Coming out - #AwesomeWithoutAllah
Despite the persecution of apostates, we at Ex-Muslims of North America know that atheism is rising in the Islamic world, faster than anyone could have imagined. But we also know that even in the West, many apostates hide their lack of faith from their communities and especially from their own family.
So long as apostasy remains an underground phenomenon, however, we cannot hope to win our rights and dignities. As long as ex-Muslims are hidden, we are easy to demonize and easy to dismiss.
We believe that if we stand together, we can stand strong. By the strength of our numbers, we can normalize dissent in Muslim communities.
In early September, we launched billboards featuring ex-Muslims in Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta, specifically targeting areas close to faith populations.
This is accompanied by the social media campaign, #AwesomeWithoutAllah. We are encouraging apostates to come out and post their own stories about leaving faith. We are also compiling videos sent to us from our support community members who are ready to be open, and sharing them on our platforms.
Rejections and Censorship
The billboards took months of planning and countless rounds of rejections from companies who were concerned about offending religious sensibilities. Unfortunately, the process diluted our message quite substantially. Our billboards went from challenging religious claims head-on to a simple declarative sentence about our existence. Many of our first versions were rejected. Even the proposed hashtags were rejected, and fearing a longer delay in publishing, we decided to remove the “Awesome Without Allah” hashtag entirely from the billboards.
The most controversial of the billboards we drafted and proposed featured a drawing of the Islamic mythological figure called the “buraq”. This figure sports the face of a woman, the body of a donkey, wings and a peacock tail. The idea was to provoke critical thinking by pointing out the absurdity of religious myths. However, all companies we worked with rejected this concept. It appeared that the most distressing aspect was the cartoon itself. Of course, the fear is not surprising. There is a record of extremist Muslims answering a drawing with violence, such as the murders of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and attacks on Danish cartoonists.
However, even after choosing a message as mild as possible, one of the contracts was cancelled. The company had not realized how near our billboard was to a mosque, and when they realized, they told us they could not honor the agreement.
How YOU can join!
Do you want to support this campaign? Join in the hashtag, #AwesomeWithoutAllah! Share your own stories of leaving faith, or your support of ex-Muslims who have left.
The press release for this campaign can be accessed at https://exmuslims.org/ex-muslims-of-north-america-debuts-billboards-in-atlanta-chicago-houston/.
Do you have questions? Comments? Media requests? Send us an email : [email protected]