Wake Up!’s owner goes on to explain that what contributed to him repudiating Islam were "immoral issues such as taking concubines, stoning, killing apostates, child marriage and the like." He emphasises that it was not easy and he suffered terrible internal turmoil before he listened to his "own humanity". It was then that he began "his journey of doubt".

"Deal with my arguments!"

The aim of his channel, whose six videos have attracted 1.7 million viewers, is "to educate the ordinary Muslim about the truth of his own religion and to get him to reconsider it, and not to take it too seriously." He justifies his refusal to identify himself by saying that "it has no bearing on the credibility of the content of the videos", as long as each video is backed by sources and references. Moreover, merely showing his face "could lead to reprisals" and endanger his life.

Wake Up!’s owner is convinced that the Internet will continue to play a major role in spreading atheism across the region: "the weapon of religious authorities used to be repression, book burning and suppressing anything which might undermine public faith. With the advent of the Internet, information has become readily available and anyone can express an opinion freely". Nevertheless, he goes on to say that such soul-searching does not necessarily result in atheism per se; it is also possible that some might turn to deism or another religion.

Moroccan blogger Said Benjebli (photo: private)
But with the establishment of social networks, a large number of young Arabs now have the opportunity to speak publicly about their own turning away from faith and to criticise religion. This applies in particular to Islam, to which many of these young people previously belonged.

Not long ago, a Moroccan blogger Said Benjebli surprised his followers by announcing that he was disavowing his Muslim faith in a live broadcast on Facebook. Previously considered to be something of an Islamist, he has since emigrated to the United States.

He rejects the label of atheist for a number of reasons, one of which is that "atheism means many things", as he explains to Qantara.

At the same time, he asserts that he is not a deist (a deist believes in the existence of the Creator intellectually, but not through religious dogma). Or as Benjebli says, a deist "refuses to accept the existence of something or otherwise without evidence."

Benjebli says that social networks are the only way to spread his views, arguing that traditional media does not afford an opportunity to address public opinion if the rhetoric is "shocking and at odds with religious and social taboos."

He goes on to explain: "I criticise the fundamentals of religion and the principles of the patriarchy. Most of the media will not profit from giving me a chance to appear on their platforms, because this will anger more than merely their conservative audiences." He adds that the traditional media may only deal with him years from now if his "ideas become part of mainstream thinking in society".

Is atheism growing with the Internet?

The idea that the Internet would lead to a decline of Islam is not confirmed by a study published by the PEW Research Center in 2015, however. In its examination of the future of religions in the period between 2010 - 2050, the study predicted that Muslims will increase by 73% as a result of the young age profile and high growth rate of their communities. This will bring the number of Muslims to 2.8 billion or 30% of the world’s population i.e. in touching distance of the 2.9 billion Christians who make up 31% of the total.

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