Listen and judge: an interview on Islam, cultural pluralism, and the future of secularism

I’ve been meaning to write about the recent Washington DC meetup that I attended with members of the ex-Muslim and secular communities and Richard Dawkins. I’ve also wanted to write a little bit about the goals and struggles of the ex-Muslim cause, but unfortunately haven’t gotten around to either thing.

Luckily, Robby Bensinger of Nothing is Mere decided to interview me on all of these topics and more.

Some things I discuss are: personal identity as ex-Muslim and Muslimish, the particular challenges facing both secularism and the critique of religion, the needs and plights of ex-Muslims as whole, and specific talking points from the Ex-Muslim-Dawkins meetup in DC.

Here is an excerpt:

First, the identity of ex-Muslim: I refer to Islam, something I’ve rejected, to personally describe myself. While it might be confusing, I find this incredibly meaningful.

Because in shedding Islamic doctrine I have not freed myself of its influence on me. I can remove the hijab as clothing but I can’t so easily remove its decade-and-a-half influence on my body and mind. Its residual effects live within me in the form of memories, concepts, questions and challenges related to body image, bodily autonomy, self-worth, gender identity, sexuality and objectification. They live with me as active, probing, burning matters. They are internal struggles I bear myself through and external battles I commit my voice and pen and heart to.

They are the smallest and most everyday of things: My neck exploding in freckles this summer for the first time in my life: how strange it is to see your 24-year-old body do a thing it has never done, how alarming that so simple a capacity in your very skin could be released with a catalyst as common as the sun, how appalling that it has never had the chance to do so, and how the questions and emotions bubble up  from this. Every experience of mine that is new, joyous, painful, meaningful in some way or another resonates in a deep and compelling way with the life I’ve lived, the doctrine and culture that socialized me.

I am not just non-religious. I have shed the skin of a certain religion, and it was a clutching, shaping, smothering, burning, heavy skin, and my being non-religious is defined by pushing myself out of it, and it always will be.

Check out the entire interview over here.


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