Life goes on

I haven’t blogged for a few months.  It’s been an interesting turn of events and I think I’ve made the best decision available to me.

Things are, by appearance, better with my parents. They don’t accept me as I am but we’ve found a compromise and they have shown their potential to change. I made a decision to accommodate aging and frail parents. I don’t regret it and I’m happy I can be in their lives. Despite all that happened I was never entirely disowned, although they wanted to change me.  In the end I just saw the suffering of my parents who no matter what will love their child and fear their lord.  Tragic for them to be in such a situation – but that is something that cannot be changed over night.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel a deep sadness at my compromised situation. There are two aspects of me and my integrity. On the one hand, I am the woman who wants to be true to herself, be independent and keep her personal integrity which is so deeply linked to her mental image of herself. On the other hand, I am the dutiful daughter who loves her parents very deeply and wants to be in their lives. So yeah, life is comfortably in limbo. I think sometimes the flaw is wanting to have everything *right*. It’ll never be perfect with them, it’ll always bit a little distant and bittersweet. But, I am grateful for the relationship I have with them.

In other news, I enjoyed a great holiday! Now back to the bleak reality of a future in UK post Brexit…

An attempt at creative writing?

So I haven’t blogged for a while. This is both good and bad – I’m more inclined to go with the former.

Anyway I have been thinking lately about doing some creative writing. I am ill today. So as I lay in bed I thought of attempting some creative writing piece.

Any comments or tips on creative writing will be most welcomed! I haven’t penned fictional writing since GCSE days!

D-Day

escape

Nabeela fiddled with her clammy hands while she anxiously sat on the small foot stool besides her bed. A thousand thoughts were racing through her head. “Will this work? Would anyone notice? Shit what if I get caught?!”

It was 5am and today was her D-Day. Nabeela spent years thinking about this day. Through her determination, tenacity and forethought, she meticulously planned every aspect of how this moment would pass. Yet, here she irritatedly sat waiting for 4:15am. Today 15 minutes seemed like eternity.

SLAM!

The bathroom door was slammed close. Breathing heavily and fast Nabeela wondered who that might be. She desperately hoped it would be her little sister and not her Mum. Her mother is a light sleeper and if she were to be up right now, she would not go back to sleep and… then she might be awake and hear everything! – “No, no, no…!” thought Nabeela. She couldn’t bare another day in this hell hole – she had to escape. Today was the day. Finally the moment she had planned for the last few weeks was so close – she couldn’t bear the thought of losing it.

A few moments passed. Nabeela firmly, but quietly, pressed her small ears against the bedroom door. She was playing her usual detective game – by now her anxiety made her quite well attuned to noises by now to noises in the hallway.  She hoped that by hearing the footsteps of the person exiting the bathroom would give her a clue on who had occupied it. The rapid footsteps on the ground reverberated in her left ear and a weakening of her racing heartbeats appeared. It was Samaara. The little one had rushed back to bed as the morning darkness gave her the creeps. Nabeela felt her tensed shoulders relax a little and felt a somewhat unburdened for a brief moment. She smiled and shed a tear. She thought of her little baby sister. She would miss her so much. But what option she did have? Just because she couldn’t rescue both of them didn’t mean she shouldn’t try to at least rescue herself. She owed herself that much. And who knew, maybe one day she can save Samaara too? Right now she had to do what was needed to survive and be in control of her life.

As Nabeela sat there, she watched the clock. It was 4:10am. In 5 minutes time, she would have to slowly make her move. In that very moment she felt the strong urge to cry. A string of salty tears covered her smooth brown cheeks. She felt heartbroken and crippled. She knew that after today everything will change. She knew she would simultaneous lose control and gain control. But the pain she felt today was the most immense feeling ever which made her feel truly overwhelmed. Through her watery eyes and blurred vision she reach out for her tissue box. It was empty. With a deep sigh Nabeela pulled up her headscarf and used it to wipe away her tears. It comes handy sometimes. She thought about the irony of this moment and lightly chuckled at herself.

It was 4:12 am. She couldn’t stop clock-watching. It is a habit which drives her incredibly mad, but the alternative of not knowing, and not planning to every little detail just was not possible. She knew she had to be at the living room window at precisely 4:15 am. She had to carry all her worldly possessions in two plastic black bin bags and chuck them outside for her boyfriend to collect them and put into his car. She had to do this so exactly because if she waited for it to be 4:30am then her parents fajr alarm would go off. They would wake up and hear the noise of the front door closing. The consequences of what may follow that made her shudder with fear. No, this alternative was not a choice.

In 2 minutes time Nabeela was going to run away from home. The only home she ever knew for the last 18 years of her life. She stared at her mocha-cream bedroom door. She took a deep breath and slowly and quietly twisted the silver door handle…

 

Thank you for reading. 🙂

~X~

On gender segregation – “You either help us or quit being part of the problem”

download

The latest entry into the tragic chronology of gender segregation at British universities is the unsettling incident at London School of Economics (LSE). The LSESU Islamic Society decided to hold a segregated event (with cleverly personalised invites to “brothers” and “sisters”) for their members and unsurprisingly some LSESU officers happily joined in this sordid affair. The General Secretary of the LSESU Nona Buckley-Irvine was very pleased about the event and declared that as a feminist she saw no problem with this gender segregation. I mean, I guess if brown Muslim women want to have their rights reduced, why should she care? As a privileged white feminist she clearly has no concern in this matter – for her it was a simply colourful cultural exchange where cute Muslims sit separately in case some lustful event take place between the opposite genders. Inequality against brown women is not a concern. Anyways, this is another incident in the long list of gender segregated events held at universities with the blessing of the NUS or its Officers.

The scores of gender segregated events by ISOCs at British Universities is a national disgrace. Campaigners have fought hard and gained some victories such as the over-turning of the ridiculous gender segregation guidelines once set by Universities UK. However, evidently there is more to be done. This isn’t a case of only the culture set by the leaders and administrators of the institutions, but also about the culture and mind-set of the young people at universities in UK. It is depressing to see so-called liberal and lefty feminists, such as Nona Buckley-Irvine, support gender segregation and really seem aghast that someone would complain against that. She is an example of the illness that has creeped into the minds of many young people at university. Any criticism of discriminatory religious traditions (such as gender segregation) are vilified as Islamophobia. This is dangerous because it sets a precedence that one cannot criticise a religion separate without it being conflated as attacking the follower of the religion. It also alienates many people of Muslim heritage who do not adhere to and frankly find it disgusting to segregate people on the basis of their gender. When non-Muslim students at universities support discriminatory behaviour they highlight the weakness in their understanding of the nuances within the cultures they claim to support. What they perceive as a fun cultural exchange is the trauma and subjugation of many from the colourful cultures. It is frustrating to see this happening.

However, maybe it’s not all gloom and doom. Thinking about gender segregation reminds me of my own experience with this. Today we are in a fortunate place where at least some are speaking up against it. The culture is changing in that some are able to see that it is gender apartheid and that it mustn’t be accepted. I guess with all the frustration it is sometimes easy to forget that change IS happening in comparison to how it was 15 years ago. I give you a snippet of my experience with gender segregation. When I was a young impressionable 15 year old, my exposure to the world of universities was through my HT (Hizb ut-Tahrir) sister who took me to ISOC & HT events held at university lecture halls. Obviously they were gender segregated as well. Mostly the “sisters” would sit at the back, and if you’re lucky, on the left side. I found it odd, but also I thought something like “oh wow look they are accommodating us and my, my, one day the glorious Khilafah will be here and we can be like this everywhere!” It was fascinating for me to see the marriage of young aspirational Muslim students being all political and engaging on this platform in an “Islamic” way. But I also remember it made me feel uncomfortable in that why was being a woman so lustful? I felt ashamed of my body and thought this was God’s way of reminding me of my potential fitnah. This was back in 2000. Now you may wonder why I went along with it back then. Well a) I was quite a radicalised and Islamist young girl, b) this was my first exposure to the intellectual world of university, c) in my strict Islamist eyes gender segregation was obligatory to maintain lest we become lustful. I remember the sexual tension palpable in the air as “brothers” and “sisters” gaze at each other a split second and look away. Back then no one at the institution thought this was wrong or spoke up against it. I wonder if there were older women there who felt the way I do today? Such gender discrimination was able to go on unnoticed and unchallenged.

Anyways that was at university. At home I was intent on making this go as Islamically as possible too. Never mind it was undermining my rights – but hey we do what God askes of us slaves. At my sister’s wedding that year I created a big fuss at home over gender segregation at her wedding. My sister and I went to lengths to hire a hall which would accommodate our gender segregation aims. On the wedding day we managed to upset most of our uncles (with whom we had grown up with and known since childhood) because we didn’t let them enter into the “sisters” area to see the bride. Our uncles (non-mahram kind) were cultural Muslims and found our new fundamentalism astonishing and disrespectful. They were so upset they decided to boycott the wedding! Back then I thought how awful and rude of them. But thinking about it now – perhaps they were onto something. Again as a young kid following my sister to uphold the banner of Islam felt like a mighty privilege.

Thankfully I grew up and wanted full equality as a woman. Today, I stand firmly against gender segregation because it is discriminatory. While I once participated in it and enforced it, my personal journey has led me to now reject it. I was a child when I did such things. When I left Islam, this was one of the associated beliefs that I also happily let go of. The UCL debate between Laurence Krauss and Hamza Tzortzis was the first time since I left Islam that I gone to a debate at a university and I was faced with enforced gender segregated seating. That day my feelings were so mixed. Here I was 12 years later and I didn’t want to sit in the “sisters” area. I didn’t want to be discriminated against for being a female. I wanted to sit with my partner and friends. The events of that day will be etched in my mind forever. I remember I wanted to get up and move to the men’s area, in Rosa Park’s style, but I felt crippled and afraid. I was afraid of the stigma attached to this act. At that point it was so vividly clear to me that all those years ago when I went to HT talks at universities perhaps there were woman there like me today, who didn’t want to be discriminated but felt ashamed to speak up against it on the day.

Times have now changed and I will speak up. I will speak up against it at home, in public and most definitely to the non-Muslim women and men at British universities who make it their business to support gender segregation. To them I say: You are not part of this community, you have no understanding, so please mind your business. Either help us reform our communities and spaces or refrain from making it worse. It is not islamophobic to criticise human rights violations promoted by the Islamist ideology. It is not an attack on Muslims. You either help us or quit being part of the problem.

We cannot stop – we must continue to fight

mandatory-hijab-protest-veil-iran-masih-alinejad-stealthy-freedom-10__700

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the recent Vice documentary on the rescue of an ExMuslim Atheist from Saudi Arabia – it was incredibly heart-breaking and yet uplifting. The documentary follows the story of Rana, a woman in Saudi Arabia who upon leaving Islam went through a turbulent journey to escape her homeland leaving behind her family and threats of violence since leaving Islam allows the state to enact the death penalty. Rana did not “come out” in her homeland because it was impossible for her as a woman to express her views freely without dire consequences. Rana had bravely tweeted a photo of her declaring her atheism in Mecca which alerted a group of ExMuslims in the UK and US, and the Atheist Republic organisation to raise awareness of her plight and some funds to help her make the journey. Her determination and courage saw her through some difficult and uncertain moments in her long journey to Western Europe.

It was a timely reminder that many people in the world suffer so much because they are pressured into following the societal norms and codes of behaviour. In some places, such as Saudi Arabia, the cost of speaking up is high that many seldom escape. In this backdrop, the triumphant and turbulent journey of Rana was so powerful because she escaped a world which kept her a prisoner. Both physically and mentally. She was unable to speak out and be herself. Her crime – disbelieving in Islam. Hardly an earth-shattering revelation you may say, but for Ex-Muslims it is a fundamental aspect of their life. Rejecting the Islam can seem akin to leaving and rejecting the family. How tragic a circumstance, because often the person leaving Islam doesn’t reject or want to reject the family – rather by disassociating with the religion, the family reject them. Or at the very least, display their ritual dislike for the new kafir in the family (e.g. by giving them a different cup – not used by other family members – to sip tea, or withdrawn their invitation to visit the family home).

Rana so bravely shared her powerful story. It is so innocent and sweet, and so harmless. She only wanted to proclaim her rejection of Islam and thereby not be expected to follow the behaviour codes of the religion. She only wanted to take the hijab off and feel the breeze in her hair. She only wanted to listen to music and dance to the rhythms in joy. She only wanted to be equal to a man and not have to need a male guardian to accompany her at all times. Hardly a reason for her to go through such difficult lengths to finally gain her freedom. Yet, she had to because she had no other choice. Either find her own path or remain oppressed in Saudi Arabia. Her positive nature and desire for a better future led her to meet other ExMuslims who gave her much needed help and support. Her networking with ExMuslims gave her more courage to continue her journey despite the high costs. Her prized freedom was at stake and she did anything and everything she can to find a way out. At the end of the documentary, you can see that she is in Europe and is happy despite the turbulent and uncertain journey she had to undertake. Her motivation to keep on going and fighting for her basic human rights had underpinned everything. Today she lives freely, but she is estranged from family and fears for her life. Most apostates have few common rotten choices; get killed, become estranged, become ritually hated. In very few cases, they are accepted. If only that were the majority.

Watching the journey Rana had to endure to find her freedom resonated so much with me. I shed tears watching her anxiety, her trauma and her unwavering resilience. Such a powerful story of bravery. It was apparent from the beginning that this young woman was so determined to live and had such strong self-belief. She was afraid yet she felt the fear and found the courage to march forward. She clearly misses her family; noting key aspects such as her mother’s food, but she smiles away the pain by feeling the breeze in her hair. She talks about her new life and freedom, and she talks about her sadness and isolation. When basic human rights are hard won, the joy of achievement is just so thrilling. It was an entangled experience I was all too familiar with.

This documentary highlighted one very important point. The importance of marching on and continue fighting for our basic human rights. To do something and make some difference, than sit back and do nothing. If Rana from Saudi Arabia can fight for her right to make her own choices, than surely in the West (where we are granted liberties by the state) we can also do something? I think about myself; I am an ExMuslim Atheist in the West. I have a good job, a loving and stable relationship, good set of friends, etc. Yes, I also have incredible trauma with my family and battling mental illness. Yet I feel that with the privileged position I have in the West, I cannot sit back and do nothing. When I say to do something, I don’t mean having to go out in the public and speak up and protest, etc. No, what I mean is, keep on battling in your personal lives; whether it is in a personal capacity with your family or on a social capacity with the public. Small incremental changes in each one of our lives makes a collective difference in our society. The very fact that you struggle to be heard and to be free to live by your own choices, is making a stand. Watching other ExMuslims from Muslim majority countries bring change makes me realise that in the West there is more we can do. It is no doubt very difficult, but if we build allies we can rise up in numbers.

It is also inspiring to know that many other secularists of Muslim heritage are also speaking up in high numbers. Every time I hear something from secular feminists such as Deeyah Khan, Mona Eltahawy, Karima Bennoune I am filled with joy and courage. These woman speak up for me. They are fighting for rights within their communities and that we as ExMuslims are a part of that community. They may not agree with all of my thoughts on God or Islam, but that is actually not important. What we all agree upon is the fundamental right of a human being to be able to make choices for themselves and then be free to act upon their choices. Coexistence is the key here. We fight for women to be able to stand equally in society and make a difference to their lives, and for our future generations.

This makes me feel nostalgic. Ten years ago when I left Islam, I only knew about the Council of ExMuslims of Britain (CEMB). Today there are so many more around such as Faith to Faithless, ExMuslims of North America (EXMNA), and many other underground ExMuslim networks which prefer to stay hidden to protect those who are not ready to come out. It is amazing to see that when one of us “comes out”, it propels a few other to also take that step. This snowball effect is amazing to see in action. Of course, it also means, we are on the frontline and the casualty is high. But, something new and something wonderful is happening. No doubt painful – but nothing worth fighting for is gained easily.

This is certainly the key motivator for me.

Time heals?

I visited my parents last week after 5 weeks. This was also the third visit to my parents since the big reveal. The visit was a very interesting one and I must say, expectedly, much better.

I arranged to accompany my mother to a routine hospital appointment in the hope that we’ll get some time alone (without my dad around) and perhaps rebuild some of our relationship. My mum too was eager to see me, like me she missed me, and she had hoped she can talk me back to the “right path”. She told me so on the phone. When I got there my mum greeted me normally, and my dad seemed to be pretty routine too. I was a bit startled by that. I was expecting sorrowful faces and requests for change. Instead, my mum offered me to eat and spoke about the weather, her health, etc. This was oddly nice and felt happy about it. Then my mother made some comments about whether I had given more thought to her requests to change and think about God. I nodded and told her that I do take note of her requests, but that change was up to me. She mumbled her disapproval and then went away. I giggled at this. Had it already healed? Has my mum come to accept it to some extent? She didn’t cry. She wasn’t shouting. She wasn’t even angry. She was sad, but sad and in denial. She was hopeful that maybe shaitaan will release me some day.

As the day went by, we had not discussed my apostasy much in a dramatic way. Rather, it was mentioned in passing and with a few sighs and disappointed looks. In fact, my mother confided in me about troubles with my other siblings. It made me realise that, while she is upset with me, she is also upset with the others. It also seemed like my issue was not her biggest worry – or at least the most impacting at present. She worried about my “afterlife” more than my actual life! While my mum was happy with me for a bit, I took the liberty to remind her that I had a lovely partner in my life and that they mustn’t forget that. That we are a package now and that they will have to come to accept him and my choices. I showed my mum my partner’s photo and she smiled. She said he was handsome, but obviously needed a god too (apparently)! This was progress.

My mum reminded me something that day. She told me she hasn’t and won’t disown me. But that, she can only accept me if we abide by her rules. She kept on muttering that. But her actions showed something else. She was, somewhat, accepting me without me abiding by her rules. It is a tough decision for her to make as it goes against her way of life – but love is stronger. I hope it remains this way.

I came home smiling that day. This was the first time in 2 months that we sat together and talked and ate food. We did not cry or argue. We disagreed but it was civil. I know there is more to battle ahead, but this gave me some hope. Perhaps time and space does heal wounds – or at least become less pronounced. In any case, I wanted to share a good experience in my life.

Some thoughts on hijab (as published on Double Bind)

Last week I wrote the following article for the new Double Bind magazine. I would encourage everyone visit this magazine as it is a wonderful new platform giving space to unheard and often ignored voices of dissenters within Muslim communities. Below is some text from their “About Us” section.

“Double Bind features predominantly female writers from a Muslim background who understand what it’s like to face oppression based on gender within our communities, and discrimination based on faith or skin colour outside of it.

… our concerns have for the most part been dismissed by all except those who use our stories to fuel racism and xenophobia; who call for refugees escaping from torture and risk of death to be left to die in the water, or others who care little for women but will become vocal about sexist abuse when perpetrated within minority communities. Ironically, an unacceptable number of activists and campaigners intent on combatting the tide of right-wing hatred towards minorities has only served to exacerbate it further by  dismissing and denying the experiences of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.

No culture is perfect, and criminals exist of all faiths and backgrounds. To pretend otherwise is both disingenuous and dangerous, and it is incumbent upon each of us to challenge human rights abuses wherever they arise. We reject any form of marginalisation relating to gender, faith or sexuality, and we will no longer have our voices usurped by others. Here, we speak for ourselves.”

http://doublebindmagazine.com/aboutAs an ExMuslim woman who wore the hijab and who openly disagrees with it, I wanted to wade into the discussion of hijab and mainstream fashion trends. Here’s my article published on the Double Bind.

 

As an ExMuslim woman who wore the hijab and who openly disagrees with it, I wanted to wade into the discussion of hijab and mainstream fashion trends. Here’s my article published on the Double Bind.

“Having followed news about the onset of global hijab fashion trends and ‘modest’ clothing lines, I am conflicted about whether the normalisation of Islamic attire is a good step forward or whether in reality it dismisses the brutal experiences of some who wear hijab.

When I used to wear it, the idea of putting earrings on, or a attaching a sparkly, colourful chain on my scarf would have been unacceptable, because the whole point of it was to remain modest and deter male attention. But the hijab of the fashion world seems to be little more than a pretty accessory. This raises so many questions for me, because by emptying the hijab of religious meaning there is a dismissal of the fact that many women are coerced into wearing it. I am all for adult hijabi women who truly choose to wear the headscarf to do so in whatever way they want, but I also recognise that perhaps the young girls who follow changing hijab fashions are doing so because that is the only form of self-expression allowed to them within their communities. I am all too aware of the many young girls who are forced to wear it and who now only have the ‘choice’ of a few colourful trends to console themselves with. Does this enforce their subjugation or does it give them an outlet for self-expression?

By way of background, I used to sport the hijab and jilbab in my teenage years as a Muslim. After 6 years I took it off for several reasons, not least because of the fact that I am now an ex-Muslim. Below is a snippet from a journal entry early last year. I wrote it after an incident with my parents, when my mum insisted that I resume wearing it again to hide my ‘disgusting female body’.

“I cannot wear the hijab because it means more than a headscarf. I despise it for many reasons, such as the fact that I am perceived as a sexual object requiring covering. I cannot, for the life of me, separate the ‘cloth’ from all the symbols and representation that comes with it. I cannot wear a hijab because it reminds me of dark days when I was trapped, and I promised myself I would never go into that cocoon again. The hijab comes with expectations and a strict code of behaviour. The hijab incapacitates my ability as a woman to be seen as a human being, to be on an equal standing with a man. The hijab restricts my movement, it makes me hide and feel incapable of socialising in public and with men (without guilt and long stares). The hijab removes my femininity, dismisses my aspirations and desires as woman. The hijab mutilates my sexuality. The hijab makes me feel like a sex object and completely worthless.”

In my opinion I think it is dangerous and misleading for the fashion industry to promote hijab fashion. Of course there is huge demand from some consumers in this spiritual supermarket for pretty hijabs and jilbabs. What the industry forgets – or simply does not care about – is that it removes every bit of meaning and conditioning attached to that piece of clothing. For them it is little more than a money-making strategy, and an irresponsible one at that. When you look into what the hijab means, it is defined as a piece of clothing to cover the awrah, or ‘private parts’. In simple terms, the woman is reduced toawrah and must be covered. Many women around the world are coerced into wearing hijab because their religion dictates that they should – or they will face the burning flames of hellfire. The hijab is a symbol of ‘modesty’ that promotes an unjust purity culture. This means that a woman’s character is judged on whether she is sporting it or not. It is a tool (given legitimacy by religion and promoted by conservative patriarchal cultures) used to control a woman’s behaviour: it is a weapon of subjugation.

I personally am against the idea that hijab can be a mere fashion trend. I feel that it perpetuates a misguided perspective that wearing it is always a choice. I do not support a culture that celebrates hijab and the oppression of many women. I know some hijabis who claim it is, but I find it hard to believe it is a choice when the consequences of not wearing the one for all too many women is the accusation that they are not obeying Allah and that they are destined for hellfire simply for displaying her hair. Or perhaps they are perceived as loose and immodest without appropriate veiling. Nonetheless I am also a secularist, and as such, I do accept an adult woman’s sincere choice to adorn herself in whatever she may wish despite, my personal views against it. But I am strongly against the promotion of hijab for children (such as the hijab Barbie) – this is just plain wrong. Children cannot make a reasoned choice to wear a hijab and neither should their bodies be sexualised.

I had a damn hard time taking off hijab, and I still suffer the shaming consequences of it.”

http://doublebindmagazine.com/297-2

Suffering

Suffering is a human condition. What separates each of us is how we deal with the suffering we face. Do we scream and wail to feel the harsh vibrations of this debilitating emotion or do we silently shed tears to dry on their own? I have been thinking a lot of about suffering lately. I am suffering a great deal because I am trying to come to terms with accepting a life without my family. Just few days ago I was invited by my elder brother and sister to have that long awaited “chat” with them about my disbelief. My mother pleaded for me to accept and discuss with them (in the hope that some change may occur). I simply accepted this offer; after all I’m still naively eager for acceptance. For the last few days I wondered why I had done this, and why I was taking it so lightly. I mean, I was going to walk into a lion’s den, and yet I appeared to be calm about it.

Days went by and my anxiety grew. I thought of whether they wanted to talk to me to lovingly tell me what they thought would be a better way for me? Or that maybe they truly wanted to tell their little sister to not make this life mistake by forsaking their God. Thoughts of reuniting with them gave me comfort and terror. Anticipation of a bittersweet ceremony. I spoke to a few of my close loved ones and all highly disagreed with this proposition. They felt that it was not going to work out well and that simply it was way too early to get into such a situation where I would be outnumbered and simply, beaten through emotional manipulation and abuse. Even though my intention of going into this was only to “stand up” for myself and speak my mind, in reality I would be entering into an unequal territory and conversation. They don’t want to hear me. They want to control me and keep me in line. Why should I put up with such abusive behaviour?

Abuse. That’s when the penny dropped. I cannot imagine my family and abuse being in the same category. I don’t want to accept that, perhaps, there is some abuse going on there. That perhaps they are being vile and unaccepting of me, and they simply wanted to be seen as the saviours in our family dynamic. They wanted to save my parents from the evil horrors of their younger sister. I find it so hard to believe this. I believe a part of this is because I am unable to accept myself being the victim of abuse from my family. I always say I am lucky as my family have never ever been physically abusive and nor have they threatened me. However, this emotional manipulation and abuse through the systems of honour and shame have been crippling me. I speak about the horrors of this, and yet, how could I not comprehend that I myself was living through this?

Abuse. It is a hard term to swallow. A hard acceptance to know that perhaps you’re the victim. Despite feeling supremely strong and brave at times, I feel like I am a victim of my experiences and family. I want to be angry to tell them this is not fair. I want to say that I’ll be completely ok without them and that why should I want such people in my life who do not accept me, and simply, wish to control me? I mean, after all, isn’t the whole purpose of this meeting for them to “understand” me and then somehow want me to “seek their permission” for me to change, and be the way I am. I know they’re not bad people, but even good people can be abusive because all they know is how to control because they are simply insecure.

Validation. That is key. Pursuit of validation from family compounds the inability to recognise abuse and to acknowledge it. Pursuit of validation from others gives us little self-worth. But then why do I seek it? I have become this woman who on the face of it has it all together, but, look deeper and you’ll see the fragmented pieces. Although I know true validation comes from oneself, in reality, practising it is pretty darn hard.

Validation. Abuse. Control. Survival. Suffering. All very important conditions to deal with make me overwhelmed at times. I am not speaking of this because I am weak. I speak of this because a family based on a religious and cultural upbringing which demands such levels of conformity leaves a person this impacted.

Nonetheless, suffering is a human condition. What matters is how we deal with it. Today, I chose to share it.

~x~

 

Edit: This post has been cross-posted  on the Double Bind Magazine.

 

Repetitions

sorrow

Every day I wake up with a knot in my stomach. I feel anxious and worried. I feel awkward from the weird and obnoxious (yet similar) dreams I saw that night. I feel fearful of my future. After a cup of tea, a check through my emails and a little benign banter with my colleagues, I start to feel a little normal again. The usual trawling through Facebook and Twitter posts keeps me entertained for a bit. A little bit of normality returning to my otherwise disjointed existence. Soon after work, meetings and deadlines takeover. Having to challenge, persuade and convince people for a living makes me feel like perhaps I can do this. I can win at work, so I can win at life as well! Including with my family…! In my ambition to keep myself fully busy and distracted, after work I either go home to my loving partner or meet some friends for company. Seems pleasant, bitter-sweet conversations fill the evening until night time beckons.

Night time. Once a pleasant time of the day, now became a time to avoid. I long to keep the evening going forever. Chit chat and laughter with my partner, watching silly TV shows, ranting on Twitter. I try to keep such happy and comforting moments going on for as long as possible. You see, I’m afraid. I’m afraid to sleep. I’m afraid of what tomorrow will bring. I’m afraid that my mother will die from the grief she feels because of her inability to accept my choices. I feel fear and guilt. I fear that I’ll see a horrible nightmare again. What will it be this time? People dying? Me being unable to escape a maze? My partner cheating on me? My partner and family laughing at me? Being naked and exposed while people laugh at me? Oh it’s endless. Feels totally dramatic and stupid – but – these are all true dreams (or more like nightmares) of the past few weeks. What I struggle suppress and avoid all day, comes to haunt me at night. I have no escape and my unconscious mind takes over and likes to taunt me.

Come Friday, some sanity returns. It’s the weekend, I can rest. I am eagerly awaiting the moment I can just put my feet up and think about nothing. This lasts for a day or so. But, such happiness is temporary. Shortly afterwards on Sunday, I am bitterly upset about having this time to myself. Horrible thoughts and painful experiences with my family come back like a ton of bricks. Even when I want to rest, I seem incapable of it. This leaves me with the burning desire to connect with them. I hesitantly pick up the phone and brace myself for the call. I want to hear their voices – I miss my mum and dad. They answer and all I hear is love with disappointment.

My father has become a broken man. My mother repeats all the time. She doesn’t get it. They don’t get it. Am I being impatient and wanting their acceptance so quickly? Maybe. But, the alternative of waiting around and giving time is most definitely not easy. The phone conversation with my mother is so sad. It’s so hopeless and yet like a ritual I fall into it. We want to embrace the drama and feel the anguish. I grew up in it, it’s no surprise I still seek it out.

It’s been 5 weeks now, but it feels like a very long time to me. Crying over stupid shit just isn’t so great. And the more they try to convince me of their God, the more I hate the idea of any God or religion. Such a terribly futile cycle. The years of indoctrination of religion and a culture influenced by such a religion, leaves me a miserable and guilt-ridden wreck. I feel ashamed of things I shouldn’t. I feel as though I have let down my family. But I know I’m right and I did the right thing. But then, why am I still the one going through this pain? Facing rejection and emotional blackmail because I chose to think for myself? I know I’m right; I’m introspective enough. Yet, the years of my conditioning as a Muslim woman, has left me like this. Social stigma and becoming a social pariah are such horrible punishments passed on women like me. My crime? Leaving Islam and choosing a non-Muslim partner. And yet, it hurts. Yet, I cry. I miss my family. The only family who will know my childhood.

I guess I will do this until one day I don’t. Until that time, this is my life.

Maintaining patriarchy at home

shaheen_dhada_1353395229_1353395233_540x540-2

I wrote a poem on the women in my family who love to maintain the patriarchy that controls all of us. They use the laid out hierarchy to further their own positions and keep the younger ones in line. At the end of the day it is all about controlling my life choices – whatever they may be.

I am trying to find a way beyond the hurt and the pain.

She professes strength and loyalty,
Yet her emotional blackmailing betrays her sincerity.
She accuses me of selfishness and immorality,
Yet I am the one displaying honesty.

Unthinkable to her is a deviation from their narrow path,
Shunning those who dare.
She perceives me as a disease to her community,
Whom she simply cannot spare.

But why must I stay silent and allow her to promote her intolerance?
Why should I perceive myself through her lens of disobedience?
I never asked for her permission to live my life, I simply showed respect.
I honoured her request to be told, I don’t need her to accept.

Joy(less) Afterlife

My dear mother tells me about hell fire, reminding me about the awful torture and frightening beasts that shall await me, to somehow persuade me to believe again. But all it does is makes my conviction in my disbelief stronger. I don’t think it registers that every time she tells me about some hot oil being poured over my skin making my skin blister and peel away that it just makes me angrier. It doesn’t make me feel afraid of this ghastly deity. No. It makes me despise the mythical and sadistic God that she bows down to.

I told her to stop talking about hell fire because clearly isn’t making a difference for the better. In her sweetness she then begins to talk about heaven and how that is what I should aim for. She gleefully talks about the joys of heaven and the bounty that could be mine if I silently obey. Well, it hurts to tell my mum, but really that makes no difference either. In anything, it sounds rather silly and boring. If anything, it’s really not got much to give women in heaven. And let’s not forget that ALL of the normal human desires which have to be restricted in this world can be unleashed rampantly in the afterlife. I mean, isn’t that weird? Surely if it is something so terrible that humans must avoid (such as alcohol), then why is the supposed All-Knowing going to reward his slaves with it in the hereafter? It makes no sense to me. It’s just a sadistic game which the followers seem to lap up. I guess it is a security that many like to have (for whatever reason) and if it works for them, fine. But, it doesn’t work for me.

I told my mother that why on earth would I respect or believe in a deity which takes pleasure in allowing some people to enter into heaven, but at the same time torture others in hell? That is sadistic and it’s not moral.

I am tired of having the same conversations over and over again. I know she’s still in shock and I want to be patient. But it is difficult. And, the more she tries to bring me closer to her God, the more I despise him.