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.

Have you left Islam & suffered the consequences in Britain?

The British Pakistani Christian Association are making a public appeal for any ex-Muslims within Britain who have/are suffering persecution for abandoning the Islamic faith, for a study. The study also extends to those who have fled to the UK on religiously persecuted grounds, only to undergo re-persecution for his/her ex-Muslim status.
If this is applicable to your situation, click the following link for further details:
Additionally the BPCA have released an online survey, which examines the experience of the ex-Muslim, whether you are convert to another faith, or atheism/agnosticism. The survey can be found below and will significantly help us in our work to highlight this topical issue in the UK.
Anyone wishing to participate in the study should leave their contact in the relevant section of the survey, or alternatively contact the BPCA (details of which are found on the above link) or my e-mail address.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Thesis Conclusion

Taking the findings of the dissertation into consideration, it is clear to see that the concept of freedom of religion, as espoused in the UNDR (1947), ECHR (1950) and ICCPR (1966) fundamentally exists in theory yet cannot be guaranteed in practice within a British context. This dissertation examined the relevance of religion in Europe in the 21st Century and upon recognising its salience to the modern, western world – as demonstrated through the rise of Islam, analysed the concept of the Muslim Cultural Defence; a reactionary affront to secularism in Europe and indeed Britain, as demonstrated in the general pattern of de-Christianisation throughout Europe. The fundamental Muslim resentment at the British, political, secularist reaction to the Salman Rushdie Affair polarised factions of Muslim communities, solidifying the Cultural Defence and regarding any heterodoxy within such communities as an attack on their Islamic way of life; of which apostasy is the worst offence. Through the case studies of British apostates and ex-Muslim, Christian converts, it is evident that freedom of religion exists but for a few, as if it truly existed in practice, the likes of Nissar Hussain would not feel compelled to set up safe havens for fellow apostates. Yet it is Nissar’s phrase ‘I may as well be living in Pakistan’ that annihilates the belief of freedom of religion, as the comparison of the United Kingdom to a country that continues to witness the killing of religious minorities, is indeed a dire blow to British values and promises of religious freedom.

Chapter VI: The Case of Nissar Hussain, broken for Christ.

You are shunned, treated as an apostate, a traitor. Your property is continually damaged. I have had physical assaults. You find yourself completely isolated, broken (Nissar Hussain in the Barnabas Fund 2016).
This chapter will examine the case of British Pakistani, Nissar Hussain, who emerged as Europe’s and Britain’s regional and national face for the ex-Muslim, Christian convert. The chapter highlights the persecution he and his family have endured from 2000 to present day, utilising excerpts from his daughter, Anniesa Hussain’s blog in which she documents her experiences as the child of an apostate; before examining the political police and legal failures in addressing the religious hate the family have endured, to conclude that there exists no freedom of religion for the apostate from Islam in spite of ratified Human Rights Legislation.
6.1 Leaving Islam, Embracing Christianity
Nissar Hussain has been the national face for Christian converts from Islam in Britain since 2001, when news circulating his apostasy throughout his local Muslim community in Bradford resulted in daily verbal and physical abuse that culminated in alerting local media, in order to address the innate suppression of ex-Muslims. Nissar officially converted to Christianity in 1996, where the trauma of his brother’s death left him soul-searching, leading him to find solace and truth in the example of Jesus Christ, where Islam had fundamentally failed. News of Nissar’s conversion soon spread, resulting in his disownment by immediate family and friends and his family endured daily harassment, initially in the form of daily emotional and verbal abuse; before resulting in damage to family property and physical assaults, forcing the family to flee to another part of Bradford in 2006. The family were approached by Channel 4’s Dispatches in 2007, interested in investigating the persecution ex-Muslim Christian converts and upon its release, resulted in a second wave of religious hate crimes, the most severe of which resulted in Nissar’s hospitalisation in November 2015.
6.2 Infidels Are Us
Anniesa, daughter of Nissar Hussain, set up the blog platform infidelsareus in 2014 in order to highlight the marginalisation of the ex-Muslim Christian convert. She recalls her childhood experience, growing up as the symbol of heterodoxy in the face of community orthodoxy. Anniesa has documented her life from life as a 6 year old (2000) up until the aftermath of her father’s attack on November 17, 2015.
 ‘Sustained Persecution of the Hussain Family 2000-2006’
From the time I was 6 years of age, my siblings and I endured daily verbal abuse, physical altercations, car and house window smashings. School playground hostility and school-mate deprivation. Death threats. Mob rule. Initial prevention of riding our bicycles in the neighbour common ground to then prevention of us playing on the street directly outside our property. I watched my father’s effort in erecting a 6ft fence in his backyard to protect his children become effectively decimated. I can’t ever imagine his pain, his helplessness when his fence still never stopped the glass bottles and bricks being hurled at his children as they played in their own back garden (infidelsareus 2015).
‘An Abnormal Normality’
I never understood, walking out of the house hand-in-hand with a sister or father, why our walls and windows were scrawled with the words ‘Fuck you!’ ‘Jew Dogs’ ‘Fucking Christians’ ‘Christian Dogs’ in ugly, black and permanent graffiti – marked out for the whole world to see. I didn’t see why so many Pakistani children at my school could look me straight in the face and tell me ‘we can’t play with you because my parents said you’re a Christian’. Nor was it acceptable to me, when they set fire to our neighbouring abandoned property, in order for the flames to lick across our house beams and set our house alight. At least when we had to flee to a local vicarage for safety, we were afforded a few weeks of peace and calamity. I could never accept the verbal and physical attacks on my parents and will never forget as a seven year old, an attempt on my Father’s life (infidelsareus, 2014).
‘Round II: 2008-2015’
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 six 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 (infidelsareus, 2015)
Bradford Attack: 17/11/2015’
Nissar Hussain is a living example of an ex-Muslim and it is this factor that doesn’t swallow well with Muslim families such as those who attempted to orchestrate his demise. His stance, his desire to fight his Muslim oppressors in a non-Muslim country has gained him enough hatred which culminated in an attempt on his life. If you watch the cctv footage you can see the pick-axe aimed for Dad’s head…
… It has come at a great cost but I think even Dad has finally accepted that one man is incapable of changing a system geared against apostates such as our family. So as we undergo a time of review and reflection as to where to move away from Bradford please continue to bear our family in prayer during the uncertain and uneasy transition. After almost two decades of sustained persecution, every single one of us has simply had enough. We want peace and stability, we want the ability to walk outside our property to a car that hasn’t been smashed, a father that doesn’t get brutally beaten. We need to be able to breathe and move freely (infidelsareus, 2015).
6.3 The political implications behind the persecution of the Hussain family
In his 2008 doctorate thesis, No Place to Call Home: Experiences of Apostates from Islam & Failures of the International Community , Meral (2008) situates the plight of the Hussain family within a political Cultural Defence framework:
Muslim diaspora communities tend to regard apostasy as a betrayal of their ongoing struggles with identity within their host countries. The more distant the culture of the host country is from an Islamic and Middle Eastern culture, the more intense the imperative becomes for maintaining Islam identity. When identities are precarious, their enforcement will take an aggressive form. This helps to understand why apostates face an equally dangerous situation, even when they are born and raised in a Western country (Meral 2008: 63).
The anti-Muslim discrimination organisation, Tell-Mama UK , re-quotes Meral in his allusion to this inherently political opposition to apostates from Islam, additionally also referring to the case of Nissar to deny any religious undertone to the persecution of his family, in stating:
A deliberate conflation overlooks the intricate dynamics of countries whose intolerance of apostasy is often political and not religious in nature… In 2001 (the year of the Bradford Riots), relations between the Asian communities and others were poor. So a conversion away from Islam was also viewed by some as a deep community betrayal. In that context, it might explain why the Hussain family suffered broken windows and street harassment (Tell-Mama, 2014).
Yet, whilst it is correct to highlight the political tensions and the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ paradigm as one result of racial/religious frustrations; it should also important to highlight the political correctness and fear of being labelled ‘racist’, or ‘Islamophobe’ provides the very grounds in which religious intolerance towards apostates from Islam and the very religious persecution directed towards the Hussain family is allowed to continue. It is also imperative to point out and include the overt failures of the Bradford police force and Bradford west local councillors and Members of Parliament (MP), as a political factor in the continuation of the persecution of the Hussain family.
Barnabas Fund published a letter written by Nissar to his local and current MP, Naz Shah, highlighting his precarious situation and the failures of the police, in addition to asking for her assistance in the matter:
Dear Naseem Shah MP,
Can I congratulate you on behalf of myself and family on your stunning victory and we can’t express our delight as our newly elected MP for the Ward of Manningham and wish you every success for the future. On a serious note can I express our utter misery and dire situation as Christian converts from a Mirpuri/Muslim background since 1996… when I had reported it to Police prior to this happening the Police sergeant’s response was: “Stop trying to be a crusader and move out!” In short the Police had wilfully failed us so as not to be labelled racists or seem to cause the Muslim community offence at our suffering and expense… I cannot express in words the Police failure over the years which has led to our suffering and have no confidence in them whatsoever and am desperate for your help (Barnabas Fund, 2015).
Furthermore, Wilson Chowdhry, chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BCPA) told the Catholic Herald that “apostasy crime” – committed against Muslims who convert to Christianity – needs to be more widely recognised in Britain. Regarding Mr Hussain’s case, he stated: ‘Police officers seemed oblivious. They didn’t put it down as a hate crime. They had it down as a neighbourhood dispute. That to me was atrocious’ (Catholic Herald 2015).
Police inaction and Shah’s failure to respond to this letter and lack of absence during repeated meetings Nissar set up to discuss his situation in more depth, must be analysed politically. Bradford’s issue with fundamentalism initiated with the public burning of the Satanic Verses , a key turning point being the 2001 riots which polarised factions of the Pakistani community in an already highly concentrated ‘ghettoization’ community structure; of which Nissar’s conversion is deemed treacherous to the wider Islamic Cultural Defence, perceived as opting out of identifying with ethnicity not just religion. This is evident through the National Secular Society’s interview with Anniesa who stated:
‘I realised we were different. Mum got asked in the playground, ‘‘why are you wearing salwar kameez, why aren’t you wearing a mini skirt now you’re not a Muslim?’’ Christianity is equated to whiteness. [Mum] said ‘‘my colour is still the same, I’m still a Pakistani woman’’ (National Secular Society 2015).
It is also important to note that, the necessity to avoid repetition of another Bradford riot and the re-election imperative of the local MPs voted in primarily through the Pakistani bloc-vote; the ‘Birardari’ –clan politics – (BBC 2015) system, which are crucial factors in the dismissal of the Hussain case as a religious hate crime by both the police and Naz Shah.
Nissar was interviewed by the Telegraph & Argus following his hospitalisation in which he stated:
“Our lives have been sabotaged because of our faith yet the police have never labelled it as a religious hate crime. It has come to this and the police have failed us. I have no confidence in them .We are under the cosh and classed as blasphemers. The Muslim community are largely decent people but because of the taboo of converting to Christianity we are classed by them as scum and second-class citizens. Most of the Muslim community here have turned a blind eye to what we are going through, there are some who have condoned it but there are also those who are directly committing hate crimes against us. Their objective is to drive us out again. We can’t go on like this. The plan is to move but we can’t do it overnight (Kathie Griffiths in the Telegraph & Argus 2015).
The same article also reported that the November attack was now being treated as a religious hate crime, with ‘Detective Inspector Andy Howard, of Bradford District CID, said initial investigations suggested is was a targeted attack and it is being treated as a religious hate crime’ (Telegraphy & Argus 2015). Yet the timing of police classification of the Hussain ordeal as religious hate coincides with the proliferation of interest in the Hussain case, as demonstrated in the tirade of media releases, such as the Daily Mail’s October 2, 2015 article entitled ‘Muslim family are driven from their home… after they converted to Christianity: Neighbours vandalise car and call them ‘blasphemers’ and the 19th November 2015 article, ‘CCTV catches terrifying moment Christian father-of-six was brutally set upon by hooded thugs with a pickaxe handle who targeted him as a ‘’blasphemer’because he converted from Islam’, the Times’ 19th November 2015 article ‘Bradford father ‘living in fear after converting from Islam to Christianity’ and the Yorkshire Post’s 19th November 2015 article entitled ‘Terrifying video shows Bradford dad attacked by pickaxe thugs ‘for converting from Islam to Christianity’ to cite a few examples.
Nissar himself confirms this to the BCPA in the following statement:
Yes, they [police] recorded the most brutal attack on me, which was actually attempted murder, as a religious hate crime, but only after the local media named it as such, but in all of the years beforehand, the police force have been downplaying our abuse as a ‘neighbourly dispute’ (BPCA 2016)
6.4 Taking a Stand as a Christian convert
The failure of the political and legal system and the lack of freedom of religion in his decision to leave Islam has inspired Nissar to advocate for a specific law guaranteeing the protection of ex-Muslims. The 2015 circulating of the ApostasyByChoice petition online is one example of this.
Moreover, Nissar’s statements of ‘I think multiculturalism has failed, I think David Cameron’s Big Society has failed and I think there is two laws, one for them and one for us’ (Telegraphy & Argus 2015) and ‘I might as well be living in Pakistan, this is not Britain as I know it’ (BBC Asian Network, 2015) provides the contextualisation for the launching of the Safe Haven Project by the Christian Concern organisation, aimed to provide secure relocation for British ex-Muslim Christian converts. Nissar, campaigner and co-founder of Safe Haven said of the initiative: ‘ I am determined not to hide my conversion to Christianity and to do all I can to help the many thousands of other former Muslims, who have either moved away from Islam or need a refuge to escape this type of tyranny’ (Christian Concern, 2014).
The organisation Friends in the West reports Nissar Hussain’s partnership with the BPCA, in meeting with the British Home office, in ‘calling for a Home Office review of hate crime towards so called ‘apostates’ and for such crime to be listed in the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006’ (Friends in the West, 2016), prompting a response from Karen Bradley, Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation & Crime documented in two letters dating 27th June 2012:
In an open letter addressed to Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner of the West Yorkshire police force, she writes:
‘I recently met Nissar Hussain, a Bradford resident who was involved in a high-profile attack outside his home in November because of his conversion to Christianity…as you are aware, any crime perpetrated on the basis of the victim’s religion should be recorded as a religious hate crime. This includes crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s conversion to a particular faith’ (Home Office, 2016).
In conclusion, the extensive case of the Hussain family in Bradford is interesting to note, as it carries an explicit political undertone not just religious – political opposition from local MPs and police, in addition to political frustrations at the family’s apostasy from the local Muslim communities in which they have resided. Although the plight of the Hussain family continues, with ongoing investigations; the fact remains that in spite of police acknowledgment of targeted persecution towards the Hussains dating back to 2001, the police only officially recognised such criminality as religiously motivated in the immediate aftermath of Nissar’s hospitalisation in November 2015. Additionally, the joint call made by the BPCA and Nissar to insert a specific apostasy clause into British existing Race and Religious legislation, is indicative of the overt failures to guarantee religious freedom for Nissar and his family.

Chapter V: Case studies of the Apostate Experience in Britain

To them [Muslims], it doesn’t really matter if you do the praying stuff, because to them it seems that you just don’t care. But it’s a big deal if you say, ‘yeah I’m not a Muslim’. It changes nothing in your actions or in what you do. But to them it means everything. Because it’s an attack on their life. It’s not ‘Oh, he’s just a bad Muslim’ kind of thing. It’s like, ‘s***, he doesn’t believe’. (‘Hanif’ in Cottee 2005: 11)
The 2008 Channel 4 Documentary, ‘Dispatches, Unholy War’ stated that there is an estimated 3,000 underground ex-Muslims currently in Britain, yet the figure stands to be higher given that apostasy remains at the discretion of the individual. However, although the chapter examines the lives of a few British apostates, this is largely due to the stigma and shame attached to the renunciation of the Islamic faith and the necessity to maintain silence as an ex-Muslim living in the shadows. The chapter fundamentally will highlight and conclude that all case apostates do not feel free to state their apostasy openly, as doing so results in disownment, a sense of no belonging in wider society; leading to –in extreme cases- suicide.
5.1 Confessions of an ex-Muslim
The publication of Simon Cottee’s (2015) The Apostates: When Muslims leave Islam broke the tide of silence and ignorance enveloping the Apostasy Question in academic literature and policy making, through releasing the first major study of apostasy from Islam in a Western, secular context. Cottee (2015) examines the apostate ordeal primarily through a sociological lens, yet there largely remains a stifling of the internal struggle ex-Muslims undergo within the wider framework of Muslim orthodoxy. Cottee’s (2015) publication must be also placed in the context of the rise of ex-Muslim forums, most notably in Mina Ahadi’s January 2007 founding of the Central Council of ex-Muslims in Germany, Maryam Namazie’s June 2007 co-founding of the Council of ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB) and Imtiaz Sham’s co-creation of Faith to Faithless; which propelled these formerly marginalised figures into the limelight, thus publicly breaking the taboo of even addressing the Apostasy Question and establishing both public and underground channels of communications for fellow ex-Muslims to share their individual experience and be encouraged in the knowledge they are not alone.
The British ideologue and boasts of freedom of religion was severely destabilised and doubted in the publically documented suicide of 22 year old Pakistani Irtaza Hussain, who abandoned Islam when arriving to the UK for staunch atheism upon the discovery of rationality and science. As an active member of the CEMB he wrote:
Islam quite simply did not provide enough answers at all and was fairly credulous. What is absolutely appalling is the state of ignorance within Muslims and how many of them make claims about Islam’s monopoly on knowledge, yet still being miles away from having a proper appreciation of academia (Irtaza Hussain CEMB, 2013).
Cottee (2015) recounts his personal interview with Irtaza, recalling his statements preceding his suicide: ‘I hate not having psychical company…I hate how I’m completely alienated from society and will never find a way to fit in’ (Cottee 2015: 12). The overwhelming lack of acceptance and subsequent loneliness was sensed by Cottee, throughout the case-study interviews he conducted, prompting him to state:
There is a lot of pain and torment in the lives of ex-Muslims, This is to do, in part , with feelings of shame: the sense that they’ve failed their families and the wider Muslim community, that they’re not right, that they’re wrong. Not normal. To do, also, with feelings of alienation, a sense of being out of place. Not belonging (Cottee 2015: 13).
Irtaza’s final Facebook post in 2013, entitled ‘Just a Jump Away’, depicts him sitting in a tree, his camera lens pointing downwards and a rope in the distance. Faraz Talat, facebook friend to Irtaza, highlights the lack of freedom of belief for those who abandon the Islamic faith in his reminiscent tributary post:
22 year old Irtaza Hussain, an ex-Muslim, had cried bitterly for months about being alienated and rebuked by his ultra-conservative British Muslim family. The abuse and unremitting depression led him to his death, while his online friends and I tried helplessly to support him. Battling Islamophobia is a very worthy thing to do, but our empathy is usually too limited to reach deep to the minorities-within-minorities; those we leave behind in the dark, because we can’t figure out a politically correct way to address a situation where a minority community is also an oppressor in some way; not all of them, obviously, but that brutal culture clearly persists. (Faraz Talat Facebook, 2015).
Vice News is one of the very few News channels and websites that documents the individual ex-Muslim experience within Britain. In his article Leaving Islam Behind Is a Scary Prospect for Britain’s Ex-Muslims, Kesvani (2013) cites the ordeal of former Muslim Shahid Abbas (pseudo name) in which he forced himself to supress his doubts concerning Islam, as he succumbed to family pressure; particularly his father who encouraged him to become an Imam. However,
“after studying a lot of continental thinkers, as well as more contemporary work about scientific rationalism, there came a point when I realised how flawed Islamic justifications were. I tried to talk about these concerns with the Islamic society, and even the local Imam. But both were very dismissive – they said that the Shai’taan [devil] was trying to manipulate me.” (Kesvani 2013: 1)
Abbas’ decision to keep up appearances in relation to the Islamic faith, for fear that his family would disown him is a reoccurring factor within British apostasy. The Independent reports the case of British-Somali, Amal Farah who not only left Islam for atheism but also married a Jew.
‘“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – telling my observant family that I was having doubts. My mum was shocked; she began to cry. It was very painful for her. When she realised I actually meant it, she cut communication with me,” said Ms Farah. “She was suspicious of me being in contact with my brothers and sisters. She didn’t want me to poison their heads in any way. I felt like a leper and I lived in fear. As long as they knew where I was, I wasn’t safe (Independent 2014).
The BBC interviewed Ayisha (pseudo name) ,who was 14 when she began doubting Islam after reading the Koran. Her initial battle to wear the hijab culminated in the decision to leave Islam, thus endangering her life at home:
“My dad threatened to kill me by getting a knife and holding it against my neck and saying: ‘We might as well do it if you’re going to bring this much shame to the family… when I came out to my family my auntie told me my brothers and sisters wouldn’t be able to get married because their honour would be tarnished. And it would all be my fault. I used to live in Bradford for a time and I’d be very quiet about it because there are Muslims everywhere. I still have this innate fear, it’s hard to explain. You just want to keep quiet about it. It’s just safe to stay quiet (BBC 2015).
In its 2016 documentary Rescuing ex-Muslims: Leaving Islam, Imtiaz Shams, one of the six participant apostates stated that he was unaware he could even leave Islam but upon the revelation that he wanted to, started the London underground Faith to Faithless ex-Muslim network in which they deal with apostates suffering from
emotional abuse, people getting kicked out by their families, a lot of psychological trauma – as an example, in this last Ramadan I had to deal with five different suicide attempts. On the extreme side, things like kidnappings, forced marriage [occur] and risk from the family or wider community (Imtiaz Shams, Vice News 2016) .
To conclude, the fact that there are only a few, select apostate cases to report on and the fact the Apostasy Question is poorly understood and underreported is that it heavily relies on the apostate him or herself to overcome their paralysis of fear, in order to leave not just a religious ideology but a systematic way of life – everything they have ever known. The utilising of freedom of religion is almost oxymoronic, as the case studies demonstrate a lack of freedom for those apostates who reveal their faithless status to their families and wider communities; forcing them hide or flee and use pseudo names when publically discussing their experiences, for fear of the repercussions on their personal security should those who are intolerant of their decision should ever find them.
This notion of ‘coming out’ -this departure from the Islamic faith as an apostate carries the same undertones and connotations of shame and dishonour as the issue of open homosexuality, another taboo across Muslim communities. The case studies highlight the fear, ostracisation, and abandonment apostates commonly feel, driving them to feel alone, ashamed and deprived of a sense of belonging, resulting in suicide in extreme cases. These individual apostate experiences directly contravene Britain’s guaranteeing of freedom of religion and instead is indicative that perhaps the Muslim Cultural Defence prevails over British and European human rights ideals, which seem to be shunned in the orthodoxy-heterodoxy paradigm of the Islamic communitarian beliefs.

Chapter IV: The Theology on Apostasy

In order to understand Islamic doctrinal basis for the opposition and intolerant attitude to apostates from Islam, it is essential to examine Islamic scripture, doctrine and theological opinion; in order to understand where the justification for persecution – and in extreme cases death – originates from. This chapter aims to present the relevant verses pertaining to apostasy, from the Quran and Hadiths – Islam’s first and second Holy sources. The widely approved and recognised literature on the Hadith by Sahih-al Bukhari, heralded by all Muslim authorities including the spiritual heads of Mecca and Medina , Islam’s first and second holiest shrines will be utilised in order to establish the Prophet Muhammad’s beliefs regarding apostasy. Volume 9 of the Hadith is predominantly littered with examples of Muhammad addressing the fate of apostates.
The chapter will then outline prominent Islamic Schools of Thought and key Islamic figures throughout the Muslim world and diaspora communities, highlighting the debate between literalist and liberalist interpretation , the polarisation of which plays out in the current ‘Islam versus Islamism’ debates and rhetoric; of which the Cultural Defence has emerged from the latter. Although there is a fierce defence of the death penalty for apostasy, the chapter concludes that the majority of modern day Islamic thinkers believe apostasy to be taken out of context and irrelevant as coercion of belief is not permissible in Islam. The theological implications of scriptural verses pertaining to Islam will therefore subsequently be put to the test through the treatment of prolific ex-Muslims in a British context, in order to gauge whether freedom of religion truly exists, yet this will be discussed in Chapters 5 and 6.
4.1 Quranic verses pertaining to apostasy
The Muslim scholar Dr Muhammad Hamidullah (1957) states in his book Introduction to Islam that the custodian and repository of the original teachings of Islam is derived from the scripture of the Quran and Hadith – ‘the Quran and the Hadith are the basis of all Islamic law’ (Hamidullah 1957: 163). Furthermore, although
the Quran does not present the reader with a systematic theology on apostasy, its teachings on the seriousness of apostasy, and on non-Muslims became more severe in the verses revealed later in the Medina period. These verses differ from the earlier, Meccan period, which are more tolerant towards non-Muslims. It is widely believed that these later verses have abrogated the earlier ones (Meral 2008:20).
Quranic verses pertaining to apostasy
 1. [Your enemies] will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a denier of truth- these it is whose works will go for nought in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide (2:217).
 2. How would God bestow His guidance upon people who have resolved to deny truth after having attained to faith, and having borne witness that this Apostle is true, and [after]4all evidence of the truth has come unto them? For God does not guide such evildoing folk. Their requital shall be rejections by God, and by the angels, and by all [righteous] people (3:86-87).
3. Truly, as for those who are bent on denying the truth after having attained to faith and then grow [ever more stubborn] in their refusal to acknowledge the truth, their repentance [of other sins] shall not be accepted: for it is they who have truly gone astray (3:90).
4. They would have you disbelieve as they themselves have disbelieved, so that you may be all like alike. Do not befriend them until they have fled their homes for the cause of God. If they desert you seize them and put them to death wherever you find them. Look for neither friends not helpers among them… (4:89).
5. But as for him who, after guidance has been given to him, cuts himself off from the Apostle and follows a path other than that of the believers- him shall We leave unto that which he himself has chosen, and shall cause him to endure hell… (4:115).
6. They swear by God that they said nothing (evil), but indeed they uttered blasphemy and they did it after accepting Islam; and they meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out: this revenge of theirs was (their) only return for the bounty with which God and His Apostle had enriched them! If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back (to their evil ways), God will punish them with a grievous penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: they shall have none on earth to protect or help them (9:74).
Quranic verses permitting freedom of religion
1.Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects Evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things (2:256).
2. And if they surrender themselves unto Him, they are on the right path; but if they turn away- behold, your duty is no more than to deliver the message (3:20).
3. Means of insight have now come unto you from your Sustainer [through his divine writ]. Whoever, therefore, chooses to see, does so for his own good; and whoever chooses to remain blind, does so his own hurt. And [say unto the blind of heart]: ‘I am not your keeper (6:104).
4. It rests with God alone to show you the right path: yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright (16:9).(Source Meral 2008: 20-33)
Hadith verses pertaining to apostasy
 1. Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims (Volume 9, Book 83, Number 17). 
2. Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him’ (volume 9 Book 84, number 57). 
3. Behold: There was a fettered man beside Abu Muisa. Mu’adh asked, “Who is this (man)?” Abu Muisa said, “He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism.” Then Abu Muisa requested Mu’adh to sit down but Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and His Apostle (for such cases) and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed (volume 9 Book 84, number 58).
 4. No doubt I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “During the last days there will appear some young foolish people who will say the best words but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, where-ever you find them, kill them, for who-ever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection (Volume 9, Book 84, Number 64)  
Leading Mujtahid (Jurists’) Interpretation on Apostasy
The three main Islamic schools of thought – Malik, Hanbali and Hanafi schools categorically uphold the death penalty as the ultimate consequence for apostasy from Islam. The Malik school espouses that
‘whoever changes his religion should be executed. As far as we can understand this command of the Prophet means that the person who leaves Islam to follow another way, but conceals his kufr and continues to manifest Islamic belief, as is the pattern of the Zindiqs and others like them, should be executed after his guilt has been established. He should not be asked to repent because the repentance of such persons cannot be trusted. But the person who has left Islam and publicly chooses to follow another way should be requested to repent. If he repents, good. Otherwise, he should be executed’ (Malik 1994: 317).
Similarly, the Hanbali School adheres to the interpretation of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal who states that ‘any adult and rational man or woman who renounces Islam and chooses kufr should be given a three day period to repent. The person who does not repent should be executed’ (Mawdudi 1994: 17). The Hanafi School, followers of Imam Abu Hanifah offers no possibility for remorse for those well versed in Islamic doctrine: ‘the person who understands Islam well and deliberately renounces Islam, should be executed without any invitation to repentance’ (Mawdudi 1994: 17).
The Contemporary Islamic Scholarly debate on Apostasy
Islamic debate concerning the Apostasy Question dates back to the time of Muhammad yet there remains no single accepted consensus as to the treatment of ex-Muslims. Instead, the fate of apostates is contingent upon the literalist versus liberalist interpretation and contextualisation of Islamic doctrine pertaining to apostasy, a struggle that remains contemporary to the Muslim world.
The literalist interpretation of the Quran and Hadiths in relation to apostasy is adhered to by al-Shafi’i (767- 820 CE), who understands Quran (2: 217) as justification for the death penalty. Similarly, Abdul Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979), one of the founders of the Indian Islamic and politically conservative organisation Jamat-i Islami , stated in his book The Punishment of the Apostate that Islamic scripture permits the killing of those who desert the faith.
This literalist approach conflicts with liberal scholarly rhetoric, espoused by figures such as Shakyh Muhammad Sayyid Tantani, Grand Imam of al-azhar since 1996, in believing that those Muslims who renounce their belief should be left alone – unless he poses a threat to Islam. Additionally, the Islamic department of al-azhar university ‘has called for the penalty for apostasy to be null and void’ (Subhani 2005: 25), extending the timeframe in which the apostate can repent and revert to Islam, from three days to the apostates’ lifetime. Technically speaking therefore, this allows the apostate to renounce his faith repeatedly then revert back whenever he wishes to over the course of his life. Furthermore, Sheikh Gamal al-Banna, Egyptian thinker, author and journalist states in an article entitled No Punishment for Ridda: Freedom of thought is the backbone for Islam: ‘these verses are clear with regard to ridda in Islam; they make no mention of any torture, punishment for the murtadd in this world…the only dreadful and terrifying punishment is the rage of Allah’ ( Council of American-Islamic Relations 2015:1 ) .
Renowned European Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, furthers this liberalist interpretation through highlighting case examples of Muhammad’s tolerance towards those individuals who left Islam during his lifetime, ‘such as Hisham and Ayyash, or who converted to Christianity such as Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh’ , indicating therefore that ‘the one who changes his or her religion should not be killed’ (Berkley Centre 2007:1). Moreover, the British anti-extremist Muslim think tank, Quilliam Foundation in its 2013 No Compulsion in Religion: Islam & Freedom of Belief report repeatedly asserts that the act of renunciation is between man and God, therefore the notion of an earthly punishment is against the teachings of Islam.
In conclusion, it is evident that a strong case for the death penalty emerges for apostates, particularly demonstrative in the acts of killing as outlined in the Hadith. Since there is no clear, structural passage on apostasy, those verses that address the issue of apostasy appear to contradict, some upholding the necessity to kill the disbeliever, whilst others upholding freedom of belief; it is essential then to turn to scholars of such Scripture to provide coherency and correction to confusion and confliction of Islamic doctrine concerning the fate of the apostate. Despite the majority of scholars opposing the death penalty for the ex-Muslim, the persecution of apostates continues to rise in the orthodoxy-heterodoxy context; thereby initiating doubt as to whether freedom of religion toward the apostate truly exists.

Chapter III: Orthodoxy v Heterodoxy

From Muhammad bin Muslim who said, “I asked (Imam) Abu Ja`far (al-Baqir) about the murtad [infidel].” He said, “Whoever turns away from Islam and rejects what has been revealed to Muhammad after he had been a Muslim, then there is no repentance for him; rather it is obligatory to kill him; and his wife should separate from him, and his wealth should be distributed among his heirs (Sarwar 2007:256) .
This chapter examines the issue of polarisation within the Muslim community, analysing the internal dissenters in an orthodoxy-heterodoxy type-paradigm. This internal Muslim crisis will be highlighted through the fate of prominent dissenters, through opposition of Islamist Blasphemy laws – as demonstrated through the killing of Pakistani Governor Salman Taseer, through perceived heresy – as evidenced in the murder of Glasgow’s Ahmadiyyah Asad Shah and through apostasy; most notably in the current imprisonment of Saudi Arabia’s Raif Badawi, unusually propelling the issue of apostasy into the international media. Statistical data, in the form of surveys undertaken in the Islamic world will be utilised in order to show that the overwhelming support for the death penalty and Sharia law, a politicised Islamic jurisdiction system derived from a literal interpretation of the Quran, is not just adhered by Muslim nations. Instead, globalisation enables British Muslim communities to stay informed of the grievances or issues of salience in their countries of origin, perpetuating an attachment of Islamic ideals over British values throughout factions of Muslims, which essentially intensifies the Cultural Defence. Consequently, internal heterodoxy against the predominant orthodox nature of such Muslim communities is silenced, suppressed and in extreme cases, murdered.
3.1 The Internal Muslim Crisis
The religious fundamentalism behind the Cultural Defence has directly created the orthodoxy versus heterodoxy paradox, in which the former’s rigid and dogmatic belief that it remains fundamentally incompatible with differing ideologies, also applies to the internal Islamic structure. Whilst the purpose of inter-faith and multi-faith rhetoric and institutions is to engage Islamic beliefs with other religions across Britain and to encourage a better perspective of Muslims from an external standpoint; currently there exists a significant lack of understanding of the internal, differing Islamic ideologies – nor does a prolific and vastly-connected liaising forum function between the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam and alternative sects.
Kymlica (1995) posits a challenge to the correlation between the Cultural Defence and Orthodoxy/Heterodoxy paradox. In utilising Taylor’s (1994) Politics of Recognition he advocates a theory of cultural liberalism in contrast to a cultural defence in stating that ‘minority rights are compatible with cultural liberalism when a) individual freedom is protected within the group and b) they promote equality and not domination between groups’ (Kymlica 1995: 153). However, Kymlica’s (1995) reference to a cultural liberalism proves to be rather utopianist when applies to the British Muslim community; particularly when considering the conditions upon which the (Sunni) cultural defence was formed.
The feeling of being scapegoated by an external, imperialist, non-Muslim hierarchy, reinforces this Islamic sub-culture which is therefore arguably less tolerant of internal strife, such as acts or speeches deemed blasphemous to mainstream Sunni beliefs or cases of apostasy – all of which are perceived as threats to the attempt of uniting the Ummah. Microcosm realism therefore, in the form of community security politics takes precedent within this inflexible socio-religious framework, in which the determination of individualism is worth comparatively less against the wider autonomy of communitarianism. This runs parallel to ‘cosmopolitanism’ or ‘reflexive thinking’ (Giddens 1999) which espouses tolerance to all views and beliefs within the community.
The issue of blasphemy continues to remain highly topical and deeply contentious in not only the Islamic world but within the Muslim diaspora as evidenced in the European cartoon depictions of Muhammad and the Salman Rushdie affair. The latest Pew research centre analysis on the criminalisation of blasphemy reveals that 26% of the globe’s countries and territories hold anti-blasphemy laws and policies (Pew, 2016), concentrated across the Middle East and North African (MENA) regions and South Asia.
The Blasphemy Question is fuelled by deep intolerance and heightened sensitivity towards a perceived attack on Allah, Muhammad and/or the Koran, as demonstrated in the ‘US court order that Youtube remove the Innocence of Muslims film, due to its negative portrayal of Muhammad’ (The Legal Project, 2014) . In recent years, the violence now almost synonymous with the globalised anti-blasphemy campaigns, demonstrations and vengeance has gained momentum; whether witnessed in the 2014 torching of a Lebanese library ‘after pamphlets were found, insulting to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad’ (Spencer 2014:1 ), or in the ongoing Bangladesh blogger murders – the latest murder reported to be the hacking of Xulhaz Mannan in Dhaka, in April 2016 (Washington Post, 2016).
However, it was the 2015 killing of Farkhunda Malikzada in Afghanistan, of which the accusation of burning copies of the Koran, culminated in a mob frenzied lynching and subsequent burning of her body; spilling across global headlines as yet another harrowing reminder of the intolerant attitude towards ‘dissenters’, or ‘blasphemers’ against the increased orthodoxy of factions of Muslim communities in the context of preserving the sanctity of Islam.
3.2 Tainted with Blasphemy: From Pakistan to the UK
A poignant example of the orthodoxy/heterodoxy paradox within the British Muslim community lies in the March 2016 murder of Glasgow shopkeeper, Asad Shah by Tanveer Ahmed of Bradford. The BBC (2016) investigation into the incident concluded that ‘the accused’s consistent and repeated account as to his motivation for murdering Asad Shah was that Shah claimed to be a prophet, which so offended his feelings and his faith that he had to kill him’ (BBC, 2016), yet context of the Sunni versus Ahmadiyya conflict is key to understanding the wider persecution of the minority Islamic sect, before addressing the implications of blasphemy which drove Ahmed to murder Shah.
The religious conflict between the Ahmadiyya Muslims and ‘main-stream’ Islam is as old as the establishment of this movement in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908) in the late nineteenth century and given its rejection of Muhammad as the final Prophet of Islam, have relentless persecution in Pakistan –‘ since 1974, the Ahmadi population in Pakistan has fallen from several million to 400,000 , including the massacre of approximately 100 people by the Taliban in Lahore in 2010’ (Guardian 2016). Contentions and internal strife between the two sects are ongoing, with the Sunni branch condemning the Ahmadi, so much so that in 1974, Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, introduced a constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadi to be non-Muslims.
In the wake of the Glasgow murder, Mezzofiore (2016), reporting in Mashable UK stated that representatives of the Glasgow Central Mosque and the Muslim Council of Scotland shunned the launch of an anti-extremism campaign in Scotland organised by Ahmadis, which the
Ahmadi claim that decision reflects a general attitude of scepticism in the Sunni Muslim community towards them… many in mainstream Islam still believe the group does not belong in extended family…the message of hate is spreading and affecting Ahmadi children. And sectarianism doesn’t just stop at Ahmadi, it also affects Shia and other Muslims sects. (Mashable UK, 2016).
Moreover, the April 2016 discovery of ‘kill Ahmadiyya’ (BBC, 2016) leaflets in Stockwell Green mosque, propagating Khatme Nubuwwat rhetoric –an established anti-Ahmadi ideological organisation is further indication of the intolerance towards heterogeneous Muslim sects within the wider Islamic framework. However, it is imperative to note that the murder of Shah very much remains a case of blasphemy, of which his killer’s motive must be placed in correlation with the institutionalisation of Section 295 of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Penal Code.
The infamous imprisonment of Pakistan’s Aasiya Bibi, originally jailed in 2009 for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad perhaps stands as the global symbol of Islamic blasphemy, as she awaits to potentially become the first nation’s first case of execution via the Penal code. Bibi’s imprisonment must be contextualised within the systematic application of the Penal code, examined by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a 1991 Amnesty International report, stating that ’34 people were charged in 2013 alone, with at least 16 people currently reported on death row for blasphemy and 20 serving life sentences’ (Amnesty International 1994: 15).
However, the reaction to the murder of Punjabi Governor’s Salman Taseer, an outspoken critic of the ordeal of Aasiya Bibi and Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws in 2011 and the following reaction to the hanging of the perpetrator is crucial to the understanding of Asad Shah’s murder in 2016. Taseer’s murder demonstrated the level of religiosity amongst Pakistani Muslims, as seen through Qadri being
‘showered with rose petals and kissed by lawyers at his first court appearance with the judge who convicted Qadri having to flee the country… a mosque in Islamabad was named in honour of Qadri and the country’s army chief at the time reportedly told western ambassadors he could not publicly condemn him because too many of his soldiers sympathised with the killer‘ (2016: 1) .
Ayesha Nasir, writing in the TIME newspaper stated Taseer’s opposition to the blasphemy laws was hugely unpopular among a large segment of Pakistanis, an example of which is evident through ‘a statement issued by Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, a prominent religious organization that represents the Barelvi movement of Sunni Muslims, urging Pakistanis not to express regret over Taseer’s murder’ (Nasir 2016: 1 TIME). Furthermore, Aljazeera (2016) cited the statement released by Tahir Iqbal Chistie, president of the Sunni Tehreek organisation:
“At this time, the sentiments of all Muslims have been injured, and our feelings have been badly hurt. For any Muslim believer – no matter what school of thought he belongs to…he sent to hell a person who showed disrespect for the holy Prophet. What he did was according to the orders of the Quran…’ (Aljazeera 2016).
Yet the lack of remorse felt by the Islamist factions of Pakistan is a sharp contrast to the outpour of outrage at Qadri’s death sentence in early 2016, with news of his hanging provoking thousands to protest and stand in solidarity as witnessed through the ‘#IamMumtazQadri , which became one of the top trends on Twitter on the day of his funeral’ (Kilji 2016:1). This detailed and recent contextualisation is imperative to note as the notion of this blasphemous mentality is not confined to Pakistan’s Muslims, rather it is accepted by factions of British Pakistanis as one example of the religious Cultural Defence.
For example, the National Secular Society highlighted the public affiliation of Bradford-based Imam Muhammad Asim Hussain with Qadri’s murder in his following Facebook post: ‘today is a dark day in the history of Pakistan; the day … Mumtaz [Qadri] was wrongfully executed and martyred in the way of Allah, when he did what he did in honour of the Prophet’ (National Secular Society 2016) generating nearly 4,000 likes out of his 100,000 followers. The timing of Quadri’s execution came one month prior to Bradford’s Tanveer Ahmed murder of Asad Shah, a blatant indication of globalised Islamic orthodoxy, which inspires killing in the of blasphemy and against heterodoxy in Muslim communities from Pakistan to the UK.
3.3 State reaction to Apostasy in the Muslim world
When engaged in the orthodoxy versus heterodoxy debate, the subject of murtad , or apostasy is fundamentally important since this act of the renunciation of the Islamic faith signifies the epitome of heterodoxy within the Islamic world or Muslim communities, demonstrating the blatant refusal to comply with the Islamic system of life and therefore an affront to the Cultural Defence. The issue of apostasy is generally unknown in the non-Muslim world in spite of significant Muslim minorities, most probably because the diaspora are typically unwilling to engage in what has generally become a taboo topic given the connotations of dishonour and embarrassment internal, Islamic disagreements introduce to communities striving for a united front; particularly in western/European political contexts in which factions of the Muslim community feel they are continuously striving to display positive imagery of Islam.
Whilst there is no explicit reference to murtad in the Koran, there are indeed scriptural implications which provide theological hostility and intolerance to dissenters or deserters of the Islamic message. For example, Sura 9:73 -74 states:
Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fire. They swear by God that they said nothing. Yet they uttered the word of unbelief and renounced Islam after embracing it.. If they repent, it will indeed be better for them, but if they give no heed, God will sternly punish them, both in this world and in the world to come
Furthermore, Sura 47:23-28 states:
If you renounced the faith, you would surely do evil in the land, and violate the ties of blood. Such are those on whom God has laid His curse, leaving them deaf and sightless…. Those who return to unbelief after God’s guidance has been revealed to them are seduced by Satan and inspired by him….
The selected verses of the Koran delivering instruction as to how renouncers of the faith should be perceived and the proclamation of predestined hellfire for those who do not share the same religious belief, provides the very theological contextual basis for Islamic polities globally. The idea that those who ‘renounce the faith would surely do evil in the land and violate the ties of blood’ is indeed a common insecurity for those Islamic states who pre-eminently criminalise apostasy or instil laws that officiate Islam as the sole religion; as evidenced in Malaysia and the Maldives for example. This sura versus also feeds into the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ paradigm, therefore enabling a perception that internal dissenters and/or apostates are traitorous and therefore a deep offence to the sanctity of Islam.
The Pew Research Centre conducted a survey predominantly across Muslim countries of most global regions, in order to gauge the level of strict adherence to a literal interpretation of Islam, one key tenet being the belief and desire to be governed by Sharia law; of which Hudud (death sentence) is currently proscribed to apostasy in the Islamic world . Figure 4 explicitly analyses the percentage of Muslims who believe in execution for apostasy to another religion. Such ‘measures were in effect in more than half the countries in the Middle East-North Africa region (11 of 20, or 55%) as well as in five of the 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region (10%) and four of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (8%)’ (Pew Research Centre 2013: 55) only exempting Europe and the American regions.
The main findings of the report found that 84% of Pakistani, 82% of Bangladeshi, 99% of Afghan and 91% of Iraqi  participants believe that sharia law should replace the official law of their respective nations and this is crucial to note. Given that the primary focus of the dissertation aims to analyse the Apostasy from Islam situation in the United Kingdom, there are significant numbers of the ‘Pakistani (370, 779), Bangladeshi (142, 718) and Middle Eastern (178, 195) ‘ (The Muslim Council of Britain, 2011: 24) diasporas that despite residing in Britain, continue to revere sharia law albeit mostly within segregated Muslim communities. This will be illustrated through the case examples of British ex-Muslim experiences in Chapters 5 and 6. Specifically examining British Muslim opinion regarding Sharia law, the Policy Exchange think tank conducted a survey of 1,000 participants in 2007, concluding that despite 59% of Muslims who would prefer to live under British law, compared with 28% who would prefer to live under Sharia law, ‘37% of 16-24 year olds prefer Sharia compared with 17% of over-55s’ ( Mirza, Senthilkumaran, Ja’far 2007:5 ) .
Furthermore, out of the 1,000 participants, ‘86% of Muslims feel that religion is the most important thing in their life, with 36% of 16 to 24-year-olds believing that should a Muslim convert to another religion, he/she should be punished by death, compared with 19% of over-55s’ (Mirza, Senthilkumaran, Ja’far 2007:5). Placing these results (albeit slightly outdated) into the larger context and more recent Pew findings of the orthodoxy versus heterodoxy paradigm, it is evident that the attachment and preference for religiosity – of which Sharia law is one tenet of such – indicating therefore the severe plight of especially apostates in their ultimate renunciation of the faith.
3.4 The case of Apostasy in the international media
The phenomenon of apostasy remains largely unknown in particularly the non-Muslim world, only recently transitioning into the spotlight mainly through human rights groups, religious advocacy or non-governmental organisations. Very rarely do cases of apostasy break out into the national and international spotlight, primarily because of the blatant offence, dishonour and ostracisation of those apostate individuals.
The infamous Lina Joy versus Majlis Agama Islam (2007) Malaysian case is an excellent example of the orthodoxy versus heterodoxy struggle with specific regards to apostasy. The constitutional definition of the Malay race is synonymous with Islamic belief, thereby making the act of conversion to another religion illegal; or at the very least exceptionally difficult. Yet Malaysia’s constitution ‘does not impose any restriction on a person’s right or capacity to accept or reject any religion, including the religion of Islam, as religious freedom enshrined under Article 11 (1) of the Constitution is available to Muslims and non-Muslims alike’ (Saeed & Saeed 2004: 153). The legal implications of Joy’s case suggests otherwise.
Joy’s (whose original birth name is Azlina Jailani), conversion to Christianity required authentication by the state, in applying ‘ first to the National Registration Department (NRD) and then the Court of Appeal to remove “Islam” (as her official religion) from her identity papers’ (Catholic News, 2007) in order for her marriage to her Christian boyfriend to become legitimised in accordance with state law.
However, the application of Sharia law upon all Islamic matters denied Joy the right to remove Islam from her religious identity card. In concluding the case, Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim stated that ‘you can’t at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another,’ (Reuters 2007). The implications of the case set a precedent for apostasy from Islam in a Malaysian context, where the latest Sharia Hudud Bill that passed in the Kelantan state in March 2015, proved that apostasy, in addition to other Islamic ‘crimes’ could now in extreme cases enact the death penalty.
Perhaps the prevailing example of heterodoxy within a Muslim context is the 2012 imprisonment of Raif Badawi, who is heralded as the symbol of apostasy through the international furore and human rights led opposition and outcry at his ordeal by the Saudi government, as he awaits his possible execution. Badawi’s Free Saudi Liberals blog, ‘violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought’ (Raif Badawi Foundation, 2012) through espousing liberal/secular rhetoric such as ‘you have the right to express and think whatever you want as you have the right to declare what you think about it, it is your right to believe or think, have the right to love and to hate, from your right to be a liberal or Islamist’ (Independent, 2015).
The International Business Times reported a facebook statement by Badawi’s family :
Due to a new regulation issued by the Supreme Judicial Council on 19th September 2014 , the Penal court has now jurisdiction over major cases, which are punishable by the death penalty, amputation and stoning. We have reasons to believe without any doubts that the judge has again asked the Head of the Court of Appeal to charge Raif with ‘Apostasy’ (International Business Times, 2015).
In conclusion, it is evident that heterodoxy within a Muslim context is largely unacceptable. The cases of Malaysia’s Lina Joy and the ongoing deliberations concerning the fate of Raif Badawi are two examples of the extremity of intolerance of heterogeneity against the systematic governance and application of orthodoxy in the Muslim world. Yet it is important to note that this psyche of Islamic religiosity is not confined to Muslim countries, as the creation of the Cultural Defence within a Western context holds its roots in this very psyche and application of strict, Sharia practices. Fundamentally, apostasy is a globalised phenomenon, existing as the extremity of heterodoxy throughout Muslim communities yet it is fundamentally a rare phenomenon and a taboo, partly silenced by the overarching orthodox hierarchy and partly silenced by the potentially brutal consequences individuals face, should news of his/her renunciation of faith and/or conversion to another religion surface.

Chapter II: The Multiculturalism Backlash

I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran and all those involved in its publication, who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. 
Ayatollah Khomeini (London Evening Standard, February 14, 1989)
This chapter examines the failures of assimilative policies for ethnic minorities, explicitly with regards to Muslims in the wake of the 1989 Salman Rushdie affair, in which Muslim previous identification with ‘non-whiteness’ converted to a strengthened perception of an Islamic identity; marking a departure with a shared identity with other non-white, immigrant and ethnic minorities. The chapter will highlight the British Muslim community’s push for an Islamic agenda, with data to indicate the rise of religiosity and attachment to Muslim ideals, making reference to the depleting levels of Christianity and examples of de-Christianisation within wider Europe and the United Kingdom. The chapter will finally introduce the concept of the Cultural Defence, in which the anger at British political reaction to the Salman Rushdie affair marked the beginning of a notable retreat into internal, Muslim communities, before concluding that parallel systems have since been created within the larger, British society.
2.1 From Race to Religion
The impassioned Muslim campaign against the publication of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses set a precedent for British race-relations, minorities and multiculturalist politics, in addition to redefining the Muslim identity through the Cultural Defence. The sense of a collective British identity in a decolonised, egalitarian multiculturalism context, is challenged on many fronts, perhaps most notably however in the Parekh (2000) Report on The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. Parekh (2000) argues that:
‘Britishness as much as Englishness has systematic racial connotations; Whiteness nowhere features as an explicit condition of being British, but it is widely understood that Englishness and therefore by extension, Britishness is racially coded’ (Parekh 2000: 38).
Parekh (2000) alludes to this sense of institutionalised colonialism which is a reaction to the racial rhetoric espoused by Enoch Powell in stating ‘the West Indian or Asian does not, by being born in England become an Englishman. In law he becomes a United Kingdom citizen by birth; in fact he is a West Indian or Asian still’ (Powell in Smithies & Fiddick 1969: 77) . This concept of ‘Britishness’ remains current within domestic politics, where:
‘Politicians stress the need to reassert ‘‘core values’’ against those thought at odds with them. There is alarm about ghettoization, communal separatism, exclusion and demands that immigrants learn English and declare their loyalty to the nation-state in which they reside; rather than the one whence they came and with which many retained significant ties’ (Grillo in Vertovec & Wessendorf 2010: 53).
This condition of fear in which the extremities of right-wing politics feeds upon, is the context in which the infamous race riots of St Pauls (1980),Brixton (1981, 1985), Toxeth (1981), Chapeltown (1981) , Moss Side (1981) and Handsworth (1985) took place. It is important to note that religion was not considered an issue – rather a matter of race, evidenced by numerous reactionary organisations such as the Coordinating Community Against Racial Discrimination, Black People’s Alliance and Asian Youth Movement, which repeatedly banded together around cross-cultural issues such as ‘racial attacks, police brutality, housing discrimination’ (Lentin, Alana, Titley, Gavan 2011 :22) at a time where ethnicity and non-whiteness was a common denominator and therefore solidified as a bloc-identity across the spectrum of Commonwealth immigrants.
Thus, the publication of the Satanic Verses in 1989 was therefore a watershed moment in British multicultural politics, signalling an irrevocable departure from the collective ethnic-bloc identity and replacing it with an ‘identity versus identification’ (Findlay, Hoy, Stockdale 2004: 75) struggle, as factions of Muslims utilised the Cultural Defence as a justification tool for the disregard for freedom of speech. The violent reactionary campaign entrenched the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, officially questioning whether egalitarian multiculturalism was applicable within the UK; with a specific focus on Muslims. The infamous public burning of the Verses triggered deep symbolism of intolerance that swept across most of the Islamic world and Muslim diaspora, producing the very conditions in which British newspapers and televisions almost unanimously condemned the fundamentalism of Britain’s Muslims.
The re-emergence of internal British imperialist undertones in addressing the Salman Rushdie Affair provided the very foundations for an ideological shift, overturning the ethnic identification with race and replacing it with religion. Political commentary and opinion in the aftermath of the Affair now directed its condemnation towards the Muslim community. Home Secretary Douglas Hurd and Minister John Patten led the forefront of such condemnation in stating that ‘one cannot be British on one’s own exclusive terms or on a selective basis’ (Independent July 20, 1989). Furthermore in a letter entitled ‘Dangers of the Muslim campaign’ the Independent stated:
The present government does not often forcefully represent the views of left-of-centre intellectuals…but the recent observation of John Patten, Minister of State at the Home Office, responsible for Race Relations, on the need for the Muslim community to integrate with British society; have broadly echoed the view of liberal opinions… if Britain’s more extreme Muslims ignore Patten’s advice and continue to adopt hardline positions, they are likely to turn educated, as well as popular sentiments against them’ (Independent, 1989).
Asad (1990) challenges the implications behind the frequentative rhetoric of liberty and ‘Britishness’, believing the political elite to patronise the Muslim community upon the further release of the ‘On Being British’ document. He cites the work of Culls and Dodds’ (1987) Englishness, Politics and Culture who state: ‘the Tory government and ‘liberal opinion’ in Britain sensed a danger, a perceived threat to a particular ideological structure, a cultural hierarchy organised around an essential Englishness, which defines British identity’ (Culls & Dodds 1987: 21).
The recycling of internal colonisation and psyche of patriarchal subjugation feeds into the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ paradigm within the Muslim community, into a context of historical institutionalised racial tensions and inequality. Ultimately therefore, the denouncing of the global Islamic reaction to the Satanic Verses, at a time where Iran’s Ayatollah had issued a fatwa to the Umma in killing Rushdie, and the refusal to adhere to British Muslim calls to apply blasphemy legislation to cases of defamation to Islam inevitably paved way for the religious Cultural Defence, in addition to creating a polarisation of left and right wing politics in relation to how Islam is portrayed in Britain and wider Europe.
This creation of an Islamic sub-culture, as an alternative system of governance within an overarching framework of British norms, complies with the work of Gilroy (2000 ) and Bhabha (1989), who fundamentally argue that egalitarian multiculturalism cannot effectively be implemented as ‘culture is not a fixed and impermeable feature of social relations. They have been able to detach cultural practises from their origins and use them to found and extend the new pattern of metacommunication which gives their community substance and collective identity’ (Gilroy 2000 :217) Gilroy’s theory of fluid, transnational cultural attachment and affiliation fits well with those factions of especially segregated Muslim communities across Britain who have proven unwilling to assume ‘Britishness’ wholly, to the extent where unflattering depictions and literature of their Prophet is not permissible in accordance with western enshrined freedom of expression.
Moreover, Bhahba (1989) applies this to the Salman Rushdie affair:
Salman Rushdie sees the emergence of doubt, questioning and even confusion as being part of that cultural ‘’excess’’ that facilitates the formation of new social identities that do not appeal to a pure and settled past, or to a unicultural present, in order to authenticate themselves. The authority lies in the attempt to articulate emergent, hybrid forms of cultural identity’ (Bhahba 1989: 45).
The notion of a hybrid cultural identity with regards to British multiculturalism has undergone a mutation to specifically include faith-based multiculturalism, evident in the 1997 establishment of Islamic faith schools for example and acknowledging racism through a religious proxy ; most notably by revamping of previous Racial Acts to the current 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act. Modood (2003) emphasises the instrumental role the Satanic Verses played in the enshrining of anti-Muslim discrimination, contending that this ideological, left-wing shift was not a top-bottom enforcement, but reflected the increasing demand to recognise religion as a public and private indispensable identity reference.
2.2 The de-Christianisation of the United Kingdom/Europe
The rise of the Muslim Cultural Defence must be placed within two contexts: the first against the backdrop of a general de-Christianisation of Europe, in which Islam has plugged the religious vacuum and the second is the political polarisation of left and right wing attitudes towards the public expansion of the Islamic Question. Both conditions has served to facilitate Muslim consciousness of their cultural-religious identity.
The process of post-modernity throughout Europe is continuous and current, recently and infamously demonstrated through the European Court of Human Right’s (ECHR) 2010 Lautsi versus Italy ruling which prompted debate as to whether crucifixes in Italian schools should be permissible, as the presence of them ‘violates a child’s right to freedom of religion’ (Martin 2009:1). This challenge to traditional Italian practises set a precedent for all European Union (EU) member states, questioning the conventional display of Christian symbolism within public institutions.
This set an inexorable trend, as evidenced in the 2014 Travelodge removal of King James Bibles (Daily Mail 2014) in the UK and the rise in cases of Christian discrimination in the workplace. The 2004 case of Lillian Ladele who claimed Islington Council discriminated against her in her refusal to conduct civil partnerships and the 2006 case of Nadia Ewedia, who was informed by British Airways that her crucifix necklace violated uniform code (BBC, 2013) are illustrative of the preference for secularity in Britain and wider Europe, particularly since such discrimination directly contravenes the Equality Act 2010 which theoretically guarantees religious protection under UK equality opportunity laws in addition to existing international legal provisions.
Such examples of de-Christianisation is framed within the ‘Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is’ (Bingham & Swinford 2015:1) rhetoric. The release of Baroness Butler-Sloss’ Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life (2015) effectively summarises that ‘the decline of churchgoing and the rise of Islam and other faiths means a ‘’new settlement’’ is needed for religion in the UK, giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths’ (Telegraph 2015)
Further to the Commission’s findings, the British Humanist Association (BHA) conducted a religious survey across Britain in 2009, entitled ‘What is your religion?’ with 61% of participants opting for a religious option (53.5% Christian, 7.2% non-Christian) , whilst 39% considered themselves not religious.
In 2015, the Yougov poll conducted a repeat of the BHA survey, thereby discovering 49% of participants regarding themselves to be religious whilst 42% did not. The Church of England is experiencing a plummet in church membership, from 40.3% in 1983 to 16.3% in 2014 ( BHA,2014), yet the belief in modernity and secularity in Europe cannot be wholly applied to Islam, ‘which rejects a dualistic worldview that would compartmentalise areas of life into the religious/sacred versus the sacred/profane. Islam will not readily acquiesce to the privatisation of belief and practise that Christians have undergone’ (Leigh 2013 :5) and this demonstrated in the rise of Islamic institutions in contrast to the decline of Christian places of worship.
2.4 The Cultural Defence
The European/Western trauma triggered by the events of 9/11 manifested itself through the increase of polarised left or right-wing ‘camps’, in addition to legitimising these political definitions or labels in specific relation to Muslims. The ‘leftist’ camp applies sensitivity towards ‘Muslim’ issues, or reports of acts of criminality which bears correlation to the Muslim community- whether through fear of being accused of being racist and/or Islamophobic, or a genuine refusal to align religion with the actions of individuals or groups. In opposition, the ‘rightist’ camp tends to perceive Muslims as incompatible with western values and therefore a threat to internal security; yet both ‘camps’ have directly facilitated the solidification of the Cultural Defence through feeding into the existing psyche of Muslim consciousness.
The 2014 Trojan Horse scandal is a prolific example of the Muslim Cultural Defence, in which the Birmingham city council conducted an investigation concluding that:
‘the evidence shows individuals have been seeking to promote and encourage Islamic principles in the schools with which they are involved, by seeking to introduce Islamic collective worship or raising objections to elements of the school curriculum that are viewed as anti-Islamic’ (Huffington Post, 2014).
In addition to this statement, former Metropolitan counter-terrorism chief Peter Clarke and the Department of Education concluded that Trojan Horse was a sustained co-ordinated agenda to impose segregationist attitudes and practices of a hard-line, politicised strain of Sunni Islam (Huffington Post, 2014 ).
It is imperative to note the timing and context in which the Trojan Horse-scandal emerged, which plays an instrumental role in the mentality behind the Muslim Cultural Defence. The employment of counter-terrorism experts and rhetoric in the events of Trojan Horse must be analysed within the wider ‘Islam versus western compatibility’ framework where in 200? Chancellor Merkel disregarded European multiculturalism ‘as Muslim immigrants have kept their own languages, religious and cultural habits, thereby creating sub-worlds’ (Cesari 2013: 7). Britain’s Cameron also voiced the dangers to successful integration in his 2011 radicalisation and Islamic extremism speech:
The biggest threat that we face comes from terrorist attacks, some of which are, sadly, carried out by our own citizens… In the UK , some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practiced at home by their parents, whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries. But these young men also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values’ (Cabinet Office, 2011).
Cameron’s critique of factions of disaffected Muslims comes after the swarm of Islamist attacks on traditional European norms, inevitably creating a paradigm of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ which has been influential in the formation of the Cultural Defence. The 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh the 2005 Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons in Denmark, the 2007 Lars Vilks Muhammad cartoons in Sweden, the latest Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2010, 2012 and 2015 are all illustrative of the necessity to safeguard Islamic honour and ideals over European enshrined freedom of expression, conscience and speech.
This rejection of European ideals by a fundamental faction of Muslims is espoused in the 2006 Policy exchange report Living together apart: British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism , where ‘there is strong evidence of growing religiosity among young Muslims, with an increasing minority firmly rejecting Western life’ (Mirza, Senthilkumaran, Ja’far 2007:3) of which ‘Forty per cent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 said they would prefer to live under sharia law in Britain, a legal system based on the teachings of the Koran. The figure among over-55s, in contrast, was only 17 per cent’ (Telegraph 2007: 1).
Such evidence of clear preference for Islamic cultural beliefs, over the adherence of national and international laws of the host countries in which they reside, leaves sections of Muslim communities torn between the countries in which they live and the western foreign policies towards the Islamic world which they oppose. The Muslim News states there are 13 Muslim Members of Parliament, out of a total of 650 seats in the House of Commons and across a population of 2 million Muslim citizens, thus leading to a sense of political unrepresentation (Nachmani 2010), frustration and sense of powerlessness, most shockingly demonstrated in the speech Michael Adebolajo upon his murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby:
We have killed this man today because Muslims are dying daily because of British soldiers…we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the Sharia in Muslim lands? Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather, you are extreme (ITV News, Youtube 2013).
This impassioned affiliation with the Western-afflicted grievances on the Islamic Umma (community) is frequently demonstrated through campaigns and protests in solidarity with the Palestinian cause, with reactionary organisations such as the British Muslim Initiative and the support for anti-Israel politicians, crucially influential in the election of West-Bradford Respect party candidate George Galloway. The infamous declaration of Bradford as a ‘no-Israel zone’ upon the 2014 Israeli ambassador’s UK visit resulted in numerous rioting across Tesco chains, following Galloway’s comments:
We don’t want any Israeli goods, we don’t want any Israeli services, we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college, we don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford, even if any of them had thought of doing so (Guardian 2014).
Yet whilst the ‘rightist’ camp has solidified the concept of Muslim consciousness and/or this religious Cultural Defence through the posit of Islam’s incompatibility with the West, the ‘leftist’, camp assumes a more apologist approach, raising the banner of Islamophobia through sensitivity in reporting news applicable to Muslim communities; also feeds into the Cultural Defence complex. The revisiting of the Trojan Horse scandal in April 2016, in which the latest inspection report praises how
fundamental British values are promoted highly effectively…innovative project work and initiatives facilitated through these partnerships have enabled pupils to explore in depth such issues as the dangers of radicalisation and extremism, the impact of the Holocaust and anti-semitism, and equal opportunities, including those related to sexuality and gender (Guardian 2016).
It is interesting to note the stress made upon Muslim pupils engaging with Semitism, homosexual and equal sex opportunities, topics traditionally disregarded or disrespected when assuming a literal translation of Islam; an emphatic ideological break with the radical history of the same school in 2014. Furthermore, on the issue of sexual gang grooming, The Jay report into the failings of Rotherham states:
“By far the majority of perpetrators were described as Asian by victims, yet throughout the entire period, councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue… the 27 court cases that we found led to the convictions of 92 men. Some 79 (87%) were reported as being of South Asian Muslim origin’ (Channel 4: 2014).
The overt avoidance of highlighting the specific ethnicity of the general perpetrators -and then perhaps naturally the religious factor -indicates a sensitivity and unwillingness to perhaps be labelled Islamophobic and add further insult to injury to the Pakistani community, which is a recognition of the Muslim Cultural Defence.
In conclusion it is important to recognise that both ‘leftist’ and ‘rightist’ camps have created the very conditions in which Muslim consciousness has become both cemented and resistant to the frequent discussions of the role, contribution, effect and place Islam holds in Britain and wider Europe. This has resulted in an ideological retreat into the very communities that understand and offer a sense of immediate belonging whenever the external extremities of either political ‘camp’ instil a sense of alienation in which comfort can only be found in the Cultural Defence, thereby creating parallel communities and systems of governments within the British community and system.

Thesis Chapter I: Literature Review

                               Yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights [to religious freedom] hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal [an act granting those religious rights]; or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an      infringement of natural right. (Thomas Jefferson, 1779:1)
The concept of freedom of religion is one of antiquity, as is the philosophical, sociological and political literature that debate the theoretical significance religious freedom holds, as an attribute of liberal democracies. Yet for the purpose of the dissertation, this chapter aims to analyse the relevance of religious freedom to modern liberal democracy, utilising the work of prominent libertarians during the Age of Enlightenment from 18th Century Europe as a starting point. The chapter will firstly establish a correlation between freedom of religion and the development of the very liberal democratic conditions existing and functioning in a post-1945 Europe, before challenging the congruity of religion through the secularisation theory/thesis; which fundamentally argues that the rise of secularism in Europe in the aftermath of the World Wars, has rendered religion obsolete –and therefore the debate concerning religious freedom is inapplicable to ‘European exceptionalism’. Finally, the chapter will advocate the re-emergence of religion, using the proliferation of Islam throughout Europe via the entrenchment of Multiculturalism as a case example and thereby proving that the free practise of religion is most relevant in an era of post-secular, European societies to conclude that religion continues to be of salience and relevance to modern Europe; as the historical focus on Christianity alone in a western context is inapplicable to a current region with a pluralism of religion.
1.1 The Relevance of Freedom of Religion in 21st Century Europe
Perhaps the notion of freedom of religion continues to exist in current political and intellectual debates and literature, due it to its contribution towards the very civil liberalism that characterises modern European democracy. Fowler (1989) believes that liberalism and religion can be regarded as unconventional partners, fundamentally alluding to a co-operative dichotomy in which religion provides the moral and cultural underpinnings for a liberal society. This is particularly applicable to Europe, as classical liberalism emerged from a set of ideas rooted in Christian ideology, specifically seeking to derive a set of norms stemming from the belief in the dignity and freedom of each individual. This paved way for a conception ‘of democracy based on the Christian view of humanity’ (Grabow 2011: 7).
Although the coinage of liberal democracy precedes 17th/18th Century European libertarian literature, key thinkers such as Locke (1689) and Mill (1859 ) argued in favour of religious freedom, necessary for a cohesive and civil state. This concept of ‘toleration’ which rose to prominence in John Locke’s (1689 ) Letter of Toleration essentially advocates for the plurality of religions , which would reduce the natural domination of one belief and thereby create political stability.
Yet, this promotion of individual equality by way of religious freedom within a state fails to recognise the divisive element to religion and its natural, intermittent desire to compete and conflict with opposing ideologies. Thomas Hobbes (1660) in opposition to Locke (1689 ) believes that the religious emphasis of certitude in one’s belief and totality of commitment to God creates the very political instability evidenced in the Religious Wars of Europe. In this sense religion can be regarded as a source of political instability, in contrast to the rhetoric of Locke (1689) and Mill (1859).
However such libertarians converge or diverge on the political prowess freedom of religion should acquire in both the public and private sphere, the fact remains that religious freedom per se has emerged an inalienable right. The Peace of Westphalia 1648 sparked an unprecedented global recognition and respect of differing beliefs, entrenching such semantics into internationally acclaimed Human Rights Instruments such as the 1945 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR), the 1950 European Charter of Human Rights (ECHR) and the 1966 International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); thus enshrining freedom of religion as of the hallmarks of contemporary liberal democracies post-1945.
1.2 The Secular versus Sacred Debate
In spite of the globalisation of human rights, which has irrevocably shaped international, supranational and national policies concerning the liberty of each citizen primarily of the West; the case to suggest that freedom of religion is no longer the pinnacle of other inalienable rights continues to gain ground. Leading sociologists of religion, Grace Davies (2000) and Peter Berger (1997 ) fundamentally argue that religion is now obsolete across Western societies, more so in the region of Europe than anywhere else in the globe and therefore the historical necessity to discuss and deliberate the position religion should hold in the private and/or public spheres is now virtually non-existent in Europe today.
Furthermore, Mills (1959) establishes a correlation between the process of European industrialisation and the permeation of secularisation. The key tenets of urbanisation, rationalism and bureaucratisation during the industrial period, leads Mills (1959) to surmise:
Once the world was filled with the sacred in thought, practise and institutional form. After the Reformation and Renaissance, the forces of modernisation swept across the globe and secularisation; a corollary historical process loosened the dominance of the sacred. In due course, the sacred shall disappear altogether, except, possibly in the private realm. (Mills 1959: 33)
Mills (1959) echoes the work of the ‘seminal social thinkers of the nineteenth century, such as Auguste Comte (1851) , Max Weber (1930 ) , Karl Marx (1844) and Sigmund Freud (1927) ‘ (Norris, Inglehart 2006:223). All believed that religion would gradually fade in importance and cease to be significant with the advent of industrial society. The case for religious diminution is evidenced by the rise of empiricism and the development of scientific knowledge, consequently providing answers at a time where a deity or superstitious beliefs would otherwise suffice.
Moreover, Davies (2000 ) and Berger (1997 ) develop Weber’s (1930) notion of the secular Weltanschauung , or ‘secular worldview’ through their posit of the secularisation thesis, whereby the onset of European modernity inevitably led to the decrease in public and institutionalised Christianity; to the extent that ‘religion in Europe is like an iceberg, most of what is interesting is under the water and out of view’ (Davies 2003 ). Davies’ (2003) notion of believing without belonging or the privatisation of religious belief is evident through the separation of church and state throughout Europe, the emergence of secular, bureaucratic states and push for secularity within the socio-political framework of the European Union.
Davies ( 2000) labels Christianity in Europe a ‘vicarious religion’ (2000:1), where there is a ‘decline of institutional belief against an otherwise global trend of sustained or increased religiosity’ (Finke, Stark 2000: 79); feeding into the wider concept of European exceptionalism. Pellivert (2008) hails the work of religious sociology on the secularisation thesis as ‘widely acknowledged as a thorough and accurate explanation of current change in European religion’ (Pellivert 2008: 25).
However, the secularisation thesis which essentially establishes a positive correlation between countries of high development by way of intellectual and technological advancement and low levels of religiosity has been severely challenged over the past three decades. The sustained levels of practised Christianity –monitored through regular church-going and high support for Christian political rhetoric in the United States, to the increase in religious Muslim political parties in the Islamic world for example are case study examples in dissent of the thesis.
Furthermore, placing the notion of European exceptionalism in the context of religious vitality –where European religiosity tends to be vicarious against the global trend of rising zealotry is also flawed. The correlation between modernity and secularity in Europe cannot be wholly applied to Islam, ‘which rejects a dualistic worldview that would compartmentalise areas of life into the religious/sacred versus the sacred/profane. Islam will not readily acquiesce to the privatisation of belief and practise that Christians have undergone’ (Leigh 2013: 5).
Through further analysis of such developments, Peter Berger (1999) , a leading advocate for the secularisation theory during the 1960s recanted his earlier claims in stating:
the world today with some exceptions is as furiously religious as it ever was, in some places more than ever. This means that a whole body of literature by historians and social scientists loosely labelled ‘secularisation thesis’ is essentially nonsense (Berger 1999 ).
In addition to Berger’s (1999) new findings, Stark (2000) and Finke (2000) dismiss the validity of the secularisation thesis in stating:
After nearly three centuries of utterly failed prophecies and misrepresentations of both present and past, it seems time to carry the secularisation doctrine to the graveyard of failed theories and there to whisper ‘requiescent in pace’  (Stanley, Finke 2000: 279).
It would appear therefore, that religiosity rages on.
1.3 Research Literature on the establishment of Islam as a minority religion in the United Kingdom
European state accommodation of Islam continues to remain an increasingly political salient issue, more so especially in light of the ongoing refugee crisis spilling into the region. As of 2010, the European Union is home to 13 million Muslim migrants (Pew Research 2016), ‘making them the largest religious minority in the region’ (Fetzer; Soper 2005:2). The religious freedom provisions of the international human rights instruments, specifically the UNHR (1945), the ECHR (1950) and ICCPR (1960) in granting ‘ freedom [of religion], either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance’ (Article 18, UNHCR 1945; Article 9, ECHR 1950; Article 18 ICCPR, 1966); is implemented in the rise of Islamic institutions across Europe, over historically dominant Catholic or Protestant churches for example.
Whilst it is important to note that ‘Muslims demonstrate a diversity of affiliation to Islam varying from a refusal to proclaim the faith, silent agnosticism or indifference, (Buijs, Rath 2002:2) to ‘culturalist’ Islam, to a more zealous, missionary approach – the fact remains that Islam has become entrenched, across many European states; as evidenced through the erection of Mosques and religious centres throughout the region exempli gratia.
Academic explanation as to the public assertion of the Islamic faith and identity is debated within the research literature which examines cultural and religious minorities throughout Europe. For the purpose of the dissertation the starting point within the hotchpotch of European Muslim migrant literature will initiate from the New Islamic Presence period of the 1950s onwards (Gerholm & Lithman 1988). The New Islamic Presence refers to the ‘guest worker scheme implemented in most western European countries, or the family reunification scheme’ (Buijs, Rath 2002: 6); which enabled a large influx of Muslim migrant resettlement in the region.
The research literature in this field is predominated by sociologists and anthropologists of religion, typically branching into two strands of thinking: the first strand advocates the notion of Muslims being Islamic by default, thereby any study of Muslim political aspirations or social life revolves around the need to retain or be governed by religiosity (Shahid & van Koningsveld 1992). However this approach is ‘criticised as being Orientalist or essentialist, implicating that Islam is thought to be eternal and unchanging, untouched by social development’ (Buijs, Rath 2002: 120) and thereby only compatible across traditional Muslim lands. Furthermore, Krämer (2010) labels this Oriental perspective as:
A project that presents, or ‘constructs’, or ‘represents’ Islam as a distinct, homogenous and timeless entity that is essentially defined by its normative texts –ie the Quran as divine word and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad. For the unreformed Orientalist, Muslims are defined by their being Muslim’ (Krämer in Varisco 2010: 7).
According to this approach the rise of Islam throughout Europe is inevitable within significant communities of Muslim migrants, as they have a natural instinct to practise and spread their faith- whether through missionary work and proselytising, or establishing Muslim organisations. Additionally, the rise of hijab-wearing and religious education are all indicative of the importance to preserve the Islamic faith across host countries, perhaps one rationale behind the shift of private to public religiosity and the consequential establishment of Islam as a minority religion.
The second strand of literature assumes a dialectical approach, examining Muslim adaption to their new environment in contrast to the Orientalist approach. The ‘divergent and convergent patterns of accommodation of Islam in Europe are due to the normative, legal and institutional pressures stemming from European integration’ (Maussen 2007: 62), which has given rise to the domestication or Europeanisation of Islam; as evidenced by the inclusion and participation of Muslim representative councils or local religious leaders in inter-faith dialogues for example. However, this notion of a Euro-Islam, is challenged by Höffert & Salvatore (2000) who regard this form of modernism as a threat to the Muslim identity.
Yet it is imperative to highlight that irrespective of the tide of Islamic ideological development throughout Europe, the fact remains that the prominent position of Islam in European society is significantly dependant on state accommodation of such – namely via facilitative political and legal policies designed to publicly recognise and uphold the Islamic presence throughout Europe. Fundamentally, both strands of the research literature fail to sufficiently highlight the instrumental role of Multiculturalism in the official/public establishment and rise of Islam in the region.
1.4 The role of Multiculturalism in the rise of Islam throughout Europe  
Today, a French person is not necessarily Catholic, Protestant etc. Today a person is French through an act of citizenship, by sharing common values and by [supporting] everyone’s right to find happiness. But in the end, a French person can be a Muslim, can be a Catholic, a Jew; a Buddhist. [Muslims should enjoy religious liberty ] just as other [French] citizens do (Saïda Kada (2001), President of Femmes Françaises et Musulmanes Engagées, in Fetzer, Soper 2005: 1).
Kada’s (2001) speech stems from French President François Mitterrand’s coinage of le droit à la difference ,emerging from a wider normative framework of tolerance for pluralistic diversity and the concept of an overarching common identity; all synonyms of the political theory of Multiculturalism – initiated in North American politics- ‘largely seen as a normative framework and set of state policies, which advance tolerance and recognition of cultural differences’ (Howarth & Andreouli 2015:1. It is important to note that in studying Multiculturalism there are multiple labels attributed to the concept, contingent upon whether the approach is sociological (Hall 2000), philosophical (Taylor 1992), anthropological (Vertovec 2007) or psychological (Berry 1997) .
However, with regard to examining the role of multiculturalism in facilitating the rise of Islam across European societies, Abbas & Reeves (2007) refers to Rex’s (1996) ‘egalitarian multiculturalism’ (Abbas & Reeves 2007:10) effectively explicates the overhauling of Western, colonial discrimination of indigenous races and religions, thereby feeding into post-colonial guilt and the consequential necessity to replace previous racial/ethnic hierarchy with advocating and accommodating for minority rights during the onset of ethnic immigration from the late 1960s, in particularly western Europe.
It is imperative that egalitarian multiculturalism be contextualised as part of a larger ‘human rights revolution in relation to ethnic and racial diversity’ (Vertovec, Wessendorf 2010:33), providing the very ‘liberal-communitarian’ (May, Modood, Squires 2004:4) constructivist framework existing in racial/religious (western) European state policies today. The change in European social structure, explicitly influenced through the UNDHR (1947) et al recognition of manifestation of belief and which was instrumental in the development of multiculturalism -meant that the establishment of religious institutions was a tangible reality to particularly Muslim families permanently settling across Europe, given the sheer volume of migration from South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
Islam and Muslims have certainly gained a new kind of public visibility in Europe, during the past three decades. In contrast to first-generation Muslims, ‘who believed that in order to avoid potential problems with the state it was best to minimise the religious features of their identity’ (Ramadan 1999: 113); for many second and third-generation immigrants, Islam provided a sense of cultural belonging and pride, that could now permeate publicly due to multiculturalist policies – in terms of access to Islamic facilities’ (Nielsen 1992: 119). Therefore ‘the provisions of facilities for prayer, teaching Islam to children, access to halal food and religious burial now had to be consciously sought out’ (Vertovec & Peach 1994: 22).
The rise of Muslim identity politics is significantly due to policies of inclusion in which the Kulturkampf struggle and ‘pillarisation’ process, particularly in northern Europe , influenced European cities such as Copenhagen, Stuttgart, Vienna, Zurich and Dublin to build diversity principles into their current policies and practise (Spencer 2008). This is evidenced in the cases of Austria and the Netherlands, where ‘instruction in Islam is paid by the Austrian state…similar to public financing of the Islamic TV and Broadcasting Corporation’ (Waardenburg in Shadid & van Koningsveld 1991:38) in line with Dutch minorities policies.
In conclusion, it is evident that religion and religious accommodation of ethnic minorities in particular, continue to hold salience across European in especially welfare and social politics. This concept of egalitarian multiculturalism has adopted a rather religious approach particularly from the 1980s across wider Europe, not just the United Kingdom – thus dispelling claims of diminishing religiosity, as the traditional literature in this field has historically focused upon the changing patterns of Christianity. Such literature fails to factor in the Islamic Question in Europe, which has risen to public prominence and setting a precedent an Islamic era in the face of de-Christianisation; evident in the recognition of public Islamic institutions, apparel and media attention.

Masters Thesis Challenging the 'Freedom of Religion' Concept with regards to the Apostasy Question in Britain.

Much of my inactive blog platform is due to the year long slog of putting this Masters dissertation together, for the purpose of finalising my university degree. Given that I had the freedom to highlight any topic within the field of international relations and granted 15,000 words to do so; naturally it was my opportunity to highlight the ex-Muslim predicament here in the UK.
Rather than upload a 15,000 document, I’ve decided to compartmentalise all sections of my thesis, thereby posting successive chapters daily.  This  blog post will focus on providing the backdrop to my dissertation.
Challenging whether Freedom of Religion exists in the United Kingdom, with regards to the rise in persecution of Apostates from Islam
 Anniesa Hussain, Masters of Science (MSci)  in International Relations & Global Issues with Honours, University of Nottingham 2016.
The primary focus of the dissertation is to investigate whether freedom of religion exists in relation to Muslim persecution of apostasy within the United Kingdom, drawing upon ratified, Human Rights provisions; prominently enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights as a legal basis for the report research. The topic is one of relevance, given that Islamist oppression is primarily confined to the Islamic world, with much less reported and documented within Muslim diasporas across the non-Muslim world. A quantitative approach was taken in researching for the dissertation as the issue of apostasy remains a taboo concept. Taking the findings of the dissertation into consideration and through the case studies of British apostates and ex-Muslim, Christian converts, it is evident that freedom of religion exists but for a few. The violent repercussions as a direct result of the renunciation of the Islamic faith and the intolerance towards the case study apostates undertaken, is indeed a dire blow to British values and promises of religious freedom.
The primary focus of the dissertation is to investigate whether freedom of religion exists in relation to Muslim persecution of apostasy within the United Kingdom, drawing upon ratified, Human Rights provisions; prominently enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights as a legal basis for the report research. The topic is one of relevance, given that Islamist oppression is primarily confined to the Islamic world, with much less reported and documented within Muslim diasporas across the non-Muslim world. Chapter One explores whether and why religion bears any salience to 21st Century Europe, concluding that religiosity is as fervent as ever, with Islam in particular rising to prominence in the public domain through European egalitarian multiculturalism. Chapter Two introduces the concept of the Muslim Cultural Defence, officially creating a parallel, alternative system in a British society, essentially highlighting certain failures of Multiculturalist policies and concluding that the Cultural Defence is intolerant of heterodoxy in a Muslim context. Chapter Three develops the Cultural Defence by applying it to the Orthodox versus Heterodox paradox, concluding that apostasy is explicitly intolerable to the hierarchal Muslim orthodoxy. Chapter Four outlines Islamic scriptural verses and theological rhetoric and interpretation, debating the concept of freedom of religion in Islam and providing scriptural basis for the death penalty for apostates. Chapters Five and Six examine case studies of British apostates to firmly conclude that there is no freedom of religion where apostasy from Islam is concerned.
A quantitative approach was taken in researching for the dissertation as the issue of apostasy remains a taboo concept. The fact that there were only a few select cases of British, public apostasy cases confirms this. There is also an overwhelming lack of academic and political literature on apostasy in a Western context, with the majority of literature adapted from news articles and religious organisations’ reports.