punishable by death. This is again a major issue when I travel back to Pakistanas I have to pretend to be Muslim because I fear being persecuted.
I was once renewing my Pakistani passport in Manchester and as part of the procedure, I had to declare that I was Muslim. I did not want to do that but the Pakistani consulate was full of Muslims who I thought might harm me if I refused to sign the declaration. It was one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever done. I am single at the moment and I think my apostasy would have a huge effect on me trying to find a partner from my own ethnicity
When I indirectly speak of it as a general topic, I have mostly noticed hatred from Muslims for apostates and they have expressed that they feel apostates should be killed. I do feel under extreme pressure to pretend to be Muslim because I don’t want to fall out with someone who could potentially harm me. Especially, if I were to travel back to Pakistan.
I try to avoid such situations by not expressing my views. However, if people do try to pressure me into praying or something similar, then I try to tell them that everyone has their own right to do whatever they feel like doing or not doing.’
When asked about whether he has taken protective measures as an apostate, whether it be informing the police or appealing to the local Imam, he stated that he attempts to avoid any possible trouble by maintaining silence. Saab does however believe the police would be helpful should he ever need urgent help, whilst the mosques would not.
‘I think we should all be given safety. Pretending to be someone you are not, is extremely uncomfortable. If I was to move out of Britain to Pakistan (For example), I think I wouldn’t be alive for more than a few months because I think my true feelings would eventually come out which would lead to my death. I am working in the UK and I try not to socialise with people that I think could find it offensive to find that I am an apostate. However, I am very comfortable in the UK as I am free to express myself.’
Cam’ (Pseudonym, Pakistani background)
Summary: ‘Cam’ started his journey towards the Christian faith in Pakistan, where he was miraculously healed of polio at a Christian healing event. He became a Christian after moving to the UK, and although his family were not hostile, with at least one a covert apostate, he has had to move to try and minimize hostility to his family after news of his conversion filtered out and Islamic religious leaders started to come and ask questions. His siblings cars were vandalized, and it appears that a local counsellor’s intervention stopped these attacks, but when he does visit his family, he only does so for short periods in the dead of night.
Cam is a Christian convert from a Sunni Muslim background. He first brushed with Christianity in 1982, yet it wasn’t until 1997 where he experienced the power of Christ so irrevocably that he decided to follow Christ.
Cam’s struggle with polio caused him and his family to attend a Healing Crusades convention in Pakistan in 1997. His miraculous healing from Polio in praying against his condition changed his and his family’s perception of Christianity, yet they were fearful of admitting this to anyone else.
‘You can’t really admit to a Muslim that this happened but my family knew and they were happy about it’.
Once he moved to the UK, he started to mix with Priests and through reading the Bible came to faith officially in 2009, the year he was baptised.
However, news of his conversion spread in the northern city in which he lived, forcing him to eventually leave: ‘My apostasy was getting problematic for my family, they never pressurised me to return to Islam, they were actually understanding of my faith. My dad is also an apostate but a hidden one – he converted after me. But they never told people that I was a Christian, the rest of my extended family are Muslim and since I was posting articles regarding Christianity on my Facebook page, they were starting to suspect. I had to block a lot of family members from my Facebook and limit my social circles’.
Cam started to consider leaving the city when certain Mosque figures visited his home on a couple of occasions, asking about his conversion. ‘I worried. I felt it was better for me to leave so my family wouldn’t have problems, I thought if I moved out then there wouldn’t be problems. It was getting very difficult to stay …. for long periods of time so I moved out.’
However, Cam’s decision to leave did not deter the violent attacks on his family’s property. ‘A couple of years ago when I was going to {the city} some people came – I was not in the city} at that time but they vandalised the cars, my sister’s car and both my brothers’ cars. They rammed a jeep or something and broke the back doors and wing mirrors, spray painted my sister’s car. This happened on two different occasions in two locations. This was even after I had left! I thought I better stay away from this.’
Cam’s family went to the police, yet it was their local councillor that proved to be effective, in that they: brought the baraadari (Muslim brotherhood) and was influential in stating that ‘my family had nothing to do with Christianity…. [and said] if anything happened again they would take action and involve the elders in the community. This incident occurred {specified time} ago and so far nothing has progressed. But I don’t go to {the city} for fear of these attacks happening again. If I do go back, I arrive at night and don’t leave the house. I then leave again in the dark – I don’t stay for long.’
Cam mentioned that he never appealed to his local mosque, nor the local Islamic leadership, as it would draw attention to his apostasy, proving dangerous for his family. ‘The more extremists grow, people become hostile to apostates , they treat them as traitors, they see them as having insulted the prophet, insulted Islam. To them it’s wrong to go out of a faith that is the final faith to them even though they don’t know anything about it.’
Yet despite his awful ordeal, Cam doesn’t regret following Christ. He feels more secure where he currently lives: ‘I don’t live in fear at the moment, I don’t tell Muslims about my conversion. They assume I was born or come from a Christian family because I give them my Christianised name. I converted to Christianity and I’m much more happy with my situation, there are people who have become apostates or atheists and they feel very vulnerable with the kinds of attacks they get from their families. I can see that my persecution has been upped because of my faith in Jesus Christ but I have a very supportive Church and Christian friends.’
Parvaneh (Real Name, Iranian background)
Summary: Parvaneh came to the Christian faith by way of supernatural healing and encounters with angels in an Iranian hospital, but only came to faith after deep depression in the UK, through the love of a Christian woman at Speakers Corner. However, she has experienced abuse as a convert, both verbal and psychological intimidation at various locations, including at Speakers Corner, and the vandalizing of her car at her home. She says the verbal abuse is getting worse, and has on occasion been spat on for her conversion. Her father shunned her after he visited her in the UK, slapping her face and spitting in her face, but eventually was reconciled to her and her faith before he died
Parvaneh is an Iranian Christian convert from Shia Islam. Originally from Iran, she belonged to a committed Muslim family, known for their political activism. She fainted during a hot shower, leading to severe scalding. The hospital staff gave up on her, placing her a ward specifically reserved for people who would inevitably die. It was here that Parvaneh had an experience of angels who told her to get up and leave Iran. After being effectively raised from the dead, she eventually left Iran in {mid 80’s} and came to Britain.
When I arrived, I felt very lonely in Britain, homesick and homeless. I didn’t cope, I really didn’t want to live anymore, even though the Angels had touched me and I was a special person for God. I had lost interest in God, I had lost my identity, my land. ‘
She felt the desire to kill herself and she walked throughout the streets of London, until she reached the River Thames. She started to jump.
I felt that hand on my shoulder, I turned to look but I saw nobody. It was the hand of God but I was frightened so I started to run until I found myself in Hyde Park – watching people shouting in Speakers’ Corner’.
She started to shout and cry amidst the other screams and shouts – venting her pain and frustrations about her personal situation, about the political state of Iran. This time she felt a human hand – ‘ the love this woman showed me, it was an unbelievable love. She asked for my address and that friendship grew, she helped me with my English, found a college for me and helped me with English culture’.
It was through this friendship that Parvaneh started to encounter Christians, compelled to investigate where this love this lady showed her came from. Through Christian meetings, Parvaneh underwent an irrevocable change:
‘I felt the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of God. I found Jesus.’
Parvaneh soon discovered the obvious difference between her former beliefs and her walk with Christ, ‘Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship between me and the living God. Islam for me was dead, it was one sided, all about fear, hatred, deeds, doing good and all the stuff which I had done but I still had an empty feeling in my heart, in my life. When I became a Christian , I met my God, my living God and then I believed. We are not religious, I don’t have to do any good thing to get to heaven. I know I’m going to heaven tomorrow morning, that’s it for sure – and not inshallah as the Iranians and Arabs say – for sure I will go.’
Since becoming a Christian, Parvaneh has endured verbal abuse and physical damage to her vehicle. Initially, she would endure verbal abuse from neighbours, as she picked up her children from school. ‘Since I became a Christian which was over 30 years ago, I had verbal abuse and now it’s much more. Where I currently live, most people are foreign.’
She cites a particular example:
‘For the past one and half year I’ve been to the gym, steam and sauna which is supposed to help me with my health condition. I started a friendship with a wonderful Sudanese lady, got close to her by sharing my life. I didn’t tell her I was a Christian convert in the first meetings, she knew I was a Christian. Eventually we built a trust and she really loved me. When I did tell her I was an ex Muslim convert, she was very nice and respectful. I had showed her the moral standard of a Christian.
Then one day when we were swimming, she suggested we go to the sauna. We sat in the sauna and we were joined by two Arab women my Sudanese friend knew. They greeted my friend ‘salaam alaikum’ and I greeted those women in Arabic also. They looked at me. First of all I don’t look Arab, second I wasn’t wearing a scarf; ‘So how does she speak Arabic?’ They asked me where I came from, so I told them I’m Iranian, living here for 30 years with an English husband. They asked if I was a Muslim and I told them I was a Muslim convert. As soon as I said that, one of them got up and said ‘’Astrafullah you are a Haramzadi’’ (God Forbid you are a bastard). The woman spat on the floor, saying ‘That is you, you are a Kaffir (infidel)’ and both left the sauna.’
Parvaneh’s passionate and emboldened campaign for Christ cost her more than verbal abuse. She is a pioneer of the Iranian Church and has gone on to establish many Churches across Britain. As part of her evangelical effort she would visit Speakers Corner.
One day I went to Speakers’ Corner as usual and there were lots of Arab, Pakistani Muslims and even English converts. I didn’t want to go to the platform – or the stool as they say – because I thought I wasn’t ready academically to answer the questions. They can burn you with their questions and when you don’t know you feel terrible, you feel you lost, that you failed Jesus. So I never wanted to go up but I was on the ground as usual talking.
Then I spoke to this man, who firstly insulted me because I was wearing make-up. They insulted me saying I looked like a prostitute but I didn’t say anything and I smiled. You have to be calm and smile, if we show anger that is the first step of losing. So then I smiled and said, you can insult me as much as you like, but I know who I am, I am a child of God. And then they continued and laughed at me so I told them that I’ve been in their place, but they said no, you’ve lost your identity, you are actually foreign to us. I told them that I could be foreign to them but I am in the Kingdom of God which they don’t have.
Then he spat on me. I held my Bible high above my head to say ‘’magnified are those who are insulted for the name of Christ, they will see the Kingdom of God and be called the children of God’’ and he looked at me and told me I was mad. This continued and he spat again on the floor and moved. ‘
Another person came along, with an apparent interest in what she was saying, leading Parvaneh to hand out her contact card which enclosed her address. She told this man to contact her as her husband could provide answers to any questions he may have about Christianity. Yet it wasn’t until 3 am Monday morning, half a day after she handed out her address details did Parvaneh come to regret dealing with this so-called interested man. Her car was broken into and damaged with stones, resulting in the police being called and cameras being installed for their safety in the future. Parvaneh knew instinctively that this attack was a direct result of her evangelical preaching and discussions amongst Muslims in Speakers Corner.
However, her most painful experience regarding her conversion to Christianity would come from her father. Parvaneh remains unable to return to Iran, as the regime are not only aware of her familial political activism but her faith in Christianity and her unashamed stance on Islam.
‘2 of my brothers were executed by the Iranian regime, they were political prisoners for 8 years , they were communists and were against the regime and were killed 5 years apart from each other. My third brother who was in the same group as me -the Muhajadeen- spent 9 years in prison and tortured. He is now disabled and a drug addict and he has no life. He lives in Iran and cannot leave. I am exiled from my country, I haven’t seen Iran for 31 years, more than half of my life I’ve been in Britain. This is my country but my heart always belongs to Iran. I very much hope one day I will be able to go and see my land, my people.’
Due to her inability to return to Iran, 5 years after she became a Christian, married with 2 children, she invited her father to her home.
I invited him and he came and I respected him, loved him and cared for him. A bout 2 weeks after his arrival he said to me – I will never forget – he stood up in the middle of the room and in front of my husband and said ‘’you are going to love allah first, then love me, then love your children, then love your husband who is a foreigner and not our blood. ‘’
I said ‘’Baba you know how much I love you and respect you, but my God is called Jesus Christ and first I would love and give my life for Jesus Christ who is my God, not a prophet . Second I love my husband, third I love my children , fourth I love you and I respect you forever.’’ I was 34 years old then.
He slapped my face, and spat at my face and said ‘’you are haram (forbidden), you are not my child, I am ashamed of you , you are haramzadi (bastard) . You’re not the same daughter that I knew from Iran.’’
That was the most painful for me because I loved my father. I was always a highly moral girl’
However, after years of crying out to God for her father he would contact his daughter after years of no contact:
‘He said to me, ‘’you are the only child from my 7 children who is a holy woman of God and I love your God. Can you pray to your God that I be able to come and ask you to forgive me?
Her father would return to Britain to eventually ask Parvaneh in person to forgive him. He would go on to have a heart attack some years later, succumbing to the excruciating pain of losing his two sons, the disabled state of his third son and the exile of his daughter.
In spite of their suffering, Parvaneh and her family continue to live in Christ’s example, following His direction and purpose for their lives.
A’ (Part-Pakistani lady born of a mixed faith marriage)
Summary : ‘A’ is from a mixed family, with a father who initially converted to Christianity, but then reverted to Islam and has been hostile, creating much tension in the family, and some shunning and angrily aggressive behaviour when she became a practicing Christian. She also receives disdain from old Muslim friends, and as well as describing the intense social isolation, and also reports on a level of intimidation and hatred in a college setting, including anti-semitism.
‘A’ is a half English, half Pakistani lady, who wouldn’t describe herself as a Christian convert from Islam but has nevertheless undergone raw opposition from her Pakistani, Muslim father and certain Muslim peers for her decision to follow Christ.
Although my Dad was a Muslim and brought us up strict he didn’t enforce us to follow Islam and he didn’t particularly follow it to a great degree , he married my mum who’s white anyway! Up until I was 8 or 9, I would describe my Mum as searching for God. Then one day we all went to Church and heard the Gospel and we all got saved. My Dad went to church and he gave his life to the Lord but obviously, for someone to convert 40 years ago , it would’ve been a big thing and I think he felt the pressure. He backtracked on his decision to follow Christ because of the cultural pressures and because of his community, I don’t think he was strong enough to do it.’
Her father’s decision to backslide, whilst the rest of his family pursued Christ, created an uncomfortable environment.
‘It caused a lot of tension in the house, to the point where it stopped me from marrying a Muslim later down the line. I was offered by a couple of Muslims but it’s always stopped me because I was aware of the tension – my dad would be quite aggressive about Christianity, and I think it was the reason my parents split up when I was 16.
When I made a decision to be a Christian 19 years ago ,my dad was very hostile about it and he literally told me that I couldn’t be his daughter and be a Christian and there was an element of shunning there . Obviously, that’s devastating as a daughter for a father to hear him say that and it was hurtful – he knew I had become a proper Christian. I think if I’d become a token or a nominal Church goer I think it would have been a lot different, but he was very angry that he would be verbally aggressive about it, he would literally boil up. I couldn’t be his daughter and he didn’t see me a lot because of me being a Christian.’
‘A’ describes the initial stages of her Christian life: ‘ At that time when I became a Christian, I felt very alone, very isolated. If it hadn’t been for my Mum -who at that point was ‘on fire for Christ’ – I would’ve been devastated because nobody in my life journey understands what it’s like to be a Pakistani Christian. You just don’t hear of converts, there is no support. Nobody gets it until it happens to you. I know an Indian girl who has recently converted and her father has disowned her. I think it’s extremely isolating, especially when I feel that disdain, that lack of respect, particularly from those Muslims you used to know very well. When I made the decision to come back to Christianity, my Pakistani friends kind of despised me, looked down on me, like I was a lesser person. I couldn’t maintain the same friendship with those Muslim friends as I did before becoming a Christian. There isn’t the same respect. Up until very recently I got to meet convert Christians and it makes a massive difference. ‘
‘A’ feels she carries an element of fear when sharing her Christianity, despite her tenacity ….and cited her college environment as a prime example. ‘When I was on a college course, I was around a lot of young Pakistani men and I picked up on a very angry spirit. Anger and hatred towards America and of Jews. That’s something that has never changed but I think this country is completely deluded.’ {Editors note – we believe she means, as below, that the UK is in denial about the situation of Pakistani and other Christians / converts}
‘A’ continues in her Christian walk, ‘sold-out for Christ’ as she puts it but fundamentally feels that the majority of Britain, particularly English people, are unaware of the persecution, fears and isolation Pakistani Christians experience in the UK.
Barry’ (Pseudonym, Pakistani background)
Summary : ‘Barry’ is semi-openly an atheist apostate (although he would not describe himself as such) who, among other things, struggled with sentiment in Mosques that prayed regularly to be given superiority or authority over non-Muslims. He and his family have suffered some verbal abuse, and due to pressure from the local mosque he lived close to was forced to move house.
‘Barry’ first began to question his prior Islamic beliefs upon coming to Britain. He describes the fundamental perception of his experience with Muslims:
‘The Muslims view the world in a very different way, they believe if you’re a Muslim then you’re a human being. If you’re not a Muslim, you’re not a human being and you don’t deserve to live. I was born and raised in a Muslim family, I read the Quran – 4 versions of it – I read the Hadiths, I studied Islam. When I came to the UK my mind was changed. The UK was a different world – I met people, I changed my mind and when I went down to the British Secular meetings and the Humanist Association , then I realised life was very different. All humans are the same.’
‘Barry’ struggled with his Islamic beliefs at his local mosque. ‘I used to go to Friday prayers and there’s a ritual there where they say ‘‘O, God please give us authority over non Muslims’’ and I thought why do we need to pray give us authority over non-Muslims? I realised they were going to a wrong side but I never announced I was a thinking differently. To announce you’re thinking differently gets you in trouble.’
As ‘Barry’ shifted further away from the Islamic mindset, he became more critical of Islamic doctrine and became aware of how life can irrevocably change.
‘Often when you move away from the Muslim mindset, it’s a different world. Your friends are gone, your family’s gone, the relationships are gone. It’s very hard to cope with and it’s not very easy. I’ve noted that people have moved away , have turned their backs and that’s very common.’
‘Barry’ gave up what he calls the Islamic mindset in 2011, citing his belief to be the religion of humanity. ‘ I’m a humanist because if I can love humans, that’s the best religion and I don’t care if someone is a Christian, Jew, whatever sort of Muslim, Hindu or Sikh – I believe in human rights. I’m a member of the British Secular Society, I go and talk to the ex-council of Muslims. I do get called an apostate, I have been accused of declaring I’ve renounced Islam and that is not true. I know many people who have left Islam – so my question is – who announces it? We don’t need to announce it, what benefit do we get from announcing you’ve left Islam? I’m just an ordinary man, so if I’m an atheist , I’m an atheist at home. I consider myself a critic of Islam. Yes, I’m against fanatics, especially this Salafi sect of Islam. They are the most extreme and have no respect for anyone. I am a strong believer that Sharia is the end of human civilisation.’
‘Barry’s’ views didn’t go down well with his friends, who would always criticise his perception of Islam, yet he would tell them that he opinions were shaped by what he read in the hadiths. ‘I would give the example of when Muhammad married Ayesha at 9 – there are hundreds of hadiths that say she was playing with dolls when she was getting married but they don’t want to know. If you ask them if the Hadiths are correct they say yes, if you don’t believe the Hadiths are correct then you are an apostate, or a non-Muslim. But when you say there are 120 Hadiths confirming that Muhammad married Ayesha as a child, they’ll deny it. I can see there’s an insanity there and it’s not that I’m fighting with them, but whenever we talk about this and I have a different view to them only because I’ve read the Hadiths, then I’m a bad man.’
[Editors note – Hadiths are collected accounts of the sayings and actions of the Islamic prophet. One particularly authoritative collection of these Hadiths are known as the Bukhari texts. Hadiths in effect form a foundation for Sharia law.]
‘Barry’s contrasting view of Islam has resulted in a few verbal exchanges with some figures from his local area, who would verbally abuse him in the presence of his wife and children. Due to pressure from his local mosque to vacate his house, he eventually did so and currently lives in relative safety.
Jaleel’ (Pseudonym, Pakistani background)
Summary: ‘Jaleel’ is a covert apostate, who is agnostic. His journey was a gradual one, from strict Islamic adherence at university, but with questions and doubts about Islamic treatment of women and other issues, questions which became more forceful after 9/11. He recently left Islam altogether in his heart, and he describes the mental anguish caused by seeking to break from what he calls the indoctrination he was subjected to. He maintains an appearance of adherence to Islam chiefly to protect his family from the pain of knowing the truth, but he is also well aware of the death penalty many hold is the proper punishment for apostasy.
‘Jaleel’ is a British Pakistani whose subscription to fundamental Islamic doctrine during his years at University exposed him to a literal interpretation of Islam, unlike anything he had previously been indoctrinated with.
As I went to university I got involved straight away with the Islamic society and I was very much Muslim and practising, but the things that didn’t sit well with me was the inequality regarding women – it did bother me a bit. But my white friends would come along to our events and ask questions like ‘’why are the women kept in separate rooms?’’ and I would say ‘’they just are’’. But that kind of got me thinking, well why are women kept in separate rooms and why are women not allowed an opinion, or if they have an opinion, why are they assumed to be of a certain character?’
Jaleel shoved such thoughts to the back of his mind, justifying that this treatment of women was how it was in Islam, that women should be covered up and separated from men.
‘I was very much tuned up into this fundamental kind of talk -all these kinds of Mufti men – I would listen to these kinds of lectures and go to these kinds of lectures, was very much tuned into these Wahhabi kinds of movements. I had no idea what Wahhabi was before, I grew up in a culture of , oh Wahhabis aren’t proper Muslims and they bring something else – I grew up in a Barelvi environment. So when I got to uni I thought this is actually the pure Islam – the ‘’ are you Salafi or Wahhabi?’’ – I was quite hard core.’
[Editors note – Wahhabi Islam is a kind of extreme Islam that comes out of and is strongly supported by Saudi Arabia and is exceptionally puritanical. It is usually thought to be a subsect of Salafi Islam, which is also pretty puritanical. Barelvi Islam is a form of Islam from the Indian subcontinent that has especially strong devotion to the person of the Islamic prophet, but also has Sufi mystical practices such as veneration of ‘saints’, and is often regarded as at best dubious by Salafi and Wahhabi Muslims.]
Jaleel would still struggle with Islamic opinion regarding women, in spite of efforts to pacify himself. It wasn’t until the events of 9/11, when an explosion of scrutiny and exposure of the Islamic ideology emerged on social media, that Jaleel found himself studying a religion he previously thought he was already aware of.
After 9/11 there was this bug: who are Muslims and what do they believe? When really we just grew up learning how to pray and what to do and what not to do. It was dogma more than anything, we were narrated Hadiths about how wonderful the prophet was and why he did such things. He was so beautiful and his lifestyle was amazing, but we never read the Bukhari texts or any of the hadith books. But after 9/11 I still had these niggling doubts, but I still believed Islam was peaceful. Then I’d visit a lot of forums -social media was becoming a big thing and people were posting a lot of stuff – I’d go to these pages where the majority of these people were racists or bigots who didn’t like anybody else other than themselves. They held arguments against the Muslims and I would read a couple of times that the prophet was a paedophile and that really hurt me so I didn’t want to go back, but slowly I did keep going back and maybe I did kind of like reading those kind of things. I didn’t want to believe it was true but I saw that someone had posted a link to authentic Bukhari texts regarding the life of Muhammad. We had all those books at home so I looked these verses up.’
Jaleel’s research into the life of a Prophet he had been led to believe was a solely a moral figure destroyed him mentally. He recalled his pain during attending an Islamic lecture with his friends, whilst grappling with his fresh discovery, yet continued to pacify and justify certain actions of Muhammad.
‘I read that he married Ayesha at 6 then consummated it at 9, it didn’t sit well with me at all. I would watch programmes and people online trying to defend it : ‘’oh it was the norm back then, 7th century Arabia, nothing abnormal about it as this is what happened then’’. But once I opened that can of worms, I couldn’t turn back. Again, I read about the Battle of Khaybar where Saffiyah was taken and the marriage was consummated that very night and that didn’t sit well with me at all. My whole life I had been told the prophet married his wives to make ties with them, to make ties with these various tribes and people but really she didn’t have a choice- she was forced to convert to Islam after her whole family had been killed – so how could that have been consensual? It made no sense, so suddenly from then I was on a rocky road.’
[Editors note : The Battle of Khaybar is one in which the Islamic prophet defeated some Jewish tribes, and massacred one particular tribe, the Banu Nadir, taking the women and children as slaves / prisoners of war. Saffiyah was a Jewish teenage woman of that tribe, the daughter of the tribal chief, who had been killed in battle with the Muslims the year before, and was a renowned beauty. At Khaybar, her husband was beheaded, and she was brought past the body to the Islamic prophet, who offered her freedom if she would marry him, which she did. A frequent chant at some Islamic events is ‘Khaybar, khaybar ya yahud, jaish muhammad saya’ud,’ meaning, ‘Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Mohammad’s army will return.’ In addition, because a Jewish woman poisoned Muhammed, which eventually led to his death, it is also associated with depicting Jews as treacherous people.]
Jaleel eventually made the move to leave Islam in August/September of last year after a long struggle.
‘These doubts would keep coming and I’d pray and pray – I still do, I still feel guilty – the indoctrination isn’t something that you can leave so quickly. It’s an amalgamation of these things and the actions of Muhammad that led me to think this can’t be the truth. Wife beating is considered ok, a woman’s witness is only half of a man’s. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain good things in the Quran, Muhammad did some good things but he also did some very terrible things which [mean] I can’t then say he’s the role model of society – or my role model.’
Jaleel isn’t fazed by the theology side of things, as his agnosticism ensures he isn’t bothered by whether God does truly exist. However, as a Muslim he would find himself feeling the need to justify God’s existence to himself. Jaleel currently chooses to remain closeted and remains happier for doing so.
The only place I’m out is social media to people who don’t know me. I would attend these meet- up groups, free thinkers, ex -muslims groups – with others of like mind. But coming out to my community, there is absolutely no way for the absolute obvious reason. It’s not a huge community but a close-knit one and it would destroy everything I love. I love my family: there’s this assumption that you have to leave your family once you’re an ex-Muslim, but that’s not true. My family are not bad people, they just happened to grow up with this, but I can’t come out with it because it would literally destroy everything and I wouldn’t want to do that to my family, my parents. The easier way out is not to say anything – yeah I may have to go through the motions but it doesn’t hurt me in any way. But what does bother me sometimes is when people praise Muhammad so much and I think ‘’ if you were to read this and that you might change your mind’’ .’
Jaleel’s current convictions towards his former faith are largely due to the spotlight shone on Islam in recent times. ‘Islam was not under the microscope back then, like it is now. What it means to be a Muslim now comes more from ‘’the Quran says this, the Hadith says that’’. It goes beyond the basics – whereas Muslims generations ago would have no idea what was in the Quran. They were taught to read it and eloquently so, but they couldn’t understand it. I mean, I could read the Quran yet didn’t understand it. But back then, being taught how to pray, how to fast was what Islam meant generations ago. Islam is not a religion anyway, it’s a cult where so many things are dogmatic. Give me a reasonable reason – when kids are being butchered in Syria – why Allah would care which foot I step into the toilet with or which hand I wipe myself with? It’s totalitarian – you’re told about what to do and how to do it and you cannot leave. I suppose it’s the same in all religions but not to this effect, there’s a death penalty for apostasy and there’s a lot of people who believe that openly which is very scary. There’s all these British people who have all these kinds of views.’
Yet whilst Jaleel has formally abandoned his prior ideological belief, the psychological scarring is very much a thing of his present.
‘I don’t think it’s an easy thing to change – that’s the problem. You can’t and it’s passed down and its how people learn. So many of these people come from places like Pakistan, where Islam is the be all and end all and that’s all they know. They come here and preach it and it’s what kids learn. I still feel so guilty, it really messes you , you really need to speak to someone. I feel guilty for questioning and leaving it, but also guilty for ever believing it; this man took sex slaves, married children and killed innocent just because he wanted to spread his ideology. Your mind is imprisoned by this and psychologically you can’t really move on even leaving it. I still can’t bring myself to eat non-halal food, it’s a big thing for me at the moment as I’m still a new ex-Muslim. The indoctrination isn’t just a word, but a real thing that affects people. I have nothing against Muslims, there are some great Muslims! But Islam is cultish and makes you do some crazy things, so rightfully people are starting to leave. This one book ruins many people’s lives.’
Jaleel continues to live as a closeted ex-Muslim to his family and close community, but feels happier for choosing to do so, as he is convinced open admission of his agnostic status would severely hurt his loved ones. Given that he believes nobody knows what the heart believes anyway, he doesn’t see the point in coming out of his closet any time soon.
‘Abdul Aziz’ (Pseudonym, location undisclosed, Gujurati background – Indian / Pakistani people group)
Summary: ‘Abdul’ left Islam for a kind of Buddhist-influenced spirituality as a teenager, and he has kept his status as an ex-Muslim secret for over a decade from all bar a handful of people outside of his ‘analogue’ life. The reasons are fear of violence or death from extended family and others, fear of what the shame would do to his ailing mother, and fear of ostracism. He is unmarried because he fears it will compromise his secrecy, leading to tensions. He maintains a facade of Islamic observance, but it has a psychological toll, and he hopes one day to gain the inner strength to ‘come out’ publicly.
‘Abdul’ is a Gujarati ex-Muslim, whose pursuit for a spiritualist Islam led him to abandon the faith 11 years ago.
‘I left Islam in 2006. I was 15 years old then. I tried to practise it before then and found it very hard but I did try. From 2004 onwards, I started to become interested in spirituality, initially Sufism -I used to think Sufism was Islam – you have to practise meditation and pray. At that time, I wanted to be a good Muslim, a proper Muslim and I was on a spiritual path – but I ended up leaving Islam due to this one friend, who was more my mentor. I used to believe in anything he would say, he used to talk about meditation and prayer, but I started to notice contradictions in what he preached.
One day something clicked inside me and I asked him, ‘’Do you believe in God?’ He said no. I just broke down, mentally broke down because I used to believe in anything he would say. He would go on to explain, ‘’this in Islam isn’t true, neither is that.’’ Obviously, I believed him, but after that stopped talking to him and hanging out with him for half a year. During that time, I was coming to terms with it – the idea there is no God: my whole belief in Islam fell down.’
For the first time in his life, ‘Abdul’ found himself at a loss regarding his belief and commitment to Islam.
The moment there’s one thought, then the whole thing is questionable, because you’re taught there is nothing wrong with your religion; can’t be anything wrong with it because it’s the word of God . But the moment there’s one thought, it’s questionable. I started reading articles online and there was this ex-Muslim from Canada – posting quotations from the hadiths, all of which were referenced. That’s the moment I left.’
Yet in spite of leaving Islam over a decade ago, ‘Abdul’ strongly fears and recognises the immediate dangers to openly living as an ex-Muslim.
The moment I left I knew I couldn’t say anything. I used to be like them. I know what Muslims are like and obviously I’ve experienced the anger, I used to be like that. I used to be Muslim when in 2006, the cartoons of the prophet came out and you saw the anger. I knew I couldn’t come out, it’s very risky.
‘I want to come out but the risks are too great right now – I feel I’m not strong enough to handle it. I want to be free but at the moment I won’t be able to handle it, so I’m still trying to wait it out. I do self -help mediation to give me confidence and stuff like that, cause it’s all in the head. I do it to better myself and it will come out because time is running out for me – my mum keeps telling me I need to get married and I can’t do that, I believe if I get married everyone will find out through the moment I get married. I have a lot of things lying around in my bedroom which proves I’m not a Muslim – I’ve got a lot of Buddhist material I’ve collected and bought over the years, so I believe it’s going to happen and I believe that for me to be happy I’ve got to set myself free.’
‘Abdul’s’ personal situation and family life provides another factor in his concealing of his ex-Muslim status.
The most I fear about is getting attacked physically, by cousins, uncles because they’re not nice people, they can be quite violent -at least their past suggests [that]. I’m more scared of mostly being attacked, beaten up and also concern for my mum and the mental and physical impact it would be on her. She’s on her own now, my Dad’s dead. I’m the oldest, I have one younger sister and that’s it – my mum isn’t strong mentally, she has health problems – she has high blood pressure, she lacks iron in her body so gets tired very easily and she suffers from physical panic attacks. So I’m worked about the impact on her. I have a feeling she won’t abandon me if she finds out but it would kill her on a physical level but also, what people will think. I don’t want to tarnish my family’s reputation.’
These fears spur ‘Abdul’ into going through the motions of Islam, to avoid suspicion or questions by those who know him. He stated that there are probably only six other people that know he has left Islam, scattered across the globe. He is aware of one other ex-Muslim in person, someone he credits for his leaving Islam – yet feels he is not as mentally and physically secure as his other ex-Muslim example, to emancipate himself from the Islamic system of life.
‘There’s some things I can’t avoid. I have to go to the mosque. I don’t go during the week – I used to years ago up until early 2012 – but now it’s just on a Friday. When Ramadan comes it’s a bloody nightmare! Not only do I have to fast and starve yourself but I have to lead the Ramadan prayers. That’s because when I was younger I learnt the whole Quran off by heart. It’s an absolute nightmare because now I don’t believe in all this.’
‘Abdul’ is largely exempt from any contempt he may face from family members, friends or the wider community as he chooses not to mention it all, but he recounts an incident where he was verbally abused for leaving Islam.
‘I usually don’t talk to anyone about it, all my friends are Muslims anyway. If they find out I probably won’t have any friends. But I used to talk to one girl online and I told her I left Islam. She was shocked: ‘’No it’s not true, you have a beard!’’ She told one of her friends who I also talked to online. At the time I would refer to myself as Buddhist back then. Now I refer to myself as a general spiritual cultivator. So this other girl came online, swearing at me: ‘’you Buddhist mother******, you bastard!’ . Straight away I blocked [and] said to the first girl ‘’what did you say to her?’’. She told me ‘’I didn’t say anything , just that you’re a Buddhist.’’ This was in 2008, where I wasn’t even 18 at the time. ‘
‘Abdul’ traces this type of abusive, contemptuous behaviour to the example of Muhammad. ‘The prophet of Islam was like that and when so many people for so many years copy that, they become that person. He was like that, it was a cult, almost a mafia thing.’
‘Abdul’ continues to live as a secret non-believer, but with the intent to one day come out, whether that be through flight or confessing to his loved ones – he is uncertain.
Nissar Hussain (Real name, Pakistani Background, Bradford).
Summary: Nissar, his wife and his children (ranging from under 10 to early/mid 20’s) have faced close to two decades of sustained, vicious persecution for being converts to Christianity from Islam. It involved campaigns of violence, threats – including of rape, intimidation, harassment, spitting, drive-by bricking, burning out of cars, and the house on one occasion, abusive graffiti, and attempted murder. The police were, until the very end, more interested in getting the family out of the area rather than dealing with the perpetrators: the family has had to move twice, once within Bradford, and finally had to be escorted out of Bradford by 10 armed police officers.
Nissar is a Pakistani ex-Muslim Christian convert from a Sunni background. Born and raised in Birmingham, Nissar initially converted at 15 through reading the New Testament scripture in stealth in his bedroom. However, family pressure and threats caused him to backslide , until the death of his brother in 1996 spurred him into rededicating his life as a Christian.
Nissar had moved to Bradford by then and as his children were born there, members of his local community noticed he stopped attending the local mosque, his children didn’t attend Madrassah. Once news he had converted spread like “wildfire”throughout the community as a result of declaring his faith to a very close Pakistani friend who he befriended some years earlier, his family experienced instant contempt and hostility. Throughout the years 1999-2006, verbal threats, spitting and abuse, escalating to physical intimidation harassment on a daily basis to following Nissar or his wife on the school run. Nissar was set upon and pounced on on a few occasions in full view of his children, even put into a headlock on one particular occasion.
Drive-by brickings became the norm, as the family experienced regular damage to the front and rear bay windows of their property, in addition to the frequent smashing up of their vehicle. On one occasion, another vehicle was used as a battering ram to drive into Nissar’s vehicle (Sept 2002). A month later his car was engulfed in flames in the early hours of the morning (Oct 2002). Yet, despite his car being written off 3 times and hundreds of pounds worth of damage to his property, the police were more interested on having his family leave his local area than investigate further the overt hate-campaign against his Christian conversion.
‘It was clear in black and white really – literally so – black graffti sprawled across my window panes and property walls : F*** Christians, Jew Dogs. We had clear footage of these young thugs dancing on my car, putting my windows through, harassing my wife and kids for hours on end. I’d call the police and log every single incident. I’d get stopped in the street and get told ‘’You’ve seen what we’ve done to your car. Now we’re going to burn you out of your home.’’ Yet the police simply aren’t interested. I had one police officer lose his temper in my home to tell me ‘’stop being a crusader and move out’’, as though it’s that simple to just pick up and leave. My finances couldn’t permit it. The police simply are not the police.’
The threat to burn the Hussain family home did materialise, resulting in a forced expulsion from their area for a while. The vacant property directly attached to Nissar’s home was broke into and set alight, in the hopes the flames would spread across to Nissar’s house (Oct 2002).
‘I remember the smoke penetrating our living room, suffocating us. The fire brigade came in no time at all, but the kids were hysterical, crying and kneeling huddled together on the floor smothering their faces in their laps. Outside the local young Muslim men gathered outside on the opposite side of the pavement jeering and shouting and generally having a good laugh at the sight of the house fire as four fire engines and their fireman furiously went about containing the fire. We ended up escaping to a local vicarage to take refuge for a week.’
In June 2006, Nissar and his family moved to a different part of Bradford, where they enjoyed two years of relative bliss. ‘I didn’t tell the local Muslims I was a convert Christian for obvious reasons. The few families living there just assumed us to be another Pakistani Muslim family and were elated we had moved there and I was in no rush to correct them.’
However, Nissar was approached by the Channel 4 documentary programme ‘Dispatches’, who were looking to investigate the experiences and treatment of apostates from Islam within Britain and who had come across Nissar’s ordeal through reading about him in the local and national newspapers. Reeling from the fresh, raw persecution over the last six years and feeling a sense of duty and passion for the Christian convert cause, Nissar agreed to take part in the filming of the 2008 documentary ‘Unholy War’. However, it was this very exposure that reignited the persecution and the family were soon subjected to the same kind of anti-Christian persecution they had just left behind which was instigated and orchestrated by a neighbouring clan family who initially welcomed them, but now with their “instant contempt” were doing their best to drive the family from their home in a similar way to what had happened at the previous location.
Between 2008-2014, the social ostracism and hostility from many of the Muslim families in the area soon turned into verbal abuse, fronted by this clan family. Nissar’s car windows were put through eight times during these years and the family endured verbal threats and abuse.
Nobody in my family were safe. I’d be out early in the morning, picking up shards of broken glass off the streets, due to the fact this demented family has orchestrated smashing my car up for the umpteenth time. My girls came out to watch over me this particular time and one of the chief perpetrators was already out and about conspicuously, conveniently inspecting his and his brothers’ cars, despite it being 4 am in the morning. It didn’t take him long to launch into his usual verbally abusive tirade with impunity and without any fear or consequences of the Law, when he saw a few of us gathered by the car. The girls whipped out their phones to record him – we were fed up being told by the police there was insufficient evidence to make arrests – and he was screaming blue murder, ‘’I’m going to get your girls f***ed by the Pakistanis! Your wife, mothers and sisters too!’’ ‘
The prosecution of this abusive man, although only for a slight public order offence, sparked the catalyst for an intensified campaign for retribution and to force the Hussains from their home for a second time. Numerous physical altercations would become the norm, where more and men from this large extended family would drive by the house, swear and follow Nissar’s wife and girls on their school run – it became almost a daily occurrence.
They would openly threaten me and my family, telling us point-blank we were not welcome here, that we should never have moved into the area, or Bradford per se. It was daily warfare, constant mob rule. I had 50 people stood outside my property one day, the usual intimidatory tactic and I bolted my door for fear for our lives, whilst screaming on the phone to the police that they had to send someone down immediately. So what do they do? They send a PCSO, who after viewing the footage, dismissed it as nothing more than a extended gathering! Gathering? I have a mob outside, pointing up at my house windows, circling my car and taking note of my registration plate and it’s apparently ‘a gathering’. We’ve been contending with this two-tier battle, this two-tier system of political correctness that is terrified of being labelled and racist ; that refuses to confront with Islamic intolerance and radicalisation per se – not just where apostasy is concerned. It’s exactly the political liberalism gone wrong that facilitated the systematic rape of 1,400 girls in Rotherham. In Bradford, there have been two race riots concerning the Pakistanis and police and so the local authorities are petrified of disturbing what they term ‘race-relations’. I’d even called them up on numerous occasions to relay that I’ve had another chief member of this family state he’s planning to have me beat up and in the presence of an independent witness. They are categorically uninterested, as is my local MP and council, all voted in through the Muslim electorate (baradari system) and whose loyalty definitely does not reside with a convert Christian.’
Nissar’s warnings to the police materialised. On 17 November, 2015 as Nissar was making his way to his car, two men ambushed him and beat him with a pick axe handle – smashing his kneecap and breaking his hand, leaving him hospitalised for 11 days. The police released a video of the attack on their website, ‘conveniently labelled the attack as religiously motivated when all these years prior, it was termed a neighbourly dispute. I was sickened to watch from my hospital bed, the MP Naz Shah, supposedly ‘my’ MP, tell the world that the attack on me was merely a result of a ‘neighbourhood dispute’. The system has really been against us from all sides. I truly realised that we were going to get no help whatsoever from the authorities, particularly when the police shut down their investigations regarding the attack 4/5 weeks after it occurred, due to insufficient evidence and without informing me: I found out by accident whilst ringing CID to enquire of them. I now had to focus on getting my family to safer shores – I didn’t know who they would target next.’
Nissar and his family have since moved into a safe house as of November 2016 in dramatic circumstances: 10-Armed Response Officers descended upon our home as they had received “credible intelligence to suggest our lives were at risk.” Nissar, naturally, remains an avid campaigner for safe houses for Christian converts in Britain.
‘It really has come to this, the police, Church (CoE) and local politicians have failed. They are in denial regarding the apostasy issue in the first place and wouldn’t know the first thing about the tribal/cultural/religious mindset if it hit them in the face. Their reserved, refined English mentalities could never comprehend what the ex-Muslim endures in this country also the Police and “Powers that be” are extremely nervous and fearful of causing “race relations issues” and add to the mix Political Correctness and you get Islam also Shariah “unhinged” and running rampant the length and breadth of this Country and a “two-tier Law system.” Never in my life, having been born and raised in this country – as someone who was taught to take on British values and for someone who is proud to be British – never in my life did I think it would come to this. It is a national disgrace and a total betrayal of this Country for those of us who leave Islam and especially for those who convert to Christianity’.
Discussion, recommendations and areas for further research
The above interviews contain a wide range of experiences, including at least one person who wouldn’t call themselves ‘apostate’, to those who have suffered severe and prolonged persecution, including violence amounting to attempted murder. We are planning to do more work to try and gain a more specific idea of the range of experience of apostates, which ethnic or national communities are more affected, and so forth, but several converts have stated to us their belief that the Iranian community is generally the least likely to persecute apostates, but that the problem is a lot more severe in some other communities, including the Pakistani community. Several wished to emphasize the climate of fear they have to live under and were deeply concerned not just about the actual persecution, or threat thereof, that they endure, but also about the way their voices are sidelined in much of wider society because their experiences don’t fit the multicultural agenda, with at least one anxious about how possible public exposure will affect their career prospects (within the church, no less).
Whilst the state / government cannot directly control social attitudes, it does have a role in providing a lead where there is serious discrimination, a fact reflected in the various legislation and programs concerning hate crime around race, gender, sexuality, and so forth. Some of these causes have multiple well organised pressure groups, support from academia and so forth to press their cause to the forefront, and have become very effective in shaping social attitudes within society. However, there is a grave danger that this means that hate crime that does not easily fit into these categories gets ignored, and ‘apostates’ are one of them. It needs to be recognized that due to human nature, those who are ‘liminal’ or cross boundaries in some way tend not to be viewed well, and that in some cultures this factor is extremely prominent, most or all Islamic cultures among them.
Arguably, religion and belief has always been something of a problem child in the diversity and equality ‘rainbow’, in part because of the amorphous nature of the grouping – there is such a wide range of religion and belief out there, and in part because there has been a strong tendency in significant parts of the opinion-forming portion of society that ‘all religions are really teach the same’, something that is manifestly and objectively false. For this reason, when we consider hate crime because of religion or belief we need to be aware of the great danger of heeding more those who ‘shout’ loudest, who are the most organized, or who have a ready-made term to describe hate against them, or who are more easily categorized as a readily recognized ‘minority’.
Our recommendations are for the state / government to start taking the issue of convert-hatred or apostate-phobia much more seriously as it is a problem that is unlikely to go away, and shows every sign of getting worse, and it has been severely neglected. It is widely recognized, including by the Home Office, at least in their material on, for example, the situation of Christians in Pakistan, that converts face greater danger than ‘regular’ Christians. This often appears to be the case in the UK as well, with several individuals commenting of their experience that they might as well be living in Pakistan, for example. For this reason, the treatment of converts or apostates is a kind of canary in the mine, warning of a rising problem that will go on to affect much more than just them if it is not addressed and rectified, and freedom of religion, as part of the bedrock fundamental right of freedom of expression.
Specifically, we recommend that there is a renewed emphasis on specifically freedom of religion, in a way that makes it clear that this is much more than just ‘freedom of worship’, which is a much narrower concept, and that there is emphasis on the freedom for a person to change ones religion or faith without being persecuted for it. We realize that people of many faiths would be unhappy if one of their number left their faith and may try to persuade them to come back, but it is clear that there is a large problem with outright bullying, harassment and violence for a significant proportion of ‘apostates’ in certain Asian or Middle Eastern communities in this country, which can be all too easily dismissed as ‘neighbourly disputes’ when in fact they amount to hate crime – perpetrated specifically because of someone’s leaving the faith.
We also recommend that steps be taken to educate police, social services, educationalists and local authorities about the challenges and hatred that apostates can face. We realize that these arms of the state are all hard-pressed, with significant resource restraints, but it should not be too hard to provide material that highlights the issues, otherwise there is a danger of the police, for example, walking into a situation in which they miss some of the dynamics at play – for instance, that it is not at all unknown for those who have left the Islamic faith to be accused of all sorts of wrong behaviour to disguise the fact that they are being targeted precisely because of their change of faith or belief, and that it is common for those who are victims of this kind of hate crime to be reluctant to report it. The reasons for this would be various, but include the fear that it could provoke even more violent attacks or harassment, and the fear of not being taken seriously (which then becomes a vicious circle – if police, or whatever other authority is involved, are unaware of the seriousness or sensitivity of the issue, or the powerful cultural and social forces and taboos, almost, that can be involved, then they won’t take it seriously, but only have a culture of labelling these hate crimes as ‘neighbourly disputes’, for example).
Any policy driven change needs more than just anecdotal data, of course. Several of those interviewed strongly expressed the need to create a new category of hate crime in some fashion, whether they used the term ‘Christianophobia’, ‘Kaffir-phobia’, ‘apostate-phobia’ or the like. Currently, hate crime is generally categorized by the perception of the victims, but there is strong anecdotal evidence, as shown in some of the cases in this report, that apostate victims of hate crimes are not having their crimes treated as such. We recommend that the term ‘convert-phobia’ be adopted and data collected under this heading, including information as to which (original) faith is involved. This would not be targeted at any one faith or religion, but would include any and all faiths or religions. It would give a clear idea of the relative problem areas (we are aware, for instance, that somewhat similar problems can affect people converting from or leaving Ultra-Orthodox or Orthodox Jewish communities) meaning that the problem can more easily be quantified and resources or approaches adjusted accordingly – and objectively, not according to where victims may or may not fit into a system dictated by the multi-cultural movement or approach. In short, we recommend that attacks on converts / apostates be classified in the same way as other categories are under the amended Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
We recommend that places of religious worship or religious education (religious schools etc) specifically be either required, or at least vigorously encouraged, to sign up to a commitment to practices towards others’ religious freedom and to non-violence that would include the requirement to unambiguously and categorically affirm that violence cannot be condoned in any circumstances, except those in which the law of the land allows for self-defence against sexual or other violence. Again, this would be across all faiths and religions: those that do sign up can be given some sort of charter mark to distinguish them from those who don’t, and also it means that if either reports of teaching that are inconsistent with that commitment, or members of that place of worship engage in patterns of behaviour that do not conform to this commitment, they can be challenged and held to account more easily. We base this recommendation on one of our interviewees, who pointed to similar recommendations from a former Middle Eastern Sharia court judge who converted to Christianity (and now lives in the UK).
We also recommend that all the Islamic centres and mosques and all the official Islamic related organisations in the UK should be asked to produce a statement in which they confirm they do not promote or teach Kafir-o-phobia or Apostate-o-phobia and do what they can to avoid Christianophobia of any sort; exactly the same kind of preventions that all the organisations/schools/universities/etc in the UK are asked to do about Islamophobia. (This recommendation was from one of the apostates interviewed based on their wide range of experience in the education system, both direct and indirect.)
We further recommend that all schools, including faith schools, and more informal faith schools of all beliefs be required to prominently display and to promote the two sets of commitments recommended above to staff, pupils and parents. If places of education and other organisations are required to do this in general, and Christian schools required to do this regarding Islamophobia, for example, then it is only write that there should be a reciprocal and equally vigorously enforced emphasis in the opposite direction.
We further recommend that the government and / or Parliament should consider amending either legislation and or guidance for police and CPS, as appropriate, around incitement to violence and harassment, so that cases where the deliberate celebration of the killing of apostates, for example, is done in front of apostates to intimidate them without actually threatening to kill them should be classed as hate crime and vigorously prosecuted. Applying such an approach to social media postings should also be seriously considered.
We also recommend that there be a clear direction to distinguish between criticism of the tenets or practices of a religion and incitement of hatred against individuals of that religion, as there has been significant blurring of this distinction in some areas; several of our interviewees specifically raised this point in one form or another, noting that for citing specific religious hadiths that they find objectionable routinely leads to them being labelled as ‘Islamophobes’ or shut down, and not just by Muslims, but in academia and other areas of public life.
Those who leave Islam face, at best, significant challenges due to rejection and worse by their former faith community. Many choose to keep their abandonment of the tenets of Islam a secret, and feign some level of continued observance where they must to keep out family or social obligations, because they know full well the ostracism and even violence that they would face if it became known. Those who become open will typically face violence and extreme harassment from a range of sources – close or extended family, friends and the wider society at large. The behaviours they face can be relatively petty on one level (forms of economic boycott), or they can in some cases be extreme campaigns of intimidation, violence and even murder (‘honour killings’). Because even the relatively petty stuff is specifically because of the targets status as former Muslims, it is, by any reasonable measure, hate crime, crime specifically directed at them because of a personal characteristic. We interviewed people from a wide variety of areas and backgrounds, and found common threads: it is quite clear that the hatred behind these behaviours is widespread and deeply entrenched. Several of our interviewees pointed to specific religious / ideological causes for this. Several, particularly from the Christian converts from Islam, noted how skilled their persecutors were at staying just inside the enforced limits of the law on incitement to violence, whilst still clearly praising the killing of ‘apostates’ from Islam in an extremely intimidating fashion . Several also spoke forcefully of their experience that some attitudes in wider society – sometimes variously described as multiculturalism or political correctness – as helping enable the perpetrators and suppress the victims and their experiences and relevant knowledge when it does not conform to particular dogmas, attitudes that seem in some cases to come out in academia in particular, but also in policing. We make various recommendations to help deal with these issues, to protect the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion for all of society, and to help ensure that those affected by this kind of hate crime are given support as appropriate by police, the educational system, local authorities and so forth. We also recommend the requirement of specific commitments to non-violence and freedom of religion in several spheres, including religious education and places of worship.