The secular Muslim

ahmad tariq boston women'sHere is a really good essay describing a segment of society who need to be acknowledged, encouraged and protected against bigotry from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I refer to the many secular Muslims who have been living in non-Muslim countries for decades, assimilating just fine and living without scrutiny and hostility, until their supposed “brethren” dragged the barbarism of Islamic fanaticism into First World countries. It is unfortunate that these non-practicing Muslims – much like many born and raised Christian, such as I – must suffer because of the religious maniacs.

The Price of Being Born Muslim

I am by no means an expert on the topic of Islam or Muslims. However, by accident of birth, being Muslim was thrust upon me….

The few Islamic Center meetings I attended at college would invariably extend into speeches about the Palestinian conflict, the Kashmir conflict, the Chechnya conflict, the Bosnian conflict. Somewhat dispassionate about such issues, I chose to define myself as an undefined creature with no real place in society—the secular Muslim.

Since 9/11 the nature of the dialogue has changed quite a bit. I experienced the strong backlash against Muslims….

“The reality is that many Muslims are secular. We do not pray five times a day, do not read the Koran and have not spent much time inside a mosque.”

But with this increased awareness of the Muslim, there is a lack of appreciation of the nuances within our group. The reality is that many Muslims are secular. We do not pray five times a day, do not read the Koran and have not spent much time inside a mosque. We only turn to Islam when a child is born, someone gets married or someone dies.

We certainly have no interest in participating in civilizational battles. We are, in fact, loathed by the religious minority. And yet we have no clear voice, no representation and no one in the Western world appears to be aware of our existence. Every time a terrorist attack occurs, we suffer the most.

We are trying to succeed in life, trying to be effective doctors, lawyers, business people, artists and other kinds of professionals, and it hurts us, not the jihadists, when society keeps us at more and more of a safe distance “just in case.”

To defeat the threat of radical Islam, I suggest that the answer lies among the people who are the least Muslim.

It is only the secular forces within Islam that can subdue the screams of radicalism. We are united by a lack of indoctrination, a belief in personal freedom and a similar accident of birth and we must unite to properly forge a positive and progressive future for Muslims worldwide.

Tariq Ahmad is a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.


  1. So lets help give them a voice!

    “I chose to define myself as an undefined creature with no real place in society—the secular Muslim.”

    A contradiction in terms unless the term “muslim” no longer carries religious connotations. And he’s wrong about not having a place in society. He’s a fellow citizen & neighbor of ours, & I hate the fact that he feels that the actions of Islamic fanatics reflect on folks like him in any way. As far as I’m concerned he’s part of the solution & is making this country a better place.

    1. Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

      “So lets help give them a voice!”

      I wholeheartedly agree!

      Dr. Ahmad, if you read this post, please contact me at I would like to interview you for my column at You can read my interview there with Dr. Wafa Sultan:

      Wafa Sultan’s message to America ([url][/url])

    2. If secular jews can exist, so can secular muslims. Unfortunately islam, like judaism, is a religion you are born into, so secular muslims must be the ones who conquer the religous ones.

      Turkey was an example of a secular muslim country before Erdogan and the Islamists won. Erdogan’s win in Turkey is the equivalent to Rick Santorum becoming president of America.

  2. Religious maniacs know no boundaries- either ethnic or geographic. The very term maniac implies thoughts that defy reason.

    I agree that we need to support secular muslims- and those of us who are realists. We do not want to be sheeple, (see

    Those of us who dare to be intelligent thinkers need to support each other and learn how to become more vocal. I fear we spend too much time ‘speaking to the converted’. We need to branch out and reach the general masses, the fence sitters who are trying to put the pieces together.

    Hey Acharya, how about writing a few articles for magazines like Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, or TV Guide? (Bad examples maybe but I hope you’ll look behind the titles to embrace the idea.) It might just help broaden the number f supporters.

  3. Acharya S/D.M. Murdock

    I should add that I was friends in college with a fellow from Pakistan who was, to my knowledge, secular. He was very funny, and we got along just fine. Those were the days when all cultures, both genders and various political perspectives merged together in relative harmony without all the religious nutcases and assorted other fanatics destroying a good thing.

    THAT’s the society of I am used to and what I work so hard to make sure is kept intact.

  4. He is against fanaticism by being a secular, and I am that by being a practising muslim, that is the only difference I guess.

  5. I wonder how many there are.
    Very interesting. I wonder if there are as many Secular Muslims as there are Secularists in the U.S.

  6. The Secular Muslim
    Religious groups do have their wacko elements or pretenders to be part of the belief. It appears from my reading that Islam, inspite of the majority innocent and because of it’s interpretation by those wackos is the worst.
    Certainly the majority are above the ‘criminal element’. Just because one is born in a religion, is no reason to continue following these ancient ‘mind twister cults’. People are just too busy in investigate what they choose to belong to.ehxjh

  7. Freedom to Discover ones Very Own Self
    I commend the good Muslim Doctor,and encourage him to have faith in his healing heart and the people depending on his art. Social change is usually a very slow process.Change Yourself and You invariably change the very fabric of the world around YOU. Go for it/Bhava

  8. Secularyetpracticingmuslim

    Does he even know what secular means?
    A very weak piece by Tariq Ahmad. He equates secular with being non-religious which is simply a misunderstanding of what secularism is.

    I am from Bangladesh and I can say with absolute certainty that a good portion of Bangladeshi’s are both secular minded and religious as well so Tariqs whole premise is false.

    Ironically he is using the definition Islamists use to to spread fear about secularism in Asia and they will love this piece because it will reaffirm their (incorrect) belief that the secularists are irreligious non-practicing Muslims. Tariq should have stopped after his first sentence.

    1. Secular : of or relating to the worldly or temporal b : not overtly or specifically religious c : not ecclesiastical or clerical.

      In America the word “secular” is generally used to denote people who are consciously non-religious.

  9. Facts
    Hello there Doc.

    Secular Muslims who believe in Islam and Mohammad are among the proud Muslim Ummah, Islam thrives on Numbers, Muslims will count you among themselves whenever they want to enforce Sharia in the country you live in, to remain a muslim is to believe in all the absurdities of the Koran and the total twisted perspective of the subjugating cult, not praying five times a day does not guaranty the total demise of the childhood indoctrination on hate for the jews and other similar discriminatory roles of Islam, a moderate Islam is an oxymoron, a moderate Muslim is either a hypocrite or liar, why call yourself a Muslim if you really reject its tenents?? I am an ex-Muslim far from a secular Muslim, have a great one.

  10. Wonderful reflective piece. I dont think he really identifies himself as a muslim, its just a title all us non-practicing muslims are entrusted with based upon our names or place of birth.

  11. re:
    [quote name=”Umer Khan”]He is against fanaticism by being a secular, and I am that by being a practising muslim, that is the only difference I guess. [/quote]Practice what you preach, right? Peace and blessings upon each one of us are bestowed and we all take our own path of life hier and after. I am practicing muslim who is for peace all around the world and between all nations. Newer had problems because I pray or have scarf. Respect is earned by our actions and good deeds. Do onto others as you wish to be done onto you, share with others and teach others by exemple and ambrace our differences.

  12. secular guy
    Being secular is like walking along the razor’s edge. On both sides lie the ease of ignorance, the pleasure of fanaticism, the luxuries of blind faith.
    But I have not much hope- I have seen many ‘secular’ folk reverting back to the primordial. Only time can tell how strong his ‘Faith’ really is.

  13. Miss Maryam
    🙁 angry: as far as I’m concerned and as far as all muslims are concerned, the idea that u don’t pray five tyms a day alone has excluded you from islam. Islam is a way of life and ther are no two ways about it. It. It’s either you take it or leave it. If you want to live like the christians or jews, then you should convert to them. In islam, a non practicing muslim is worse than a non muslim. For you to write such an articule, you mst be confused. My Advice is you search deeply into your soul, u’ll never find peace as long as you don’t find what is missing in your soul. You need to find your purpose in life because it looks like you don’t know what your purpose is. I repeat, as long as you don’t practice islam fully and strieve to learn more about the religion(if u still call yourself a muslim) then you are living in sin. Allah SWT will not have mercy on those who deny the truth. 🙁

  14. I am Indian first
    I am muslim by birth. I studied in a school run by RSS- Vidya Bharti. In my society I was taught that Hindus specially RSS people are the enemy of Muslims. But during my 12 years study in that school my experience is just opposite. All the teachers were so loving, caring and considerate to me that I had to change my perception regarding Hindus. Really all my class mates were too much friendly. actually it is not the faults of Hindus but the faults of Muslims that we are prejudiced about Hindus. In Muslim society we are taught that we are Muslim first and Indian later. Only then the problem arises. Muslims think that they ruled India for more than 1000 years. Reality is just opposite. We were ruled by invaders and not by Muslims. We are Indian by blood and DNA. Why do we relate ourselves with Arabs, Turks, Afaghanis etc? I am a Muslim but a secular one. Religion should be a personal issue, not a social or national.

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