In Conversation with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar (Part 1)

Posted on 2011/11/17

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Feature Image In Conversation with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is a 20 year-old Middle-Eastern Humanist.

If this were not rare enough, in September 2010, Faisal created the ‘Global Secular Humanist Movement‘ Facebook page with aim to, “promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the secular humanistic worldview, including equal individual rights and acceptance for people who hold it.”

In just over a year, his page has attracted more than 15,000 people from around the world. It is a place where the free expression of ideas are welcome, disagreements are discussed and much can be learnt. Faisal is dedicated to encouraging global discussion between Humanists and is a daily contributor to the group.

I started talking to Faisal when I joined his page, and he started sharing my blog articles. It was his idea start a public discussion between us so we could share our ideas and demonstrate the different experiences of two Humanist from very different parts of the world.

Contrasting Faisal’s Middle-Eastern upbringing, I am a 27 year-old who has lived in England his whole life. We started our discussion with the following question.

“What are the differences in social pressures for a humanist in Europe compared to the Middle East?”

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James

I think to be a Secular Humanist, one must engage with religious doctrines, and strive to understand why they are either incorrect or unknowable. This automatically puts us in a minority prone to abuse. Religionists comprise of a majority of those who accept the ideas blindly (either through credulity or upbringing) and a small number of people who have seriously thought about their faith. The non-believers comprise of a majority of those who do not care about religious ideas (and have not though about them), and a minority of those who are critical about its moral or scientific claims.

In Europe, the few of us who engage with religion, in any critical manner, are widely considered to be complainers by most of the religionists and the apathetic. We are considered to be ‘evangelical’ or ‘aggressive’ by both sides. It is therefore our challenge to educate those who think that religion does not encroach upon their lives (and the lives of others), and to teach them about the injustices that are allowed by their views.

This is in contrast to the United States, where critics of religion are deemed immoral, evil, or even Satanic. These people are in a far greater minority and have a larger task ahead of them. They express their non-belief with the knowledge of the their possible excommunication. Through Facebook, and your page, I am friends with several US citizens and see the verbal abuse they suffer.

This type of Christianity exists in England, although to a lesser extent. I have, on several occasions, been told by English Christians that I have no capacity for morality, due to my non-belief.

Despite these troubles, most of the Western world has freedom of speech as part of law. You may incur verbal abuse, but violent abuse is neither legal, nor state mandated.

I was very glad to see that Article 2.2 of the new Iraqi Constitution states that “This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans.”

And, Article 38: “The State shall guarantee in a way that does not violate public order and morality: A. Freedom of expression using all means. B. Freedom of press, printing, advertisement, media and publication. C. Freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, and this shall be regulated by law.”

However, this is not true in large parts of the Middle East. When I look at the bravery Middle Eastern humanists display when criticizing their theocracies, I am motivated to continue to point out the crimes we allow religions to perform around the world. I hope to contribute to inspire a fully secular Europe, and to encourage Europeans to aid their Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in attaining the same freedom of expression that we enjoy.

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Faisal

As a Middle-Eastern, I can easily say that there are many forms of discrimination for Humanists. This includes not having the right to assemble with your fellow Humanists in an event and not having the right to express your opinion publicly at all. To speak against the traditional beliefs that people hold is totally banned. Otherwise, you will be jailed by the government (some countries have the death penalty).

You are also likely to receive insults & death threats on a daily basis. A perfect example of that would be the issue that happened few days ago in Egypt when a woman called Aliaa Magda Elmahdy posed naked, calling for women’s rights.

You can check her blog here. See the comments below. Count the hate messages and death wishes for atheists, agnostics, secularists, etc. They exceed 1000.

It starts with the fact that most people in the Middle East don’t have any idea of what freethinking or secular humanism is about at all. They don’t read books about us, they don’t watch similar documentaries or news.

They listen to what they like to listen and live in an illusion that they know everything -while they know nothing! They simply believe what they are told. Most of the people here are indoctrinated with the notion that ‘anyone who doesn’t share our beliefs is an immoral dirty being and God will punish him/her in hell for eternity’.

I even receive emails telling me that I am a ‘beast’ and I that deserve to be slaughtered like one. For example, this is an image my friend received (she and I share similar views):

I don’t know what I have done wrong to receive this type of message, but all I can say is that it will never stop me for continuing the beautiful journey of living as a Humanist. A journey filled with an appreciation for knowledge, evidence and reason.

It is an honor to be a Humanist in these difficult circumstances.

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Tell us your story, and reply with an answer to the same question above.

Check back tomorrow for our continuing conversation.

Posted in: Politics, Religion