There are many Muslims who get their hijabs or beards in a twist when they see Ex Muslims openly discussing the many flaws in Islam. They turn into full-blown dervishes when they hear us talk of our often horrific and brutal upbringings. They become defensive and say things like ‘Oh she/he hates her/his parents and so blames ALL of Islam for all the bad things that ever happened to them.’ Or ‘it’s not the religion but the parents’ fault for not practising the religion properly’ or the oft-cited cry of ‘you can’t blame Islam, blame the culture.’
They lay the blame on the ‘culture’ without realising that Islam is a culture. Cultures are made up from the legal, religious and political systems within any given land. Legal systems tell you what’s permissible and what will land you in jail (beating your wife or forcing your daughter into marriage is cultural to Islam because of Islam). Religious systems give people their moral values and the attributes of the god-head/religious leader are compasses by which people live their lives (polygamy, rape, child-sex, wife-beating, etc. are all ‘virtuous’ under Islam because Muhammad did these things and worse). The political system is a system of governance and in Islam the call is for a worldwide caliphate where everyone lives under sharia whether they be Muslim or not.
These are the reasons I can and do blame Islam for being a destructive presence in my life. I was raised as a Muslim not a Buddhist or a Catholic so what else is there to blame?
I didn’t choose to be a Muslim it was forced upon (just the same as all religious and political beliefs are forced upon children) and throughout my time living as a Muslim there were little to no choices I was allowed to make for myself. My Muslim father controlled every aspect of my life. Being a Muslim child in the west I was allowed no freedom. I was not allowed to go out, not allowed to wear ‘western clothes,’ not allowed to invite friends over who were not Muslim, not allowed to continue with my studies.
I was forced to go to mosque every day after school for a few hours, forced to learn to read the Koran and prayers. I learnt this in Arabic even though I spoke no Arabic and so had no idea what I was reading.
I was forced to leave school and forced into a marriage at the age of 18. The Imam who conducted the nikkah didn’t care that I was forced; he only cared about what my father wanted. And my father wanted me married off for becoming too Westernised.
I found the strength to leave the forced marriage after almost three years. I was then disowned by my family, extended family and the entire community because I refused to return to the family home where I would have been forced into another unwanted marriage. They didn’t have the decency to allow for an arranged marriage. At least then I would have had a say as to whether or not I was romantically interested in my future husband.
Even though I was disowned, I still identified as a Muslim for a long time. I didn’t know there was such a thing as ex-Muslim. I would tell people I was a Muslim, just not a very good one. This was because religious indoctrination runs deep, particularly with Islam. I was brainwashed every single day about hell-fire and damnation and feeling guilty about sinning – sinning generally meant not praying or not obeying your father and mother’s every demand, or even talking to the kaffir.
Social media allowed me to connect with other ex-Muslims. It was then I realised that I no longer had to describe myself as ‘not a very good Muslim’ yet still I struggled to call myself an ex-Muslim. It seemed like it was another label to add to the never-ending labels I had grown up with.
One day decided to finally call myself an ex-Muslim to give hope to others out there who were also trying to overcome the lies they had been fed. I had assumed this would be an easy enough process. I was not prepared for the hate that I would encounter from Muslims for calling myself an ex-Muslim and identifying as one. The hate that was directed at me from so-called peaceful Muslims online was shocking as was the hate that comes from the ‘liberals’ who without ever having grown up in a Muslim home defend Islam as being peaceful and tolerant. If only they knew what was said about them behind closed doors.
I definitely have the freedom to live my life more openly as an ex-Muslim. But it all comes with a price. Ex-Catholics and ex-Buddhists are in no danger of losing their heads if they choose a different path in life. I am not part of any Muslim community and the day Islam left me was one of the happiest days of my life, even though there is a heavy price to pay.