Features, Politics, Religion

On Betrayal by the Left – Talking with Ex-Muslim Sarah Haider

In twenty-first-century America, what happens to a young woman who has wised up and quit a faith-based ideology that ordains the second-class status of women, the submissiveness of wives to husbands (even violent husbands), the partial disinheritance of female heirs in favor of their male counterparts, the stoning of adulterers (and especially adulteresses, given the misogynistic vagaries of evidentiary law associated with said ideology), the taking of captive women as sex slaves, the adherence to a cumbersome dress code, and that also sanctions the savagery of female genital mutilation? Does she win plaudits for standing up her for rights as a woman? Do progressives recite panegyrics that sing her courage and praise her clear-sightedness? Is she inundated with offers of support?

Does she feel, perhaps for the first time in her life, that the United States, her adopted country – the only country on Earth established, at least according to its foundational documents, on the rights to free speech, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – wholly and unreservedly welcomes her as one of its own?

Not necessarily! If the ideology is Islam (and it is) and the woman is a former Muslim (and she is), she must steel herself to face threats against her life from her onetime coreligionists and a hail of invective from, and insidious betrayals by, those posing as progressives. Moreover, she must prepare to fend off attempts to silence her viewpoint as “inconvenient” given our current political morass. Even more egregiously, if the woman is trying to help (as she is) others also striving after the gloriously secular freedom she has achieved for herself, she becomes a danger to the entire edifice of hypocrisy, cowardice, and fact-deficient balderdash forming the mainstream left’s view of Islam as a “religion of peace” distorted by a few deranged miscreants. In short, in the America of today, such a brave woman will find no haven extended to her, but, rather, confront wielders of figurative pitchforks eager to skewer her for both abandoning her religion and traducing her kind. And with Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency, her position becomes more precarious than ever.

Such a woman is Sarah Haider, a native of Pakistan who moved to the United States when she was between seven and eight, and who is co-founder and director of outreach for Ex-Muslims of North America. EXMNA, declares its web site, “advocates for acceptance of religious dissent, promotes secular values, and aims to reduce discrimination faced by those who leave Islam.” It also provides a range of services (e.g., temporary shelter, counseling) to its members, who are spread out in eighteen chapters across the continent, and offers a platform from which ex-Muslims can recount, via Youtube videos, their personal stories of faith-free enlightenment.

Sarah Haider

Soft-spoken, articulate, and earnest, Haider hardly fits the image of a sinister, subversive “native informant” or “house Arab” or “house Muslim” (as she has been vilified by some on the left) scheming to stir up “Islamophobia” and spoil life for American Muslims. Haider drifted away from Islam at age fifteen, but received national attention when, in 2015, she delivered a widely viewed lecture, “Islam and the Necessity of Liberal Critique,” at an American Humanist Association conference in Denver. She has been, since then, hailed as a hero by the neuroscientist and outspoken atheist Sam Harris (the host of the Waking Up podcast) and has appeared on, among other venues, Dave Rubin’s popular Youtube talk show, The Rubin Report.

I spoke with Haider via Skype one day recently. She told me that things have only gotten tougher for ex-Muslims since she made her appearance in Denver, and that she and her fellow apostates live with a level of threat that influences every aspect of life. (Apostasy is an offence punishable by death, according to Islam, and female apostates in particular, even in the United States, find themselves imperiled.) The more publicity she receives, the more potential danger she has to live with.

“Fear of being exposed has changed how I go about my life and how I socialize. As I become better known, I feel increasingly isolated.”

Worst of all, she feels so besieged in the United States.

“Ex-Muslims in the West should be free to be who they are and leave their religion. At the very least, we shouldn’t have to be fearful of our family and friends. If Muslims feel they’re being badly treated here [in the United States], they can go to Muslim-majority countries. But where can a person like me go? I’m in the safest place I can possibly be, yet I’m too afraid to tell people where I live. It’s tragic for me that there’s even a need for our organization.”

If Muslims, she adds, justifiably worry about their events being targeted, she “can’t even find a place to hold our conferences.” For fear of being attacked, EXMNA doesn’t even have a physical office.

The mainstream media, she says, seem not to care about their plight. She adduces an example: the June 2016 incident in which EXMNA called the local Wegman’s bakery and ordered a cake emblazoned with “Happy Three-Year Anniversary, Ex-Muslims!” The management refused to take their order, worried that such “inflammatory” verbiage might offend its Muslim employees. The Freedom from Religion foundation eventually intervened – businesses cannot deny services based on a customer’s faith or lack thereof – and Wegman’s relented. The rightwing press and blogosphere publicized the affair, but few other news outlets did. It goes without saying that similar incidents not long ago generated great public sympathy when the victims were gays.

Haider is still outraged. “When I read a news article about how a woman’s hijab was pulled off or how a stewardess refuses to give a Muslim woman an unopened can of Coke, it’s national news. But no one covers what we’re going through, no one covers our persecution. Of course we know there’s anti-Muslim bigotry, and that’s being covered. But our struggle should be covered as well. It’s appalling that our pain isn’t worth discussing. In fact, we’re often painted as the victimizers.”

That the rightwing media do at times report about them only leads to EXMNA being (wrongly) associated with the right.

The left’s rejection hurts all the more since the most menaced former Muslims are women. Female apostates, she tells me, face ostracism, beatings, harassment and threats from their families and communities, forced travel back to home countries to pry them free of Western influence, and forced marriage.

But their own families often pose the greatest danger. At EXMNA, Haider says, “we’ve had women tell us harrowing stories. They’ve been locked in their rooms by their families and beaten for days, so they’ve had to try hard to escape. Generally speaking, they face physical abuse, mental abuse, and verbal abuse. Few ex-Muslims can be open about leaving Islam, because they’d be threatened by their families or communities or their employers.” The fate of those who have spoken out publicly, including the Somali-born public intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali, serves as a warning to all. Hirsi Ali has needed armed guards since she began denouncing her erstwhile religion more than a decade ago.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“Look at how Ayaan has to live!” says Haider. “She has to hide! We have to wonder, should I wear a bulletproof vest? How many Muslims here have to live like that?”

Haider tours the United States for EXMNA, which she founded in 2013 with Muhammad Syed, its president. It now counts as many as a thousand members, though it should be much larger. A lengthy security screening process for new members slows the organization’s growth, but is necessary to ensure the safety of its participants.

Which, she tells me, is no easy task. At their second public gathering, the two guards, who were apparently of Afghan origin, butted into proceedings to “defend Islam,” and later spoke audibly about “the need to do something about this group.”

“And these were the people who were supposed to protect us!” she exclaims.

Politicians show some sympathy for EXMNA, but they do so privately; the thousands of friendly emails she receives from genuine liberals make her feel less alone. The stigma prevails that criticizing Islam is tantamount to racism; not many want to risk their reputations and openly voice support. Former Muslims are also reticent, fearing repercussions from their community. And, of course, few wish to get on the wrong side of Islamist assassins with a growing worldwide record of atrocities that includes the murder of freethinking bloggers, law students, and satirical cartoonists.

I ask Haider how she feels when those purporting to be on the left attack her as promoting racism or “helping the Trump narrative.”

“It feels like a betrayal,” she replies. “I’m still shocked and appalled by it. It’s difficult to move on. The betrayal of the left has really hurt us, because in principle these people should be on our side, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us in our efforts to reform Islam and bring human and women’s rights to Islamic countries. But they’re barring the gate, telling us we’re ‘Islamophobic’ or spurring hatred toward Muslims or contributing to a hostile atmosphere for them. They even say we’re contributing to Western imperialism. This is nonsense and is appalling to us.”

In fact, some on the left treat her to mind-bending lectures about how Western imperialism is to blame for terrorist atrocities nowadays committed in Islam’s name, though the faith (with its attendant violence, misogyny, and warmongering) originated almost a thousand years before the imperialist era began. “This is dehumanizing,” Haider tells me. “It’s as if Eastern peoples have no agency, we’re just acted upon. But I can tell you about Islamic cruelty and how they treated women and homosexuals long before the West was even in the picture. [For those leftists] it’s as if history started in colonized countries when the West came.”

The discussions in the aftermath of the 2015-2016 New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, gave her a chance to experience the hypocrisy of the left when it comes to Islam. She saw that older feminists strongly denounced the crimes, saying “’there’s no excuse, these assaults are rooted in religious patriarchy and we cannot allow them to happen.’ They have this idea that no culture can supersede women’s rights, but younger feminists look at things from a very strange perspective, a narcissistic perspective,” and believe it’s — “bigotry to even acknowledge that there are problems in certain cultures, unless of course you’re talking about Western culture, in which case I can acknowledge whatever I want. What could be a more effective roadblock to addressing the problems? I don’t know what world I’m living in when I can’t even acknowledge that there’s a problem and that it’s at a much more extreme level [in Islamic countries] than anything we have in the West, when saying that in itself is [considered] a form of racism, a form of bigotry.”

Haider is a liberal, in the classic sense of the word. She tells me that, “the political right is not our friend. We don’t have allies on the right” because EXMNA is an “atheist or non-theist” organization. “Muslims who convert to Christianity can be comforted by Christians. But those of us who become atheist have nowhere to turn.”

I asked why she believes so many leftists reject ex-Muslims, who should be natural allies.

“They paint us as a self-hating, traitorous group of people,” she responds. “They believe religion’s inherent to Muslims, so they think insulting religion is like ridiculing their skin color. They’re racializing religion and conflating people with their religion. This idea will come back to hurt Muslims, since you can end up saying ‘this religion has issues that don’t mix well with modernity, so these [Muslims] need to go!’ And they think women’s rights and civil liberties always belong to Western culture. They subordinate women’s rights to cultural rights. They’re saying non-Western women have no need of human dignity. Now that’s true racism.”

Haider also posits an ulterior, if easily discernible, motive. Those on the left “ignore multitudes of human rights abuses, and especially women’s rights abuses, in order to ally with a more politically convenient group, Muslims.”

This makes sense: behind American Muslims stand a number of well-funded organizations – of which the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations is only the most prominent – that denounce critical speech about Islam as “Islamophobic” and employ legions of lawyers to represent Muslims in court. In fact, what amounts to a campaign to win special privileges for Muslims has at times succeeded even without going to court – and this is worrisome to all who value secularism.

Trump’s ascension to the presidency has only complicated the plight of ex-Muslims. Haider notes that “the left sees standing with Muslims as a means of resisting Trump;” convesely, then, those who oppose Islam can be perceived as supporting Trump. “After Trump won, I was hoping the left might engage in some introspection” about how its refusal to hold an honest discussion about Islam had damaged the movement. (As I recently pointed out in Quillette, Hillary Clinton’s failure on the campaign trail to speak frankly about Islam and terrorism most likely put Trump in the White House). “But if anything they’ve dug in. So we see Linda Sarsour [heralded] as a warrior for women’s rights.” (This is an insult to reason and progressivism, even if Bernie Sanders would disagree. Sarsour calls herself a “racial justice & civil rights activist,” but supports Shariah law, declared herself “not Charlie” after the cartoonists’ slaughter at the hands of Islamists in 2015, and, in a 2011 tweet, said she wished she could “take away” Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s vagina.) Calling Sarsour a defender of women’s rights “is absurd on the face of it,” says Haider, “but it’s becoming more and more the norm. People will call us racist for criticizing a religion. They have no idea of what it actually means to be liberal.”

Haider concludes that “If the left doesn’t take up this issue” – that is, start speaking honestly about Islam and its demerits – “they’re letting the right take it, and people end up looking to Donald Trump to protect them from terror, from morals that are rooted in the ideas of centuries ago. And that’s outrageous. Of course Trump isn’t the solution. But you’ve placed people in a situation where they feel they have no other choice. It’s only going to get worse if the left refuses to even engage with these ideas.”

Haider harbors special ire for those who accuse her of stirring up ant-Muslim bigotry. “People [on the left] say what we say is racist and is adding to such bigotry” – a logically untenable position, since, of course, Islam is a religion, not a race, and, as Haider reminds us, “religions are just ideas and don’t have rights.” She pauses. “This is outrageous and insulting. I feel a deep sense of sadness and betrayal when I hear this.”

Haider strongly denounces any form of anti-Muslim bigotry – understandable, since former Muslims, including her at times, still find themselves treated as Muslims, if only because of their names or skin color. In any case, those who truly believe in freedom of speech also believe in its indispensible corollary, freedom of religion. “We know what anti-Muslim bigotry is because we’ve felt it ourselves. Nobody [among us] wants to add to anti-Muslim bigotry, because they don’t want to make things worse for their families and friends or for people who may be targeted.”

Since Trump’s victory will only worsen the plight of former Muslims, who lack allies on the right and are shunned by the left, I ask what she plans on doing.

“There’s nothing to do but keep on going, or else nothing will change. If we allow these threats, these fears, to shut us down, things won’t change. People,” she says in reference to former Muslims, “are desperate.”

And so, Haider pushes on, expanding EXMNA and finding an ever-growing need for it, with those interested in membership driving for as long as six hours to attend a single meeting. EXMNA’s popularity makes sense: atheism is spreading. The religiously unaffiliated now comprise 16 percent of all people worldwide (including a quarter of all Americans and 36 percent of Millennials); and faith is set to die out in nine of the most advanced countries. Atheism is, thus, not surprisingly, even making unprecedented strides in the Arab world.) The future lies clearly with nonbelief and nonbelievers.

It’s time for the illiberal left to sober up, take an honest look at and speak frankly about Islam, and start treating Haider and her freethinking fellows as cherished allies. After all, they have ditched a regressive, misogynistic ideology for a rational, evidence-based secular worldview, often at great risk to themselves. They are people who have the courage to act on their convictions. They are taking a brave stand for the truth and Enlightenment values in the darkest time in recent decades.

They are heroes.


Jeffrey Tayler is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is the author of seven books, including “Angry Wind,” “River of No Reprieve” and “Murderers in Mausoleums.” Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyTayler1.

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    • Phil says

      Agreed… Intelligent, courageous, and beautiful. I’m a liberal and I support you 100% Haider!

  1. It’s a pity you wind up to a clarion call for atheism in general. I don’t belong to an organised religion, but I support freedom of belief and non-belief within the traditional limits of a western democratic society. “Religiously unaffiliated” is not the same as “atheist” and is frankly misleading to blur the distinction as you do here. I find your assertion that the future lies with unbelievers frankly scary, because there is plenty of evidence that atheists can be as intolerant and oppressive as believers. Meanwhile, all power to those who make their own choices in the realm of belief.

    • Lloyd Nevins says

      No where do I read here a clarion call for you not to believe in anything you so desire. The only blur seems to be in your perception missing the point of the article.

      • I think you missed it, Lloyd: “The religiously unaffiliated now comprise 16 percent of all people worldwide (including a quarter of all Americans and 36 percent of Millennials); and faith is set to die out in nine of the most advanced countries. Atheism is, thus, not surprisingly, even making unprecedented strides in the Arab world.) The future lies clearly with nonbelief and nonbelievers.”
        When you deliberately distort a statistic to make an unsupported claim such as in the last sentence, it comes into the ambit of clarion calls.

        • Lloyd Nevins says

          Why split hairs on semantics when it’s clear the writer means those that don’t believe in a god or deity or prime metaphysical being or whatever you want to call it. You may add your own percentage that applies to you and your secret society of spiritually unaffiliated that doesn’t want to be labeled atheists. The article is not proselytizing so feel free to believe or worship any nonsense you so desire. Also I am sorry that you’re scared by the prospect that there is no god. I hope it doesn’t keep you up at night.

          • Ashok Varma MD. says

            Very well said. Congratulations ?❤️??????

          • No hairsplitting at all. Non-affiliated does not mean atheist; it’s as simple as that. I expected you to get sarcastic; it comes with the turf. You wouldn’t have a clue what I believe or do not believe. It’s amazing how many people who sing the praises of atheism act as if they are all-knowing and all-seeing. Very few people can live with uncertainty; you don’t seem to be one of them.

        • Yes, you’ve put your finger on it. High and low church orthodoxies are no longer a useful proxy for the religious beliefs of the people in the West.

          In many ways, it is a confessional state of nature here in the US. As was true in the 1640s in England, the Independents and sectaries are winning but they are routinely described by those who cherish scholastic orthodoxy as ignorant, unchurched, deists or atheists. The term heretic has fallen out of favor but that does seem to be the judgment of our critics.

          In reality, there are an awful lot of people on the ground who in the past, might have been called Independents, Familists, Ranters, Seekers, Muggletonians, Socinians, Arians, strict Unitarians and the like. And, as in the past, they do seem to be expressing themselves politically as Levellers or republicans.

    • Curt Nelson says

      Believers are scarier than unbelievers because believers believe in nonsense, and nonsense is not a good basis for making policy.

      • That sounds like nonsense to me. Just for a start, how do you know what all believers believe in? And why is what you are saying a fact, not a belief?

        • @Dave Richards – Curt has a good point. Unbelievers make no claims, because they don’t believe in claims. But believers are making certain claims – so they need to support those claims and provide demonstrable evidence and proof. Since not a single believer has yet been able to provide any evidence for their supernatural beliefs, we must conclude that they are talking nonsense.

          It is not Curt’s responsibility to prove that you speak nonsense. It is your responsibility to back up what you claim and demonstrate that you do not talk nonsense.

          • Oh? No claims being made here?

            “Remember the worst terrorist campaign in the world by far is the one that’s being orchestrated in Washington. That’s the global assassination campaign. There’s never been a terrorist campaign of that scale.”
            ~ Noam Chomsky

          • You miss the point, Mohseni, most probably deliberately. In any case, unbelievers do make claims, and you just made several, ie “unbelievers make no claims” and “not a single believer has yet been able to provide any evidence for their supernatural beliefs.” I have seen numerous bits of nonsense blaming all war, genocide etc on religion. Curt makes the claim that “believers are scarier than unbelievers because they believe in nonsense.” And why is it not Curt’s responsibility to prove that I speak nonsense … even if that’s what he said, which he didn’t? Is there some divine right of atheists here? I don’t dispute the harm that religion has caused, but I do suggest that the greater harm comes from the lack of self-knowledge in human beings and the countless ways in which it manifests itself.

        • Micah says

          Dave you are missing a critical point that you are indeed an atheist. Atheism is only a claim for a lack of belief in a god or gods. That is all. I think only Buddhism is a religion without a god claim which technically makes them atheists as well. Welcome to atheism, whether you like it or not.

      • josil the unready says

        And then there are non-believers like Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao. Can the number of deaths over the years ascribed to the actions of believers begin the approach that of non-believers?

    • Bill McQuaid says

      Sorry, but your reply requires that all “believers” have to force themselves to become atheists simply to adhere to your “traditional democratic society”. Actually an excellent idea, but one these religious cults would never go for.
      All those religious texts are either the word of God or they’re not. Of course given their variety, this naturally means none of them are.
      Fortunately, we now know that every religious follower, by interpreting religious teachings for themselves, proves every day that there is nothing less than 100% atheism in the world. In other words, a private belief system that makes sense to only them. Seven billion people; seven billion atheists.
      It’s time to start trusting your hearts and ignoring the selfish and self contradicting attempts at morality we all call religion.
      It’s that thing you’re already doing most of the time anyway.

    • Scott E. says

      Of course atheists can be as intolerant and oppressive as believers, they are flawed human beings like us all. However, please don’t make a specious equivalency argument that atheists, as a rule contribute to the level of personal persecution of women, gays, minorities, or the “other” religious groups that some religions practice, Muslim’s in particular. Your last statement says it all. If you truly believe that, you support ISIS and its doctrine. “Choices in the realm of belief”?? The MOST religious are generally the MOST intolerant and oppressive to others. They believe the most strongly, are the most certain, and hence, the most intolerant. They do not throw everyone off the tops of buildings, they kill the sinful (apostates and gays) in the name of Allah. Watch/read everything that Sarah talks about and it is easy to see the difference. She implores us to CHOOSE ideas/principles which elevate and contribute to all people being able to define their lives, while respecting the rights of others. Islam, in particular, believes in revealed truth, as set forth in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago. The notion that our best ethics and values comes from Medieval thinking just doesn’t jive with human flourishing and well being. All power to those that CHOOSE the values of the enlightenment, personal freedom and liberty for all…UNLESS you practice a religion which implemented in the real world, will TAKE AWAY MY FREEDOMS!

    • Paul Burgess says

      I’m responding to this and other responses on this thread Dave.

      At one level I hear you, Atheists and Anti-theists seem to throw the spiritual baby out with the religious bathwater, but on another you seem to be conflating religion and atheism. This is a mistake. To be religious demands that you adhere to a set of dogmas, rituals, and superstitious belief claims, whereas the atheist relies on the belief that all claims must be attached to evidence. The greater the claim, the more evidence one should be required to offer.

      You could go on to say that this is the number one commandment of the atheist, and therefor is similar to a religious observer. But this would be intellectually dishonest. We have to look at beliefs and realize that not all beliefs are on equal footing.

      For me to claim that all matter contains the force of gravity depends on my beliefs. I believe that this is true for several reasons (some better than others). One very dependable reason for this belief is that I am continually working to keep my body off of the floor. I directly experience gravity working on me. This is a belief I hold due to the direct experience that occurs over and over to me. The fact that others seem to be having the same experience only strengthens that belief. No matter what background a person has, gravity works on us all.

      More indirect evidence that supports this belief is the schooling I had as a child and the scientific literature I read now as an adult. This evidence does come with faith, e.g. I believe that the scientific process works and I also take much of what these scientists as truth without running the experiment myself, but it’s merely at a level that is functional. I don’t have the time nor expertise to empirically run all the tests to see if these claims from scientists are true. Though belief is needed to function in the world (I must assume everyone on the freeway is driving the correct direction) to be atheist does not require adherence to any specific belief other than the initial (evidence for claims) belief I mentioned above. With the way I defined atheism above, the more you trim away unchecked beliefs in your own mind (trying to prove your own assumptions wrong), the more you become an atheist. You work hard to falsify any claim and only hold to those that survive scrutiny. In this way, the term atheist seems to miss the mark on labeling the deeper thing we are talking about here.

      Anyone with superstitious beliefs seems to work the other way. One’s worldview is framed with a set of belief claims that you then desperately try to hold in place with a combination of self-deception and wishful thinking. These are two, totally different games and I think this is what Mohseni was trying to point out.

      As someone who could be considered an atheist myself, I am under no illusion that my beliefs are fool-proof. No doubt I hold many beliefs that are unhinged from reality. But the mode of thinking that most atheists hold is the antidote for such wrong-headed ideas. The harder I work to disprove my beliefs, the more accurate my beliefs become.

      An area we may have some agreement on is holding concern for the ethical and spiritual life of a society ever more secular and atheistic in the future. There are many atheists I hear that seem to balk at the idea of real spiritual practices. I also find it concerning that so many hold a post-modern and relativist point of view that there are no morally objective truths – as cited in the article above. You definitely get a strange tast of nihilism coming from these people.

      This is not due to the atheist movement however. By the definition of how I’m using the term atheist it cannot be. To my mind, it’s due to the dogmatic assumption that the application of science is exclusively for finding answers to the world seemingly external in experience. All the while ignoring the objective facts that all subjective experiences hold.

    • Ben says

      Dave. You are labouring under two important misapprehensions, demonstrating a basic failure to think logically First, you do not appear to appreciate the distinction between believing there is no God and not believing there is a God.

      Second, there is nothing in having a worldview that there is insufficient evidence to believe there is a God, which would lead you to become intolerant. Of course, atheists can be intolerant, but that has nothing to do with them not being convinced there is a God!

  2. Brave, Jeffery. Your message is vital to the continuation of western liberal democracy.

    Keep hammering this point of illiberalism until the Left wakes up to its betrayal of its liberal and enlightened roots and the Right comes to the understanding that only secular societies offer freedom of religion.

  3. Anvil Springstien says

    Good Piece, Haider is an undoubted hero. I believe she has more support than she imagines.

    A correction:

    I believe the Sarsour comment about Ayaan’s vagina hails from 2011 and not, as you state, following Trump’s inauguration.

    • Bartholemew Crunk says

      That is correct, it was very old tweet.

  4. Lol……..left is not your ally naive sarah….
    individual freedom is on the right, left is all about collectivism

    • Ronald T. Jones says

      Individual freedom is most certainly not a monopoly of the right. If that was the case, Nazi Germany would have been the most democratic state on the planet.

      • Nazi Germany was never the liberal right. They were the ultra-right or hard illiberal right. As far as freedom is concerned, the left and the ultra-left hate freedoms and liberties and wish to enslave humanity, like they did with the Soviet Union and now China and NK, and their affinity for Islamic fascism, and their attacks on the enlightenment and liberalism.

  5. Irfan Hassan says

    A few weeks ago I wanted to move to US to join EXMNA, (in fact I had also emailed u in this regard & u didn’t reply-anyways not a problem) as I am also an Ex-Muslim, but then I realised that it will be much better to stay in my own country India as we have a very vibrant liberal democracy here. I fact the largest democracy in the world. But I believe US is primarily a Christian country & that’s why atheists like u don’t get much support there. Anyways if life becomes too much difficult for u there u are welcome to my country. Here no body can scare you…

    • Not to worry, we are not scared of Trump. We are scared of red-fascism – namely the left that claims to be liberal and democratic, but in reality is trying to destroy liberalism and democracy. Thanks for the invitation. When the left destroys the USA, we will have to move to India.

    • iqbal says

      Since When India became a liberal democratic country? yes of course if you have done Ghar-wapsi (converted to Hinduism) and joined BJP.

  6. Santoculto says

    Any doubt that on the left tend to be retarded?? I no have any doubt more specially because I live with this “piece”, this clown called “leftist”.

    • K Dobson says

      Bwahahaha. Santoculto, you just completely butchered two sentences while calling people retarded? That no really just more specially made my night! Yeehaw

  7. fehad bilgrami says

    I am a muslim (I reverted). Anyone has the right to practice whatever they want/wish.
    Yes, there is a command that teaches to punish religion leavers, but I don’t follow it.

    You can do whatever you want, its your life – but when you criticise a religion, muslims will defend it. That is implicitly what EXMNA signifies – if you drop the ‘ex-muslim’ tag, who cares then? No one.
    Do people need to know your basis?

    Ex Muslim atheists, and I know a few, decide not to be bothered with making their personal beliefs public – and smartly so. I hope this helps you reflect your stance better.

    As Islam ultimately preaches, ‘you have your way, I have my own’

    • Lloyd Nevins says

      Translation: “It’s okay to say what you want but don’t say what you want, especially when it comes to criticizing my religion. It’s not okay to make your non-religious beliefs public even though it’s okay if I make my religious beliefs public.”

    • But you are wrong. Islam prescribes the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy. So maybe you should study Islam a little before making up a baseless claim that “Islam ultimately preaches, ‘you have your way, I have my own’”

      How many death threats did Hirsi Ali, Majid Nawaz, Van Gogh etc. receive? Please study your own religion.

    • Dennis Keller says

      “As Islam ultimately preaches, ‘you have your way, I have my own’”

      And, as reason itself screams loudly to those who truly listen, your way is wrong. There is nothing wrong, and much right, in pointing that out.

  8. Santoculto says

    “relig ions” has been since always: Dangerous, useless, and select for stupid people. Nothing more anti philosophical than this garbage. In the day “relig ions” were treated as schizophormic mental disorder the real human evolution will finally start. Everything about religion is fake. Just look for ideology, basically the same garbage.

    There is only one morality, the golden rule. No there such thing “multiple moralities”, 😉 there is a factor g of morality 😉

    Ya tcha¡1

    • Johnny says

      Yes it is, but when Islam demands that non-Muslims accept it into their non-Islamic societies under threat of terrorism then Islam must budge by means of reform, not the host culture, even if Muslims have to become heretics to do it..

  9. Since inception, thru’ centuries, Islam proved itself to be a true hypocrisy, a malignant menace against enduring global peace and spread of humanity, an earliest eradication of which is a dire necessity.

  10. John says

    The Left is uncritical of the Muslim community because they find them useful politically.
    At least, that is what I have observed over here in the United Kingdom.
    The left-wing party here – the Labour Party – is able to rely upon a Muslim/Asian block vote.
    I have seen fathers shepherding their wives, sons and daughters into polling stations.
    They tell each of their family members how to vote, which usually suits Labour candidates.
    I assume a similar situation takes place in the USA but the Democratic Party is the beneficiary.
    It used to be that the Irish vote, Scottish vote, Polish vote, Jewish vote, etc. were like that too.
    Now, those communities are probably much more individualistic in nature and more right-wing.
    That is why the US liberal left is clinging on hard to the remaining communal votes of Muslims.
    That and Mexican-American communities as well.
    As time passes, the emerging Muslim community will probably also become more individualist.
    They will also probably become more secular and gradually more independent-minded.
    So, Sarah, bear up and be assured that you will see brighter days in future.

    • The same happened in the Netherlands, with the Dutch Labour party. But recently several Labour party members of Turkish descent split off and formed their own party, called “Denk” (“Think”) on an apparent platform of standing up for equality and representation for minorities (though many see them as an extension of Turkish PM Erdogan and his AK party).
      In any case, many Dutch Muslims voted for them this election, winning them 3 seats in the new parliament. The Labour party was decimated, losing 29 out of 38 seats in parliament. I cannot feel sorry for them, as it is, in part, punishment for their hypocrisy, trying to convince people that Islamic immigrants are, by definition, leftists (because: “oppressed minority”) on whose vote the Labour party could count. The truth however is very different. Muslims tend to hold many very illiberal views that should have completely disqualified them from having anything to do with the supposedly social progressive Labour party.
      At the same time, while these voters were still in the Labour camp they were actually an influence in government. Now at least they are a small opposition party with little actual influence.

      I don’t share your optimism of the emerging secularism in Muslim communities. Or at least this is going to be a very long process that might take decades or centuries. Younger generations of Muslims in Europe are often more extreme in their religion than their parents. A country like Turkey that seemed to move slowly but surely in the direction of secularism is now fast turning into an Islamic dictatorship. And it’s tensions are being actively exported to the millions of dual-nationality Turks living in Western Europe. Some of them are already openly warning us that Erdogan will soon come to “take over”. Not to mention Erdogan making almost daily inflammatory statements towards Europe, each one more hysterical than the last. And this is a NATO ally and candidate EU member! Yet still the international press was falling over themselves to proclaim how great it was that at least Geert Wilders’ anti-islamic freedom party hadn’t “won” the election.

  11. I’m Muslim, she had been in the past, the problem is that Islam become business today, as media always links it to terrorism and justify military interventions on Muslims country for democracy and dangerous weapons….
    All this is not true and we see wish democracy they were talking about in Syria! as Clinton had said ”We created ISIS”, so the democracy they were talking about is a new Kalifa with ISIS.
    All what you said about Islam is useless, if you want to go out of Islam, go out, you can also change your name and stay out, but to came again and say that you are an Ex-Muslim like you want that we’ll be happy that you had done this, this is crazy.
    Islam is a religion of peace and love, you have to say that, that’s the truth, for the violent husbands, that’s not Islam anyway that told them to be violent and that problem exists in the whole world.
    Please keep Islam away from your business, you’re in USA and you can believe what you want.

    • John says

      Islam is a religion of peace and love?
      Then why are so many fighting and dying under its name all round the world?
      Why are so many atrocities perpetrated daily under the name of Allah?
      You need a serious re-think about your religion.
      So do all religionists of any kind.
      Recognise them as all being equally vile.

      • Doug Taylor says

        Only the Abrahamic Relgions are vile in this way you describe won’t; you won’t find dogmatic fanaticism or the drive to convert others in Chinese or Indian Religions. Plus, the Sufi sect of Islam, is about peace and love

    • Yes, starting around the year 622 Islam propagated itself by handing out flowers and Korans. Everybody knows that.

  12. Santoculto says

    ”Islam is a religion of peace and love?”

    They are hippies??

  13. Pharaohz74 says

    As a gay ex-muslim atheist moving to the U.S., this article is alarming.

  14. I’m wholly on board with this piece. Thank you Jeffrey, Sarah Haider, and everyone in your organization.

    “After Trump won, I was hoping the left might engage in some introspection” about how its refusal to hold an honest discussion about Islam had damaged the movement.”

    Same with many of us, and it’s not at all too late. I think we can move that conversation forward. There’s plenty of election post-mortem still going on among Democrats. Our challenge is to urge people to consider nuance, and nuance needs a much-needed comeback.

    We need a simple message, and we need to repeat it often. We can:
    –oppose everything Trump stands for,
    –oppose anti-Muslim bigotry…
    –AND we can — and MUST– oppose oppressive ideologies within Islam.

    Anyone on the left claiming there’s anything contradictory in these ideals needs to get pushback… hard.

  15. nighathafiz says

    Faith is a personal choice but if you are out there to tarnish a religion in an organised manner, it sounds disgusting.

  16. Hanumantha Reddy Kodidela says

    I am from India, born as a Hindu. I am an agnostic, don’t like the word atheist some how. Well, I am on the left of the center politically and am ashamed of the behavior of my fellow travelers. All the critique in this article about the left is correct. I loved this article, every bit of it. I know I can do nothing but wish to stand by such brave girls as Sarah Haider.

    • Lloyd Nevins says

      She’s a hero! Let me give you a facebook “like”! BTW even as an atheist I still like Ganesh 🙂

  17. ElJer says

    Jeffrey Tayler has arrived among not only the greatest U.S. journalists but the greatest journalists in the world.

  18. Claudia Mahon says

    I would like to know how to respond to people who say “Muslims are ignorant, too ignorant to learn simple things like birth control” without being accused of “shutting down criticism of Islam”? I would like to know how to object to “Muslims are misogynists”, while still being able to discuss the inherent patriarchy within the Islamic religion and not be called names and accused of “supporting oppression of women”? I would like to know how to have a discussion about the teachings of Islam, without also having to agree that Muslims are horrible people, except for a (very) few, who hardly count against the rest of them. Thank you for any suggestions.

  19. Jim Austin says

    Like most left wing causes, feminism is bait and switch.

    The bait is women’s rights, equality, safety, all righteous goals, compelling enough to command the assent of all honest and intelligent persons, with opposition largely confined to the ignorant, the bigoted, the malevolent, the incredibly stupid.

    Then the left switches 180 degrees to support the very opposite. They ally themselves with a religious faction that legitimizes and validates abuse and oppression of women, where the areas they dominate are characterized by genital mutilations, honor killings, child marriages and murder of assertive women. The left ends up defending and supporting, as in, aiding and abetting, the worst misogynist faction ever to infest this planet.

  20. Pingback: On Betrayal by the Left – Talking with Ex-Muslim Sarah Haider – T. D. Arkaelin

  21. Santoculto says

    (((Leftism))) USE all this agendas, that are morally valid to attack the core-target group of all: whiteey.


  22. Santoculto says

    Connect the dots

    if ”left”’ was truly concerned about people right’s en masse immigration would not be happening in west, just to start…

    No wars on middle east, to start…

    the (((globalist))) plan is:

    – use the communist/fascist like propagandas, aka, new left [Gramscist strategy: slowly dominate the society via culture, change the minds);

    – and capitalistic social structure and economy.

    Chinalize the world cutting the freedom of expression slowly, following the reduction of people’s intelligence, but specially wisdom, as well sense of group-homogeneity. Too much atomized people can’t attack in group, seems obvious to conclude.

    A organized minority neutralizing a desorganized masses.

    David winning Goliah.

    ”1%” winning the ”99%”

  23. Santoculto says

    And technology is their ”swiss army knife”

    – improve their own genetic material;

    – using it to oppress people;

    – using it to distract them, via internet, television… give little gifts [cell phones, video games, etc]


  24. nicky says

    Thank you, Jeffrey, for drawing our attention to the true heroes of democracy and freedom, such as Sarah. It is these heroes who fight the battles that might save us.

  25. Kurt says

    The lefts alliance with Islam is simple, if seemingly irrational. They both hate Western civilization and its enlightened view of idividual liberties. They both view the other as a useful tool in their quest to conquer it.

    So we see the absurd spectacle of leftists accusing their betters of racism, sexism, “homophobia” and “islamaphobia” in the same breath, without the slightest realization or acknowledgement of the contradiction. How is opposition to an explicity racist, misogynistic, gay hating idiology and culture in any way racist, sexist or “homophobic”?

    It isn’t, of course, but all the Muslims the left is furiously working to import and establish ghettos for tend to vote Democrat, so shut up, bigot.

    Sarah, you are wrong. Your true friends are on the American right. You are a mascot to the left, one they view as useful stalking horse, if you would just stifle your yearning to be free and get back with their program. Hopefully you will see it soon enough.

  26. C Mack says

    Kurt – over-generalization usually isn’t very helpful. Let’s be honest then. There is a strain of the institutional left that is very vocal and is nearly hegemonic on liberal arts campuses. This is the left of cultural supremacy, intersectionality, and gender politics. They represent the mental contortions of 3rd wave feminism, and the supremacy of feelings over rights. There is also a right that sees people primarily as units of commerce. A right that conflates wealth with virtue, and defines freedom as merely choosing what and what not to consume. These are libertarian social Darwinists. There is also a less principled right that is thick with the sweet intoxication of emotion. Whether it’s religious passion, or xenophobic apprehension, I fear that neither the far left nor much of the right has a place for the likes of Sarah Haider. Ms. Haider seems to believe that human rights are universal rights and divisions like religion, gender, and race do not supersede these inviolate principles.

    I think you have it reversed – people like Ms. Haider will only see themselves embraced by the right if doing so is a finger in the eye of their ideological opponents. To the far left they are pariahs – they contradict the orthodoxy of non-Western cultural supremacy and they must not be heard. But there is a place on the left for the Sarah Haiders of the world. There is an emerging place that Mr. Tayler alludes to which is still of the left – a place that is too humanistic for the libertarian right, too smart for the emotional right, and too sensible for the authoritarian left. It’s up to us to define that space and cut out our own place in the social/intellectual/political sphere. Ms. Haider is right at home with those on the left that embrace reason, pragmatism, universal human rights, and the promotion of human flourishing.

  27. Pingback: 10 Questions for Sarah Haider – Gene Expression

  28. Ahmed says

    Maybe western imperialism did not introduce the vengeful traits of the colonies; but it evidently increased the loathe against western polices. The actions carried out, vigorously by extreme Islamic characters has, and continuous, to be fueled by the ongoing invasions by the west. All catastrophic plights worldwide are constantly fueled by western polices & influence. Be it in the ME or Africa or Latin states.
    Neither republicans (Right) nor Democrats (Left) were able to relieve the oppressed civilians of these nations. Further, Statism in its particular context is to seclude power to certain number of individuals in order to secure exclusive welfare for themselves. Just the way kings & feudal lords used to do.
    Haider’s circumstance is more of a reaction to political governance in Pakistan, even though I love her outlook at social affairs, rather than being the main reason of religious oppression.
    People should believe that what is considered O.K for them should not necessarily be considered O.K for others & vice versa.

  29. C Mack says

    Ahmed ~ I think if you look for despair you’ll also find religion. If you look for despotism you’ll also fin occultism. If you find suffering, you’ll find it sibling – faith.

    However, in the post-colonial world do you find Catholic theocrats and kings exporting orthodoxy?

    No – you don’t. You do find Aristocrats and their clerics presiding over rentier states and exporting ultra-conservative Islam to the rest of the world.

    The power of Christianity over the State is nearly non-existent at this point. However, Islam IS the State. Islam has no Pope to tell its adherents how to live its teachings – it has only its texts as the ultimate authority. You can be a liberal Muslim. But you can also be ISIS. Both might be plausible. But let’s not forget that Islam spread in the world at the tip of a sword for almost a thousand years before Colonialism exerted it’s influence. In some corners of the world it seeks to reclaim its past glory – not as a reaction to the post-Colonial structure, but as a rebound from it’s centuries of suppression.

  30. As much as I enjoy reading (and looking at) Haider, she trips up rather tragicomically here, falling face-first into the frame of those she criticises:

    “They believe religion’s inherent to Muslims, so they think insulting religion is like ridiculing their skin color. They’re racializing religion and conflating people with their religion.”

    Er, Sarah, doesn’t being a “Muslim” entail both belief and worship of a supernatural entity? Why the fuck wouldn’t religion be inherent to the very definition? And why are you of all folk equating said identity with ethnicity in the next sentence?

    Anyone arguing (correctly) that Islam isn’t a race and/or that ‘Muslim’ is a chosen identity can ill afford such unwitting, glaring fuck-ups.

    • Mack says

      MRDA – You are missing her point. Maybe the sentence your quote mining is a little inarticulate.

      Ms. Haider clearly believes that some liberals act as though Islam and the people of the Islamic world are essentially the same. She’s laments the fact that some liberals think that ‘True Muslims’ (which is a fallacious concept in itself) have a hijab or a Kalashnikov in one hand and a Koran in the other. The consequence of those beliefs for liberal Muslims, or apostates like Ms. Haider is to be seen as inauthentic.

      She clearly gets it – you clearly do not. I’m not sure what motivated your attempt at finding a “gotcha” fault in Ms. Haider’s narrative – it hardly matters since you are prima facie wrong.

      And what’s with the remark about her appearance – you enjoy looking at her?? WTF does her appearance have to do with anything?

      • Her narrative depends on separating criticism of Islam and Muslims qua Muslims from stigmatisation of Middle Eastern/Desi people as such; she shoots herself in the foot when she makes that kinda glaring flaw in rhetoric. I see that. You clearly do not.

        Also, I like seeing her pics ‘cos I think she’s attractive. A subjective side point, granted, hence the parentheses.

        Clearer now?

        • C Mack says

          MRDA ~

          Yes it’s clearer. You’re either not familiar with Ms. Haider’s other work or you simply enjoy pointing out what you think is a rhetorical flaw and deliberately misconstrue her intent. It’s either that or your simply being thick. Here, I’ll help you a bit – Ms. Haider is decrying some liberals tendency to essentialize people who SUPERFICIALLY APPEAR to be descended from the part of the planet currently dominated by Islam. There – now it ought to be painfully clear – so stop trying to be too clever and playing silly semantic games.

          And attractive or not, what’s the difference? It has zero to do with her point and just makes you seem even more superficial than you already do.


          • “your simply being thick”

            I’d ask you to take the beam out of your own eye first, but your output here suggests you’d take that literally.

  31. Pingback: Jeff Tayler on Sarah Haider, Islam, and the betrayal of liberal values by the Left « Why Evolution Is True

  32. Darwin T of BC Humanists says

    The age old struggle of the individual to be themself in a sea of family, tribe, nation, religion, class that constantly presses against the one who demands to think and act for themself, is the Human Condition.

    Many of us now, more than at any time I know of, try hard to follow their own path. We need our own pride and our own stories to be prominent and unapologetic.

    Well mannered to be sure but never bashful or deferential to those pressures.

    Islam is our most pressing bete noire and though it failed at Poitiers, Vienna and 9/11 it will always pose a direct threat to humanity. Cafeteria Muslims like any cafeteria theist provide cover for believing bad ideas but if our struggle only leaves us with the cafeteria variety and has Islamists and Jihadists at such a discredited fringe then that may be the best we can provisionally hope for. The horniness of Islamic fascism will always be in heat and we must forever be on prophylactic guard.

    Are we prepared for the next religious challenge coming at us surprisingly swiftly? Virtual reality based games and communities conjuring up new gods and faiths!!! Get ready for it and May the Force Be With Us!!!

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  34. Irene Macintosh says

    Excellent article. As an older age [67] ‘lefty , liberal feminist’ for over 40 years, I am really quite disgusted and astonished with what has become of what I hesitate to call the left or feminism. Or on a bad day, even liberalism and for more than what is the focus of this piece. Here in Canada Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam , is another woman who has the courage or as some would have it , the effrontery, to hold Islam up to critical analysis
    I think a good long look in a mirror is in order for all those who think intolerance, closed thinking and general stupidity is only to be found to the right of the political spectrum.

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  36. Not so ex-Muslimah says

    As a Muslim woman and reformist I thank women like Sarah Haider for their intellectual honesty and bravery.

  37. Reading through the posts on stories like this one, I see that some people are confused about how atheism differs from an ideology. I see the tired canard that Stalin, Pol Pot , Mao, etc., were “atheists,” therefore atheism must be to blame for the millions of people that they ordered to be killed.

    Atheism is simply the acknowledgement that there is no evidence for the existence of the supernatural and for the faith-based claims of religion. Atheism is not an ideology, a religion or a faith-based worldview. Atheism is the starting point to decide what ideology you find worth pursuing. In Western culture, many atheists choose Secular Humanism as a personal philosophy. Yet there are a large number of atheists who prefer the Libertarian/Ayn Rand path of Objectivism. The Secular Humanists are on the political Left and the Objectivists are on the political Right with some crossover. (The really weird cross-pollination comes from those who embrace the atheistic Ayn Rand Objectivist worldview while claiming to be deeply committed Christians. Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and a number of Republicans fall into this hybrid camp.)

    Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc., did not set up their repressive regimes and imprison and kill imagined opponents in the name of atheism. They did so to protect and promote their cult of personality and the power of the state. The “god” being worshiped in their societies were the “Dear Leaders” who could do no wrong and never be questioned. We see that in play today with Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

    So we need to look at the ideology of the person to understand their motivation. Hitler believed he was doing God’s work in exterminating the Jews. Bush Jr believed he was doing God’s work in doctoring the intel to justify invading Iraq, authorizing the use of torture, and suppressing domestic dissent. You have Putin in Russia claiming to be doing God’s work in making Russia Great Again through his suppression of human and civil rights, jailing or executing opponents,rigging elections, empowering his Intel agencies, and in acting belligerent with other nations. You have Trump here in the US who was warmly embraced by the Evangelical Christian community despite Trump’s well-known record of flagrant and egregious “sins.” They defend Trump as being a vessel of God and that he would do God’s work while in office.

    It’s ideology that drives people to behave the way they do. When we see people who claim to be “liberals” who oppress and oppose ex-Muslims like Sarah Haider, they are not acting in accordance to Liberal values and beliefs. Their ideology is a Leftist form of Authoritarianism where they want to use the power of the institution (universities) to suppress the Free Speech rights of those they disagree with. Liberals vigorously defend Free Speech and the right of people to have their voices heard. That doesn’t mean Liberals agree with the opinions, beliefs and worldview of every speaker but they defend the right of others to share such views in the Free Market of Ideas. Ms. Haider has been harmed by the abandonment of Liberal values on the Left. Liberals support and defend Ms. Haider’s human and civil rights including her speaking out against the religious beliefs and practices of Islam. I certainly wish her the best as she fights against the resistance she faces on both the Left and Right in trying to secure her basic civil rights.

  38. lolalucia says

    It’s like the world is turning into itself.

    What an incredible human being you are, Ms. Haider. I know it seems that you’ve been abandoned but there are those of us on the left that are realising the error of our ways. I’m one. I’ve changed the minds and am changing the minds of others by finding stories about people like you. We can do this.

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    • Babloo Kumar. says

      Theist recently dropped MOAB in Afghanistan to cover up their terrorist funding evidence . So if we want to move together toward a peaceful world of cooperation with logical understanding then we have to leave the obsession of religion and adopt a progressive/logical code of morality.

  40. Stuart M. says

    I have always maintained that the Left in the West usually works on the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” When the Soviet empire existed, it and any other communist inspired “liberation” movements were often defended despite myriad human rights violations simply because these held the greatest promise of ending the “hegemony” of the Left’s more hated enemy, the capitalist West. You find a remarkable number of Putin defenders on the Left today for the same reason. Anyway, Islam seems to be offering effective “resistance” to the West, so Islam has also earned the genuflection of the Left. The hypocrisy of the Left attacking these women fighting for “Western” human rights is just disgusting.

  41. Amy says

    Very much agree with many of Ms. Haider’s points. The problem for liberals is that the eliminationist rhetoric (Louisiana Congressman recently saying kill all Muslims) and threats to put Muslims in concentration camps (Michael Savage, right wing radio host that Pence appeared on recently), make it very difficult to not spend time defending the rights of all Muslims. This in turn seems to reject progressive and ex-Muslims. For example, right now it seems as if liberals are promoting hijab b/c it is seen as a symbol for Muslim women, when in fact many Muslim women do not want to wear it and do not want liberals to promote such oppression. Before 9/11, liberals did have campaigns to stop gender discrimination in Muslim communities. Now, the campaigns are to stop harassment and promotion of hatred towards Muslims. Liberals can and must do better on not promoting Islam but also defending Muslims from extreme bigotry and hatred.

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