Samira Shackle in New Humanist:
In Arab countries, openly declaring a disbelief in God is a shocking and sometimes dangerous thing to do. In his new book, “Arabs Without God”, journalist Brian Whitaker looks at the factors that lead people in this part of the world to abandon religion, and how societies dominated by faith deal with them. The book is available here. There is a Kickstarter campaign to translate the book into Arabic, which you can donate to here.
Is Arab atheism growing, and if so, why?
Arab atheists have become much more visible as a result of social media. There are numerous Facebook groups – some public, some private – and others make videos of discussions which they post on YouTube. Mainstream Arab media talk more about atheism too, though it is usually presented as a social problem needing government attention, along with drug-taking and homosexuality. Atheists also seem to be growing in numbers. This may seem odd when organisations like al-Qaeda and ISIS attract so much attention, when there has been a huge growth in religiosity over the last few decades and Arab governments have been fostering sectarianism for their own political purposes, but the “new” Arab atheism found among the younger generation is partly a response to that, and also to the reactionary views of many Muslim clerics, especially in Saudi Arabia.
Another factor is that popular uprisings against dictatorship have emboldened people and made them question things more. Questioning the political system leads some to question religion too – because politics and religion in the Middle East are so closely entwined. At the same time, of course, there are many who think the solution is to have more religion, not less, and atheist activity on the internet is still tiny compared with the vast amount of religious material posted in Arabic.