On 12 October Imtiaz Shams, the founder of Faith to Faithless
(FTF), provided Greater Manchester Humanists with an outline of the organisation's work. FTF was set up in 2015 and continued the work that Imtiaz had being doing to support ex-Muslims since 2012. FTF provides services to people who leave, or are thinking of leaving their faith group. As an organisation, FTF is in its infancy and because it has such a small budget, its activities are limited.
He grew up in Saudi Arabia in a practising Muslim family but now lives in England and considers himself to be a Humanist. Despite this, he described in fond terms his continued engagement and involvement with his family and with the Muslim community. This approach underpins FTF’s work because Imtiaz is of the view that after a potential initial estrangement very few families disassociate with the apostate. He considers it important to maintain existing family and community relationships.
Imtiaz has supported people who have left their religion and talked about some of the problems that they encounter; some people face physical abuse, many face financial difficulties, and people often feel isolated. FTF offers a counselling and support network to these people. FTF also engages with faith leaders to encourage understanding of people who leave their faiths. Imtiaz thinks that faith leaders generally ignore the issue because they do not know how to deal with it.
He hopes that FTF will secure funding to expand its research capability to establish the extent of apostasy, to expand its counselling service, to build links with schools and organisations such as the Ex-Muslim Forum and the Samaritans, and to enter into dialogue with faith groups to discuss apostasy
A question and answer session followed Imtiaz’s talk. There was a discussion around the dislike of the term apostasy mainly because this is a religious term. Other terms to explain this were suggested; ex-religious, post-religious, enlightened and free-thinking. There was a general consensus that Humanists can assist FTF in its growth phase by advising its members, and the schools that it works with, about FTF’s work. At the end of the meeting a general collection raised £200 for FTF.