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Leaving Islam: Message From Somalia

Surely, the reason why a country such as Somalia could be almost 100 percent Muslim may not be farfetched. It lies somewhere: in the upbringing, in the religious formation of Somalis

Last week I received a message from Somalia. The message was from an ex-Muslim. He needs some help after his renunciation of Islam. Yari wrote: “Hello, Leo Igwe. I am from Somalia, a country in East Africa. Somalia is 99 percent Muslim”. Going by this percentage, one could say that there are no godless (Allahless) persons in this region. Is that actually the case? Are there no atheists, skeptics or freethinkers in Somalia?

Surely, the reason why a country such as Somalia could be almost 100 percent Muslim may not be farfetched. It lies somewhere: in the upbringing, in the religious formation of Somalis. Yari stated: “I am 20 years old, raised as a Muslim and my family members are strictly religious”. Actually, there is often a thin line separating strict and extreme religiosity. Incidentally, in the case of Yari, the strict religious upbringing backfired. He became an apostate. As he stated: “It was in December 2018 that I lost faith in Islam and became an atheist”. This is what Yari said regarding how he felt as an atheist or as a person without faith in Allah: “Since the time I renounced Islam, I have felt much happier and more active”. This is because for many apostates, renouncing religion, in this case Islam, is usually a relieving experience. It is like getting rid of something that has been a source of sadness and pain.
Meanwhile, apostasy is a crime under Islamic law. Apostates are attacked, killed, beheaded or imprisoned until they recant. So ex-Muslims find it extremely difficult to go open and public with their disbelief. Yari’s excitement was short-lived.

As he noted in the message: `…but it was last month that my sister had, while using my phone, learned about all my activity, especially that I was a critic of Islam and an atheist. She informed my parents and they pressured and tortured me. My father vowed that he would kill me if I didn’t change my ideas immediately. I wasn’t allowed to venture outside the home. They obliged me to read and listen to the Quran all day, in the hope that I would come back to the religion”.

Yari did not. Instead, he fled. According to him “After three weeks of living in this situation. I got a chance to run away from home. And I did. Now I am living with a friend in a nearby city. I told him that I had some family problem but I did not tell him the actual problem since he is a Muslim”. Yari asked for advice on how to confront the situation. And I have contacted an ex muslim in Nigeria for assistance.

Unfortunately, apostates in muslim dominated societies find themselves in a similar predicament. They live in fear for their lives following their loss of faith. In a war-torn country such as Somalia, where the jihadist group Al Shabab has been waging a violent campaign for an Islamic state, apostasy is a very risky undertaking. If you are interested in supporting ex-Muslims in Somalia and other parts of the region, please get in touch.

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Leo Igwe
Leo Igwe
Leo Igwe (born July 26, 1970) is a Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist. Igwe is a former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and has specialized in campaigning against and documenting the impacts of child witchcraft accusations. He holds a Ph.D from the Bayreuth International School of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, having earned a graduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Calabar in Nigeria. Igwe's human rights advocacy has brought him into conflict with high-profile witchcraft believers, such as Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, because of his criticism of what he describes as their role in the violence and child abandonment that sometimes result from accusations of witchcraft. His human rights fieldwork has led to his arrest on several occasions in Nigeria. Igwe has held leadership roles in the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Atheist Alliance International, and the Center For Inquiry—Nigeria. In 2012, Igwe was appointed as a Research Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation, where he continues working toward the goal of responding to what he sees as the deleterious effects of superstition, advancing skepticism throughout Africa and around the world. In 2014, Igwe was chosen as a laureate of the International Academy of Humanism and in 2017 received the Distinguished Services to Humanism Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Igwe was raised in southeastern Nigeria, and describes his household as being strictly Catholic in the midst of a "highly superstitious community," according to an interview in the Gold Coast Bulletin.[1] At age twelve, Igwe entered the seminary, beginning to study for the Catholic priesthood, but later was confused by conflicting beliefs between Christian theology and the beliefs in witches and wizards that are "entrenched in Nigerian society."[1] After a period of research and internal conflict due to doubts about the "odd blend of tribalism and fundamentalist Christianity he believes is stunting African development," a 24-year-old Igwe resigned from the seminary and relocated to Ibadan, Nigeria


  1. Yari Article – hope to help
    Message Hi Leo, I just read your article about Yari and I would like to help him. As a somali and an \”ex-muslim\” I am not a fan of that word because I didn\’t have a choice being born one even though I never considered myself I one either I know the struggles he faces. I fear if he stays in that country he will be in so much danger or needs help relocating somewhere safer in the country where he isn\’t compromised. Please let him know he can contact me on this email and I will give him any assistance I can afford. Thank you.

  2. Brother.. Sincerely pray to God and ask him to show you the right path.. Make sincere prayer.. Please watch this video..
    May you be guided to the right path and may you see right as right and wrong as wrong.. Sincerely pray….. Please watch the video link I sent

    • Let him be. Atheists and Humanists are better people than Muslims because they are kind and accepting and never violent.

  3. This is not a big deal my brother, Islam has left him, he didn’t leave Islam. Before him there was Islam and without him there’ll be Islam. He cannot make Islam complete or incomplete. There’re thousands who embrace Islam globally and I’m one of those. Ever since I’ve had a kind of peace and tranquility in my heart which I never had it before. I’m now proud of myself been a Muslim. Because my facts are not based on media stereotypes.

  4. As a matter of fact,Yari is seeking for sympathy from non Muslims to get a greener pasture,and leave this lawless country named Somalia, otherwise he didn’t say exactly why he choosed to live his religion,can he tell us one or two things regarding Islam that forced him to quit???

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