At first, an alliance between Muslims and Atheists might sound a little strange, but the concept is real and one that should be encouraged and sought out. Both groups are misunderstood, perceived as enemies, and are often persecuted verbally or politically for their beliefs. Furthermore, they both have the common goal of living in society peacefully and happily. In a land based on religious freedom, we have seen an enormous amount of prejudice directed at those who don’t fall under the category of Judeo-Christian. This prejudice is commonly found in politics but also in general society. Just recently, DNAinfo Chicago released a story about a man in Chicago who asked a cabbie if he was Muslim before beating him. In an airport, the FBI questioned a student of Arab descent for 45 minutes on account of a complaint from another passenger that he was speaking words used by jihadists; he said “inshallah,” or God willing, at the end of a phone call. Atheists are also victims of religious discrimination. In a story published in the DailyKos, five examples of discrimination against Atheists were highlighted and further depict how if you aren’t in the Christian majority, your civil rights are at risk for being violated.
Atheism is the disbelief in the existence of a God or gods, and Islam is the belief in one God, Allah. While these look like an odd pairing, digging deeper, it’s easy to see why they need to stand with each other for the common good and benefit to all. Muslims are stereotyped and constantly victimized by prejudice. Atheists are seen as lawless beings that lack a moral compass and basic compassion. They are often stereotyped as willing to commit wrongs and atrocities because they don’t believe in God or God’s judgment. A 2014 Pew research survey found that favor-ability for Atheists clocked in at 41% and favor-ability for Muslims clocked around 40%. Both of the aforementioned stereotypes are ridiculous bastardizations and are baseless at best. Regardless of how you feel about religion and whether it plays a role in your life or not, it is impossible to deny the necessity of Atheists and Muslims forming an alliance for the better good of all. Two minority groups that are stereotyped and often vilified in the media and in conservative society need to stand up for one another.
Presidential candidate Ted Cruz publicly stated that he is a Christian first and an American second. When politicians introduce their faith into their job, it sets a frightening precedent. A person of faith should be able to govern without introducing that faith into politics. For Muslims, the Qur’an is very specific that “there is no compulsion in religion.” But it is interesting that many conservative Republicans feel the need to bring Christianity into their work and into laws they support or enact. A dramatic example includes both Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi and Governor Pat McCrory who signed anti-LGBT bills into law to protect the religious freedom of Christians in their states. Why do the religious beliefs of Christians come first? In a country with no official religion, why are we pandering to one faith and allowing it (and the politicians who are cherry-picking it) to speak on behalf of the people?
In June, Atheists, Humanists, Secularists, and other Freethinkers will descend upon Washington, D.C. for three days of an aptly named Reason Rally that promotes secularism. The event is supported by major Atheist and secularist organizations such as American Atheists, The American Humanist Association, and the Secular Coalition of America. According to their website, the aim of the Reason Rally was to “unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society.” The rally has three listed goals: encourage attendees to come out as secular Americans or in support of Secular Americans, dispel stereotypes (there is no one “true Atheist” they come from all backgrounds, cultures and political parties, and calling for legislative equality. Some of the topics being discussed at this rally will include climate change, LGBTQ Equality, Women’s Reproductive rights, and sex education. Some of the speakers include Bill Nye, Carolyn Porco, Johnny Depp and his wife Amber Heard, Lawrence Krauss, National Center for Science Education chairwoman Eugenie Scott, Margaret Cho, Penn Jillette, among others.
It would be beneficial if religious liberals from all backgrounds joined on the secularism bandwagon. The Huffington Post reported a story about an Atheist and a Muslim who joined together to raise their voices in support of freedom of conscience, and opposition to blasphemy laws, theocratic rule, and persecution of religious minorities and the belittlement of outsiders. Together, they created a group called Ahmadis and Atheists for Freedom of Conscience. They said, “despite our common cause, we remain proud of our respective beliefs. In light of our various divergent beliefs, we are looking for ways to better the world around us. This connection is important not only to educate atheists and Muslims about each other, but to educate everyone else about us.”
Fighting anti-Muslim bigotry is everyone’s responsibility. There is no room in America for bigotry of any kind. I ran across an article accidentally on a website called, bigthink.com. It discussed a television show that was airing on the TLC channel, “All-American Muslim”. The Florida Family Association, a Christian-right hate group began urging sponsors to pull out citing the show was “propaganda” and trying to advance Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia Law. The Christian-right often complains that their religious liberties are being persecuted and trampled when legislation benefits or defends a group of people they do not agree with (i.e. religious minorities, LGBTQ community). The article argues a point I’ve been thinking about for a long time now, Atheists should stand up against this anti-Muslim prejudice. Adam Lee said it perfectly when he wrote, “We should support Muslims’ right to be part of public life for the same reason we should support gay and lesbian couples’ right to get married, and for the same reason we should support women’s rights to buy contraception or have an abortion: because we understand what it’s like to be the target of theocratic assaults on liberty from the Christian right, and because by defeating them on one front, we weaken them on all fronts.”
Standing together shows solidarity. When you are oppressed, your oppressor does not want you to find a united ground. If Muslims and Atheists help each other and defend one another and their civil rights, together we can all weaken religious oppression. Civil rights belong to all of us regardless of faith or lack thereof. We shouldn’t have to practice faith or the majority faith in order to be considered citizens with equal rights. When one group is attacked, we are all attacked. Being in the religious minority myself, I feel there is an immense need for secularism and for our government and politics to operate without any type of religion influencing lawmakers. I find it appalling that a lawmaker can create a bill that is openly discriminatory, but veil it with the cloak of religion and somehow make it okay. That is not the mark of religion that is the mark of hatred and bigotry. If one uses their religion to openly discriminate, one should closely examine if the person in question is truly religious or trying to further an agenda. Religion should not be used to propagate hate and exclusion. What doesn’t work for you might work for my co-worker or me. If a politician doesn’t agree with the LGBTQ lifestyle, that’s okay. They don’t have to. However, they have no business enacting laws that deny LGBTQ people basic civil rights and liberties. We are governed by the Constitution, not the Bible or any other scripture, and nowhere in that document does it say same-sex marriage is wrong or that Christianity is our religion.
Negativity about Muslims and Atheists comes from not knowing any personally and negative media portrayals. Most people who have reported negative feelings also reported not knowing anyone from either background.
Whether you are Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, Christian, or Jewish, you should stand in solidarity for secularism in government, as it will guarantee us all the civil rights we deserve and are afforded. If we allow bigotry and hate to prevail and allow the religious majority to push their faith on us, our 21st century American society will be no better than our recent past when African-Americans had to sit at the back of the bus and drink from “colored-only” water fountains. If Muslims and Atheists stand together, the chances of political change increase and this benefits everyone. There is no reason why they cannot work together. From my standpoint, the sooner they do, the faster we can forget about people like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.