Inside the secret world of ex-Muslims

“Abdulrahman” is an international student from Pakistan. He is concerned for his young child and explained that social pressure to conform to a religious identity is so intense that his child will not be able to escape indoctrination. “I have to send my kid to the school where they teach bigotry, violence and hate,” he said. “You have to pretend to be religious or you can’t survive.”

Abdulrahman wants to encourage creativity and critical thinking for his child but is afraid it will lead to an inquisitive spirit, especially toward religion, which carries many risks in the South Asian country. In Pakistan, blasphemy is a capital offense under the penal code, and dozens of individuals accused of blaspheming have been murdered through mob violence since the ’90s. “It’s hard for a father to deliberately make his own child less creative,” he said.

On April 13, Mashal Khan, a Pakistani journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University, was killed on campus by an angry mob of students after he was accused of blasphemy during a debate about Adam and Eve.

Graphic video of the murder shared on social media shows a motionless Khan being stomped on and beaten by dozens of furious men shouting “Allahu akbar.”

The pressure to believe is so intense that 22-year-old junior software developer “Mahmoud” still goes to Friday prayers with his family. Mahmoud’s father is an immigrant from the West Bank, and his family worships at the Islamic Society of Southwest Washington. “You feel like you’re constantly lying,” he said.

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