In many Muslim-majority countries, renouncing Islam is a crime punishable by death. But even in the liberal West, some ex-Muslims continue to fear leaving their faith. Although reformists point to the Qur’anic ruling,”there is no compulsion in religion,” they hide their disbelief or risk being ostracized by their families and the wider ummah (community) of believers. In extreme cases they believe their status as “apostates of the faith” puts them in danger. Simon Cottee, a senior lecturer in criminology at Kent University, England., interviewed 35 former Muslims in Britain and Canada as part of the first major sociological study of ex-Muslims in the west. He based this piece on fieldwork in Canada.
“…Halima, who asked that her real name not be used, has good reason for concern.
“There was a lot of pressure to be completely religious,” she says of her childhood. And any and all deviations were vigorously punished.
She remembers one incident in particular.
“There was a tear in a page and my father assumed I’d ripped it,” she says. “He got my hand — and put it on the stove.”
After a teacher noticed the burn, the Children’s Aid Society interviewed her parents, who said it was an accident. CAS didn’t pursue the matter, but this did little to placate her father, who castigated her for bringing “kaffirs” (unbelievers) into the house.”