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. 🙂