ExMuslim Women Bear Witness for International Women’s Day
Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! For the occasion, my friends and colleagues from the Ex-Muslims of North America have been working very hard to create a powerful, moving compilation of Ex-Muslim’s women’s voices, a category of voices often hidden, marginalized, and discounted. Read their words about how they view their self-worth and self-image post- Islam, the ways they were made to feel inferior, poignant messages to their former Muslim selves, and much more. These testimonies are strong, hopeful, articulate, and heartbreaking.
I can hardly express how moving and validating it is to see women who used to and still do live in silence, fear, and oppression be given a platform to speak for themselves. I’m incredibly honored as well to have been included among these voices, and am working on a few more projects enabling the voices of women from Muslim backgrounds; stay tuned.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the testimonies. Do read the whole thing; it has many parts and is wonderful.
“I need not feel shame. I had never thought of it consciously prior to leaving Islam, but as a woman I always sat with some shame – of my body and my voice, for example. I was always learning to hide myself. I could not be too outspoken, too bold. I am still struggling to let myself speak. And I still find myself thinking I am a burden. But I have lost so much shame. I realized there is no reason to hide myself. For who? For a man? For all men? Why? I refuse.” – Noura
“When I was Muslim, I was called a “whore” or a “slut” from around the age of 10 for wanting to a classmate’s birthday party or stay at school past 3 pm to do after school activities. I didn’t even understand what sex was, and I thought of myself as a whore for wanting to do certain normal things. That means every time I had a thought in my head about wanting to attend a sleepover with my friends or join the soccer team at school and wear the shorts that came along with the uniform, I thought of myself as a whore. That’s very, very powerful.” – Taslima
” Ten years ago, I thought of my body as a dirty, unfortunate vessel that just didn’t seem as perfect as that of a man. My mother used to shame me every time my period would come around. Even after I was disowned, I would shy away from my boyfriends and tuck away that dirty, bloody little secret. But recently, I’ve come to cherish the sheer beauty and complexity of the female human body.” – Maha
“As a Muslim girl, one of the most traumatic experiences, that troubled my heart, nearly broke my spirit, made me ashamed of my female body, my female self, was that notorious saying of Muhammad standing on the footsteps of hell and proclaiming that most of the screams, and burning flesh were that of women. I asked my 12 year old self, what is it about women that makes her more deceitful, more disloyal to her god and his messenger than her brothers? Why did I have to be born within such a lascivious group? What a curse! Why does god damn some for eternity and endlessly reward others?” – Nandi
“We are treated like children. We are objects that are carried from our parents to our husbands. Why would we want to have our own careers, our own lives if someone else can take care of us? I’m luckier than most in that I’m allowed a university education. It was only recently when I realized that my education was not intended for me. It was to impress the future suitors because who would ever want a wife that didn’t have an education?” -Anon1
” I was thinking recently, that I never felt human living in Saudi Arabia, or under Islam. Nor was I ever treated like one. It is nice now to experience being human and to be able to exercise the rights given to me as one. Also, I never really understood why what I did with my vagina and having an intact hymen was everyone and their uncle’s business but mine. As a woman, this most private part of me actually never belonged to me. My mother once caught me masturbating. She placed a large spoon of Tabasco sauce in my mouth then locked me in the balcony under the Saudi hot sun for 2 hours. I remember crying and licking the walls trying to get the pain in mouth to settle… Till this day I cannot look or taste nor do I own any type of hot sauce. This was a frequent punishment for any sexual ‘deviance’ acts I committed as young girl.” – Iman
” I was born into a Muslim family. I was also born male. I took what my parents taught me, and believed it one hundred percent. They’re my parents, therefore, everything they said was fact. This lead me to believe that homosexuals were terrible people, transgender people even more so. I’ve heard the words “sick”, “disgusting”, “god-hating”, “filthy”, “hell-bound”, you name it.
“As a young child of ten or eleven, I remember my dad driving me through the LGBT friendly areas of where we lived, and pointing out the transwomen, and telling me things like “See that? That’s actually a man. He is upset with Allah and wants to go the opposite way just to displease him. These people are sick.” -Z
And so much more. Read their words and be moved. I know I am.