Australia not doing enough on ‘untouched subject’ of persecution of atheists, ex-Muslims

Si Gladman / 24 May 2024

Countries like Australia are not doing enough to protect atheists and ex-Muslims facing persecution around the world, the latest RSA Webinar has heard.

At Wednesday’s webinar, Tonoy Emroz Alam (pictured), president of Atheist Alliance International (AAI), said the plight of ex-Muslims and atheists facing violence and punishment for blasphemy was an “untouched subject” by the Australian government.

“We’re yet to see that they are addressing these issues. It’s also probably because the Australian Left is kind of becoming far Left. If any political side is to address such issues, I believe it should be the Left side of politics. But what I see in the Australian Left right now, I don’t think they’re going to touch it,” said Mr Alam, also a contributor to a blog established by a murdered Bangladeshi atheist.

Mr Alam spoke about AAI’s work in providing legal support to people accused of blasphemy in Muslim-majority countries, relocation and emergency support to others facing threats to the safety, and support for people seeking asylum.

He said AAI typically received between 15-20 emails each day from people seeking help, but could only support a few.

“Probably we’ll pick one or two a month. Normally, we’re very good at examining. We could tell that this person is at serious risk. If someone is at risk but we cannot provide money or we cannot invest in this person because of our financial limitation, we tell them, ‘Okay, you can come to this country. And if you can go there by yourself we will be able to support you.’”


Fellow guest speaker Zara Kay shared insights into the impact of her organisation, Faithless Hijabi, an international non-profit dedicated to empowering ex-Muslims and helping them overcome religious trauma.

Faithless Hijab runs a mental health program for at-risk people and also works alongside organisations such as AAI and Secular Rescue. 

“It’s a mix of playing a small part in helping people to safety. It can be from filling out asylum forms to attending this webinar and getting people to understand that there is a large pool of requests and we can’t help everyone,” she said.

Based in Sweden, Ms Kay said she also spends time educating secular and non-religious networks in Scandinavia about the plight of ex-Muslims. 

She said Scandinavian people often associate ex-Muslims with Quran burning, making it hand to explain the plight for ex-Muslim people.

“I see that a lot in Scandinavia, actually – in humanist conferences, as well. There were about three or four ex-Muslims in a group of 500 ex-religious people, and the only thing they could think about when they heard ‘ex-Muslim’ was, ‘Oh, you guys are very radical’, she said.

“And that’s where I come in, as part of Faithless Hijabi, and explain there’s a range of ex-Muslims. 

“But the primary baseline is we are still being persecuted. So there is an element of educating other humanist organisations and other similar organisations on ‘how do ex-Muslims view this thing’.”

Si Gladman is Executive Director of the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

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