The number of ex-Muslims worldwide is growing continuously, and India, where Muslims comprise a significant minority, is no exception. With the help of the Internet, ex-Muslims in India and elsewhere are finding ways to share their thoughts and connect while retaining their anonymity.
— Anshuman Panda (@ADropInDSky) August 29, 2023
Although the rise of the Internet has made it easier for believers and religious leaders to spread the word of God to millions, it has also become easier to express disagreements regarding faith. The Internet also allows the transmission of knowledge and information in real-time, making them more accessible to millions of people.
From the Internet, a new group of people emerged. Unlike ex-Hindus or ex-Christians who had no issues being called atheists or agnostics, these people who left Islam insisted on being described as ex-Muslim.
The ex-Muslim phenomenon was initially confined to Western countries, with immigrants from Muslim-dominated West Asia seeking to fight Islam. In 2001, Iranian-Canadian Ali Sina started a website called Faith Freedom International (FFI) with the aim of "unmask[ing] Islam and help[ing] Muslims leave [the faith]."
Another major organization ex-Muslims started in the West was the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), the British branch of the Germany-based Central Council of Ex-Muslims. Both organizations were founded in 2007 and became the leading force for ex-Muslims in the West.
But with the rise of YouTube, the number of Indian ex-Muslims also rose, and they began discussing Islam and the Quran and debated with Islamic clerics while keeping their identities and locations safe.
Many Muslim leaders and clerics were quick to dismiss these ex-Muslims. They described the ex-Muslim movement in India as a “stunt.” They added that their numbers are “too small to matter,” considering the predicted rise of Islam as the world’s largest religion by 2035 based on a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center.
Nevertheless, a rising number of Muslims are leaving Islam, with about 23% of US adults raised as Muslims no longer identifying as members of the faith. In India, many ex-Muslims such as Kerala-based EA Jabbar and social media personalities like Ex-Muslim Sahil, Sameer, Azaad Ground, Zafar Heretic, Sachwala, and Faiz Alam continue to gain prominence. Many have used the Internet to connect with other ex-Muslims and share their ideas with the world.
For Maryam Namazie, Iranian-born writer, human rights campaigner, and leader of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, the Internet is doing to Islam what the printing press has done to Christianity in the past.
Namazie said that social media has not only given young people access to “forbidden” knowledge but also helped them find like-minded friends, share their stories, and remind them that they are not alone.
Even though ex-Muslims in India and elsewhere are a growing movement, some still choose to hide under fears of being ostracized or even being killed.
“Ex-Muslims face threats primarily from the orthodox sects of Islam. For the same reason, many individuals are unwilling to come out [as ex-Muslims]. Even on social media, they are forced to hide behind fake profiles and names,” EA Jabbar said, referring to the 2017 Coimbatore killing where four people killed a 31-year-old man for his critical views on Islam.