A New Brand of Nonbelievers

He said there are thousands of nonpracticing Muslims in the Netherlands who have stepped away from their faith for one reason or another, but who do not identify with Jami's message and who have not felt threatened over their personal choice.

"Such insulting statements are destructive," he told ABC News of Jami's combative rhetoric. "They hurt people in our society, and they destroy our sense of social cohesion."

But Namazie said provocation is the ex-Muslims' very point.

She likened the outcry over Jami's statements to the uproar over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, published in 2005. Visual representations of Muhammad are forbidden in Islam and the cartoons sparked a flood of protests throughout the Muslim world.

They say, "'You have a right to say what you want, but why should you offend?'" Namazie said of her and Jami's critics. "My answer is, well, Islam offends me, the political Islamic movement offends me and that's what free speech is about."

"If you don't like the way it's done," she said, "you do it another way. But until then we're the ones that are doing it, and that are standing up. Obviously it's going to make a lot of people uncomfortable, but that's how change comes about."

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