The case of Nissar Hussain and his continued persecution for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity has again resurfaced, with a recent demonstration in his support being held in Bradford on 5th of December. This follows an brutal attack on Mr Hussain in November which left him hospitalised.
I have usually supported Muslims in the UK and further afield in their right to practice their religion in peace but also must speak out when incidents like this occur.
As a spiritual person, I see the advantages of living in Britain's secular society. We are all free to practice our religions, or no religion at all, as one chooses. This cultural diversity is of great value because no person or group has an monopoly of wisdom. By being active and free to contribute to society, we are all enriched and grow stronger together.
Part of belief is to face the challenge of doubt and, as an individual, each is ultimately responsible for their own spiritual path and relationship to God. One is aware of the edicts in both the Bible and, I am led to believe, the Qur'an, on how to deal with those that leave the religion. There is also the law of the land however. The beatings and vandalism inflicted on Mr Hussain are criminal acts, regardless of their motivation. Those who protect the perpetrators are protecting criminals.
Law protects both the rights of those who wish to worship in their traditions and also those who wish to go their own way.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? It is because in childhood my own family went through similar experiences of intimidation and ostracism, if not to such a level of violence. Growing up with an Irish and Catholic background and living in England during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland was not idilic. Most people were prepared to live-and-let-live but it only takes a few bigots for that not to happen. It is this reason I so sympathetic to minorities in the UK. I see the same pattern of hatred being whipped up against Muslims in British society that Irish people previously underwent.
Extremism, religious or political, is contrary to British way of living. That does not mean it does not exist but it should be challenged when it does arise. One does not expect those of faith to rejoice when a follower leaves their religion. Friendships are broken and networks are cut off. Individuals though ultimately have the right to live in peace, without the fear of intimidation and violence.