From the cradle of civilization to the land of the free and the home of the brave, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is an Iraqi born writer, public speaker, web designer, and social activist currently living in Washington, D.C. He is probably best known for being the founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement, a Facebook page with nearly 300,000 likes. Despite his busy schedule, he was able to spend some time with us answering some questions about his life, his views, and his plans for the future.
You are now an atheist and secular humanist. Did you always have this mindset regarding religion?
No. Not really. I don’t think I have ever been a practicing Muslim myself that’s for sure. I used to hold beliefs regarding the existence of a supernatural. When it comes to Humanism, it started when I was I was about 18 years old when I started reading more and more about systems of ethics without the belief in supernatural.
What was it like living as an atheist in the predominantly Muslim country of Iraq?
It’s like being the only sober person in a car filled with drunk people, but you are not allowed to drive.
Why did you leave?
I left about a year after I lost my eldest brothers, my cousin, and my best friend in the civil war in Iraq due to Al Qaeda, so I left mainly to escape getting killed by militants due to my vocal views regarding Secularism and human rights as well as being from a Shia background myself.
What, if anything, did you like about Iraq?
Food. Iraqi food is special to me.
Besides your views on religion, another thing you and Christopher Hitchens agree upon is that you both think the invasion of Iraq was a good thing. Many in the U.S. do not share that view. What would you say to someone in the United States who disagrees with you on this topic as an actual former citizen of the country invaded?
Well, my views about the Iraq war are not as concrete as Hitch, but I am more leaning towards the view that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein as it is better off without Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
If the argument is Iraq was safer during Saddam’s time, that says a lot more about the nature of the region than anything else, to the way that you need a sadistic and a fascist dictator to keep things stable.
The thing is there aren’t many good options to begin with; people think in binary terms and idealism.
The Iraq war was not the end of dictatorship; it was just simply the first step.
You are dealing with one of the most complex and yet violent regions in the world and yet there are some people who thought that everything is going to be alright just as Saddam left.
Saddam Hussein is just one problem of more than 100.
He definitely was not the only problem in Iraq, but nonetheless a very major one.
Why did you move to the United States?
Short answer: Freedom; most importantly freedom of speech and belief.
What do you like about the United States now that you have experienced living here?
Diversity of big cities and metropolitanism of New York and San Francisco.
What rights that you have now that you live in the United States are you thankful for that some people who have always lived in the U.S. might take for granted?
The advancement of human rights and the level of evolution of thought within American society; look at marriage equality for instance. Just few decades ago, the views about marriage equality shifted a lot more positive than negative just in the last decade or so.
Look at the region where I come from, leave aside that the majority of people are not only against marriage equality, but LGBT rights in the first place.
Most of the statistics suggest that not a minority of people believe that LGBT people deserve death and the Middle east ranks the least when it comes to women, LGBT, and minority rights.
The U.S is not perfect in any shape or form and there is lot to be done over here, but it’s far much better than the countries in the Middle east when it comes to human rights of its citizens.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What goals do you hope to accomplish between now and then?
Getting more stuff done and pave the way to establish the largest think tank in the world when it comes to International Politics and Secularism combined.
What Facebook pages do you run and how many likes does each have?
I run many pages to spread Humanism and secular thought across the Middle East and the globe, but the most important one is the Global Secular Humanist Movement because I am the one who created it.
Total of likes of all the pages I run would be more than a million.
GSHM would be close to 300,000.
What methods did you use to gain as big a fan base as you currently have for GSHM?
Diversity of ideas. Since the beginning of this year, I have had an editorial board from all across the planet and graduates of many different universities including MIT, Harvard, Yale, and Oxford as well as people who have been all across the world and have many different perspectives and personal experiences.
Global Secular Humanist Movement became a hub for intellectual discussions about current events as well as solutions to problems faced worldwide.