UPDATE: Thanks to the generous support of others, Reem was able to raise enough money to help her until she got her work permit. She is now working and waiting for her asylum decision, and is trying to complete her education in the meantime at Queens College in NYC. She is unable to get either private or federal loans for her education due to her immigrant status, so she has built a campaign seeking help for her education. Here it is:
A few nights ago, I was frustrated at a lot of vitriolic hate spewed at my friend Reem Abdel-Razek on a public forum linking to her indiegogo campaign.
You should contribute to her campaign if you can afford it, and this post will tell you why.
If you have not heard of Reem Razek, she is an ex-Muslim apostate who has been both vocal and public about her apostasy, writing about it on her blog, Reem Unveiled, and on one of prominent ex-Muslim activist Aliaa Elmahdy‘s blogs, Echoing Screams, among other articles and interviews. This has caused her great detriment, in the form of abduction, imprisonment in an asylum with forcible treatment, ostracization, physical and emotional abuse, and repeated and prolonged death and rape threats.
Since then, Reem has been able to escape the danger and threats surrounding her in her homeland Egypt and has come to America. She has applied for political asylum, and has asked for help and support here, in her indiegogo campaign, from those willing and able, since she will be not allowed to work while her application is processed, and this is a process that will take at least many months and at most many years.
Here is why you should help her:
My friend Reem is legit, and part of my frustration a few nights ago had to do with the ignorant assertions and hate-filled comments accusing her of being a fraud and a scam.
Despite the fact that she has been publicly endorsed by Aliaa Elmahdy, who has also had Reem as a guest blogger and happens to be her personal friend.
Why the doubt? Questions like these have been asked:
- How come Reem speaks with an American accent if she is from Egypt?
- How did she come to be in the United States?
- How can she be an ex-Muslim if she looks and sounds so much like a white American?
- How can she be oppressed and have suffered if her father is liberal enough to have worked and raised her in the United States?
People who ask these questions do so without bothering to examine their racist and stereotypical assumptions about Muslims and what they can and can’t speak and what they do and do not look like, and without bothering to take a moment to check to see if their questions have been answered anywhere.
Reem has answered all these questions repeatedly, on her blog, on her campaign (which has a wealth of links to content examining many facets of these questions), and in her open letter to the Ex-Muslim Council of Britain (all of those have been linked above, so I won’t link them again).
But I will take a shot at them here from another angle. These questions are all along the lines of her story not adding up or not making sense (because she speaks English? because she ‘looks white’?), but the fact of the matter is, these questions contain dangerous assumptions about the condition and plight of ex-Muslims. Because my story is nearly identical to Reem’s in many of its details and circumstances, I want to clarify something about ex-Muslims with a strong connection to the West.
These questions are the wrong questions because they are the RIGHT questions. They are asked as if the circumstances surrounding Reem’s apostasy and request for asylum are strange or questionable. On the contrary, they are the most likely circumstances imaginable.
Reem’s story is not uncommon.
She was born in Egypt, and her father’s job took her and her family to the US, where she was socialized in an American school system before being taken back to the Middle East while still in her childhood, expatriating to the Gulf where jobs are lucrative and plentiful. Following the veritable shitstorm of violent repercussion and punishment that came in the wake of her public unveiling, Reem hid her true self for a time and convinced her family that she had repented. When her father was relocated back to the United States, as his child she went with him. It was only when she was safely in America again that she could publicize her views once more and break away from him.
My story is nearly identical to Reem’s. I too am the child of an expat who worked and lived in the US. I too grew up in the Middle East and had to hide my lack of faith in order to be trusted enough to be allowed to leave. I know at least a dozen women *personally* with similar or identical stories as well.
It is not only a common narrative; it is a nearly-necessary one.
It is precisely Reem’s relationship with the West as her father’s workplace that enabled her to escape to begin with and make this petition, and this is why you hear of her.
It is precisely the fact that Reem had experienced another way of living and had become fluent in the world’s top information-friendly language that she was able to so quickly, surely, and bravely defy her oppression in radical ways, notably intellectually before she did so physically.
It is precisely because of those circumstances that some people find so questionable that Reem Razek was able to escape, be safe, and remain publicly an apostate.
She is lucky beyond thousands if not millions of Arab and Muslim women who do not have the avenues of defiance and escape she had, if they had chosen to want them.
She is not lucky enough, however, because she was not born in the United States, as I was. That is why she has a petition and I do not.
Now for the second reason you should support Reem in her campaign, beyond the fact that she is legitimate, beyond the fact that she is a human being and this renders her worth protecting from danger and probable death.
Reem is amazing.
Reem is brilliant, brave, determined, hard-working, exceptional, conscientious. She is a champion of rationality and justice, and she is going to be a darling asset to her community.
She is very publicly an apostate. At a very young age she wrote and challenged the powers controlling her very existence. Her writing and her photos when she chose to challenge and then leave Islam lead to horrible things happening to her. She has dared to speak out in a way that is very difficult for most ex-Muslim women, and because of this, she seems to bearing the stigma for most of us.
All the attacks and death threats that are hurled at her would also be hurled at us if we were not too frightened or too constrained or too controlled to reveal our apostasy in such a public manner. All the actual material detriment she endured we also would be enduring above and beyond what we already have and already do endure.
Thank you, Reem, for giving me voice. For giving us a voice and a face. Thank you, Reem, for your humanity.
I could not do what Reem has done. I very fearfully and carefully planned an escape in the most safe and conservative manner possible, securing my master’s degree and playing the good Muslim girl and suffering so much emotional and material detriment that I crushed my own spirit for 5 years longer than I had to because I was afraid of lashing out, stepping forward, being true to myself.
Reem’s integrity would not allow her to violate her own sense of self and conviction even to preserve her own safety.
Thank you, Reem, for your honor.
Speaking with her on the phone a few nights ago, I asked her if she would have done it again if she had known what they would do to her because of it. If she could go back, would she be public in her defiance once more? She said yes, she would.
Thank you, Reem, for your courage.
This woman, this 20-year-old woman who has known more suppression and pain and defeat and hopelessness than the stark majority of the first world can hope to understand, this woman will be beyond an asset to whatever community is lucky enough to have her. This woman will teach those around her hope, perseverance, integrity, love.
She will teach them humanity.
She will teach them life.
Support Reem Razek today.