When people think of the Middle East, they think Muslims. 

While it's true that Islam is a dominant religion in the region, with about 20 percent of all Muslims residing in the Middle East and North Africa, there are many who have renounced their beliefs altogether. 

Despite the fact that many Muslims-turned-non-believers choose not to share their views publicly - for fear of oppression, torture, and possibly even the death sentence in some countries - StepFeed was able to reach out to a few individuals who spoke out about their atheism. 

Hailing from various Arab countries - including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt - these individuals shared their personal stories, fears, and the familial and social challenges involved throughout their overall journey.

"I believe in morals"

Source: mmo-champion

Lamisse Farhat, 30 years old, Lebanon

Farhat was 16 years old when she ultimately stopped believing. For her, it wasn't Islam in specific that she no longer believed in, but rather religion altogether. 

"I was 16 when I kind of gave God a deadline. I told God: people are hungry, dying, in pain ... evil people are getting stronger and happier, and good people are either poor, sad, sick or dying. If you exist, you should stop it.  

If not, either you don’t exist or you are a cruel sadist. I think the result is clear!" Farhat told StepFeed. 

For her, beliefs are more than just following a particular system of faith and worship. 

"I believe in morals, in [doing] good, being kind to others and not harming anything or anyone," she added. 

Contrary to what you might think, Farhat's family members - who are non-practicing believers - were quite supportive of her decision, so long as she "does not offend anyone from any religious background." 

Her dad, she explained, is her number one fan. 

"Dad is my number one fan ... we talk about this stuff a lot and share the same views regarding extreme practices, stupid rituals, baseless stories, and superstitions," Farhat says. 

Outside of her immediate family circle, Farhat prefers not to talk about her views with others. 

"My number one problem with religious people is using Islam or other religions as a measure to judge whether people are good or not. The few times I did open up about being an atheist, I was either lectured or terrorized." 

Farhat is an atheist but believes there are beautiful morals in all religions. 

"I believe in all Islamic ethics [including] kindness, honesty, hard work, caring for the elderly, keeping secrets, family ties, being good to my parents ... [but] I don't believe in the afterlife," she said.  

"I find it really hard to abide by laws that were written hundreds of years ago, and that I should be doing what people living in the desert said I should do," she continued. 

"I'm from a religious family... I didn't come out to my family nor do I think they will be supportive"

Source: Patheos

Anonymous, 24 years old, Jordan 

"I was 21 when I went full atheist, but the [entire process from being Muslim to] non-Muslim to believing in God but not religion, to agnostic to atheist, took me 2 years," he explained. 

He does not believe in God, religion, nor in spirituality. 

"I do not believe in karma nor bad omens (which I define as spiritual) for example," he said. 

The 24-year-old goes on to explain that what shocks most people upon learning his beliefs, or lack thereof, is the fact that he comes from a religious family and was quite religious when he was younger. 

"My father is a Sheikh in a mosque and [has] a PhD in Sharia law. He is also an Islamic lawyer [mo7amy shar3eh] and used to work at the ministry of Islamic affairs ... I'm [basically] living under a mosque, like literally my house is the mosque's basement," he explained. 

When asked about how the process came about, he said that it was the Quran that pushed him in that direction.

"My breakthroughs didn't emerge out of scientific reasoning or scientific facts (even though it helped a lot,) it was more the Quran itself and Mesopotamian mythologies."

Considering his background, the 24-year-old chose not to tell his family. 

"I didn't come out to my family, nor do I think they'll be supportive," he told StepFeed. 

Most people in society do not accept him, but rather pity him, he said. 

"The majority [pities] me - since I'm going to hell [in their opinion] - while some [seek] to get into a debate with me in order to prove me wrong, [others] just accept it and move on. A minority just cannot believe it - they think I'm a lying Muslim in disguise," he said. 

"I'm simply a humanist"

Anonymous, 32 years old, Saudi Arabia/Lebanon

A 32-year-old man - born to a Saudi mother and a Lebanese father - tells StepFeed that he used to be a "very dedicated Muslim" while living with his parents in Jeddah. 

But, his views towards religion began changing while he was studying at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. He had encountered a professor who made students question their ideologies, putting a lot of his dormant questions out in the open. 

"I used to hate him, but now I can't thank him enough," he told StepFeed.

He goes on to explain that he does not consider himself an atheist nor an agnostic. 

"I am simply a humanist who respects both proof and evidence. The reason I don't accept the [mentioned labels] is because both of them say we are not theists. None of them really describe us, [they] only [make us out to be] the nail standing out," he added. 

"That in no way is a real description of who we are," he said.

The 32-year-old explained that it took thousands of debates with his family to reach some level of acceptance, although they still have a bit of false hope.

"Just like all religious people, they are waiting for the day God will have mercy on me and show me the right path." 

He - 99 percent of the time - chooses not to share this with people, and if he does, it requires something of a background check on the other person to have an idea of how said person would react. 

He does believe Islam is a significant part of history but doesn't see it as an essential part of today.

"At the time of its inception, it was implemented to solve issues - whether it later created hate, hope or war, it is part of our timeline. But, it shouldn't be here now," he said. 

"My family rejected my questioning and attributed it to mental illness when they lost hope in convincing me"

Omar, 23 years old, Egypt

The 23-year-old said that his decision to "leave Islam" wasn't something that happened overnight. 

"It was more of a gradual rejection of preconceived dogmas I had that started when I was about 14 years old. By the age of 18, I had fully rejected the concept of a consequential or interventional God." 

Omar considers himself an "indifferent agnostic" meaning he is "an atheist in terms of the common conceived notions of Gods or dieties." 

However, he "cannot fully reject the notion of a prime mover or initial cause for existence ... out of lack of information, more than anything else," he told StepFeed. 

"I do believe that the question itself of whether there is a God or not is banal and irrelevant," he added. 

Although his family rejected his questioning and "attributed it to mental illness when they lost hope" in changing Omar's mind - he still believes they have been supportive all throughout. 

"I haven't been physically threatened or rejected from my home because of it. I think I can say my family is supportive of my right to form my own opinions and have my own beliefs," he explained.

Despite his family's knowledge, Omar said that he prefers "not to bring it up in social circles except with close friends," and even then, it's not an in-depth discussion. 

It hasn't all been positive news for Omar. 

"I have gotten some aggressive reactions from people when I was more vocal about my atheism. One person refused to get in the same car with me once because of my beliefs. 

Others sometimes refuse to talk to me or even say 'hi' in social circles, and act distant. I remember being violently threatened by someone I didn't even know."

He goes on to explain that he has met devout Muslims who have engaged in open discussions and conversations about his atheism in a "friendly manner."

"Some of my closest friends are religious and it doesn't [cause] any problems in our friendship," he said.

Despite his atheism, Omar explains that he still goes with his father to Friday prayers as often as possible and observes the holy month of Ramadan. 

"I quite enjoy the anti-classist ritual in it [Friday prayer]. I also like to observe Ramadan and fast with the family. I enjoy the cultural experience of the festivities [which I believe] is a very nice experience."