Bewildered (former Muslim)
[Letter from Bewildered to Ali Sina]
Testimony of Leaving Islam
I don't know if you will end up posting my opinion on this forum due to my ethnic origin, but I will still write to you. I don't know whether to love you or hate you; on the one hand you've confirmed all my feelings, attitudes, and suspicions about my own religion. On the other hand I have been losing a lot of sleep and dazing off a lot. Withdrawal is not easy and that is what's happening to me.
I was born in a Muslim family; we are considered moderate, laid back Muslims. I had many things that happened in my life that have caused me to question my faith, but I would choose what I thought was right, and moral based on my humanistic side. As a little girl, I questioned many issues in regards to my faith, it was my mother who I idolized and believed almost every word that came out of her mouth (I even believed that there was no such thing as sex! LOL! Simply because when I approached her she said the girls talking about it during recess were liars. By the way I was around 8yrs old when that happened. I can only say that innocence and ignorance are bliss for children, and I was one of them. Anyway, while growing up in the USA , I was living a normal life, going to school, playing with friends, etc. But my mother was always unhappy due to marital issues. I did not know what was going on at the time and continued in my childhood ways. Close to that time, my father decided to go back to our country of origin. I grew up part of my life in the states and partly in the West Bank . Now, I don't know if your going to discriminate against me because of that, but, I really need to let you and others know about my story, since I hear a lot of negative comments about Palestinians on this forum, and that's who I am I can't change it.
I had a wonderful time growing up there, up until the first uprising or Intifadah. I went to a Christian private school and had both Christian and Muslim friends. The school I went to was American, so we had an American education, and were split up once a week for religion class. Muslims were taught Islam and Christians, Christianity. I thought that was good, but having a religious mother, she complained about having religion class once a week. My mother decided to cover her hair when we went back, even though Palestinians at the time were not too "religious". Many young women did not cover, and no one bothered them - but as usual you had to follow what your fathers and brothers said. I thought my mom was beautiful before and after she covered, she had long straight dark hair and had light complexion with features prettier than models in the latest fashion magazines. Even till this day we show her old pictures of her in the states and she says "Allah has guided me to the right path" (by covering up is what she means for people who are not accustomed to hearing this phrase). My mom also became a devout Muslim. She hardly listened to music, and constantly listened to sermons on TV and radio. She would invite me to listen and I did sometimes. I don't remember the parts about killing or any of that violence, the issues that were really focused on were following the five pillars, and wearing hijab.
When I was around 14 years, hell broke loose in Palestine and the first uprising happened. Now, that I will never forget because being Palestinian in an Israeli state meant that you were second hand citizen. I am not saying this because I hate Jews, but because I seen it first hand. The first uprising happened because the Palestinians revolted against an unjust and inhumane killing of several Palestinian workers waiting for transportation home to the West Bank. These men were simply waiting for a ride home when several Israeli soldiers decided to literally blow their brains out, just for fun. You know that we are considered less than human in their eyes, therefore killing us is justified in their belief. The men who were killed were unarmed civilians, and I want you to keep it in mind, since I have read many negative things about my people. Teenagers and young people took out to the streets to demonstrate the brutality of the incident and of the Israeli occupation. It is not a walk in the park to be discriminated against, humiliated, and to live in fear. This is how we lived being Palestinian, the only difference, of shall say preferential treatment we got was when we showed our American passport. Now what do you call that? I am not writing to tell you that I support the suicide killings that go on there, but when people are in a constant state of mind trying to survive in an extremely terrified state; their psychological state is not good or stable. So who comes in preying on their vulnerable state of mind - you guessed it - the radicals. The argument here is that they, the Israelis are killing us with sophisticated weapons and we only have stones and man made bombs, and people who are willing to die for the cause of freedom.
I know that you understand how it feels to walk down a street and not know whether you will get shot or kidnapped, but that is how I and many young people felt while we were just trying to get a decent education, and by the way, we missed out on many school days because the Israelis imposed curfews on us and beat our students senselessly in the streets. The Israelis have a great democracy indeed, but only if you are Jewish. So please don't tell me that the Israelis are all innocent. Did you know that radical Jews call for the expulsion and mass killing of all Arabs and Muslims? What do you think of that? This to you Ali Sina may not be important, but we all as human beings deserve to have rights. All I'm trying to let you know is that don't say that the Israelis are completely innocent. There are good and bad people everywhere you go. Enough of politics and on with the religion part. By now you may not want to read on any more since you found out my place of origin, even though I am very proud to be American.
My mother used to lecture me about being a good Muslim girl and covering my hair. I was shocked when she yelled at me for not covering my hair, just out of the nowhere. The thing that shocked me was that I was already planning on doing that without the yelling, just when I was a little bit older, say 15 years old. Well it did not take me long to put it on after that incident because my Mom was my idol, my god, but I did not know at the time because being a real Muslim you should submit only to God and not idolize any one but Him. I was delusionally happy doing the hijab thing because I was following what God commanded me to do. My friends asked me if my father forced me to wear it and it upset me every time someone did because he did not. I was close to 16 years old when my dad was not permitted entrance back to the West Bank because he was American. Being Palestinian is the reason why he was not allowed back. "It is not your country," when in fact he was born in Jerusalem and he paid a lot of money to try getting the Israeli citizenship, but always was denied by the Israeli authorities. My father is not a man to resort to violence in any way against the Israelis and my grandfather always hopes for peace one day in the region.
When this happened, we went back to the States, the only place right now I feel at home, since I was devastated as a teenager to be kicked out of my beloved Palestine. I was enrolled in an all girls school, which I was grateful was Islamic because I had hijab on and did not want to be made fun of in a public school. Prejudice and acts of violence by Americans, yes, Americans during the first Gulf war, and Arab students were the targets in the public schools in this major city we lived in. We heard everything from racial slurs to "go back to your country you fudging Arabs" to women with hijab on getting attacked. This filled my heart with fear and made me angry at these acts of violence in a country where rights are supposed to be protected and religious freedom is permitted.
While getting my high school education at this Islamic school, we were never taught that killing was right and all the sorts of violence you brought up, except for the usual historical battles that the prophet fought against the kuffar, the teachers mainly enforced the concept of modesty and covering, which I many times got fed up with but followed because I wanted to please God. I got married to my fiance at the time, straight out of high school; he was a couple of years older than me and had a business degree. I came from a big family and wanted to be on my own too soon. The good part was that I was in love with the man, if that is what you call it because now I feel that I was not prepared for the responsibilities of marriage at such a young age. He was not a good Muslim because he did not pray five times a day and that I was taught is the back bone to being Muslim.
I started to question a lot of things about my faith, yet my belief in God was strong. I did not like my hijab. I got lots of compliments on how beautiful my face was almost all the time. I even had non-Muslim guys ask me out, but I would just laugh about it and tell them I was married. I voiced my disapproval of hijab to my mother many times, and she would tell me that life is a test and that Muslims are not on this earth to be happy. On the contrary, we should be miserable because hell is a reality, and we are sinners and should watch our every action in order to please God. This notion saddened me many times, if not on a daily basis. I did not want to wear my hijab and I had many issues with hadiths which sickened me to my stomach, so I put the hadith books away never to look at them again. Now, I still had the Quran, which is the "truth", so I would read it, and when there were parts about cutting people's hands off and other acts of violence, I would think of them as non-standard for our times but acceptable back then. I still think rapists and murderers should be killed, but not without a trial.
As the years went by, my questioning of my faith and its teachings grew more intense, and I fell into a depression, finally I took off my head scarf and knew that my good Muslimah image was shattered because that is the only reason why I kept it on. Yes people, I did not want to face criticism from loved ones, as well as other Muslims I'd known. I knew how harsh they were when judging women who did that. I finally came to the conclusion that I don't need to impress anyone but myself, and that you don't need a head scarf to be a good Muslim. My depression intensified after I took it off and I needed to see a psychiatrist, but I could not tell her why I felt the way I did because I did not want the image of Islam to be tarnished. I did not go back to her. That was very naive of me. If I did the same thing as you did Ali Sina, I would have seen the truth. Your long version of your story about being Muslim made me relate tremendously to you. That ideal Islam was all that I was aiming for. Many people I met when I was in college as well as professors were impressed and charmed by my attitude and "stylish" clothing even though I had a scarf on my head. I voiced my opinions openly, when the stereotype was that Muslim women are not to be heard or speak. I was proud of myself for being verbally expressive, but at the same time I was eating myself up inside because I did not believe in what I was wearing over my quite attractive hair. I truly believe in being a good person and doing to others as you would like done to yourself. This is one of the teachings we are taught to do as Muslims, but I see nothing but hypocrisy from us to each other. I also found out that non-Muslims do the same thing, example-back biting, and I concluded it is human nature to be like that.
The first time I heard that Muhammed married a nine year old girl when he was an old man, I questioned that, I asked my mom-idol, and she said that the prophet is like no other man and that he could do that because he was different - he was "special". This was when I was a little girl, my young mind still could not accept it, but because the prophet is the prophet, you just nod your head, since you will get criticized if you question his actions. You are only taught about his kindness to people, in particular women. But when I questioned why we had to be so obedient to men, I would get different answers. You should only be obedient when he is asking you for something that God asked you to do. For Example- there's a hadith that says if a woman withholds sex from her husband that the angels will curse her until morning. This hadith enraged me! I would call my mom and tell her that it is definitely a fake hadith because the prophet would never say such a thing. My mom would dismiss my feelings and ask for forgiveness for me, which made me even angrier. I was outright enraged when I went to one of the Friday sermons and heard the imam talk about this sort of non-sense. I called him all sorts of names and my friends said that he was not that bad. What a stupid excuse! I do not believe these are the teachings of God!
Several days ago I was just searching online, since I am always trying to find answers, and I ran across your website. I read your story and I was touched. I even cried, all the symptoms of withdrawal from Islam are showing up in me. I feel numb and yet at times I don't know what to do. I have a son, and his name is Jihad, I don't even know if I want you to post this piece of information about me, because it is so sensitive to me. I named him simply because I thought the name was strong, "striving to do what is right and not doing what's wrong". I was taught that when I was growing up. It did not mean violence to me, not at all. Keep in mind I had my son as a teenager, and did not think the name out enough, but was convinced that this should be my baby's name. My son likes his name, I ask him if he would like to change it, and he refuses. I don't know what to do.
I don't want to follow the wrong teachings of Islam, but I have not told anyone about this except to you. This could kill my dear mom and dad. I am their oldest child, their pride and joy. They tell me how proud they are of me. That brings me joy, so I will not let them know. If you ask me to let them know I can not do that because I will not crush them. I will simply lead a secular life, and not raise my children according to the teachings I was taught as a moderate Muslim. To be honest with you I don't know how that is going to go along, but I will take it one step at a time. I can go on and on about many things that I want to talk to you about, but in conclusion, I want to thank you and the others for taking me out of the illusion of Islam that I was living.