In April, a defiant group of self-identified "apostates" convened in downtown Portland, Oregon, to revel in the joys of brew culture, bacon burgers, and atheism. Nine ex-Muslims from several states in the region gathered for a local meeting of the Ex-Muslims of North America.
EXMNA is a nonprofit that provides support to individuals who have left Islam. Some of its members have faced disownership and death threats from family members for renouncing their religion.
Chapter gatherings across the United States and Canada are closed-group meetings for safety reasons. Individuals who wish to join the organization go through a screening process to authenticate their identities, explained Sarah Haider, who co-founded EXMNA in 2013. "Unfortunately, it is not paranoia that requires us to be careful," Haider said. "In the Muslim world, we are openly persecuted and regularly meet grisly ends. In the Western world we are safer, but even here open meetings can be a big risk."