The group which began as a private Facebook group was formally launched towards the end of 2021.

Ex Muslims of Kerala meet-up: Five people sit behind a table on a dais, behind them is a white banner
news Religion Monday, January 31, 2022 - 11:55

Some time in 2018, a closed Facebook group was formed by a few people from Kerala, with a common problem. All of them had left their religion but feared to speak about it in public. They were afraid of the reactions from members of the community, extended family and even the people at home. Others before them had been ostracised for publicly stating they quit the religion. But when more members joined them and the problems they faced became larger, the group decided to make it official. They formed Ex Muslims of Kerala towards the end of 2021, and on January 9, 2022, announced their foundation day.

Arif Hussain, one of the founding members, is also the president of the group Non Religion Citizens of India, which is for people who leave any religion and need a support system. “Ex Muslims of Kerala is for Muslims who no longer practice the religion. Leaving one’s religion is not uncommon. But in Islam, many people are badly affected by it – it can affect property rights, family relations, and even your marriage can come to an end,” says Arif.

His own marriage faced trouble when he left the religion. “The Islamic law says that if one of the married partners denounces the religion, then their marriage with someone from the same community is over. Any relation with the partner after that will be considered adultery,” Arif says.

Many people who sought the group’s help faced similar or worse problems. Many of them are women. “There is a lot of misogyny. Many women fight for their rights to education and work. In other countries it is a lot worse, which is what you see in Taliban ruled places,” Arif says.

He speaks of blasphemy and apostasy laws in other countries which can even bring death to someone who leaves the religion. “Those laws give the defaulter time to think about it and come back to the religion. If they disobey, then they are killed. In India, we have a secular and democratic system, so it is not that intense. But instead there is social ostracism.”

Ex Muslims of Kerala aims to give a hand of support to such socially ostracised people. They give counselling to those who want to present their decision to quit religion at their home. “The idea is to normalise the act of leaving one’s religion. We had come to know of Ex Muslims groups in other parts of the world and the support they give to the members. That’s how we thought of forming one in Kerala. We got the support of rationalist groups. But we don’t mean to propagate another ideology. We only want to discuss these issues publicly and clear any misunderstandings,” Arif says.

The group was founded by Arif and Liyakkathali CM (who is the president). Core members also include Jazla Madassery (vice president), Safiya PM (general secretary), Faisal CK (joint secretary), Dileep Ishmael (legal advisor), Aysha Markerhouse (treasurer), and others.

Also read: It's our right to wear hijab, don't bar us from class: Udupi students speak up

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