Ex-Muslims of North America mounts a “Awesome without Allah” campaign, but aren’t allowed to put those words on billboards

September 9, 2019 • 9:00 am

Here’s the announcement I found on Twitter:

The Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) just put up billboards in three cities—Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston—basically stating that a substantial proportion of Muslims raised in the U.S. have become apostates, and implicitly affirming that that’s okay (of course, to many Muslims apostasy is a capital crime). According to the EXMNA announcement, they had some trouble doing this:

After several rounds of rejections, changes, and even one contract termination from companies afraid of offending religious sensibilities, the billboards are scheduled to be placed on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 3rd and 4th, 2019.

“In a dozen Muslim-majority countries, ex-Muslims are condemned to the death penalty”, said Muhammad Syed, President of Ex-Muslims of North America. “In the West, our existence is not a crime, but we still face isolation, threats, and abuse by our own families and former faith community. Unsurprisingly, many former Muslims choose to hide their lack of belief. But the first step to gain acceptance is coming out openly, without shame or fear.”

“We want closeted ex-Muslims to know they are not alone”, said Sarah Haider, Executive Director of Ex-Muslims of North America. “We also want them to know that while the prospect of coming out as nonreligious is frightening, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can make it to the other side, you can rebuild your life and find joy in the freedom from religion.”

Syed, Haider, and their colleagues are doing useful and courageous work. Putting up a billboard that, say, noted that a high proportion of Christians had become “nones” would be unlikely to be rejected in this way. As we all know, it’s a lot more dangerous to offend Muslims than Christians.

This page gives more details about the difficulty of getting the billboards displayed:

The billboards took months of planning and countless rounds of rejections from companies who were concerned about offending religious sensibilities. Unfortunately, the process diluted our message quite substantially. Our billboards went from challenging religious claims head-on to a simple declarative sentence about our existence. Many of our first versions were rejected. Even the proposed hashtags were rejected, and fearing a longer delay in publishing, we decided to remove the “Awesome Without Allah” hashtag entirely from the billboards.

The most controversial of the billboards we drafted and proposed featured a drawing of the Islamic mythological figure called the “buraq”. This figure sports the face of a woman, the body of a donkey, wings and a peacock tail. The idea was to provoke critical thinking by pointing out the absurdity of religious myths. However, all companies we worked with rejected this concept. It appeared that the most distressing aspect was the cartoon itself. Of course, the fear is not surprising. There is a record of extremist Muslims answering a drawing with violence, such as the murders of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and attacks on Danish cartoonists.

However, even after choosing a message as mild as possible, one of the contracts was cancelled. The company had not realized how near our billboard was to a mosque, and when they realized, they told us they could not honor the agreement.

The site has a number of short videos (“mini-documentaries”) of ex-Muslims explaining their departure from the faith. Here’s one of many, with the caption “A Canadian woman who converted to Islam in her late-teens, Stephanie married a Libyan Muslim man, and gave birth to two daughters.”

This is heartbreaking, for you see the mother’s anguish well up as she describes how her husband tricked her into going back to Libya and then basically kidnapped their daughters, whom she hasn’t seen in five years. I defy you to watch the whole thing without tearing up.


Join me in donating to EXMNA, which you can do by going here.  They are way short of their $25,000 campaign goal, and that’s not a large amount. If every reader gave just a dollar, that would more than double the amount targeted. How about a buck or five?

38 thoughts on “Ex-Muslims of North America mounts a “Awesome without Allah” campaign, but aren’t allowed to put those words on billboards

      1. Rick, sorry about that. There was an issue with duplicate credit card processors enabled, it should be working correctly now.

      1. I find that the credit card option still does not work for donations, so I used PayPal.
        The option to choose CreditCard/ACH appears on the website but when you click on it, nothing happens. This should be 100% reliable. I almost gave up on donating.

        1. I did a CC donation by clicking through the Paypal option and finding CC option within it. So, yes, I think the main page has a bug.

  1. Stephanie’s story, heartbreaking as it is, is a dime a dozen.
    The advice is (well, the first advice would be not to marry and get children with a Muslim man in the first place, that’s asking for trouble -but that is not very helpful here): do not, repeat do not, go with your children to his Islamic country of origin. When here, these men maybe easygoing, not very devout and even liberal (I do not even contend that is fake, or that there is deliberate deception), but once back in their country, ever so often their Islamic culture catches up with them, they change back to traditional Islamic mode. Not all of them, of course, but do not think your husband is that rare exception.

      1. I add in re ” dime a dozen: ” my ( now – and
        long – ) dead Daddy, a simple Iowan farmer
        and WWII veteran of the Himalayan / Kabul /
        Djibouti areas, took me aside at my ( quite
        adult – ) age of 26 and headed off to an
        institute to acquire professional programs
        and degrees … … and quietly and
        repeatedly besot me .not.not. to involve
        myself, while there, with A Thing Middle
        Eastern or Islamic relating to me that
        i) very blonde, very white girls and women
        were targeted and ii) IF I were to be
        ( ! often ! privately ) jetted off in to
        that part of the Globe, he would never
        be able “to hear” from me again cuz
        iii) I would be cordoned off in to harem(s)
        … … to never appear to western societies

        Fortunately for me, I believed him. Then.
        And since.


  2. Putting up a billboard that, say, noted that a high proportion of Christians had become “nones” would be unlikely to be rejected in this way.

    It is far from obvious that this is true.

    1. Freedom From Religion has lots of billboards and various ads in public places, as shown here: https://ffrf.org/outreach/bus-sign-billboard-campaign/billboards-in-action. Not specific to a religion, that is true.

      It strikes me just now that signs against any specific religion would be seen far more negatively than signs against religion in general. Perhaps EXMNA would have an easier time of it with that approach, while still reaching their audience. Maybe a set of different religious symbols that are Xed out would get the point across.

      1. I don’t think I agree, Mark. Ex-Muslims carry an extra heavy burden for their apostasy and the best way to attack it is to be explicit.

          1. Well, that’s not on them, it is a slam against the people who shy away from allowing explicit advertising to go up. Their position should be, IMO, to push the billboard companies to allow direct messages.

    2. Those cities also have digital billboard advertising, each of which only show for about eight seconds, and they’re mixed in with everybody else’s. So someone would have to work really hard to be “offended” by them. But it sounds like they are going with traditional printed ones.

      Atheists are the most hated group, I’m guessing Muslims are second. And they want to do a billboard that celebrates both. Chicago, maybe. But Atlana and Houston, I don’t think it will end well.

      Last year in Park Forest (a south suburb in Chicago), some group put up a pro-Atheist sign—just text, very mild. It was on the way to my class and was going to photograph it. Two days later the sign, was down, neatly sawed off at the wooden base.

      1. “…someone would have to work really hard to be “offended” by them.”

        You underestimate the degree to which the faithful are prone to take offense, particularly Muslims!

        The short half-life of signs like this speaks mostly to the need for more of them. If they were as ubiquitous as “houses of worship” it would be different. (But imagine the expense!)

  3. I tried to donate $10 to their cause but their donation site will not take a credit card. I guess I will send a check

  4. I go to most events of Britain’s Ex-Muslim Society…. not that I think my attendance is of any real use to them, but out of respect for and solidarity with their struggle. The last meeting I attended was for the International Atheist Day, held by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. The speakers were some incredibly brave women who left their religion out of a desire to free both themselves and other women from the subjugation that Islam imposes upon women.

    This is not just the mere intellectual rejection of religion that a non-Muslim atheist such as myself can casually undertake …this is taking a step that leads to becoming a social outcast, a pariah rejected by one’s own family, an apostate which calls for one’s death… particularly in the countries where they make this stand. And the threat is all too real as the intensive security needed for the event signifies. Their bravery is astounding and inspirational. A humbling experience for me to view…

  5. What a sad, sad video. Just crushingly sad, and with no redemption or hope on the horizon.
    The pain of spending five years apart from your kids as they grow, as they form themselves, their identity, and to miss seeing them experience something new and crazy and frightening and happy every single day…to miss five years in a child’s life is like missing fifty in an adult’s life.

    1. Yeah. +bagazillion, Mr Sorrell – Till.

      Actually … … I did this. xthree kiddos.
      MISSED ALL THREE’s middle school years.
      MISSED ALL THREE’s high school years.

      USA. See posts above. Happens dime – a –
      dozen. Everywhere.

      X .is. atheist. He began six months’ time before
      trial(s x three and two appeals ) to attend
      d a i l y noontime mass. BEING “seen” there.

      That ? That and his entitlements ( male +
      family support + MD – positioning ) worked out
      soooo, so well for him.

      HID them all ! legally ! five states’ distance away
      for four years.

      I wrote … … The Book. Had to.
      Was NOT going to be d e a d and not have THUS known.
      Was a catharsis. A purge.


  6. EMNA is a good organization, I donated $100 via PayPal (their site worked fine for me). They risk violence by coming out publicly. They need support!

  7. I just now ponied up. I hope they get all they need and more.

    Am I an Islamophobe? That awful buzzword! But there’s good reason to fear Islam! That doesn’t mean I hate innocent Muslim people.

    This post reminds me of when I went to the movies and saw “Not Without My Daughter” starring Sally Fleld.

    Since then I found the book in a thrift shop and I bought it and read it. It’s horrifying!

    And I’d met an unfortunate woman who had married a Shiite Muslim and was trying desperately to escape from him. I was about to say more about this but I think I’ll not say it. Nowadays we have the InterGoogle and I don’t want this woman to somehow have to suffer more.

    Both of these were before 9/11 and Islam was not on my radar. I’m thinking there’s good reason to fear Islam, and the word “Islamophobia” is not at all inaccurate.

    Oh yipes! A friend from high school long ago married a Muslim man. Last I heard, and that was long, long ago. she’d left him.

    Moral of the story, ladies. Don’t marry a Muslim man.

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