Our mission is threefold, with a focus on local NZ issues:
- To support NZ ex-Muslims
- To raise awareness of certain issues among both Muslims and non-Muslims
- To support ex-Muslims worldwide
Muslims themselves are a tiny minority in NZ – currently numbering almost 45,000 from a total population of 4.5 million (1.0%). Ex-Muslims are an even smaller minority and are currently unknown to each other. The prospect of ideological and possibly physical isolation when leaving Islam and the various types of coercion applied by Muslims to punish those who do so, will lead many to either unwillingly go through the motions and pretend all is well, or depending on their level of self-confidence, to go it alone – possibly without any support.
The process of rejecting what you were brought up to believe, can be intellectually and emotionally traumatic, for all parties. Families and communities tend to see it as a rejection of them, their values and the ‘truth’. They usually see it as their duty to bring the apostate back to Islam by any means necessary.
For the individual, the scars are ‘baggage’ that takes time to relinquish – hence we tend to identify ourselves as ‘ex-Muslims’. Without a complete physical, emotional and intellectual separation from our family, friends and associates it is difficult or impossible to ‘move on’ and forget the past. Those in a similar position will understand that burden we carry; others will find it difficult to understand this. Refer to ‘who are we‘ for more details.
Islam is an all-encompassing way of life, with rules for minutiae such as which days of the week to cut your nails; what to eat; how to manage your money; right through to state foreign policy. To break the analysis into convenient chunks; the issues that concern us fall broadly into three groups, then within each group we will discuss some of the relevant issues that directly affect Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims.
- Group 1: Personal
- Influences on Muslim identity and faith. How we define ourselves.
- Group 2: The inner circle
- Family, friends and community with whom we are in regular contact. The relationships between an individual and those in our inner circle. How coercion is applied to ensure conformance to local norms.
- Group 3: The outer circle
- Wider society, national, international or Ummah with whom we have only indirect contact.
- Political issues. The two-way relationship between personal and political issues. Our perceptions and expectations of others depends on our personal beliefs.
The audience for this information falls into two major groups.
- Non-Muslims (esp. the NZ public) who have little or no understanding of Islam or Muslims beyond what little they see in the media, which tends to be from overseas and tends to involve a negative image of some type. ‘Muslims’ tend to be seen as an undifferentiated group who are to be vaguely feared for one reason or another. There is little or no awareness of the range of views held by those with a Muslim background. There is also little comprehension of the scale of the general cultural and specific indoctrination that Muslims have received. Who is the victim? We would suggest that in fact Muslims are victims of their own indoctrination. New Zealanders tend to regard religion as a private matter, so are often unwilling to talk openly about it, which furthers the ignorance and prejudice. Gordon McLauchlan (NZ author) called New Zealanders “passionless people” who are basically decent but “It’s just you can’t get them off their arse to make them feel strongly about things that should matter to them more.”
- Muslims and ex-Muslims. Religious education of Muslims tends to start out as thorough indoctrination at home during childhood, and thereafter almost always has a exceptionally strong bias or blinkered approach that rejects other religions, secular attitudes or thought patterns. Most religions take this approach to some extent, but Muslims tend to be very thorough in this area. Muslims are not taught to think critically or scientifically – in fact, quite the opposite. Those with Muslim backgrounds nevertheless hold a range of views, which Islamists will try and suppress to show a unified and fundamentalist view to the world. Those who have doubts or whose faith (deen or iman) is weak, are made to feel that there is something wrong with them and that those thoughts should be suppressed. Rather than being allowed (or allowing themselves) to explore alternatives they are pushed back into line by various means of coercion. Islam is an all-encompassing way of life; a major part of social and family life. For many Muslims the fear of potential isolation and the unknown when considering alternatives to Islam is enough to keep them from investigating or openly expressing their doubts.
Within any Islamic community there will be a range of private opinions; from those who are privately quite liberal to those who take a more fundamentalist approach. Levels of faith or religiosity can be measured via survey tools such as CRS, SCSORF and DUREL. If we assume a normal/Gaussian distribution of faith within the Muslim community then it might look something like this below:
However, if you were to widen this to all faiths, you would find that the average Muslim has a much stronger ‘faith’ (belief in things for with there is no evidence) than the average Christian. The Pew Forum has published an excellentinternational study of Muslim faith. Unfortunately fundamentalists always tend to be vocal and actively suppress any open dissent in the ranks. New Zealand Muslims (because they are a small minority) very much tend to be moderates and seek to live in peaceful coexistence with their fellow countrymen and women, nevertheless, liberality, free-thinking or apostasy from within their own community is not welcome. CEMNZ and this website is here to publicise that there are alternatives; there can be life outside Islam. Until now, there has been no support for these individuals.
In the more populous Islamic nations around the world there are atrocities committed every day in the name of Islam. Frequently this is violence between sects of believers, but it is very often the State itself that commits or sanctions atrocities against those identified as unbelievers. We have a social responsibility to condemn these actions and to exert pressure on these States to allow greater personal freedoms to their citizens. We also have the responsibility to directly support those who are brave enough to stand up against the State and/or public opinion and express their own beliefs.
It should be noted that these Islamist states do not represent the views of all their citizens. There are often very significant sectors of the community who are more liberally-minded and a minority who reject it entirely.
Our primary mission is to support by any means within our power, those Muslims who choose to open their minds a little and step outside the confines of the Islamic belief system – firstly in NZ and then worldwide.
“Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.” – Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)