Photo: Me with Mohammed Alkhadra enjoying a windy day, appreciating our rights to think and speak freely.
Mohammed Alkhadra is a 25-year-old Jordanian Ex-Muslim atheist and the founder of the Jordanian Atheist Community, a group focused on raising awareness for atheism in Jordan as well as helping Jordanian atheists.
With the assistance of American and British nonprofit organizations and coordinated by American Atheists, Mohammed moved to the United States after leaving Jordan due to his atheism and renunciation of Islam. After giving a speech in the United Kingdom about Islam, Mohammed faced arrest and even death at the hands of the government and Islamic extremists, prompting him to move to the United States.
Mohammed is currently working to organize the Council of Ex-Muslims of Jordan to more publicly advocate for the rights of ex-Muslims in his home country.
Today at the American Atheists Convention in Oklahoma City we heard from Mohammed Alkhadra. The title of his talk was “Islamophobe,” and you might be surprised as to why.
Alkhadra was born in the US, but was raised in Jordan and had adopted its belief system. He remembers seeing the Twin Towers go down in 2001. By my math, he would have been about 9 years old. He remembers the happiness he felt seeing the towers fall, because by that point he had “enough hate inside him” that seeing the death of infidels, Jews and pagans of all kinds made him glad.
In 2011, some of his classmates were sent to Syria to perform “jihad” and even when one of his friends came back in a wheelchair, he was again happy and even jealous that he was not allowed yet to go.
Mentally, he was ready to join the struggle for Sharia law to rule above all manmade laws. He was all in—he was ready to throw homosexuals off of buildings, to discipline women, and to enslave those that were defeated.
Then a strange thing happened… while on the internet, Alkhadra ran across a video of Richard Dawkins explaining evolution. He experienced a profound moment of doubt and questioning and a sense of wanting to know more.
Through the use of the internet, Alkhadra and 26 other Jordanian atheists formed a secret group using fake identities. That was 5 years ago and today the group numbers in the hundreds. Through contact with other like-minded people, Alkhadra grew to no longer see women at chattel, to no longer be a homophobe, and to value free speech above all else. And yet, he was still living in an environment where non-belief made him a criminal, where he could be jailed for 3 years for blasphemy, and where renouncing Islam could result in the death penalty. In fact, he said it is estimated that 82% of Jordanians still believe apostates should be put to death.
Alkhadra believes the internet is to Islam what the printing press was to Christianity. The access to and dissemination of information is revolutionary.
Free speech is dear, according to Alkhadra. We must not fall prey to the idea that we cannot offend the sensibilities of others or we are threatening intellectual discourse, even if it includes speech which some countries now recognize as hate speech.
For this reason, today Alkhadra says call me an “Islamophobe,” call me a “bigot,” if you must. That is better than what he was called in Jordan–an infidel, an animal, a pig, a Zionist devil worshipper—who must fear machetes, bullets or being put to death for a Facebook post. Here, he joked, the worst thing that will happen to him is being called a “Nazi” on a webpage.
For Alkhadra, playing nice is not enough when a person is taught that strapping on a bomb and committing jihad is easy if this life does not matter. Lighting candles or changing your profile picture into a flag is just not cutting it. We must draw a line, we must stand up and say that this religion is incompatible with this part of the world. For Alkhadra, identity politics is doing damage by blocking criticism and debate. Only the truth matters, and for Alkhadra, if this means he is labeled an Islamophobe or a bigot, he will take it, because he stands for truth.
Alkhadra says atheists and freethinkers trapped in “the fascist ideology that is Islam” are thirsty to feel part of a bigger movement. To this end, he has teamed up with Armin Navabi (founder of Atheist Republic) to introduce #AtheistDay which will be celebrated on March 23, 2019. A simple green circle will be used as the symbol to stand in solidarity with ex-Muslims and to denounce the shaming and murder of fellow atheists. He requests that you check out http://www.atheistrepublic.com/atheist-day and send suggestions as to how we may connect with and support those still trapped in Islamic states.
“Our existence; our rights shall not be denied anymore. It’s time for us to go public. We are the Council of Ex-Muslims of Jordan.”