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. 🙂

Betrayal

Siblings can often be your very best friends or your worst enemies. Today I learnt that my eldest sister, whom I looked up to, hurt me in a way I just cannot forgive.

I’ve always felt emotionally attached to my big sister. Even though we are 9 years apart, we’ve always had a connection and a good bond. At least that’s how I felt. Even though we’ve had our differences, I’ve felt able to just call her and tell her how I felt. I knew she would always react quite shockingly (as her natural reaction), but then once would subside she would be a caring and supportive sister. Over a year ago, I felt this pull and one evening at her home I told her about my Ex-Muslim status. She was quite saddened and shocked, and frankly baffled. She kept on questioning how I could not believe at all and that this was so alien to her. She told me how she felt this would break apart our family and that did I not care about the afterlife? I insisted that I had made up my mind after a long, and painful, thought process. That I had left Islam a long time ago but I couldn’t muster the courage to tell anyone properly and totally openly. That night we discussed religion, my life choices, my life aspirations and how we could find a way to coexist. I was tearful as I explained my life’s dilemmas to her. I asked her: “How comes you all (my siblings) are allowed to move ahead with your life with the blessing of my parents? How comes you are allowed to have a partner, a house, beautiful children? Am I not human and do I not desire these? Of course I do. I want the same as you – very basic wants in life. Yet, I feel suffocated and told to hide away. How can I do all this and still retain our parents and family in my life?” She responded by twiddling her thumbs restlessly and with a look of despair. She said she didn’t know how to answer me. That she wanted me to be happy, but, she couldn’t condone me hurting my parents by telling them I was no longer a Muslim. So on, and so forth. In a nutshell, she said she felt my pain, but I guess I couldn’t be afforded the same privileges as her.

The conversation ended there and tearfully I went to bed. She sent me a text that night. She told me she loved me dearly and that no matter what she’ll be by my side and will love me because I am her little sister. Upon reading this, I was filled with joy. I felt so deeply touched that my older sister would stand by me. She may not get it, but she knew I deserved to live and be happy. She requested that I tell her the day I plan to tell my parents so that she may be present and lend support to me and my parents to deal with the news.

Fast forward to 18 months my sister revealed to me another side.  A week ago I contacted my sister to inform her of my decision to finally  confront my parents about everything and be honest. When she heard this news she instantly became very defensive and tried to persuade me to rethink my decision to avoid hurting my parents. I very clearly explained to her that I loved my parents dearly and that I was not doing this to hurt them. Rather I was doing this because I feel no shame about who I am and I feel no need to hide any more. I wished to display the truthfulness and honesty that our parents taught us. I wished to give them the truth because they deserved to know their real daughter. My sister seemed annoyed and said she would talk to me about it soon. I left it at assuming that as usual my sister does take time to adjust.

Two days ago my sister sent me a message informing me that her and my Islamist sister would like to sit me down and have a discussion as they wanted to stop me from hurting my mother (who had long term illness). Now to someone unfamiliar with my family would think this sounds fairly normal. But no, to me it does not. My sister clearly knows why I am doing what I am doing, and I only told her about the “big reveal” because she asked and I responded respectively. But it seems now she is hell bent on sabotaging this for me. Her and my other sister are camped at my parents awaiting my visit so that they can “protect” my parents from me. Not only this, but she has also told other family members about me and is spreading rumours.

It is so sad and disgusting. How dare my sisters feel they can obstruct me from visiting my parents? They threatened to even call my eldest brother who they feel will block me from visiting my parents! The very sister who promised to support me is now the one sabotaging me. It hurts. Her betrayal will be with me forever.

Nonetheless, I will not give up. If anything, this has made me more eager and stronger. My courage will not falter. And I will remember, happily, that out of my four siblings, at least I have one brother who is my greatest support. I will hold on to those who are honest, truthful and trustworthy.

I am done living in the past by letting the things that happened to me to dictate my life. I am done living in the future by being anxious and frightened about all that may happen. No more. I am living in the present and dealing with life, head on.

Troubling Anticipations

I don’t know what my life holds for this time next Sunday. My D-Day. I will speak openly to my parents for the first time and tell them about what I am truly and how I wish to lead my life. I don’t know how they will react and I am afraid of the unknown. The anticipation of pain, loss and isolation is immense and crippling. But, the reality of facing the suffocation of lying and hiding is far worse. And there is a glimmer of hope that the unveiling will unburden me and foster courage.

Isn’t it so weird that my parents know only about, say 20%, of my character? All this time I have had to hide so much of myself, my views and my thoughts from my parents. Those who are closest to me truly know the littlest about me. My friends, colleagues, acquaintances, randomers – pretty much all know who I am, what I like, what I dislike, what I do for fun, what my interests are and who I chose to spend the rest of my life with. Such personal things about me are known and I am always flirting with the idea of “coming out”, which is why I’ve been straddling the blurred lines of being an “open” ExMuslim. And yet, my parents and some of my family, know so little about me. I even sometimes fantasise about an accidental unmasking and that my parents will somehow find out about me. Alas, such a fantasy did not come to fruition. Notwithstanding the fact that, I would rather tell my parents myself, than them find out from their community. Such confusion and contradictions. My mind is in chaos about this most of the time.

However what I do know is that enough is enough. I cannot go on like this any longer. The reason I have held back for so long is because a) I love my parents and don’t want to hurt them, b) I am afraid of losing them and the isolation and c) I am afraid of the ostracising that they may face due to my lack of faith.  I think doing this for ten years is testament to the fact that my actions have ultimately come from a place of love and care for my parents. Ten years is a long time. I have to face the music now. Time is of the essence.

I wish to look at my reflection in the mirror and feel proud of standing up for myself. Because truly, what is so bad about me? That I’m an ExMuslim? What about the fact that I’m a good, kind and caring person? That I look after my parents when they are in need and spend time with them? That I have a great job and am an educated and independent woman? That I have found a great partner to love and share my life with? That I have great and fulfilling interests to keep myself busy and try to make the world a better place? Is that really so bad? No. I am a good person and I will no longer let my lack of belief is a misogynistic god make me perceive myself through a negative light. The validation which I so badly seek from my parents cannot stop me from moving forward. And, maybe, this is the change my sweet parents need? No doubt it will be hard at first, but surely they are deserving of the truth? And who knows, they might deal with it better than I anticipate.

Amazing how gaining financial independence and stability is much simpler than gaining emotional independence. The  chaos in my mind is tiring. Maintaining a balance and keeping sane through this time is difficult. But I don’t think I’m doing such a bad job of it. I hope my coming out will inspire others in my position. We should not have to feel guilty for being ourselves.

 

 

 

 

Change is painful and slow, yet worthwhile

Since the day I decided that I am definitely going to come out to my parents, I have been anxiously waiting for the day I will actually tell them; face to face. Twenty days to go.

The last few weeks have been very emotional and it feels like I am on a long, struggling, journey. Today I wrote the letter to my parents revealing my true self. The feelings of grief and anxiety are crippling and I am afraid. I am afraid of the loss that may come following the big reveal. I am burdened with my own difference. It sometimes makes me despise myself. But then I think, I only dared to live my life according to my choices – is that really so bad? I am the same person, just without the religious boundaries obstructing my path to freedom. This freedom – which comes at a very, very high cost. It is also lonely and scary. Which sometimes makes me wonder if I am making the right decision? But then, I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to live my life according to the choice of my parents – I feel suffocated. And, it is exactly this, that reminds me that I cannot live like them. It is just not me. And, what is exactly so terrible to be me?

I sometimes wish my parents were really really horrible and abusive. It would have been easier to let go. But they aren’t, and on the most part, they are loving and caring parents – in their own way. I know they want to see me happy and live a fulfilling life. The way I see it, I am following their wishes – to some extent.

It just makes me feel angry. Why me? Why do I have to struggle for the basics in life? To love the one I choose. To live the way I choose. To think the way I choose to.  To dress the way I choose. Such simple and basic aspects of life because such a monumental struggle.

Change is difficult. Change is painful. Change is worthwhile. Change is lasting. Change is fulfilling. Change is slow.

Change requires patience, perseverance and resilience.

 

 

ExMuslim Resilience

Burdened with the weight of our sorrow,
we slowly reach out our hands to connect.
The coming together of shared tales,
fostering bonding and strengthening resistance.

A glimmer of hope flicking through our eyes,
a crooked smile forming upwards.
Small baby steps form in preparation,
of easing the burden of our existence.

Planning the future with courage.
and resilience to create a better society.
Together we embrace and join hands,
marching forward to make a difference.

Though tears fall when allies deny us,
refusing their support and solidarity.
Making a mockery of our lived realities,
despite our sincere insistence.

But we accept our burden,
and we will not submit to your demands.
Our godless minds will build courage,
bravely with our collective experience.

Though failed by many, we still persist,
to be heard and be free.
Our determination will not falter,
we will conquer the vast distance.

#ExMuslimBecause I want to be free

Before someone tells me ‘oh you’re never really TRULY free’, well, being ExMuslim makes me a little bit more freer than I was as a Muslim. Now, this may not be YOUR reality, but it has definitely been MINE.

I am sick and tired of hearing the supposed Liberal Left being so ignorant and biased about ExMuslims. The BBCTrending radio clip on the ExMuslimBecause hashtag is disgraceful and highlights just how much more needs to be done to combat this unwarranted attack on ExMuslims.

Despite the Campaigners clarification right from the beginning that this is to raise awareness and that we are NOT anti-Muslim, it appears that this just doesn’t seem to sink in. BBC has done such injustice to ExMuslims, who are a minority within a minority and represented us in such a false manner. Even at the beginning the premise was set with the tone that ‘oh this is so sensitive, and untimely for Muslims’. This is what their message was all along. They completely ignored the plight of ExMuslims and the very fact that we are silenced and we suffer the consequences of choosing to leave the religion our parents raised us in. The pitted two Muslim voices against one ExMuslim on a topic about ExMuslims. Seriously.

I feel so angry. I feel our stories are hijacked and we are called islamophobes, when this is so far from the truth.

I have been hiding being an ExMuslim from my parents for 10 years now. I have not done that purely because I am afraid, but because I love my Muslim parents and I don’t want to hurt them and I am very considerate of their feelings. So much so that it is unhealthy for me. My behaviour here is definitely not islamophobic.

I would be so damn pleased to relinquish the label of ‘ExMuslim’ as soon as you guys allow us to coexist. Without ignorant accusations. Without the ritual hatred of apostates. Without isolating us. Without alienating us. Without making  us feel like outcasts. We only dared to lead OUR lives according to OUR choices.

#ExMuslimBecause only way to be heard and move on. One day.

Why now?

I ponder why I have the significant urge to shout out about my true existence at the moment. Why now? I think I’ve just had enough and part of dealing with the problems mean – living the problems – not leaving the problems.

I must say the #ExMuslimBecause campaign has given me the courage to take that next step and I am so proud of those fearless and tireless open ExMuslims. It is bloody hard to walk the walk in UK, let alone at Muslim majority countries!

A culmination of the last ten years has led to this. I am happy and frightened. 31 days to go. Countdown begins now.