Irreligion in the Middle East

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Though atheists in the West Asia and Egypt (Middle East) are rarely public about their lack of belief, and they are persecuted in many countries, including Saudi Arabia where they are classified as terrorists,[1] there are some atheist organizations in the Middle East and Arab world.

Persecution of atheists in the Middle East[edit]

Like other non-Muslims, atheists suffer persecution in the Middle East.[2] 64 percent of Muslims in Egypt are reported to approve of the death penalty for those who leave Islam.[2]


Though still uncommon, public acknowledgement of atheism is widely considered to be growing in the Middle East. Youth in the Persian Gulf countries have increasingly been expressing their atheism on the Internet in recent years, despite residing in heavily religious societies.[3]

More than 50 atheist Facebook groups and pages, some with more than 130,000 followers[4], have formed in the last few years especially since the Arab spring.[5]

According to a BBC survey conducted by the Arab Barometer, the non-religious population of the Middle East and North Africa is estimated at 13% in 2019, a rise from 8% in 2013. Arabs are said to be increasingly turning their back on religion.[6]

List of Non-Religious Middle Easterns[edit]

  • Armin Navabi Ex-Muslim atheist and secular activist, author, podcaster and vlogger including founder of Atheist Republic
  • Ashraf Dehghani Iranian female communist revolutionaries, and is a member of the Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas
  • Aramesh Dustdar Philosopher, writer, scholar and a former philosophy lecturer at Tehran University
  • Afshin Ellian Iranian-Dutch professor of law, philosopher, poet, and critic of political Islam. He is an expert in international public law and philosophy of law
  • FM-2030 Belgian-born Iranian-American author, teacher, transhumanist philosopher, futurist, consultant and athlete
  • Hadi Khorsandi Contemporary Iranian poet and satirist. Since 1979, he has been the editor and writer of the Persian-language satirical journal Asghar Agha
  • Shahin Najafi Iranian actor, musician, singer and songwriter
  • Maryam Namazie British-Iranian secularist and human rights activist, commentator, and broadcaster
  • Ibn al-Rawandi Early skeptic of Islam and a critic of religion in general
  • Fariborz Shamshiri One of the authors of the Rotten Gods website and an Iranian blogger
  • Mina Ahadi Iranian-Austrian political activist
  • Sadegh Hedayat Iranian writer, translator and intellectual, Best known for his novel The Blind Owl
  • Faisal Saeed Al Mutar Iraqi-born satirist, human-rights activist and writer who was admitted to the United States as a refugee in 2013.
  • Bashar ibn Burd Poet of the late Umayyad and early Abbasid periods.
  • Rifat Chadirji Iraqi architect, photographer, author and activist. He is admired as the greatest modern architect of Iraq, and taught at the Baghdad School of Architecture for many years.
  • Sami Michael Iraqi-Israeli author, first in Israel to call for the creation of an independent Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel.
  • Jamil Sidqi al-Zahawi prominent Iraqi poet and philosopher, known for his defence of women's rights.
  • Jim Al-Khalili Iraqi-British theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster.
  • Selim Matar Writer, novelist and sociologist with Swiss and Iraqi nationalities, was born in Baghdad and resides currently in Geneva.
  • Raif Badawi, a Saudi Muslim charged with apostasy
  • Abdullah al-Qasemi, a famous Wahhabi scholar who left Islam
  • Joumana Haddad Lebanese author, public speaker, journalist and women's rights activist.
  • As'ad AbuKhalil Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus.
  • Rabih Alameddine Lebanese-American painter and writer.
  • Ziad Rahbani Lebanese composer, pianist, playwright, and political commentator.
  • Gad Saad Lebanese-Canadian evolutionary behavioural scientist at the John Molson School of Business (Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada) who is known for applying evolutionary psychology to marketing and consumer behaviour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adam Withnall (2014-04-01). "Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents - Middle East - World". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  2. ^ a b Fisher, Max (2013-05-01). "Majorities of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan support the death penalty for leaving Islam". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  3. ^ "Is Gulf youth increasingly drawn to atheism? | The National". 2012-08-19. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Arab Atheists, Though Few, Inch Out Of The Shadows". Archived from the original on 2014-03-20. Retrieved 2015-07-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^