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Interview with a Nigerian Ex-Muslim “Apostate & Closeted Atheist”

Posted: Thu, April 06, 2017 | By: Nigeria

by Hank Pellissier

Yesterday I started a conversation on the Facebook page Nigeria Atheists - it has over 3,500 members! I thought almost all of them were living in the UK or the USA, but the fellow I was chatting with was decidedly not - he’s in the very-unsafe-for-atheists city of Kano, in northern Nigeria. Here’s our conversation below:

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Hello Hank

Hank Pellissier: I direct humanist organizations in the USA. We published Leo Igwe’s book. I am interested in your ideas on Islam, I could publish them at, and

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Am honored….. I will be very delighted

Hank Pellissier: Is this your real name?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes it’s my real name….

Hank Pellissier: I live in San Francisco. Are you an ex-Muslim - living in Lagos?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Am living in Kaduna, not Lagos.

photo of Abdulrahman (too dangerous to show his face)
Abdulrahman(unsafe to show his face)

Hank Pellissier: Kaduna seems like a dangerous place to be anti-Muslim - Is it safe for you to write about this topic?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: It’s not without risk writing about Islam. But we just have do it, seeing how destructing it is to humanity. It’s alright. How did u learn about me ?

Hank Pellissier: Atheist Nigeria Facebook page?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes. I am a closeted atheist.

Hank Pellissier: I know Leo Igwe, so I was reading that website to see what he’s been doing. You are a closeted atheist! Have you ever read the books by Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes I did. I have read a few of her books. And Sam Harris’, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens.

Hank Pellissier: So you were born Muslim?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: My Dad is an Islamic scholar….. so I studied Islam, right from being a kid.

Hank Pellissier: I was a Catholic and I quit because of the sexual restrictions. I wanted to have sex in college and the Catholic Church said no. It seemed stupid for me to obey that. What were your reasons for wanting to leave Islam?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Lots of reasons. Mine is more of a humanism. Islam is a lot worse….... with regards to humanity. Right from day one I used to find some of its penalties or punishment as inhumane. E.g chopping off hands for pilfering, 100 lashes just for having unmarried sex, stoning to death for having sex while married. I find them repulsive and repugnant. But faith can be blinding. I ignored all that for many years, thinking that Allah must have a pretty good reason for all that.

Hank Pellissier: Yes, faith can be very blinding. As a Catholic child, we were always threatened with hell That was scary. Same thing in Islam I believe

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yeah. Even doubt is sinning in Islam. One has to just give in. Total submission to the will of Allah….. so it says in the Quran.

Hank Pellissier: So after you had doubts, you started reading Hawkins, and Hitchens?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Nope, not immediately. First I started scanning through different ideological sect within Islam. I even become a quraniyun ( the sect in Islam that discard Hadith and other Islamic books except Quran )! for a year or two. I discarded Hadith cause of the contradictions in them. I wanted to have truth on my side, so I become a follower of Quran, seeing it was revealed by the almighty Allah it mustn’t be with contradictions. Beside Allah has said in quran “if it weren’t from me, you would have found in it lots of contradictions”. But even so, I started seeing some of the contradictions in the Quran as well, then serious doubts got hold of me, that I prayed for so long not to loose my faith. I stopped praying and remain like an agnostic until when I bump into Richard Dawkins video and books. And it become like an awakening for me. I feel more relieved from all the torment of the fear of Hell. By then I was just twenty years old. It’s about 13 years ago now. Ever since I have been reading books and watching video lectures and discussing it within my family until I eventually became about 9-10 years ago an atheist - within my extended family.

Hank Pellissier: Do you know any other atheists in Nigeria? I mean it must be kind of scary? You still have to go to mosque and bow to Mecca five times a day right?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes

Hank Pellissier: Apostates—that is what you are called?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes apostate.

Hank Pellissier: That is dangerous. Is there an online group of ex-Muslims you can talk to?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: We have a few ex-Muslims in Nigeria… and some Ex-Christian as well

Hank Pellissier: Does your family know you are atheist?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes my mom knows. And my siblings. And I have a brother thats an atheist, and an uncle and a cousin.

Hank Pellissier: Have you talked to all these relatives that are atheists?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes I have. We relate very much. In fact I feel more secure being with my atheist cousin or friend, than being with my dad. Serious violence….

Hank Pellissier: There are moderate Muslims in many places of Africa, like Senegal, I hear. But the Muslims in Nigeria are not so moderate. Does anyone like Boko Haram? or does everyone hate Boko Haram, even Muslims?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Lots of people hates Boko Haram ironically, but behave in a manner that’s not too far from Boko Haram. You know I am from Borno state….. Borno state is the headquarter of Boko Haram.

Hank Pellissier: Do your sisters have to wear a veil?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes, girls wear veil.

Hank Pellissier: Your Dad is still a Muslim scholar?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Yes, he is. I have to move out of my family house and rent a place to live in, for the fear of my life.

Hank Pellissier: Is your fear because of your father? he will tell someone? There is lots of violence in your region between Christians and Muslims, right?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: The killings is sporadical….. You know the funny thing about Nigerian Muslims is they are mostly seeming liberals in there day to day endeavours…... But at any time they can be as violent as u can imagine ISIS to be.

Hank Pellissier: That is interesting. I have heard the same about Hindus. They are calm and tolerant unless they hear someone is eating a cow. Do you want to get out of Nigeria?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Of course, I want to leave the country. I have tried saving money to leave the country.

Hank Pellissier: If you left the country, where would you go? To Europe? or to another African nation?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: I will prefer to be in a more freer country where I can challenge the violent in Islam more freely.

Hank Pellissier: If you went to Uganda I know atheists there. My organization builds humanist schools and orphanages and clinics. Uganda is not Islamic. Very few there. But the Christians there are rather crazy. Makarere University in Uganda is a good college. How old are you? What have you studied in school?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: I am 33 yrs. I didn’t formally graduate from school. But I study a lot. Back when I was in school my dad stopped financing my tuition fees.

Hank Pellissier: Could you get to London?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: I have an uncle there In London…. There are times that me and him planned on how I will get there…. But you know everything boils down to finance.

Hank Pellissier: Is your London Uncle an atheist?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: He is just a liberal Muslims.

Hank Pellissier: What you need is an atheist relative in another country. Or in a part of Nigeria where it is safe to be an Atheist. Would you want to live in Canada if you could get asylum there?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Have u heard of Mubarak Bala ?

Hank Pellissier: A one way ticket to Toronto is probably $600. I have not heard of Mubarak Bala.

Abdulrahman Aliyu: He was put into a mental asylum around 2013, for being an atheist. Here in Kano Nigeria. Leo Igwe knows him. He is my friend.

Hank Pellissier: Do you think that would happen to you - that you would be put into prison if Muslims around you thought you were an atheist?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: I wouldn’t be put to prison…... Nigeria is by the book a secular state, but some state practice sharia law. But then the masses wouldn’t even allow the state to deal with me, I will be just be lynched by mob.

Hank Pellissier: Do you communicate with everyone via Facebook?

Abdulrahman Aliyu: I don’t give out my mail, for the fear of my life…... I have always wanted to change my name….. I am an atheist with a name that means Abdulrahman “Servant of God “

Hank Pellissier: I just checked plane costs to London. You can get there for $439. But I don’t know if you can stay there…. I don’t know how to leave permanently and get asylum. Perhaps we can contact IHEU. (International Humanist Ethical Union) They are located in London. Or try joining this group and chatting: (Home Before joining EXMNA I would have given my right arm to meet someone like me. Now i get to meet people who think like me everyday! Also—I suggest you go on reddit/atheism. And then set up an AMA - Ask Me Anything. People will want to help you and they will have advice. Set it up as an AMA “I’m a Muslim Apostate Who Wants to Escape Nigeria” and I think you will get a response. This guy from that group did an AMA - you can read the response he got - it is interesting

Abdulrahman Aliyu: Alright. Thanks. I really appreciate your effort.

Hank Pellissier: I will see what I can do, if you really want to leave Nigeria.

Abdulrahman Aliyu: I do…. really do.


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