Just a reminder everyone, I am NOT a Muslim. Just saw a reference to me as a “Muslim guy” on a comment board in regards to evolution vs. creation (pointing to this site as a good read on the topic). I do not regard Islam as an ethno-religion like Judaism or Hinduism. Unlike the latter religions, creed, profession of belief, is a hallmark of Islam. I reject the creed, ergo, I reject the religion and do not identify as Muslim. Over at Sepia Munity I specifically changed my handle to “razib_the_atheist” because I got tired of people assuming I was Muslim from my name (thinking I am a Muslim was not the problem, the problem was that people addressed me as if I held beliefs common to Muslims, which resulted in some bizarre questions , i.e., “As a Muslim, don’t you think you should speak up about the problems with Islam?”). Part of the problem I think with regards Sepia is that many of the people come from a Hindu tradition where there isn’t such a close coupling of creed to religious identity, so my origin as a Muslim is given greater weight than I myself give it. In fact, I have noted that on the internet, where people don’t know me in day-to-day interactions, there is far more emphasis given to my Muslim origin than in my regular life (where people assume I am of Hindu background from what I can tell in reference to consideration for my presumed vegetarianism). For example, several people have assumed that I might identify with civil rights issues in relation to Muslims because of my background, but the reality is that I don’t (above and beyond my general libertarianish concern with such issues). I am not even averse to a legal name change if that is what is necessary to decouple myself from any Muslim identity (as I said, most people assume I’m Hindu despite my name, so I don’t think it is necessary at this point). Also, unlike several acquaintances who are atheists of Muslim background, I do not identify as a cultural Muslim in any way, shape, or form (given Islam’s traditional hostility toward unbelievers who was “born” into the religion, I see no reason that I should evince warm feelings toward the cultures in which it is embedded).
To readers of this weblog this is all likely superfluous, but I wanted this on the record, this isn’t the first time that I have seen a reference to me as a Muslim on a message board. The fact is that on the personal level I am as irritated and offended by people associating me with Islam as a believer as a Muslim would be by an evangelical Christian telling them that they are “idol worshippers” (this happens!). This is an issue where in fact I feel comfortable being in agreement with evangelical Christians, because unlike more “cultural” religious traditions like Judaism, Hinduism or Roman Catholicism, they place primacy on belief and don’t regard personal origin as particularly determinative (“born again” Christians of course must go through an experience of becoming “Christians” as adults, and Baptists reject infant baptism because of their emphasis on the primacy of personal choice).
PS: On my name, “Razib,” it is actually simply a slight tweak on the name “Rajib,” which is a conventional Bengali variant of the name “Rajiv.”
Update: On my name, in kindergarten, my teacher, a naturalized American citizen of Dutch origin, had difficulty enunciating the “j” in my name and switched it to a “z.” My parents call me “Rajib,” as do the rest of my relatives and Bengali acquaintances from my parental generation. Everyone else knows me as “Razib,” though truncation is a common tendency. Occassionally I run into someone who is “in the know” and they can’t help but call me “Rajib,” because that is the variant they are familiar with (if they knew someone named Rajib they invariably can’t help but use that form).