Skip to main content

Iraqi atheists demand recognition, guarantee of their rights

Following Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi’s article on atheism in the Gulf, atheism in Iraq is no longer limited to the intellectual elite, but has spread among all social classes, and there is a pressing need to ensure the rights of these citizens in the face of threats from extremists.
Read in 

Atheism might seem like a strange phenomenon in a country such as Iraq, considered one of the most religious on earth, where the degree of interest in religion is very high. This perception is also held in the Gulf, as noted by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi in his March 3 article about the growing visibility of atheists there. Yet, you do encounter people here who identify themselves as atheists and who demand that their rights be safeguarded in accordance with UN resolutions that guarantee freedom of belief. In this regard, previous surveys have indicated the existence of a growing agnostic movement in the country, which continues to expand at a remarkable pace.

Atheism and heresy have a long history in Mesopotamia with the renowned Arab philosopher Abul al-Ala al-Ma'arri (973-1058) defending, 1,000 years ago, his nonbelief in religions. Ibn al-Rawandi (837-911) also dedicated sections of his books to countering the Quran in Baghdad. Furthermore, Ikhwan al-Safa, a secret group from the third century Hijri, wrote their books to include a critique of Muslim beliefs in Basra; and contemporary Iraqi researcher and poet Maarouf al-Rasafi disputed the religious aspect of the Prophet Muhammad’s life in his book The Muhamadiyan Personality. Rasafi is a writer from Fallujah, an Iraqi city famous for its mosques and religious fervor.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.