Ex-Muslims of Norway

Photo: Rune Kjær Valberg / NRK
Cemal Knudsen Yucel

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Because Cemal Yucel was born in Turkey into a Muslim family of Kurdish heritage, his life seemed preordained. As he grew up, he joined the youth branch of Mîlli Görüs (National Vision), an Islamic religiopolitical movement that is the largest Turkish diaspora organization in Europe. Then something happened. Doubt entered his life. He wondered if there were options other than the Islamic ones.

That bewilderment led to an unconventional life. The trigger of that departure from his past came about when he met, fell in love with, and married a Norwegian woman, Marit Knudsen, then a tourist on vacation in Turkey. Upon marriage, Marit adhered to the option in Norwegian tradition and appended Cemal’s surname to hers, to become Marit Knudsen Yucel. Cemal liked that name change so much that he reciprocated by taking her surname as his middle name, to become Cemal Knudsen Yucel. The couple lived in Turkey for a while and then relocated to Norway, where Yucel became a Norwegian citizen.

As he socially and physically distanced himself from the milieu of his youth, Yucel found a world divided. Within Islam the world is bifurcated into Muslims and non-Muslims. By that definition, he found himself gravitating toward the “non” side. Finally, he renounced Islam. In youth he had been an ardent Muslim, so that renouncement made him an ex-Muslim. He went public with that decision, and in 2016 he joined in the global Ex-Muslim movement by founding Ex-Muslims of Norway (www.exmuslimsofnorway.com).

There’s precedence for that step. According to Wikipedia, around the world there are 29 organizations that aim to support individuals who have renounced Islam (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ex-Muslim_organisations). The first one was ZdE Zentralat der Ex-Muslime (Central Council of Ex-Muslims), exmuslime.com, founded in 2007 in Germany. The one in North America is the Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), exmuslims.org, founded in 2013 in Washington, D.C., and in Toronto. The organizations are independent but share the common goal of advocating human rights and normalizing the acceptance of blasphemy and apostasy in Islam.

This article originally appeared in the November 1, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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