Death by Cognitive Dissonance (On Eid-al-Adha)

This is a guest post by Nubeal Dada. Nubeal is an ex-muslim based in Pakistan who works in information technology and is passionate about social problems related to divorce and religion. He can be reached directly at @nubeals

It happens every year, so why should this year be any different?

So the story goes like this: Allah wanted to test Abraham’s faith in Him, so He asked him to slaughter his own son (and son is the preferred gender amongst most Muslims) in a dream. Abraham wanted to prove his faith to his Lord, so lo and behold! He grabbed a knife and began the manslaughter, rubbing a knife against his own son’s throat. But Allah is apparently very merciful too, so He waved his magic wand, and replaced his son with a goat.

Now I’m not sure when this event occurred in the Islamic Lunar Calendar, mostly because Islam wasn’t even born yet, but Muslims will tell you Islam was there since the day of Adam. Whatever. We fast forward to today, and we see all Muslim brethren celebrating Eid-ul-Adha with much zest and disregard for PETA’s sentiments.

Before completely falling out of Islam, I studied Islam (and other religions too) and found that Eid-ul-Adha was more about the completion of Hajj, the once-in-a-lifetime obligatory pilgrimage only for those who can afford it. However, the citizens of the nation-state that issues me my passport seems to care more about the slaughter of innocent animals than the completion of Hajj on this Eid day.

Children suffer the most with this exercise in ritual slaughter, I feel. It is a tradition of the Prophet Mo to take good care of the animals, giving them the best possible food and plenty of water, before killing them mercilessly. Muslims will tell you slaughter is the wrong word – the correct word is sacrifice. But for kids that must sound like tomato tomAto.

I was 14 when my stepfather taught me it was a rite of passage into manhood to slaughter the animal. I was handed the sharp knife, while the amateur butchers pinned down a bleating goat in our front yard, and I was instructed to be as quick and forceful as I possible – to give the goat as little pain as possible.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas in your head simultaneously. How do you care and hold sympathy for a goat while you intend to kill it without mercy? What kind of mental sickness is this and how long do the effects last? And given how this is something we do every year, does that mean Muslims get more and more mentally sick every year? I think they do.

I know I did.

Killing an animal without any regard or real purpose makes you feel invincible. My stepdad told me it will make my nerves stronger, and I think it did. The next year, I volunteered to use the knife.

I find a lot of cognitive dissonance amongst the Muslims in Pakistan. Malay Muslims are better in this regard – my opinion with my limited exposure. But thanks to my realization of that fact, and many other experiences, I feel I have come a long way to resolve my inner cognitive dissonance. There was no way out for me except to completely leave the religion, but perhaps that doesn’t need to be the way for all born-Muslims.

They just need to resolve their inner conflicts, stick to their guts, and draw their own line of morality.

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