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. 🙂

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39 thoughts on “Twenty-Four Hours of being an “Out” ExMuslim

  1. Rahima says:

    I am so happy that you’ve been able to do this. I could never imagine ‘coming out’ being a reality for me. I truly believe my family would do something terrible to me or kick me out of the house & I can’t imagine a life without them.
    If you don’t mind me asking, are you a British Bangladeshi?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Discursive Musings says:

      Hi Rahima, thanks for your comment. I am sorry you feel you cannot come out to your parents. I truly hope one day your situation allows you to follow the path your heart desires instead. You know I also imagined the worst, but actually I think the fear is so much worse than the reality. E.g. I was sure my elderly ill parents would have a heart attack, but in reality they are of course sad, but still in relatively normal health. I also cannot imagine life without them forever. However, I think in the meantime some back and forth movements may occur until we find an acceptable space. Bear in mind it takes around roughly up to 2 yrs for a person to come to accept something new. So I am hopeful. Maybe foolishly? But only time will tell. For me it is important to know that I tried my best. And yes, I am British with Bangladeshi heritage. I wish you all the best in your journey!

      Like

  2. madhat2014 says:

    That’s an amazing story, given it happened over so short a time. Give your family some time to adjust, grieve (yes grieve) for the loss of the person they believed you to be, and to get to know the new/real you.

    I especially love the sound of your mum.

    Much love, hope and peace to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. abooali says:

    Things will get easier. Stick to your guns but at the same time be loving and compassionate to your parents. In time they will come round. Speaking as a father, the only essential thing to a parent is that their child is happy and well. They will learn to live with anything else. Thank you for sharing. Best wishes. Hassan.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. alanflynn says:

    Any way you look at this as a rationalist, you see the destructive power of absolutist religion. You have suffered in silence for something like ten years. It is appalling that your freedom of conscience was crushed for so long. Notwithstanding this situation, your parents sound like good people and I do empathise with their pain. Their (false) reality is that their beloved child has committed the ultimate sin and faces an eternity of torment in Jahannam. What can Jannah hold for them now? Will Allah wipe their memory so that they be spared this knowledge? Alternatively, will they then see the righteousness of your torment? I have always been struck by the doublethink of believers who speak of the beneficence and mercy of God, of their love for Him, in the full knowledge that this is an entity who makes people drink from boiling springs and burns their ever-regenerating skin with a fire seventy times hotter than that on earth. Whilst your parents reaction is, as you say, rooted in love and concern for your well-being, and is devoid of any impetus to reject you, the intervention by your eldest brother is rather sinister as it speaks of a totalitarian expression of Islam: because you reject this belief-system you are no longer an acceptable person, you are now a contemptible outsider. How remarkable it is that your mother speaks of you as her ‘best child’ (so much for your hyper-religious sister!). For your mother, I think it is a supreme irony that it is very likely the very qualities that make you her best child are the same ones that led you to reject Islam: thoughtfulness and compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mohamed says:

    Such courage! I could only feel the same anxiety and fear if I did the same. I guess in my situation however is that I don’t really want to be in contact with family anymore once I move out. I completely understand your desire to still be in contact with your family after coming out.

    Its interesting to read how religion has such an effect on family structure. There have been many stories about people revealing that they don’t share the same beliefs with their parents and getting different reactions. Although you and your parents had to deal with emotional pain, I say it was a pretty positive response. I am very confident that I would get an ugly reaction from my family, I don’t get along with them generally.

    I came to a gradual disbelief in my teenage years and it’s been almost ten years for me. At the age of 22, day by day my disbelief is getting stronger. I do fear that it might get me in to trouble with friends and family. I’m just waiting to graduate from university soon so I can leave home!

    I would like to congratulate you for courage to go through with this difficult process and I hope you’re happy with your partner 😊. I would like to ask you a few question. How old are you? Have you told your friends? If so then how?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. threekidsandi says:

    Oh sister, I am so sorry. I am glad your mother has sworn never to disown you, that she is already calmer, those are good omens. But I am sorry for this torment you have to go through. Best wishes for a good outcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Peter Uetz says:

    Thanks for your courage. Being open is the only way to fight religious fundamentalism, or religious nonsense in general. Many people are just too tolerant towards all kinds of superstition. Yes, we need to respect people but NOT stupid IDEAS (difficult to understand for many 😦
    My wife is an ex-Hindu and it was a long journey for her to argue with her family that religion is just a bunch of mythology (many of them are still not convinced yet), and she is still arguing with her catholic friends. I imagine it is much more difficult for muslims… Good luck 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. flyingdragon1 says:

    Congratulations! I feel so happy for you that you are living your life honestly and freely. I know it is difficult now (and will be for some time), but trust me it is for the best. In the end, try to remember one thing: you have to live your life (not the life someone else thinks you should live) and you are responsible only for yourself. Best hopes and wishes !!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ed Suominen says:

    Much respect to you for the courage and strength of character it took to make this huge step. Hopefully, the love your parents have toward you will eventually prevail over the fear, and the religious condemnation that your brother is trying to incite.

    I left a very conservative sect of fundamentalist Christianity a few years ago, after 40 years in it. You might find it amusing to know that this sect, as well as many others, think your righteous brother is going to hell just like everyone else outside of it. (You and me, too, of course.) Meanwhile, your brother thinks they are going to hell along with all other non-Muslims (and probably other types of Muslims, too.) Also, you find some comfort in this essay “Getting Out,” about the experiences of people leaving my old religion and several others: http://blog.edsuom.com/2014/10/getting-out.html

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Syed says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am also hoping to come out to my family, in some capacity in about 8 years (10 from apostasy), so I suspect I’ll be undergoing similar kinds of emotions. It was really great to realize that I’m not alone in this struggle, and I hope all of this support helps you feel less alone as well. You did a very courageous thing and I hope your relationship with your parents stabilizes over time.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Syed says:

        Haha, yeah it is very long. The main reason is that I have a sister who is 10 years younger and I don’t want my apostasy to affect how she gets treated by my parents. In 8 years, she will be 18 and by then I’ll know which way she’s leaning and so will she, so the backlash will be minimal. It also helps that I’m studying away from home so it’s easy to hide things.

        Liked by 3 people

  11. Dickson says:

    As a NZer that left Catholicism at about 13/14 and then became Muslim at 22 and then left it at 26/27, I can sort of understand the trouble with leaving the religion. In my case, the few Muslims I did tell seemed to take it pretty well, but you always feel that you need to be very picky with who you tell. I hope your mother and father both stay decent, and that you don’t have too much trouble from that eldest brother of yours. Take care and congratulations on leaving behind the double life and the false promises of faith!

    Like

  12. Abel says:

    Congrats! I came out too. I am a guy, only child, tall and work out at the gym almost daily, so I’m strong and can defend myself if some should attack me, which didn’t happen ehen I broke the news. My parents took it kinda OK, no hard feelings. I think they are both close to becoming ex moose too. Don’t care about rest of my family, of which two female cousins and one male cousin are probably agnostic. My GF is ex muslim Berber and so is her brother. So you see, there’s plenty like us.
    Enjoy your life. You are not alone..

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Sch says:

    U r lucky at least u successfully accomplished ur goals and talked to ur family.
    Here I am in a remote area of Pakistan with my own developed thoughts of Atheism, but not being able to express my feelings with even f&f. I want my self to b a proclaimed Atheist, BT I fear of the day when I will die and there wouldn’t be any one around me to perform my funerals, whether I will be buried or cremated or….
    Dear Admin! I really require your thoughtful suggestion, whether I should leave the country or burry my thoughts of atheism within me.

    Like

    • Thumbalima says:

      Hello, thanks for your support and I am so sorry to hear you are so suffocated in Pakistan. It breaks my heart to hear this. I find it difficult in the West, so I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for you in Pakistan. My dear friend, my suggestion will be to try to make yourself financially stable and capable to move abroad. I feel that is the only way to keep yourself protected. Once you are abroad and normalised your apostasy, hopefully one day you can return to your homeland (should you wish that & also make changes in your home). I am sorry you have to hide this, I know that is difficult and painful. I hope you are able to network on the internet to have support which will help you along your journey. Best wishes.

      Like

  14. ganuk says:

    Wow, just wow. I’m so happy for you. But, at the same time a bit envious, not in a bad way, but in a way that I wish could ever talk to my parents the way you did. Enjoy your new life sister 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. exmuslimrants says:

    Hi. I am very thankful you have written this. Coming out is one of my fears as well. I truly enjoyed reading this because it’s extremely relatable.
    I have recently started an anonymous blog documenting my ex Muslim rants and tales. I have identified as an agnostic for 4 years now. I am American of Bangladeshi heritage as well.
    My blog is exmuslimrants.WordPress. com i even have the story of how i became ex Muslim there!
    (It’s a new blog. My name isn’t really hassan)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thumbalima says:

      Hi there, thank you for your kind comments! Your blog looks great and I am looking forward to reading it. While our conditions are sad, it is comforting to know there are others out there in similar situations. I wish you all the best!

      Like

  16. Mick says:

    You have moved me to tears by your story. I have never had to deal with such a difficult situation and I admire you greatly. I wish you good luck in the future

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Luqman says:

    Hi, thank you for sharing your story. It was really inspiring and I applaud your courage. I am a 26 year old film student and ex-muslim from Singapore and I have yet to tell my parents of my lack of belief.

    I am currently directing a poetic documentary on the internal struggles that ex muslims face with their family members or internally and I hope this documentary can somehow give them a better understanding from our point of view and why he have to do this even if it means breaking their hearts. I hope my parents will be able to accept me after I’ve declared my lack of belief to them.

    Like

    • Thumbalima says:

      Hi Luqman, thanks for your lovely comment. I hope you are one day able to tell your parents if you feel that is the right step for you. Your documentary sounds very interesting and I would love to see it one day! It is wonderful to know ExMuslims are making their mark and fighting for their rights, one step at a time.

      Liked by 1 person

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