The group, which started as a private Facebook group, officially launched in late 2021.
Sometime in 2018 a closed Facebook group was formed by some people from Kerala with a common problem. They had all left their religion but were afraid to speak about it publicly. They feared the reactions of community members, extended family, and even those at home. Others before them had been ostracized for publicly declaring that they had left the religion. But as more members joined them and the problems they faced grew, the group decided to make it official. They incorporated Ex Muslims of Kerala towards the end of 2021 and announced their founding date on January 9, 2022.
Arif Hussain, one of the founding members, is also President of the group Non Religion Citizens of India, which caters to people who are leaving any religion and need a support system. “Ex Muslims of Kerala is for Muslims who no longer practice the religion. Leaving religion is not uncommon. But in Islam, many people are severely affected by it — it can affect property rights, family relationships, and even your marriage can end,” says Arif.
His own marriage ran into trouble when he left the religion. “Islamic law states that if one of the spouses renounces religion, the marriage to someone from the same community is terminated. Any relationship with the partner after that is considered adultery,” says Arif.
Many people who sought the group’s help have faced similar or worse problems. Many of them are women. “There is a lot of misogyny. Many women are fighting for their right to education and work. In other countries, what you see in places controlled by the Taliban is much worse,” says Arif.
He speaks of blasphemy and apostasy laws in other countries, which can even bring death to someone who leaves the religion. “These laws give the culprit time to think about it and return to the religion. If they disobey, they will be killed. In India we have a secular and democratic system, so it’s not that intense. Instead, there is social ostracism.”
Ex Muslims of Kerala wants to help such socially excluded people. They counsel those who wish to voice their decision to give up religion in their own homes. “The idea is to normalize the act of leaving a religion. We had heard about ex-Muslim groups in other parts of the world and their support for members. So we thought about starting one in Kerala. We got support from rationalist groups. But we don’t want to promote any other ideology. We just want to discuss these issues publicly and clear up misunderstandings,” says Arif.
The group was founded by Arif and Liyakkathali CM (the President). Core members also include Jazla Madassery (Vice President), Safiya PM (General Secretary), Faisal CK (Joint Secretary), Dileep Ishmael (Legal Counsel), Aysha Markerhouse (Treasurer) and others.
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