Who knew that believers targeting atheists for jail or even death could come back to bite them in the ass?
An in-depth report on atheists in Iraq details account of non-believers being driven underground by extremist Islamic violence. The most interesting part to me was that a Muslim researcher warns of a “wave of atheism” as a result.
The exposé, published Thursday by F. Brinley Bruton for NBC News, included input from 20 atheists who asked to be identified by pseudonyms. They were concerned about being identified by militias or police, a very real problem in their country.
Although Islam is the state religion and it is against the law to slander or insult any faith, atheism itself is not illegal in Iraq, according to legal expert Ali al-Timimi. Anecdotal evidence suggests a small but growing community of Iraqi agnostics and atheists in the Muslim-majority country. One Facebook page called Iraq’s Agnostics and Atheists has nearly 13,000 likes and 17,000 followers.
But power, violence and religion are a toxic mix.
Many of Iraq’s unbelievers have been forced underground as religious hard-liners battle for control of the young democracy, which is struggling to balance the demands of both Sunnis and Shiites, plus smaller ethnic and religious communities.
Since the dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, theocratic Shiite Iran has grown in power in Iraq…
Basically, Iraq is a war zone for different religions, and atheists are stuck on the front lines. It’s no wonder, then, that faith-based violence is driving so many people away from organized religion. Some Muslims recognize that, blaming the warring factions of their own faith for the atheistic “wave.”
Islamist intellectual and researcher Ghalib al-Shahbandar is alarmed by what he sees as a growing number of nonbelievers.
“A wave of atheism will overwhelm Iraq because of the wrong practices of Islamic parties,” he says. “They are what has forced people to avoid Islam and other religions.”
Islam is the only major religious group projected to grow faster than the world’s population as a whole over the next 30 years, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study. Still, Shahbandar says, many Iraqis are turning away from God because of falsely religious politicians.
It’s not just about the politicians. People are turning away from religion anywhere where faith-based extremism hurts their families and themselves. That’s certainly the case in the United States, where conservative evangelicals have explicitly backed policies that hurt women, block research, and limit science and sex education. Under this administration, they’ve also backed policies routinely described as cruel and inhumane, in the case of asylum seekers.
In a place like Iraq, a rise in secularism could be the only thing that stops the violence.
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