By Edan Tasca

Every religion can be difficult to leave. I know this not because I used to be religious and had a difficult go of it after leaving my faith. I’m grateful to have been raised secularly. The reason I know how hard leaving religion can be is that I host a monthly support group for CFIC’s Toronto branch, called Living Without Religion , which aims to provide a safe and supportive discussion environment for folks who are going through what can be a stressful transition away from their former faith.

In our meetings, we routinely hear stories about how, for example, family and friends can turn their back on you if you share that you no longer believe, regardless of your former religion. We see such difficulties among former devout Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and every Christian variant you can imagine, from Catholics and Protestants to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Born-Agains (and then not again).

Based on my experience, one thing is clear. Not all apostasies are created equal. I can’t remember any former Christian using a pseudonym in our meetings. I haven’t seen a former Hindu ask to make sure the door of the meeting room is closed so that bystanders can’t overhear our discussion. Such concerns tend to be associated with leaving Islam. It is worth remembering that apostasy and blasphemy in Islam are often deemed punishable by death .

Given the particular difficulties that leaving Islam entails, and therefore the extra support that these apostates need, it is an encouraging sign that Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) has launched a brave campaign for this very purpose. The campaign, communicated over social media as #AwesomeWithoutAllah, features, among other things, an impressively bold billboard presence .

Earlier this month, EXMNA co-founder and Executive Director, Sarah Haider, was featured in a segment of Real Time with Bill Maher , in which she discusses the campaign’s goals. CFIC stands with EXMNA’s efforts to advocate for free speech, fight for women’s rights, and destigmatize LGBTQ concerns, within Islamic (or formerly Islamic) environments.

After all, we are all #AwesomeWithoutAllah!

This article appears in the October 2019 version of Critical Links.