Update on the Atheist in the Maldives June 8, 2010

Update on the Atheist in the Maldives

Last week, I mentioned Mohamed Nazim, a man who openly declared he is not a Muslim in a place where that is illegal.

That was incredibly courageous — considering he could have faced a death sentence.

Nazim seems to have changed his mind, though…

“… And as that action was very much related to the feelings of all Maldivians, I believe that it was an agony for the Maldivian people. I deeply apologise for that to all the Maldivians. Along with that, I would like to say that the major misconceptions I had regarding Islam have been clarified. Therefore, I am now a Muslim. I want Maldivians to accept me as a Maldivian and as a child of this community,” he said.

Well, that’s disappointing… but I suppose it’s more important to stay alive than to be honest.

It just gives you all the more respect for someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali who has to fear death constantly for leaving Islam but faces it with courage.

(via LA Atheism Examiner)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yay, a Muslim turned atheist! Wait…everything was clarified and he is a Muslim? I want to know what exactly was clarified!

  • Catinthewall

    Surely some realize he’s saying all that because he’s afraid of being killed. They should kill him anyway, either way, he gets his “reward”. While they’re at it, if they all kill each other they can get off this rock they hate so much.

  • Cobblestone

    Nazim is probably very afraid, not only for himself but for those whom he cares. Recall how Salman Rushdie was not the only one targeted; those who dared to publish, sell, or otherwise “aid and abet” its dissemination were also targeted—and in some instances killed. So Nazim is in a difficult spot.

    Hemant is right: this proves is that not everyone is made of the same stuff that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is. It takes a truly brave person to essentially look death in the face and say “I’m sorry, but my integrity is more important. TRUTH is more important.”

  • Hitch

    I have full sympathy. AHA did not turn atheist in a society hostile to atheism, as I understand it she was already in the Netherlands.

    I don’t want this to sound diminishing about AHA bravery or plight, but I do not think we can demand people to stick their heads out unconditionally.

    For example jewish families hid throughout WWII in basements and attics. They could have been “brave” and come out too, but who are we to demand that kind of risk and sacrifice of others. No the blame has to go to the culture as a whole that does not give the individual not even enough safety that AHA and Rushdie could affort because they could get support.

    There was also an article in the HuffPo attacking Molly Norris for backtracking.

    I find both rather horrifying. The first principle has to be wanting people to be safe. And if bravery shows promise and a culture that is supportive enough, let them be brave.

    But to be brave just to be killed or be in harms way is only something we should ask of people if we really are willing to do the same.

    It is easy for us, anonymous on the web to pass judgment. I think we should think hard first before we pass it on people who bargain with their well-being.

  • Claudia

    I totally understand. Sure its very brave to stand up and be counted even when you know what the consequences will be, but its completely normal to want to live too. If he faced a real threat to his life, then he’s absolutely justified. Of course, I don’t actually think he’s a Muslim, and I wonder what the pigs threatening him think. I doubt they’re so dumb that they think you can threaten someone into believing. Will it be enough for him to just say he’s a Muslim?

    Another thing I wonder is about asylum. I think he has an excellent case for religious persecution. Perhaps he could try for the friendlier lands of the US, UK, Canada etc.?

  • great! we all know that he is a atheist, nut unlike those crazy muslisms we know that theres no virgins after death so i would have done the same

  • Canadiannalberta

    Hitch said everything I was going to put, and much better too.

  • Randall Morrison

    You do realize that there are Officially Atheistic States where an open profession of Christianity can lead to severe reprecussions?

  • Morrison, that’s not ok either.

  • Sellers_as_Quilty

    Usually states in which religious expression is repressed (if not punished) are totalitarian states, where religious expression is put down because the government wants the citizenry to have loyalty only to the state-sponsored dogma (and usually the Dear Leader is to be worshiped as the “godhead,” e.g., Kim Jong Il, Stalin, Hitler). Totalitarian states often replace one dogma (religion) with another (National Socialism, Stalinism, Italian Fascism, etc.). In these cases, the cause of the religious repression, I would submit, is totalitarian dogma, not atheism. Atheism is ONE choice (the choice not to believe in a God or Gods). Simply making this choice, in and of itself, wouldn’t necessarily inspire one to repress others. That happens when you add in a dogma.

    This cuts the other way, too. Simply choosing to believe in a deity never inspired anyone to commit misdeeds. But add in the dogma of religion, and presto! Now people stone their daughters and engage in genital mutilation—all the while thinking it is moral to do so.

  • Valhar2000

    I want to know what exactly was clarified!

    How much pain one can be made to feel before the sweet release of death.

    But I’m just guessing here.

  • Richard Wade

    This is a defeat for Islam, not Nazim. He took a risk and managed to get the theocrats to humiliate themselves. A religion that has to protect itself from any challenge by threat of death is weak, hollow, and bereft of substance or credibility. Every time a doubter is publicly intimidated into professing belief, the reality that the “true faith” is nothing more than a mobster’s power structure is embarrassingly revealed. Only a naive child would think that Nazim sincerely believes now. If their god is so great and powerful, why does it need goons and thugs to do its dirty work? Is it helpless or afraid? These barbarians despise any man who won’t fight for himself, but they can’t see the contradiction with their cowardly god.

    I’m glad that Nazim gave in and lied to save his own life. He who fights and runs away will live to fight another day.

  • brent

    and I bet all those Maldivian Muslims are saying “there. see? We sorted THAT out. He DOES believe in Islam.”

  • Ash

    Personally, I think the best possible outcome would be for others in the Maldives to take Nazim’s example and run with it; publicly out yourself, give it a short while, backtrack with a ‘nah, just kidding’. Even better, wait a few weeks or months, do exactly the same thing again. Very quickly, calling yourself atheist would become unnewsworthy, let alone a matter for public debate over death sentences. And the leaders calling the Maldives a muslim country would be met with global sarcastic eyebrows.

    Well, we can hope…

  • Ubi Dubium

    I would like to say that the major misconceptions I had regarding Islam have been clarified. Therefore, I am now a Muslim.

    Apparently he was under the misconception that one can be open about one’s true beliefs in a muslim country without being killed for it. It has beed made abundantly clear that this is not the case. I hope he can find a way out that does not endanger him or his family.

  • Citizen Z

    I find both rather horrifying. The first principle has to be wanting people to be safe. And if bravery shows promise and a culture that is supportive enough, let them be brave.

    Yes, the first principle has to be to abandon your principles for safety. And people should be brave only when it’s safe to be brave, when there’s no risk to it.

  • Hitch

    Of course that is not what I am saying but thanks for trying.

  • Trace

    @ U Dubium, 🙂

  • JB Tait

    The major religions are proud of their martyrs and elevate them (in the case of Christians, for example, by canonizing them as saints) beyond the rest of the believers or even worship them alongside their gods. But this is just part of irrational dogma, rewarding the faithful for behaving in ways that are contrary to good judgment or logic.

    Should we, as atheists, think the need to be honest outweighs the need to stay alive? Do we approve of martyrdom because it makes a point? Or should we take the more rational stand that making the right noises with our mouth to prevent the lunatics around us from causing harm makes more sense?

    Galileo wisely recanted, but it did not change the orbit of our planet.

    Nazim spoke out and made his point, and that took courage. I am pleased that he has now recanted because to anyone with an intellect, it should be obvious he couldn’t have been convinced that quickly.

    Butler originally said:

    He that complies against his will
    Is of his own opinion still
    Which he may adhere to, yet disown,
    For reasons to himself best known.

    but Dale Carnegie made it more succinct:

    “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

    To anyone who is not totally deluded, this is clearly applicable to Nazim, his point is made, and there is no need for him to put himself at further risk.

    The very fact that they had to threaten him with such dire consequences to get him to say what they have deemed correct indicates that their argument cannot stand on its own merits.

    Their need to make lethal threats to support their claims has caused more harm to their cause than anything Nazim could say hereafter.

  • Hitch

    I want no martyrs. If Giordano Bruno would never have been killed, this would be a better world. Theo van Gogh is no martyr, he is a crime victim.

    There is no “honor” in being killed, but of course also no shame.

    I would consider the culture and the killers. This is where the change has to happen.

    I do not need or want matyrs, but if people are victimized, we are reminded just how bad things are and that we are indeed responsible for the world around us.

    I’m under no illusion that I can change what is going on in the Maldives right now. But I can support the values of people supporting and protecting their lives in an inhumane society. I will not have it that they are made into cowards by folks who sit on sofas in perfect safety typing away at their laptops and risk nothing but self-inflicted repetitive strain injury.

  • Moxiequz

    @Citizen Z:

    Yes, the first principle has to be to abandon your principles for safety. And people should be brave only when it’s safe to be brave, when there’s no risk to it.

    This man was going to be put to death. Not just jailed. Not just shunned. Murdered. Are you so seriously lacking in empathy that you can’t see the impossible situation he was in? Are you so sure of yourself that you wouldn’t behave in the same way?

    I know sure as hell that I would do the same thing if I were in Nazim’s situations. I have no qualms stating that openly.

    It’s incredibly frustrating to see the judgmental attitudes here coming from people who (I would hazard to assume) are speaking from a relatively safe and secure position themselves.

  • Citizen Z

    @Moxiequiz: My comment wasn’t about Nazim or critical of Nazim at all, I’m sympathetic to Nazim. It was about Hitch’s ill-thought-out comment, which wasn’t solely about Nazim.

    No the blame has to go to the culture as a whole that does not give the individual not even enough safety that AHA and Rushdie could affort because they could get support.

    There was also an article in the HuffPo attacking Molly Norris for backtracking.

    I find both rather horrifying. The first principle has to be wanting people to be safe. And if bravery shows promise and a culture that is supportive enough, let them be brave.

    A Seattle cartoonist doesn’t live in a culture that is supportive enough? Really?

    It’s incredibly frustrating to see the judgmental attitudes here coming from people who (I would hazard to assume) are speaking from a relatively safe and secure position themselves.

    I understand, and I agree with you. I don’t see anyone in this comment thread criticizing Nazim, he was facing a particularly difficult situation, and I think we’re all in agreement that his change of mind is perfectly understandable.

    What I find frustrating is the flip side of that coin, that somehow to celebrate the bravery of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is to “demand people to stick their heads out unconditionally”. Or that the situation of a Seattle cartoonist is anywhere near the situation of a man like Nazim. It’s particularly galling given the irony of why Molly Norris came up with “Draw Mohammed Day”: it was in response to Comedy Central’s tiptoeing around the delicate sensibilities of thugs and goons.

  • Jude

    I never keep up well with your blog, Hemant, but still, perhaps you haven’t seen this:

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/309925/june-01-2010/ayaan-hirsi-ali

  • Hitch

    Well, I am frustrated by people less brave than others accusing people more brave of cowardess.

    If Citizen Z wants to be a hero, move out and be one. Don’t snipe others, you have no right to tell others to take risks you do not take.

    Molly Norris has received minimal support. She is an independent artist, yet she has received numerous death threats.

    I have more sympathy for people going after viacom. They can afford body guards. AHA can afford body guards. Molly Norris? Well if you want to volunteer as body guard, I would have some respect for your argument.

    But if all you do is call others out as cowards from the safety of your anonymous internet persona, you get no respect from me.

  • brent

    it’s not as if he’s committing a blasphemy saying that non-gods don’t exist… it’s just words. Atheism will forgive Nazim for turning his back on it.

  • Paul Zimmerle

    If he gets to Britain, declares “HAH, I AM an atheist, suckers!” then I won’t care if he lied at the time.

    I may celebrate the bravery of someone who faces death for his beliefs, but I do not turn around and assail someone who avoids death by lying. I consider lying to be a far lesser thing than death.

  • Mazin

    I have to deeply criticizea ll you people who are calling out Nazim for ‘converting” back. You are lucky you live in a society which accepts your faith and lifestyle,
    we are however in a whole different world, like Nazim there are many among Maldivians who believe in freedom of religion , and separation of religion and politics.
    And about AHA, sure shes brave and all that, but im sure the majority of Maldivians would love the chance to freely explore new faiths/ atheism.
    So please don’t be so quick to judge Nazim, for you do not understand the politics of this country, coming out like he did was a big step in itself,