Sabri Husibi, a former Muslim who is now an atheist, says he has been ostracized and threatened with death since publication of a Tulsa World article Saturday in which he was critical of Islam and all other religions.
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The article was written to promote a talk he gave the next day to the Tulsa Atheists organization.
Husibi, who has an unlisted telephone number, said he received about 30 calls Saturday from people who were cursing him, calling him a traitor and threatening him.
Most were foreign-born, Tulsa-area Muslims whom he knows, he said. He also received angry calls from friends and relatives in Syria.
One caller, whom Husibi would not identify, said that if he spoke at the meeting and said anything against Shariah (Islamic law), he would be killed.
Another caller offered Husibi’s young Muslim wife $10,000 to leave him and return to her native Syria, he said.
“Someone from Tulsa called my 76-year-old mother in Syria and said, ‘You’re not going to see your son anymore,’ ” he said.
His critics’ chief objection, he said, was to his statement that the Quran was written by men, not God, and has been changed over the years. They also objected to his comment that al-Qaida is respected by many Muslims.
Bill Dusenberry of the Tulsa Coalition of Reason, of which Tulsa Atheists is a member, said he offered Saturday afternoon to cancel the Sunday talk, but Husibi wanted to go ahead with it.
“It showed a lot of courage,” Dusenberry said.
Husibi said he takes the threats seriously. Before Sunday’s talk, Dusenberry notified Tulsa police, who said they would be alert to any possible trouble.
On Tuesday, a clearly shaken Husibi asked that any future articles emphasize that he is not attacking Islam alone but all religions, including “fundamentalist Christians like Timothy McVeigh and fundamentalist Jews who kill Muslim children in the Gaza Strip.”
He said Tulsa Muslims are awaiting an apology from him. “I won’t apologize,” he said. “I’m not going to be a chicken. This is my right, to give my point of view.”
Hussam Albakri, Husibi’s second cousin, said he was surprised about the threats “because that’s not what our religion teaches us.”
Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic civil-rights organization, said Husibi’s comments are protected as free speech. “He has the right to make them without being threatened,” he said.
“Husibi apparently doesn’t like all religions,” Hashmi said, “and puts them all in the same category. But that doesn’t give him the justification to make false assumptions, like saying the Quran has changed over time. That’s historically and factually false.”
Hashmi also said polls show that very few Muslims around the world support al-Qaida’s extremist views. He said the Quran teaches in chapter 2, verse 256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”
Sheryl Siddiqui, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Tulsa, said she had received one e-mail about the matter. “There was no discussion about him at the mosque this week,” she said.
Husibi was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, and attended Quran school as a young man.
He became an atheist after years of studying religion and serving as a soldier in the Syrian army during the Lebanon civil war.
He moved to Tulsa 10 years ago at age 35. TULSA WORLD
Pray for this man’s safety, they will kill him if they can.
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