Dear Surly Amy,
I come from a conservative Muslim family. I married into a conservative Muslim family and now have 4 beautiful children. I’ve always been a critical thinker, and for the past few months, I’ve turned my skeptical eye (sorry Brian Dunning for steeling your line) on my religious views. It’s been a very difficult battle, but logic and reason won out.
I USED to be a conservative Muslim, now the only way to be honest with myself is to refer to myself as an apostate. I know of muslims who are drug dealers and pimps, their families and the Muslim community at large still accepts them with the belief that someday Allah will guide them to the “strait path”. I, however would be disowned by my family and shunned by the community, and worse of all, my conservative wife will likely leave me because is is Haram (a sin) for a Muslim woman to be married to a non-muslim man.
I love my family, and after 12 years of marriage, I am still in love with my wife. I can’t stand to be away from my kids for more than a day. But at the same time, keeping up the charade is getting harder and harder. I have stopped praying five times a day, and started taking responsibility for my life instead of placing everything in gods hands. I still can’t get myself to eat pork or drink alcohol, but thats OK.
You may be thinking how I know what their reaction will be. That simple to answer, it’s happened before. A former member of our community renounced Islam and was shunned and severely beaten on 2 occasions, and yes his wife left him. He commited suicide a few months later. Don’t worry, I would never hurt myself.
You are the first person I tell this to. I am living in a very lonely place, and the only reason I am writing to you is because I need somebody to know.
Living this double life is tearing me apart, and I know that I should be true to myself, but is it justifiable to remain in the “theological closet” so that I don’t lose everthing I love.
Rock and Hard Place
Dear Rock and Hard Place,
Thank you for sharing your story.
I can only imagine how difficult your situation must be. I was raised without religion and am not well versed in Muslim tradition, so I thought it best to go find an expert on the situation to give you some insight. Lucky for me, I didn’t even have to leave Skepchick Island to find an expert because our very own Heina is right here and happy to help.
So without further ado I give you the brilliant, Heina.
First of all, thank you for reaching out. You’re in an incredibly tough situation and there is absolutely no reason to brave it alone. Though the ex-Muslim community is a new one, there are resources out there in terms of emotional and moral support. I’m not sure where you live, but there is an Ex-Muslims Council of Britain in addition to many websites and forums dedicated to helping apostates of Islam.
I completely understand where you’re coming from in terms of the community in which you live. Being a Muslim is more than just believing in a religion. It is often tied into community affiliation, family loyalty, and fundamental identity. It can be frustrating, as an honest non-believer, to look at people in the community who clearly violate the tenets of the religion in which they claim to believe, knowing that if you were to be honest, you would be shunned.
There is no easy answer in terms of what you should do. As you’ve seen what can happen to an ex-Muslim in your community, you know that you should tread lightly. Your personal safety and security trumps any ideological motivation towards total and complete intellectual honesty. At the same time, living a dual life is often a strain that eventually comes to define a person in a way that is detrimental to his or her mental health.
A slow, gradual transition to less outward Islam might be in order. Communicating with fellow ex-Muslims is a good first step. What also could help is letting people in your life know that you are “exploring your spirituality” or something equally euphemistic. You could always claim that you are being drawn towards Sufism or similar aspects of Islam where the inner (i.e. invisible) parts of the faith are emphasized over the outer parts. Slowly easing off the practice of Islam is something that is far from uncommon in the Muslim community — I’m sure you’ve seen very devout Muslims give up on certain practices and vice versa. As long as you pay lip service to the faith, people seem to have less of an issue with you.
I would also encourage you to reach out to your local atheist/secular community. Though many people may not understand how hard it would be for you to come out to your family and the Muslim community, there are likely people in such groups who do. I found ex-Mormons in particular to be incredibly helpful in terms of people who could empathize with me and vice versa. Emotional support aside, building up community and friendship with non-Muslims can empower you to eventually feel that you should come out, if that’s what you choose.
I hope this helps and we wish you the best.
Photos by Amy.
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