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As an Ex-Muslim I Cannot Stop Caring About Islam Because It Still Defines My Life

As I have mentioned I recently submitted to Hiba Krisht’s project Ex-Hijabi Photo Journal a guest post entitled 101 Sins I Commit During the World Cup and Ramadan Just in One Day. Now my post in particular and her project in general has received a reply, which I think capsulizes many problems ex-Muslims have with the attitudes they face, and I write this in hoped that people try to see things from our perspective as well. Hiba shared that and I use it with her permission. This is the quote in its full:

Good news!
Dear Ladies,

I am happy to know, that there are ex muslims! and ex female muslims!I hope your campaign is very successful and much much more join you.

Of the 101 sins, while I was reading them, I had to smile.

I have only one comment: Some day in the future, after much labour over having been a muslim, when you think about sins it will be just one single sentence: “I care a shit about sin!”.

I do not have much in common with you. I am male (some generation older, and sorrily with no daughter , former fundamentalist christian.

We also had a dress code to go to church (tie obbligatory, no jeans), and women had to dress modestly and not sexy. I was excommunicated because of atheism, and my former communty doesn’t greet me (even after 20 years of having left them. Guess I am radioactive

As I said, when you become ‘healthy”, you stop to care about garbage.

If you still haven’t, I suggest you to read Sam Harris “The end of faith”.

A big hug

Orazio di Bella

And now I want to enumerate the problems I have with this quote.

I am happy to know, that there are ex muslims!

I don’t know if that is meant as a joke or not, but it is something we face regularly. Acknowledging our existence is actually a big problem for us – the name of this very blog is an allusion to this fact, because a teacher of mine told me “atheists are so few in Iran that they fall on the margin of error” while pressuring me to pray, and my friend has called us “non-extants” because of how the society treats us. The main hegemonic narrative is “there are no ex-Muslims”, and that is enforced very heavily.

So, from the very first sentence, there is a very snarky and unnecessarily patronizing attitude.

If the ex-Muslim voices are faint, it’s because of many obstacles that we face. That is why professing surprise that we exist is not cool, and it sounds like telling a gay Iranian “Oh, so there are gays in Iran too!” Which is something my gay friends have heard a lot.

Of course there are ex-Muslims, and it would be better to look them up rather than tell them “Oh there are atheists in x too”. Of course there are.

and ex female muslims!I

As a male ex-Muslim, I completely affirm that female ex-Muslims have a much harder time than us male ones, like 10 to 1 more obstacles they face. Again, sounds mocking, and belittling.

Some day in the future, after much labour over having been a muslim, when you think about sins it will be just one single sentence: “I care a shit about sin!”

That’s where the issue really troublesome. This shows that the poster is completely oblivious to what we go through, and what he says lacks empathy and a lack of consideration for the situation we’re in.

I am not free to reveal I’m an atheist. I’m not free to take a girl’s hand in mine and walk in the streets without risking being harassed by the police. When I drink beer I buy it the same way you buy whisky, from a dealer. The reason I wrote this post was to show, with a mixture of humor and bleak material, that my life is still completely defined, and shaped, by the ideology I have deserted, and therefore I cannot move beyond it.

I cannot stop caring about the concept of sin, because it is still the most important concept defining my life – society considers me  sinner, and its hold on my life is so firm that I can’t wiggle out.

That’s why it’s important to listen to ex-Muslims. Our experience is in many ways different from yours, and it’s better if you draw a mental picture of our situation, use your human faculties of empathy and imagination, and to understand us better.

We also had a dress code to go to church (tie obbligatory, no jeans), and women had to dress modestly and not sexy. I was excommunicated because of atheism, and my former communty doesn’t greet me (even after 20 years of having left them. Guess I am radioactive 

Which shows the root of this misunderstanding. While the problems he faced for being an atheist are entirely valid and wrong, it’s still a bit strange to compare it to the dressing code women have to abide to in Iran, that the very fact that he could leave them is a huge advantage.

This position is not a disease, it’s not inside me. Religion is not an illness but it is a very hegemonic system, I don’t need to cure myself, as long as I am inside this system I have no freedom from these restraints.

I cannot not be a sinner even though I do not believe in sin.

Also, I’m not a girl.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … and ex female muslims!

    Most of them remain female, even while leaving the Muslim part behind.

    Consider the lot of transsexual Iranians, if you want to think how intersectional problems multiply rather than add.

  2. Ed says

    I just read your “101 Sins” post and seriously, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Such complexity, deep feeling, sorrow and humor. It should win a poetry award. Thanks for sharing.

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