A representative from The Good Men Project gave an interview with the co-founder of the United Atheists of Europe. It is an organization devoted to the coordinated efforts and community building for atheists in Europe. The co-founder is Nacer Amari, who comes from Tunisia and lives in Europe.
Amari talked about the living in the southern region of Tunisia as a youth; the ways in which religion has its own customs, norms, and traditions.
Amari said, “I grew up in a Berber family with Arab culture where parents are illiterate and not religious… Usually, it has a negative impact on the child’s personality, but I consider myself to be lucky compared to the children where I grew up, even though my parents were illiterate and managed to raise me without being affected by religion.”
He began to have some doubts as he entered into and during high school. He noticed that classmates would pray during high school while his parents did not pray at all. He noticed the purpose of prayers, religion, and God and began to question them.
“Then I completely lost my faith in God during the 10th class, identifying myself as an atheist,” Amari remarked. At some point, he and friend, named Karrar Al Asfoor, founded a social fraternity, United Atheists of Europe.
He described the organization as a means for the secular world and the ex-Muslim community to work together. “In the meantime, it is considered a small-sized social fraternity, but it’s open for every atheist who is interested to join. Our future goals are to have the effective means to challenge religions and protecting secularism in Europe and to empower atheists in the Islamic world pushing it into secularism there,” Amari said.
Amari, in a small critique on one facet of Islam, Ramadan, described the ways in which ex-Muslims and others protest by not eating during Ramadan, and then explained some of the background. In Tunisia, as an example, people have to not eat during Ramadan. The basis for this is in the constitution but, of course, this relates to the religion as well.
Amari explained, “…there was a ban from the Ministry of Interior requiring restaurants and cafes to obtain touristic permits to be able to serve food and drinks during Ramadan with the windows covered. The constitution has been updated after the revolution with a new chapter, which is called ‘the good ethics chapter’ giving the ban legal status.”
He went on to explain how this started 1,400 years ago with the ancient religious rites. Those rites that exist to this day. Amari said, “This is a holy month par excellence for Muslims. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, as they believe that the revelation of the Qur’an was a ‘night of fate’ this month, also the only month of which the name appears in the Koran.”
So, to be a good Muslim or a good citizen as per the constitution, a person must refrain from eating during Ramadan. Expanding on this point, Amari went into religion in Tunisia in general. That is, the social environments and the borders of Tunisia link to political and religious conflict.
Amari argues this has been the case since the independence of Tunisia. The Islamists took the country over. This led to increases in terrorist activities and assassinations. It continues to this day, even with the critique of religion.
Amari concluded, “The freedom to criticize religion in Tunisia is complicated, because in the new constitution, there is a contradiction in the laws, where we find in the first chapter mentioned that ‘Islam is the religion of the state’… However, in chapter six, ‘The State protects the religion (Islam), guarantees the freedom of belief, conscience and the exercise of the cults.’”
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