Apostasy by choice

Obviously, apostasy is an issue close to my heart, my top priority as you know very well by now. It was estimated a few years ago that over 3,000 apostates from Islam currently reside in the UK, yet it still is largely ignored, dismissed and unknown to the vast majority of the population. Current government policy does not address or recognise apostasy as imperative to national security, despite the ever growing figure of apostates. My family are just one example. a recent public case study and I wish to use our recent spotlight to highlight the urgency of this issue, as ex-Muslims stand to lose everything once they abandon Islam, Since there are no measures to accommodate or protect us, the petition below aims to kick-start some form of action.
We claim to be a nation who afford its citizens the freedom of conscious, the freedom of religion. Well now this rather bold claim is being put to the test.
Please take the time to read this petition, sign and get sharing!

Tainted with Blasphemy

I have written numerous posts concerning the utilisation of the Blasphemy law across many Islamic countries. Section 295 of Pakistan’s Penal Code has enshrined blasphemy, whereby defiling or defaming the Quran and/or Muhammad is deeply illegal. In extreme cases it carries a death sentence. Aside from the legal ramifications which render many of the accused languishing in prison – some of which await the death penalty – the social consequences are less publicised and therefore widely unknown to the wider world.
For those accused of blasphemy yet never imprisoned, for those released from detention – the mark of blasphemy continues to taint and follow them within their local communities. All too often we hear of instances where those accused of blasphemy are set upon by local, incensed mobs, beaten and in extreme cases murdered. Regular readers of this blog are already very aware of a few case examples. Families of the accused are hardly guaranteed their safety. I immediately think of Asia Bibi’s family who were forced to flee their home in the Punjab province of Pakistan upon her arrest in 2009. In 2010 the BBC reported on the plight of the Bibi family, referring to Asia’s husband – Ashiq Masih – as ‘having the look of a hunted man, gaunt, anxious and exhausted’.
Hunted. Imagery of petrified prey scurrying away from predators on the prowl spring to mind. The Bibis are one example of a family tainted by blasphemy and constant flight is the consequence. I have often wondered which would be the lesser torment – to be caged inside a Pakistani cell at the disposal of prison guards and other detainees or to be ‘free’ at the mercy of local communities who take it upon themselves to avenge so-called blasphemy charges and accusations. Either way neither option constitutes freedom. This rising issue of blasphemy ensnares and entraps those accused.
Christians are targeted above any other religious minority group in Pakistan. Although 2% of the population are Christian, they account for 33% of those charged with blasphemy according to a detailed research report conducted by International Christian Concern. This clearly shows a disproportionate discrimination toward the Christian minority. Reading into the ICC’s special report on blasphemy cases in Pakistan, I discovered that 171 Christians have been accused of blasphemy since the law was enacted in 1986, 157 from the Punjab Province, 12 from Sindh and 2 from Kyber Paktunkhawa. As attacks on Christians have increased steadily over the decade, I can’t help but notice the totalitarian element to blasphemy. Given that the blasphemy law is increasingly being utilised to settle personal scores and vendettas it is obvious that in these instances, Christians are being discriminated against simply because of who they are as opposed to what they supposedly do.
One case study is the example of Adnan Masih, originally from Lahore and who was accused of insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad in 2013. He continues to be imprisoned. On 7 October 2013 Adnan replaced his brother at the Diamond Glass store and had spotted a book written by the leader of fanatical group Jamat-ul-Dawa entitled ‘I asked the Bible why Qurans were burnt’. Having noting biased religious points of view against Christianity in the book he penned corrections. His colleague subsequently filed a report against Masih at a local police station and he was eventually arrested after the targeting of his family members forced him out of hiding.
Blasphemy is indeed contentious. The Federal Sharia Court issued an order in 2013 to ‘reform’ the blasphemy law, leaving many of the country’s Christians in increasing fear for their lives. December 2013 saw the FSC order Pakistan’s government to remove life imprisonment from the list of court punishments in dealing with blasphemy; thereby bolstering the death penalty for those charged under the penal code. It should be stated that the role of the FSC is to examine and ascertain whether the laws of the country are in accordance with Sharia. They do not have the Parliamentary prerogative of enforcing legislation.
Yet whilst the government has yet to implement the ruling of the FSC – if they ever intend to – it unmistakably places Christians in a sustained climate of heightened fear and uncertainty for the future of their faith in the country. There are no consequences for those levelling accusations of blasphemy and this impunity only furthers the manipulative use of this controversial law.
The legacy of blasphemy should never be undermined. International Christian Concern cites the example of ‘Asif’ who underwent a decade of separation from his family after he served 4 years of his blasphemy sentence in 2002. Upon his release, his fear of being recognised with his family and his desire to blur any connections with them forced him to live as a fugitive in order to ensure their safety. The families of those accused also carry the mark, a ‘legacy’ of blasphemy.
’Because people know I have been imprisoned for blasphemy, it is unsafe for me and my family to live together’’
(‘’Asif’’ – blasphemy victim)
To be tainted with blasphemy could well be the fate of any Christian in Pakistan. A fate initially leashed upon religious minorities in 1986 and one that shows no sign of slowing down, much less stopping.

Round II : 2008-2015

*Since the release of this article  yesterday- 
there’s been numerous speculation, lies and fabrications spread about us on social media by some of the Pakistani community, although much of the response has been positive. This is our story, here is the account.
In 2008 we were approached by a filmmaker company called ‘Dispatches’ who were looking for case studies in their documentary of Christian converts from Islam across Britain. An estimated 3000 converts reside in the UK, many of which are ‘underground Christians’ a term labelled to those practising their faith in secrecy due to the dire consequences and stigma attached to leaving Islam for Christianity. Many converts are ostracised from their families, friends and communities and are forced to go into hiding, living in constant fear of being found and apprehended, beaten up, forced to revert back to Islam. I have personally met and heard of converts who have had to change their identities, national insurance numbers and change their addresses and contact numbers. Abandoning Islam costs you everything.
Freshly wounded from the daily trauma of our last residence, my Dad felt passionately about participating in this documentary. All of us knew and will forever know what it means to be apostates in an apparently Christian country, all of understand persecution at its core. I suppose there was the hope that perhaps, finally, through this documentary there would be an awakening; an awareness of the treatment of Christian converts – especially in light of police inaction and the lack of government policies in addressing and tackling this crisis.
Soon after the documentary aired in 2008 did the second round of persecution begin to unfold. I refer to it as the ‘second round’ since our current residence is the second family home in Bradford under which we’re enduring persecution. We were instantly shunned and faced immediate hostility from the Pakistani families on our street. There are approximately 6 Pakistani Muslim families on our street and upon seeing the documentary, became aware that we were not the Muslim family they’d assumed us to be – worse yet we used to be that Muslim family- and their contempt continues to this day.
It’s simply not plausible to recall or give an account of every incident of persecution from 2008 to present day. That’s a book all on its own. Instead to give an idea of how our quality of life hasn’t improved from the initial days of anti-Christian contempt, I’ll be outlining certain incidents throughout the years to date.
The initial hostile stares, glares and refusal to acknowledge our existence on our street soon became internalised and I personally was relieved at this reaction towards my apostate family. Of course it’s never pleasant, especially come Eid where they would exchange food dishes ostentatiously whilst deliberately ignoring our house. All pleasantries soon stopped, the initial warm exchange of ‘Aslam alikum’ turned into ‘good morning’ as we no longer became worthy of the Islamic greeting. This was replaced with pure indifference by way of their silence and averted gazes. However, given the physical confrontations, smashed car and house windows and a burned house from our past area, this treatment of us paled in comparison and we thought nothing of it. By now it’s to be expected.
We got wind of a planned Telegraph & Argus story, in which a story would be released to say that the Hussain family had been welcomed into our new area, in order to reduce the effect of the Dispatches documentary. We were completely baffled by this news and once Dad rung the newspaper office to inquire more information, it transpired that a family of 7 brothers, 4 sisters and who lived 3 doors down away had taken offence at our participation in the apostasy documentary and wanted to say their piece. This particular family would go on to give us trouble to this very day and I will later be referring to that but at first our involvement in the 2008 documentary needs to be clarified and addressed.  Nothing of offence is said of Islam in the documentary, it was merely a study of apostates in the UK, who have left Islam specifically for Christianity and the documentary merely highlighted the persecution and treatment of such British converts that follows as a result. At the time of its release, it entailed our plight from our former area and had nothing to do with the current Muslim community. Yet for reasons we can’t fathom, this particular family a few doors down took offence and 2008 was the beginning of a vengeful campaign to repeat our experiences from our previous residence in order to drive us from our home once again. I’ll refer to them as the A Family. It should be stated that the proposed counter-newspaper story did not go ahead as my Dad refused to go along with it.
There’s no need to go into detail into the constant maligning of us in the street by this family in question. My father befriended a Muslim in the neighbourhood who remains the only outspoken critic of our treatment and who has refused to partake in this campaign to cleanse us from our home. Through this man we have heard of countless attempts to try and break his friendship with Dad by family A. He became one vessel through which the maligning of us was verified, as he was told numerous times not to mix with a family who were ‘anti-Islam’.
Life at school for my youngest sister became increasingly unbearable. She’d come home in tears, weeping that her Pakistani classmates had turned on her and weren’t allowed to associate themselves with a Christian – something I knew all too well. Dad could never comprehend the hostility in he found himself in the school playground as he collected my sister, nor why he would receive glares and jostles as he walked by certain parents. Until one day when he was approached by one parent to say ‘you haven’t said anything offensive about Islam! I’ve researched you on Youtube’. Seeing Dad’s baffled expression he explained that one of the brothers of family A had many of the school parents convinced that Dad was anti-Islamic and was preaching hatred on Youtube. However, upon his own research and refusal to rely on this ‘information’ of Dad, this parent – Muslim himself- proved to be a loyal supporter, berating any school parent who treated Dad with contempt. The school situation deteriorated to the point where the brother of Family A stormed up to Dad provocatively, threatening to kill him in order to goad him into a fight. That incident marked official police involvement in our lives yet again. Numerous meetings have been set up with school leaders, police officers and religious leading figures in the community, to achieve the most politically correct of outcomes: nothing.
This contempt for us proliferated to a raw and personal level. From 2008 to present day my youngest siblings have been prohibited from riding their bikes outside our front property and along our street. Upon every attempt, the children of family A have been on standby to hurl jeers, curses and providing a physical obstacle to their play. My baby brother was born in 2007, born into a situation where he can’t even play outside the front of his own home. I was 7 years old when I experienced the exact same thing. The sickening sense of de ja vu is unreal.
The years 2008-2014 have swept by with a catalogue of deeply exhausting events. Having read comments under articles about my family I have learnt not to expect people to believe our ordeal. They simply don’t know us, aren’t aware that apostasy is a growing issue in their country and quite blatantly can’t bring themselves to accept our story. I’ve grown to no longer be hurt by this, nor become bitter to this fact and be consumed by their ignorance. I have no agenda, I hold no hatred towards even those Muslims who are cause of our situation. I simply am committed to raising the apostate flag, realising how imperative, how vital it is for those Christians in chains for their faith in oppressed nations, for those on death row, beaten, tortured and killed – all unknown and ignored. I have grown in my faith, having never taught to be religious – but grown to understand what it means to have a personal relationship with God through sheer and relentless persecution. But it has by no means been easy.
Numerous altercations would continue, the need to provoke us seemed top agenda to family A. My mother couldn’t even weed her own front garden without a congregation of family A members, kicking balls into our garden, coming into our garden to sit on the benches and directly insult our family. I cannot articulate and express the uselessness of the police. That’s also a book all on its own and Bradford is no stranger to police inaction due to fear of a third Pakistani riot. Threats of death, chants and fights have become daily routine, particularly escalating in 2014 when our family car was smashed twice in the month of Ramadan.
Our car was smashed twice in July 2014, within 2 weeks of each other and the second car smashing brought about a truly ugly turn in all our years of persecution. A colossal bang woke the entire house up in the early hours of 27th July 2014, I date I specifically remember as I was due for an operation to correct damage done to my retinal nerve on my left finger. When you grow up with frequent smashings your first thought is to grab a bucket and clear the glass shards strewn across the pavement. Nobody gives an ounce of thought to call the police, scream in disbelief and question who may have done it anymore. In actual fact Dad had sprung to the bedroom window in time to see the back of the individual and recognised his affiliation with family A. Later the police dismissed this for lack of evidence and wouldn’t even agree to questioning the suspect. This ‘burden of proof’ card has been played too many times in our experience. We know what this wishy-washy statement means. Hazard a guess yourself. I know who smashed our cars. The same people who have gone out of their way to avenge our conversion to Christianity, the same people who no doubt re-watched the Dispatches documentary enough times to take notes into how to re-enact the car smashings of our previous residence.
Another brother of family A was conveniently out on the street at 5am, ostentatiously taking an interest in all his family members’ cars. Bizarrely he then decided to strap on a rucksack and proceed to cycle past us, up and down the street and around the block. He then upturned his bicycle, tinkering around with his wheel whilst paying attention to us cleaning the glass from within the car and on the pavement. I was scheduled for my operation from 7am onwards so Dad was desperately trying to conceal the broken damage done to his front windscreen, as this was the only family car to drive me to the hospital in. Some time later, a disabled neighbour ambled down the street towards us and greeted Dad before continuing on his way towards the brother of family A.
Things erupted. The brother had clearly taken offence that another Muslim neighbour had acknowledged Dad and he became what can only be described as possessed. Profanities spewed from his mouth, cursing this poor passerby and shoving him aggressively, snarling at him to ‘fuck off and go back there’ – ‘there’ – being back the way he came. This poor man’s screams struck a nerve with my Dad and he tried to push past me to help. Something snapped within me and I pushed my Dad back, pulling out my phone to record the entire episode, realising that finally this ‘burden of proof’ may achieve something. Dad soon cottoned on and whipped out his own phone to call the police. Noticing that I was filming him, the brother of family A shifted his attention to us as a family, by then my mother and sister had joined the scene given the commotion erupting outside our property.
In pure rage at being filmed, this possessed man spat a tide of abuse, from the usual anti-Christian venom of being ‘pigs’ to then screaming at Mum, my sister and me that he was going to get us ‘fucked by the Pakis’, thrusting his hips to emphasise his point. Every female member of our family was going to raped according to this man, including my Dad’s mother. He cursed us for moving into the area, telling us to ‘fuck off back to Birmingham’ and detailing just how hated we were by the Pakistani community – ‘If you ever returned to your own family Nissar, they would fuck you up! I’ll make sure you get fucked up by the Pakis’. What was particularly disgusting was that at the time this man was a youth worker and drove a van under the banner ‘every child matters’. Yet there he was on the morning of July 27 calling my 17 year sister a ‘bitch’ when she stood by my side to record his hateful fit. In short, he was arrested and after being taken to court, officially charged with 2 public order offences in April 2015. As was to be expected the charges of religious hate were dropped in court.
In this year alone, the family car has been smashed a further 4 times, bringing the total number to 6 times, not including my brother’s blue Vauxhall (as seen in the Daily Mail article). The latest car smashing was on 1 September 2015. Threats, intimidation and abuse continues, precisely why we are on the verge of moving out for a second time. Bradford is not what is used to be. As far as I’m concerned, let them have it – the stage has been set for bigger blessings for us anyway!