Snider Lecture 2018

The Muslim Enlightenment: The rise of secular thought among young Muslims

Photo of Ali A. RizviTuesday, Oct. 2, 2018
7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Room 120, Instructional Centre
University of Toronto Mississauga (MAP)

We have heard of lapsed Catholics, secular Jews, and ex-Scientologists. What we don’t hear about as much is the growing number of non-believers in the Islamic world. Apostasy from Islam is widely accepted by scholars of most Islamic sects to be a capital offense. Those who dare to criticize their religion are often disowned by their families, ostracized by their communities, and frequently persecuted, even executed, by their governments. In thirteen countries—all Muslim-majority—atheism is punishable by death.

Ali A. Rizvi has corresponded with thousands of atheists, agnostics, and secularists in the Muslim world over the last decade—from LGBT+ youth in Saudi Arabia, to young feminists in Iran, to underground secular bloggers in Bangladesh, and more. Most are in the closet; and those that do speak out openly do so at great risk.

In a wide-ranging talk, Rizvi will talk about his own journey as a young Muslim who lost his faith; the costs of coming out as a non-believer in the Muslim community; the ways in which young ex-Muslims are organizing on the Internet; and the crucial difference between criticizing Islam (a religion) and demonizing Muslims (a people). The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Ali A. Rizvi is the award-winning author of the book, The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason (St. Martin's Press, 2016). Rizvi grew up in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan as part of a progressive Muslim family, before moving permanently to Canada in his twenties. He is a trained oncologic pathologist, medical communications specialist, and an avid advocate for secularism, science, and enlightenment, particularly in the Muslim community.


Invited Guests:

Professor Kenneth Derry, Department of Historical Studies, introductions and moderator of Q&A

Professor Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, Department of Historical Studies, respondent

Complimentary parking in lots P4, P8 and P9 for the duration of the event (MAP). Please allow ample time to park and find your way to the lecture hall.

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Please contact Mary-Catherine Hayward, office assistant, Office of the Dean, at or 905-828-5377, if you require information in an alternate format, or if any other arrangements can make this event accessible to you.