When the Islamists in Iraq took over the government through the elections in 2005, it was a wakeup call to me and all those who believe in human rights, freedom and humanism. In addition to the Islamist control of the government as well as the destruction of the civil society by radical Islamic militias, some of the totalitarian characteristics of the previous dictatorship still remained.
From my travels and observations of the world, I have deduced that totalitarianism is not only a form of government, but also a mentality. As a global phenomenon, totalitarianism takes many forms, and the degree to which totalitarian governments restrict individual freedom and abuse human rights varies greatly from one country to another.
When I first started the Global Secular Humanist Movement, I was inspired by the writings of Christopher Hitchens, Carl Sagan, Paul Kurtz, Richard Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson as well the great women’s rights activists in the Middle East and abroad such as Mariam Namazie and Ayan Hirsi Ali. I was inspired to create a global society guided by knowledge and reason and motivated by compassion and our common humanity.
At that time, I could not have imagined that I would eventually reach a quarter of a million followers from 150 countries. I could not have predicted that one day, I would work alongside extraordinary thinkers such as Richard Dawkins, Sean Faircloth and Greg Epstein of the Harvard Humanist Community, as well as other influential secular thinkers around the planet such as my dear friend Alishba Zarmeen who is the founder of ex-Muslim women’s network from Pakistan. Never could I have guessed that I would connect with such an unlikely coalition of secular humanists from the Middle East where I come from, who valiantly share their beliefs despite the religious tyranny and oppression of the region.
And I certainly didn’t imagine that one day I would be speaking at venues as diverse as prestigious universities, humanist conferences, and small gatherings, attended by nervous participants scared to death of coming out as “non-believers”.
The reason I didn’t envision these things was not because I lacked a vision or ambition; I simply did not possess the resources, and could never assume I would be able to continue what I am doing the next day.
Despite these obstacles, my determination to never stop being a secular activist and the model I envisioned, strategized and implemented in the past couple of years to achieve this goal has proven successful, and I would like to share it here.
In my first essay for Big Think years ago, I mentioned that one of my favorite things about secular humanism is that it is leaderless. Founded upon principles of self-empowerment, critical thinking, reason, curiosity and doing good for the sake of the other, humanism requires no authoritarian figures such as Yahweh or Saddam Hussein to control our thinking or motivate our actions.
Written By: FAISAL SAEED AL MUTAR
continue to source article at thehumanist.com