Ex-Muslims of Kerala president Liyakkathali CM addressing a press conference in Kochi on January 9. (From L-R) Jazla Madassery, Safiya PM, Arif Hussain Theruvath, Shafeeq MK were also present
f there is anything that Islamists fear more than the Sangh Parivar in Kerala, it is a group of highly spirited and vocal Ex-Muslims. The fear for these apostates (murtd) is so palpable among the Islamists that the latter’s presence in the social media platforms, especially Clubhouse, has thinned and the mullahs who used to hard-sell Islam as an infallible and invincible ideology, and vouch to make Kerala an ‘Islamic country in 10 years’ are running for cover.
Acknowledging the group’s nuisance potential, Islamists have issued advisories to parents through mosque (mahal) committees to keep their wards off Clubhouse or bad influence of Ex-Muslims, for that matter.
Another positive impact of the emergence of Ex-Muslims as a corrective force is that some controversial portions calling for violence against kafirs and apostates were removed from madrasa text books; also many motormouth mullahs have tone down their rhetoric.
But the most important contribution of the Ex-Muslim community is that they broke the undeclared consensus that Islam is beyond criticism. Pseudo-secularism promoted by the two political fronts – Congress-led UDF and CPI(M)-led LDF – strengthened the notion that Islam is a holy cow. Any criticism of Islam was projected as communal by the media infested with Leftists. Those violated the rule – like Chekannur Moulavi, Islamic scholar who questioned Hadis and clergy – were done to death. Times have changed. Armed with technology and IT tools and support of lakhs of followers, Ex-Muslims brought the fundamentals of Islam to the marketplace of ideas and ideologies, tore it apart and dumped it into the dustbin.
Clubhouse discussions hosted by Ex-Muslims have been getting huge traction among Muslims, especially among youngsters, with thousands of men and women turning up to listen to them in discussion platforms. What worries the Islamists most is the popularity that some of the members of the group enjoy – some of them have lakhs of followers and their videos criticising Islam are viewed by millions
A rumour that Prophet Muhammad’s name was denigrated led to the chopping of Prof Joseph’s hand a decade ago. But now, every day Prophet Muhammad’s deeds and words are analysed threadbare. The Ex-Muslims have opened the floodgates of criticism of Islam and the prophet that the Islamists have no option but to remain silent spectators to their religion being trampled upon.
Islamists’ dread for their estranged cousins is understandable, for their usual tricks of belittling the rivals for their poor knowledge of Arabic or the Book or the context or obfuscation of arguments with lexical semantics, don’t work, as most of them are well-versed in the Quran, Hadis, sunnats and Arabic. Equipped with better communication skills and education, these youngsters can give even the most sophisticated Islamist a run for his money.
Initially, Islamists tried what they are good at – mounting societal pressure by ostracising Ex-Muslims and their family, and physical attacks – the patriarch of the group EA Jabbar himself had faced assault. Ex-Muslims or ‘Emus’ (as they are popularly called) were branded as ‘Agents of Jews or Agents of Sangh Parivar’. Some of them were offered jobs, money and other incentives to quit the group. Despite the vicious campaign and character assassination bids, causing personal and professional harm by Islamists, the tribe of Ex-Muslims is growing leaps and bounds in Kerala, much to the worry of Islamists.
Clubhouse discussions hosted by Ex-Muslims have been getting huge traction among Muslims, especially among youngsters, with thousands of men and women turning up to listen to them in discussion platforms. What worries the Islamists most is the popularity that some of the members of the group enjoy – some of them have lakhs of followers and their videos criticising Islam are viewed by millions. Interestingly, some of the prominent among those who lead the anti-Islamic tirade are women. While many openly proclaim their abandonment of religion, some hide behind anonymity, as they fear physical and psychological onslaught from family members and the community.
To give an institutional shape to the movement, the group on January 9 announced the formation of an organisation — Ex-Muslims of Kerala. The president of the organisation, C Liyakkathali claims in the last few years, there has been a rise in the number of Ex-Muslims in Kerala. According to him, a majority of them are youth “who are influenced by rationalism, scientific temper and having studied Islam themselves, could no longer stay in the fold of Islam”. On the purpose of the organisation, its press release says, “The degree of physical, mental, and social persecution they had to face and are still facing is intolerable and unacceptable. There are still thousands of closeted Ex-Muslims, who are afraid to come out in public to declare their apostasy or to denounce Islam on account of fear of persecutions. This is the reason why the organization “Ex-Muslims of Kerala” is relevant today. To protect the basic human right to live without any religion, to take effort to normalise dissent, blasphemy, and apostasy, and to support people who publicly announce their apostasy, both emotionally and morally.”
To renounce Islam for a Muslim is not an easy task. Those who dare to stray have to face physical, and psychological onslaughts. Islamists will make their life miserable: putting up hurdles in their personal and professional lives, blocking marriage proposals and livelihoods. Under duress, some have returned to the fold.
Ex-Muslims of Kerala have decided to celebrate January 9 as Kerala Ex-Muslims Day every year. It was on January 9, 2021 that a debate took place between Kerala’s Zakir Naik, MM Akbar, Islamic Dawah propagandist, and EA Jabbar, the guiding force behind the outfit, in Malappuram. The debate was a big hit in the social media. Convinced by Jabbar’s arguments and logic, many youngsters renounced their faith, as he had successfully drove home the message that Islam is an outdated and barbaric philosophy drawn its principles from the primitive tribal value systems of Arabia.
Ex-Muslims’ stance on other religions
Although there are many strands within the burgeoning Ex-Muslim community, a majority of them are found to be atheists and view other religions are equally bad and outdated as Islam. Despite Islam being their main target of attack, they care to give space to Christians who have renounced their respective faiths. However, there seems to be a consensus that Islam is the most dangerous religion, as violence is inbuilt in the Islamic value system. “It (Islam) is anti-science, anti-democratic and anti-modern religion. Its value system is not suited for the modern society,” said Liyakathali in an earlier Clubhouse discussion.
Ex-Muslims’ stance on the Sangh
Ex-Muslims consider the Sangh also an equally dangerous organisation as the radical Islamist outfits such as Jamaat-e-Islami or Popular Front. On the Sangh Parivar, the Ex-Muslims use the Marxists’ critique on the RSS. Being unsparing on RSS works well for the Ex-Muslims, as any impression of being soft on RSS will prove counterproductive for the movement, as it amounts to giving a stick to Islamists to beat them. Ex-Muslims did not approve of the strategy of the Sangh. “The RSS is against Muslims while we are against Islam. The religion and its book are the root cause of many problems in the world. Muslims are just victims of Islam and the Quran. To save the humanity from destruction we must expose Islam and help Muslims come out of the religion,” said an Ex-Muslim who doesn’t want to be named. According to him, Rashtriya Muslim Manch of RSS does not serve any purpose, as it doesn’t address the core issue – Islam. But a section of Ex-Muslims revealed that after Chekannur Maulavi was murdered by Islamists, it was the Sangh which supported the group when no one from the community was ready to stand up for them.
Dismissing the Ex-Muslims’ criticism of the Sangh, an RSS activist said, “They don’t have to fear us even if they indulge in criticising Hindu faith. They are safe till the time Hindus are in majority in Kerala. The moment Muslim population crosses 30%, which in all likelihood is happening, they will the first targets of Islamists; they will turn to us only later. It is better they remember the fate of scores of ex-Muslims of Bangladesh — many of them were hacked to death, remaining left the country.”
Ex-Muslims’ stance on Leftists
What baffles many in Kerala is the stance of the Left parties on Ex-Muslims. Along with Islamists, Leftists also attack Ex-Muslims “for singling out Islam” for criticism. “They are on one page: there is a live undercurrent between them. CPI(M) has been promoting radical Islamists for political purposes. They came to power with the help of Islamist support,” said a political observer. The views were endorsed by Jamida Teacher, the first woman Imam and a staunch critic of Islam. Left parties are the biggest hurdles in the way of reform in Islam. Even on the legal marriage age issue, Leftists took a jihadist line, much to the chagrin of reformists in the community.