When Muslims renounce their faith

Fearing ostracism by their family, or even death, many former Muslims keep their disbelief secret. A German organization offers support to people who leave Islam for another religion, or for none.

Turning away from Islam? No, she couldn’t discuss the subject now, Minna Ahadi said quietly. The phone line faded in and out as her train went from one patchy wireless coverage area to the next. Yet it was not the bad connection that made Ahadi reluctant, but the subject. In a few hours she would be home, where she could talk openly. “But now, in the train, I cannot.”

Later, back in her apartment, she apologizes and explains that she does not feel safe when she uses her name or the term “ex-Muslims” in public – even in Germany. She believes this fear is justified: Ahadi continues to receive anonymous letters threatening to shoot her, or warning she will die in a car accident.

The reason is that in 2007, Ahadi was one of the founders of the Central Council of Ex-Muslims, an association for people in Germany who have renounced their Islamic faith. By doing this, she says, she wanted to take a “provocative stand” against the label “Muslim,” which is applied almost automatically to immigrants from Arab countries – regardless of whether they are now Christian, atheist, or indeed Muslim…