Something that we at EXMNA have been hard at work trying to rectify is our relative invisibility. People on all sides of the issue of apostasy in Islam have a tendency to forget that we exist. Numerous podcasts, articles, features, books, and so on mention us, sometimes even use us as props in arguments, without any of us actually being consulted on the matter. That it often stems from ignorance of our existence rather than malice makes it no less insulting and dehumanizing.
How bad is it? When I try to bring awareness of the issue, I’m told that ex-Muslims face too many dangers to be out, so there is no way to contact “them.” I’ve had anti-feminists tell me that if I really cared about women’s rights, I’d know and care about the plight of “those” ex-Muslim women. I’d laugh if it weren’t such a painful reminder that my mere existence isn’t worth consideration in so many people’s minds.
Thankfully, there are some who remember us. Yet those who do know we exist sometimes still rely on second- and third-hand voices to speak for us, even on matters that are explicitly by, for, and about us.
This erasure must be stopped.
I disagreed with Vlad Chituc at NonProphet Status’s take on #AnApostatesExperience, but beyond the disagreement, I felt that there was an issue with representation. The direct quotes used to characterize the hashtag in the original post were from Dan Arel. Nowhere were any of the ex-Muslims who actually started and carried forth the campaign actually quoted. There was a link to Ex-Muslims of North America, but no direct links to any of the ex-Muslims who wrote about #AnApostatesExperience.
This isn’t to say he is the worst or only such offender on this matter. Hardly. In a follow-up, Vlad took my feedback into account and did link to me and quote others as well.
This is to say that we have a very real problem when even those atheists whose approach is explicitly intersectional and who have direct contact information for at least one ex-Muslim seem to be comfortable with speaking about us without us until the matter is brought to their attention. It’s especially bad when the person called upon to speak for us in that particular post is a white man, while most EXMNA members and #AnApostatesExperience participants are people of color.
Again: This erasure must be stopped.
Why are we ex-Muslims forming organizations with functional contact pages? Why are people like me trying to gain a foothold in mainstream secular spaces? It’s because we are here, we exist, we can speak for ourselves, and we ought to be asked for our views on, at the very least, matters that are firmly and directly ours.
I try to pay attention to what’s going on in the secular community and movement, but I can’t be everywhere. I ask that, if you notice someone talking about or for ex-Muslims without bothering to point towards or mention any of us, that you rectify the matter. Even if you think I’m a poor choice of representation, there are so many of us now that you can have your pick. Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) and Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) are excellent places to start.
As noted in my previous post, I did reach out to Vlad directly about all of this. Also, this piece used to say that the hashtag was started by a woman of color. Although many women of color participated in it, the idea for it came from Nas Ishmael.