Mina Sohail met up with a group of atheists in Lahore, Pakistan and shares their stories at Tablet. What’s striking is how all of them refuse to be identified by their full name — they don’t want to face any punishment — yet their Facebook group continues to grow:
No one knows how many atheists there are in Pakistan exactly, but more than 1,100 people have signed up for Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics on Facebook. “For every member I have now, there are two people who message me saying they would like to join but cannot as they are afraid,” said the group’s founder, a 30-year-old man who calls himself Hazrat NaKhuda — literally “Prophet of no God.”
This is the kicker:
Hazrat NaKhuda said he was considering trying to raise funds abroad for a rainy-day account in case any of his members find themselves threatened and need assistance leaving the country. But meantime, he said, he was trying to keep things light. At the moment, he’s looking forward to the annual celebration of God his group throws every April 1 — April Fools’ Day. Last year, he said, a meet-up of about a dozen members at an Islamabad ice-cream parlor included a birthday cake decorated with the words “Happy Birthday, God!” No one was there to blow out the candles.
What a courageous and inspiring group of people. Their anonymity is understood. Despite the threats in the Muslim nation, many of them are out to their family members and friends.
Pakistan, of course, ranks among the worst countries in the world when it comes to religious freedom.