Maintaining patriarchy at home

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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.

Imaging Normalcy

It has been a while since I’ve blogged. I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to keep it together and get on with my life as normally as possible.

I never thought I’d say this, but at present I feel like I go to work to feel normal and useful. I feel like I have some purpose and I am able to immerse myself into something constructive and which I can control to provide me with suitable returns. Normally my work is fairly stressful, so the unfolding experience is interesting.

I spend my days waiting. I worry about my Mum. I hear her cries and I feel tearful. I want to reach out and grab the mobile to call her. But I don’t. At least not always. You see, I feel like I am going through a horrible break up. I want to be connected, I need the connection to feel secure. Yet, I am having to keep apart and give myself (and my mother) the space to evaluate this situation.

I miss my siblings who have disowned me. I feel sad that it has come to this end. I look over their photos, scrutinising their faces and finding our similarities. I want to see them and love them. And be loved in return. But I am also angry. I feel hurt at their betrayal. How could they accuse me of horrible things and let go of me because I no longer believe in their god? How disgraceful of them. Yet, I also look up to them. So much confusion and contradiction. I suppose being the youngest sibling has its drawbacks.

I miss my family. I fear that it will never be the same. I don’t know how long it’ll be this way, but patience is the key now. I have to keep it together and keep myself busy and going forward. I have everything and yet, without them, I am at loss.This conditioned existence is hard to overcome.

I feel angry with their imaginary god. Mum tries to preach to me about hellfire, but all she fuels is my desire to respond with mockery. I don;t believe in it. And if anything, I feel so sad that my mother is traumatised about hellfire. She truly believes her little baby will burn forever. How awful and how painful for her. I wish I could help her, but I don’t know how.

I guess the silver lining is that I no longer have to lie. I am truthful in my entirety. It came at a high cost. But, thinking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world. This is me, it’s nothing terrible nor radical. I hope I can convince them of that one day. Or, stop trying.

Happy Wednesday.

 

Trapped

This courageous ExMuslim woman is an inspiration. I feel her pain. There is nothing worse than missing you mum and wishing you could take all her pain away. But you can’t – not when you’re *apparently* the cause.

I hope time heals.

exmuslimgirl

It has been months since I have seen any of my family. My sister reached out to me a few weeks ago… the first I have heard from her since May. She tells me she misses me, and that her kids miss me, and why do I not go and see them. Why don’t I? Because I can’t erase what she said to me last time I was there, and above her latest text telling me she misses me, I see her text from months ago telling me I am the most selfish person in the world. For this reason, I don’t respond.

I want so badly to speak to my mum; it’s been about 6 weeks since I stopped replying to her texts. Prior to this I would send an odd message, but I stopped as I was still being blamed for the shame and pain I caused. I…

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Selfish or Self-less?

I have been so touched with the amount of wonderful and supportive messages on my journey from strangers around the globe – thank you! I am also so pleased to know that some ExMuslims found it inspirational and I can only hope that reading my experience makes them feel capable of also coming out one day.

I have also, unfortunately, been accused by strangers of tormenting my parents, being selfish person, etc. That hurt. Especially because some people feel reading one blog post gives them an accurate and whole insight into my life. Well, that is far far from the entire truth.

I know I don’t have to justify myself to anyone, but, being accused of being an awful daughter really does hurt me. I feel I should clarify some things so that it is out there in the open. I think people often forget that the coming out process does not occur in one single day, but rather it is a build up of many days and many experiences. It is not black and white, and indeed very grey and yet colourful.

If people knew more about me and my experiences with religion, they would know that I was extremely religious as a young person. I have been radicalised and I have brought myself out of that mindset. I have had a long journey of ten years. The transition from extreme religiosity to secularism and apostasy, has required me to wean my parents off the idea of what their daughter used to be, and what she is today. Yet in the great hope to remind them of the truth – that I am still the same loving daughter they always knew. My thoughts and values may have changed, but foundationally I am the same person. So, no, my parents have not been told this out of the blue. Rather, despite them being accustomed to my changes, the declaration of apostasy is still so potent. Therefore, my parents reaction.

To many I have been horrible to my parents. To them I say, no. I am not in the business of infantalising my parents and I want to give them the respect they deserve. I truly believe that while my parents are currently disappointed, in time they will overcome this because they are wonderfully resilient people who have overcome many trials and tribulations in their lives. So no, I am not as fatalistic as some. Of course, my parents have the right to be upset with me. But, I also have the right as their daughter to remind them of their love. I strongly believe that love can outshine the treachery of a zealous god. Call me naive, but I have a lifetime to wait and see what happens.

Ultimately, my point of sharing my experience, was to highlight the nuances of coming out to parents. We are humans and we feel sorrow and pain like any other. We are trying to navigate our social world with the tools we are given. We are tired of daily performances to keep up appearances. We are trying to make our lives better and be more honest to our loved ones. We want to coexist.

Twenty-Four Hours of being an “Out” ExMuslim

On 30 December 2015 I told my parents that I am no longer a Muslim and I am in love with an atheist man with whom I want to share the rest of my life. My parents were very unhappy with this, to say the least. Although I had prepared for this moment for a very long time, building up my courage to confront them with such news, when the moment came, it was very painful. I realised that no amount of preparation could have made me ready for this.

A few days leading up to the “D-Day” I had felt incredibly anxious and worried. I was experiencing the physical symptoms of high anxiety and panic, as well as, dire anticipation to get it over and done with. In the lead up to the day, I had to deal with betrayal from my dear sister and a once in a lifetime passive aggressive call from my eldest brother. I hardly had a relationship with my eldest brother and in recent years he was not caring towards me, yet he felt he could just call me up to tell me of his disappointment and emotionally blackmail me a bit. In the end I was told to keep my life hidden and do whatever I want in return of withholding the truth from my parents.

My sister’s betrayal and my brother’s call had made me spiral into a panic. I was grief stricken and devastatingly worried that what if this news actually kills my parents when it reached them? I was worried that my siblings may poison my parents against me and block me from keeping in contact with them. I was anxious of how the day will go and how to find the courage to face my fear of deeply hurting and disappointing my loving parents.

In the morning of the 30th of December, I woke up very early and numb. I can say I have never felt such fear and impending loss in my entire life before. I had never spoke to my parents about such a grave change in my life. It was pretty weird because although I know I have left Islam for ten years now, I knew that this news will be very new and fresh to my parents (despite them knowing about my changes from extreme religiosity to secularism). While I had gone over the shock years ago, my parents were going to enter the elementary phase of dealing with the news of apostasy. I was terrified for them, and I did not want to hurt them. But what other choice did I have? To lie forever? Anyways, I went there in the afternoon that day and after 5 hours of mulling over how to tell them, I finally felt the fear but also found my courage to speak with them about my apostasy.

The news of apostasy hit my parents like a ton of bricks with no escape. They were so deeply sad and tearful, and especially fearful for my afterlife. They feared my eternal damnation in hellfire. While I know this is rubbish and I don’t believe in it, for my elderly parents this is the truth. This is the truth they have been bought up with and living with for their whole lives. I felt so much anguish and guilt as I watched my parents wail and cry, and the fear in their eyes was so palpable. Not once did my sweet parents talk about their culture, their honour or their society. No, all they spoke of was how I could not believe in their Allah and that I had abandoned their ways. They were so incredibly distressed that when they rise in the hereafter their littlest baby wouldn’t be by their side. Now to someone who is not accustomed to religion they will not get this, but for my parents this was so real and they didn’t know what to say to protect me from hellfire. I cried sorrowfully with my Mum as I cradled her to stop crying. I reminded her and my father that I was still their dutiful daughter, I was still a good person and that I loved them very dearly. That I have carried this burden and lied to them for a very long time. That they taught me better than to feed parents lies and deceit. I told them that while they may not like me right now they should know that I loved them and I will always see them. I will see them, although I will also keep boundaries to protect myself as well.

The horror of that evening will be imprinted in my mind forever. My mother’s tears and the sound of her cries will live with me forever. I felt so deeply guilty and tried to plead that I only chose a different path but I was the same. My mother was inconsolable. But despite the sadness, as I was leaving their home, she requested me to eat dinner. That, is my mother’s love. My father was sat their simply crying and asking for me to reconsider my ways. He was a broken man. However, despite the sadness and the shock, my parents asked for me to come home and see them. They wanted to help me to return to their religion. I refused to return to their religion, but I accepted their invitation to visit them.

The journey home that evening was one I will never forget. Numbly I met my partner and we travelled home. The entire time I felt like a zombie, it felt so surreal. I had been thinking of this moment for an incredibly long time of my life. My whole adult life has been spent hiding parts of me from my parents, all the while flirting with being an ‘open’ ExMuslim. I guess that is why most people get confused with me and questioned whether I am ‘out’ or not. But now it was over and I had no idea what the future held. More than anything, I kept on visualising my mother and father being in hospital from having a heart attack! The catastrophizing in my brain went to crazy lengths that evening. When I arrived home, I was panicking. I had to speak to my mother. I could just remember her crying and I wanted to tell her again that I loved her. I wanted to tell her to read the letter I left for her because I wanted her to understand me properly.

I picked up the phone and called my Mum. My father answered and he spoke like a broken man. He was again just sad and he seemed helpless. Then I spoke to my Mum who was initially crying and begging, but as we spoke I felt that I was able to calm her by telling her that I am listening to her. I am listening because I want to acknowledge and respect her, but that it didn’t mean I’ll act upon it. I could slowly feel myself becoming calmer and also my Mum regain some composure. I realised that this is so new to my Mum that I need to give her time to process the news and also for her to make peace with it. I asked if she had disowned me and she boldly told me never. She wouldn’t disown me, but she would forever try to help me to what she thought was her truth. At this point, I was happy enough to know that my parents were still alive, they didn’t have a heart attack and that they were willing to talk and know me. They were happy about my partner and wanted to know him. But, they wanted us to try Islam again. I refused this but tried to calm my Mum and normalise the new me in her mind by just talking about other things. My Mum told me she felt I was her best child and that she was sure some “jinn” had got hold of me! Oh, my dear mother. I felt for her then. Her religion has rendered her a child. My mother is not an educated woman, but, she is loving and courageous, and in her loving way her little girl cannot be bad and disobey her lord knowingly. So, the only way for her to currently accept, is to think something is gravely wrong with a jinn in the mixture! When we ended the call we seemed to acknowledge each other and made plans to meet again.

The conversation with my mother filled me with hope. I felt sad and worried about what may happen in the future, but I was sure that, I will always try to be there for my parents and remind them of the good daughter that I am (thanks to their upbringing). I went to bed with a peaceful mind as for the first time I felt proud and courageous. I saw my integrity shine bright in my reflection. I stood by my values and managed to keep some relationship with my parents.

However, that peace and tranquillity was temporary. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a message from my eldest brother in our family group chat. He resumed his role as the family patriarch and declared to all that as I am now a kuffar, he and “his family” (e.g. my family) could not support my haram ways. My other siblings did not object. This disownment from my siblings shock me to the ground. I had a panic attack and feared that they will create a barrier between me and my mother. I know the power my elder siblings had in my family (especially my eldest brother) and therefore I was devastated. I truly felt unsure about how I can go about my life. I could not find a way out of this muddle. I couldn’t change myself, and really why should I have to?! I was not harming anyone with my disbelief. Nonetheless with some time, I learnt to overcome it. I am a resilient woman. The very next day I responded to my brother and then I left the group chat. I don’t need their input in all this. They truly have the choice to support my mother through this period of change, but they have chosen to put salt on her wounds. They have to live with that decision, not me. Recently, they also wanted me to sit down to explain why I’ve left Islam. Well, I’ll give them a final showdown, but in my own time. Right now I am too upset to battle with them (one I know I cannot win because there is no way they will disbelieve in their deity).

I spoke to my Mum again yesterday. She seemed better. She was still sad and repeated her calls to return to Islam. I listened patiently and told her I’ll be over with love and support but that I cannot do as she wants. If she truly believes in her God, she can pray for a better outcome.

I am in a better place today than few days ago.  I have felt fear, cowardice, courage, anger, betrayal, sadness, happiness and hope. I still don’t know what my future holds, but I know that on that day I took an important step towards the rest of my life. I am now a truthful person. I can live with my own integrity again. It may not be perfect with my parents and I have many more hoops to jump through, but I know I will make it. For as long as I am in control of my emotions and know my boundaries, I can have peace with my parents. They may need time to heal and that’s ok. I have time to be patient.

I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from my friends and adopted families! Not to forget my wonderful and loving partner and my dear brother (the only one out of four) who never stopped accepting me as his little sister.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem like such a bad ExMuslim “coming out” story. I hope sharing my experience can help others in similar positions. 🙂