Your former self ~ Voices of ExMuslim Women ~ Solidarity on International Women’s Day
What do you wish you could tell your former Muslim self?
To my former Muslim self, I say these words: Nobody owns you. You own yourself. You are not inferior to men. You do not need to submit to men. I know you seek internal consistency in your faith, but believing women to be lesser creatures is not the way to do it. Is it not self-evident to you that many of the men around you are inferior to you in intellect, talent, and passion? Look at yourself, do you not see how incredibly resilient and beautiful and resourceful you are? Hold onto that; you’ll come through soon enough. You think you wear the hijab to avoid sexual objectification—but do you remember starting to wear the hijab at eight years old? Must a child’s body be covered up too? Should a child’s hair and arms and ankles and legs be thus hypersexualized? Do you remember being beaten, your hair sawed off, and banished to the storage room when you removed your hijab at school at 13? Is this how a child is treated? How any human subject is treated? Do you remember a thousand and one other transgressions? You have no privacy, no agency, few rights. You are not trusted, listened to, regarded. I know it is difficult to try to make sense of this life within an ideology that has constantly been presented to you as good, right, and protective. I know it may seem incredible to you that you are actually stronger and wiser than anything this ideology has to offer. I know it is all you’ve ever known. I know you’ll keep trying to make sense of it, I know, and you will come to a calm and joyful place. I’m here to tell you to hold on through that process, which will be dangerous, long, difficult, and seem sometimes hopeless—but things will get better. They will. Nobody owns you. You own yourself. Someday you *will* have a life where nobody controls or limits your body, your voice, your self.
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I wish I could tell my former Muslim self that all that guilt and self hate is not worth it. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to stop worrying so much about Islam and worry more about developing hobbies, skills, and passions.
I did not come from the rib of a man. Science has taught me that men start out as a genetic copy of his mother (X), the donation of the Y chromosome leads to male traits. Hence why men have nipples. There is no significant difference between men and women, we are all human beings. Lowering your gaze is a useful concept that Islam has taught me. This applies to everyone! No one likes to be visually molested.
Gender is not decided by what’s between your legs, but by what’s between your ears. This again is something that is not black nor white, but falls on a grey scale. No one should dictate or police another’s gender expression.
Aggression and dominance are signs of emotional weakness, compassion and gentleness are the true signs of strength. I should not be punished for showing these emotions as they are my way to show a general care for others and myself.
My sexuality is not black nor white, but it falls somewhere on a grey scale. My love knows no bounds and no one should attempt to police it.
I wish I could have told her that everything she feared wasn’t true. All those nights of fear and humiliation were just empty threats from a religious community that was deluded and psychotic. I wish I could have told her that she would break free one day and be who she always wanted to be. I wish I could have told her that there was a beautiful, intelligent community of like-minded ex-Muslims that would catch her before she fell. I wish I could have told her to stop listening to her father’s constant abuse and realize that he was a hollow monster. I wish I could have told her that Islam was exactly what she thought it was all along- a patriarchal, misogynist cult that her entire family had fallen victim to.
But despite the lack of warnings, I think she turned out just fine. I just think if she’d been assured of these things, maybe she wouldn’t have struggled so much personally to get to where she is now.
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Do not apologize. If you have questions, good for you. If you are a skeptic, and you believe that a god made you, then it was that god who made you a skeptic. How is that your fault? If you question god and become a nonbeliever, then this was by god’s will. And if god sends nonbelievers to hell, it is by god’s will that you go there. You could do nothing to change this. And there we have our loophole (and our sadist god).
I want to shout at my former self, “You are not a burden!” For a long time I believed that I was a problem, an aberration. I thought I was abnormal – thinking in ways bizarre to everyone around me, causing my family pain. I thought I should silence myself, keep my thoughts to myself, and never share this secret of mine – that I did not believe in any god. I defended Muslims and the hijab as if to make up for becoming an atheist. I wanted to prove that I could be an ex-Muslim but still an ally to Muslims. I just wanted to be accepted. But accepted by whom? By a majority who is wrong? Yes, everybody can believe in something, and everybody can be wrong.
Life is open to you. The world is your oyster. Don’t live in the confines of Islam. There is so much to explore. Do things in the way that feels right to you without worrying or feeling guilt. Life is meant to be enjoyed – not only to “worship god” (what a depressing view of the world). Breathe.
Part 1: Self worth, self image
Part 2: Inferiority
Part 3: Your former self
Part 4: To understand
Part 5: Muslim privilege
Part 6: Ex-Muslim privilege
Part 7: Open