Islamabad: A handful of Pakistani Muslim youths is beginning to question the existence of God and, in the process, giving up Islam to become atheists.
Still a small number, the trend seems to be telling of pressures that the image of militant Islam has had on them. A Facebook group has been floated for Pakistan's agnostics and atheists by Hazrat NaKhuda, a former Pakistani Muslim.
At last count, the group had over a 100 members. In a thread started on the discussion board on "How did you become an atheist", Hazrat writes, "I used to be a practising Muslim. I used to live in Saudi Arabia. I have done two Hajs and countless Umrahs. Used to pray five times a day. When I turned 17-18, I realised that the only reason I was a Muslim was because my parents were Muslims".
Hazrat is a young computer programmer from Lahore.
Ahmed Zaidi (name changed), another member, posted on the discussion board: "I'm an agnostic simply because I see little or no evidence for the existence of God.
Some time ago I decided that I'd never believe anything unless it has a firm basis in reason and as far as I know (and I admit I know very little and that there's much to be learnt), there's little or no evidence for the existence of God."
The group, which is open strictly to members, has young Pakistani students studying in New York University to Oxford University to the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences as members.
Saeed Ahmad (name changed), who used to be a "practicing Ahmedi Muslim", started questioning his beliefs at the age of 17.
"I don't think there is any more detail to be added," he posted on the Facebook community for Pakistan's atheists and agnostics.
Nawab Zia (name changed) wrote that the moot question is not "how did you become an atheist" but "how did you become a believer".
He wrote: "I was a born atheist like every human being until my parents corrupted me with faith. Every child is born free and pure," Ali Rana (name changed), who loved Islamic preacher Zakir Nair and hated author Salman Rushdie, has had a change of heart too.
He now thinks Nair is an "idiot" and Rushdie a genius.
There are other threads on how the members "wasted" their years as theists.