Earlier this year I had the pleasure and opportunity to make the acquaintance of Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, founder of the Facebook group Global Secular Humanist Movement. We had been exchanging emails and links of various types and I invited him to write a guest article. He suggested an interview instead and I offer that to you here, dear readers, as an introduction to one person, one young man who conducts his work at great personal risk, but with a still stronger sense of conviction.
Can you give me any biographical information on yourself for context, as much or as little as you feel safe giving?
Hello Mr. Taylor thank you for your kind invitation for this interview, It is an honor for me and Global Secular Humanist Movement to have a member like you. Bio: I was born in 1991 in Iraq, short time after the gulf war started and lived about 12 years under Saddam Hussein’s regime and then I survived the second gulf war which started in 2003 and the sectarian war from 2005-2009. I have lived and survived 3 wars so far, I don’t personally know if there will be any in the near future but I hope not. I think my life experiences are enough in some kind to answer many people confusion about “what a war looks like” and “Was the US intervention in 2003 a right decision or not?” If there is any questions from the audience of this interview, I am willing to replay.
Did you have a religious upbringing? If so, can you describe what that was like?
I had a religious upbringing in School more than family I would say because it is compulsory in Iraq to study Islam for 12 years since the first year until the last, but I didn’t subscribed to any of the influence due to my deep interest during childhood in Greek Philosophy and world cultures which made me a lot of skeptical of the teachings I was receiving.
Can you describe how you came to free yourself from religion in an extremely religious part of the world and how that has impacted your relationship with your family?
As I have mentioned earlier, I wasn’t really in the chains of religions myself, I was more of a “Deist.” I used to believe that GOD is nature itself, the mountain, the moon and the stars. I used to call everything GOD but then when I grew up and I realized that there was many logical flaws in my previous beliefs so I simply abandoned them and went to more skeptical way of thinking. As for my society that’s a very important question. I think in most cases you have to lie to get away with it because skeptical philosophy is considered by many as heresy and there are questions which shouldn’t be asked or discussed because the answers exist in Holy Books where nobody can question any thing but rather follow exactly what the book says. I received some threats from some people because of being honest about my way of thinking and I ended up having a bullet with blood in my school bag with a letter asking me to leave.
As for my family I am not living now with them and we don’t talk about such subjects at all.
When and how did you get the idea to start the Global Secular Humanist Movement? What is the purpose of the group?
It started in late 2010. It is simply an idea that came to me, when I realized that I have to do something good to the world. The world needs people who use reason and the scientific method to know the truth, who never do rely on beliefs or opinions. We have only this one life to live. Let’s live all we can it’s a mistake not to.
Let’s spend more time on appreciating this wonderful life, let’s share ideas, have discussions of how we should make the world a better place, how to make ethical lives for ourselves and for the generations to come. Lets love each other; let’s despise the unnecessary differences that divided our human societies through the ages. We can create a global civilization that is based on compassion, reason and curiosity for truth. The purpose with all the mentioned above is to empower and spread the values of Humanism. It is a social movement that aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the secular humanistic worldview, including equal individual rights and acceptance for people who hold it.
As of this writing, you are approaching 18,000 members on the page, which is a phenomenal burst of growth in the last few months when you were still in the low thousands. To what do you attribute the page’s popularity?
Well, I think there are more than 18,000 or even more than 18 million Humanist in the world. Humanists need to come out of closet and demand their rights, the reason why many people are joining my page is simple ,“looking for like minded-people“, we are scattered across the globe and it is the time for us to unite and make a positive contribution to our beautiful planet by making it a better place to live in.
Do you have a sense for the makeup of the members? Are they mostly Christian, Muslim, atheist, something else? What parts of the world are you seeing represented? Are there any other demographics presenting themselves?
As the name “Secular Humanist” suggests a specific kind of members, I am certain that most of the members of the page are non theists (Atheists, Agnostics and Deists) , most of the members are from English speaking countries and that’s not surprising because all the posts are written in English. The percentage of males in the page is 60% while females 36% and transsexuals 4%. The largest percentage due to age lies between 25 – 35 but the percentage of youth below 18 is high as well, which is a good sign of hope in my opinion.
What kind of resistance do you get? I see that once in a while you post emails you receive and I’m wondering how much of your email and feedback is antagonistic.
Resistance ranges from hate mail into death-threats that’s unsurprising to come from the religions of peace.
Have you had an opportunity to network with any influential thinkers, scientists, authors, artists, activists that you admire through your work?
Of course, I receive a lot of fans mail specially after making my own website faisalalmutar.com.
What would you like to accomplish through the Global Secular Humanist Movement? Do you have any goals, plans or ideas beyond Facebook?
Yes , something beyond facebook would be establishing a Humanist Institute for spreading Secular and Humanist Values in highly religious countries and that would happen by empowering education, the secularists in the nation and of course women.
Thank you so much for this interview Mr. Ojo.