A Short Analysis of ITV’s ‘Islam’s Non-Believers’ Documentary

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After a huge social media commotion over the last couple of days on various platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram, I came to realise that the British television network, ITV, would be broadcasting a documentary as part of their ‘Exposure’ series on the subject of Ex-Muslims and some of the issues they may face from their community after leaving Islam.

First thoughts

Initially, I saw mixed responses from individuals within the Muslim community on whether to watch the documentary or not, many encouraged to watch it and other warned against watching it as they viewed it to be a means for the media to deploy negative press on the Muslim community. The second type of response is what intrigued me to watch this since, as a Muslim, I am confident to face any form of critique that is put forth in my direction whether it be of my faith or individuals who follow the same faith.

Although a range of Ex-Muslims, namely Zaynab, Safiya, Samina, Rehana amongst others,  where interviewed on the show, the problems they all faced were all very common therefore it isn’t hard to summarise some of main issues within this article. The majority of them were from a Bangladeshi background and whilst some had lived there and left to the UK, some where born in the UK and had left their homes.

Reasons given for leaving Islam

By analysing the perspective of the interviewees, I came to realise that, the majority of their reasons for leaving the faith were emotional and cultural as opposed to being intellectual reasons. This can be demonstrated amongst the Ex-Muslim female Safiya, who wanted to go to another city to attend university but since her parents disapproved of her idea amongst her attempts to run away, they kept her in the house, disallowing her to go out. This then led her to believe that if she told her parents that she left Islam, they may kick her out of the home, enabling her to fulfil her future ambitions; however this wasn’t the case as they made conditions worse for her.

Other interviewees such as Rehana, who was born and raised in Bangladesh suffered from abuse by her mother who unsuccessfully tried to comfort her by telling her that each part of her body which had got beaten would enter paradise, a belief that has no basis amongst the teachings of Islam. Maybe it is these types of false teachings that parent’s attribute to the religion which gives the child a distaste towards the faith.

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Rehana, born and raised in Bangladesh, publicly speaking on being an Ex-Muslim. / ITV

Cultural context

The cultural context is clearly seen within this documentary as most of the cases are linked to the South Asian country of Bangladesh, where there is an increase in the number of individuals within its atheist community. As a result, there has been an opposition movement who vehemently speak oppose the recent phenomenon of neo-atheist bloggers in Bangladesh.

The issue at hand

There are two main issues in my opinion; the first, being that Ex-Muslims who leave their religion expect the same treatment and acceptance they had in the community like when they were not openly a Non-Muslim. I personally find this very problematic when put into perspective; an important point that readers need to understand is that Islam is one of the most practised faith’s in the current context and is not separate to ones daily life as opposed to other religious traditions. Islam is a holistic faith that governs and caters for all aspects of life and is therefore very dear to a Muslim’s heart, therefore when a Muslim child approaches their parents’ and tells them that they want to leave the faith, they would also be leaving the community, dismantling their parents expectations and discarding something that is very dear to their family which results will lead to repercussions.

This is by no means a justification for parent’s to abuse their children if they mention this to them; rather by speaking with them and attempting to tackle this intellectually and emotionally will help tremendously as violence is not the answer as demonstrated in these cases.

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An Ex-Muslim interviewee from the ITV documentary that was aired on 13/10/2016.

The second issue which I have identified is the agendas of aggresive atheist bloggers and propagators who may instigate members of the Muslim community to respond back. This can be noticed in the case of one of the interviewees, Arif Rahman, who admitted to using provocative language online against Islam, in other clips within the documentary, Muslim protesters are seen to be explaining how one of the atheist Ex-Muslim bloggers called the Prophet Muhammad a fool. This trend is nothing new within the neo-atheist community and their figureheads such as the writer Sam Harris who highlights in his bestselling book, ‘The End of Faith’, ”We are at war with Islam. This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran”.  Views like these are clearly provocative and increase tensions between the atheist and Muslim communities.

Conclusion

To conclude, we have acknowledged that within this documentary there has been a trend of born Muslims from South-Asian backgrounds who have left the Faith due to mainly emotional and cultural reasons and feel a sense of loneliness since they are seen as outcasts; not being viewed the same by the very parents that raised them. On the other hand we have explored what Islam means to a Muslim and how it may be difficult for a Muslim parent to tackle this but also appreciate how an aggressive-atheist mindset can be provocative as well as insults towards the religion of Islam. I would urge parent’s who may be going through this to tackle this issue intellectually as well as emotionally to help their child in this confusing situation and would also urge those who have chosen to leave their faith to understand  how it may be hard for their parents to accept this.

p.s: If any Muslim parents are in need of any advice or guidance with these situations, they may contact me on: luqmaandawah@hotmail.com 

Cover image: Fuuse Film Production / ITV

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Written by Luqmaan Al Hakeem

Luqmaan is an Undergraduate student currently completing a BA (Hons) degree in Islamic Studies. He is actively involved in the field of Da'wah and his passion has enabled him to participate in projects and activities in the UK and across the globe.