I’m an ex-Muslim. However, I didn’t leave Islam publicly until I had absolute control over my financial, economic, legal and reproductive decision-making power. I needed to be certain I could survive entirely on my own before leaving. I had to quit my job because they knew where I worked. I drove Lyft full-time until I found my current position. I went for three months without health insurance. I packed everything I owned and fled in the middle of the night. This mirrors a domestic violence situation because that’s exactly what it is. Islam personified domestic violence. Similar to an abuser, I obeyed out of fear of violent repercussions, sacrificed power and control and endured privacy violations. I was denied personhood and autonomy. I accepted that who I would marry, my friendship group, my career choices, and my dress would always be controlled and closely monitored. In hindsight, I was fortunate enough to even make it out alive.
When I expressed my desire to attend college, I was told I would turn into a feminist, remove my hijab and even leave Islam. I learned that my politics, values, and ethics were incompatible with Islam. How could I even be a feminist and Muslim? How could I sleep at night knowing I am endorsing a religion that dehumanizes and degrades women on a daily basis? Do I not love myself enough? I gave up so much freedom being a Muslim woman. I wasn’t allowed to travel alone, marry a non-Muslim man, move out on my own or exercise any decision-making power. I found myself at 25 enduring a curfew, asking for permission before embarking on an exciting career opportunity and changing into hijab and a skirt after a night out. Will I spend the rest of my life hiding?
Prior to embarking on a solo trip to Colombia and Costa Rica, my mother and grandmother warned me that I shouldn’t be upset if I am raped abroad. Rape should be expected because I am a single woman traveling alone without a mahram. I went in spite of their threats. I also went bungee jumping, paragliding, salsa dancing, and had an island photoshoot off the Caribbean coast. I felt safer abroad in Latin America than in my own home. I grew up hypersexualized as a child. I wore a jilbaab, never left my house and spoke through a screen because my earlobes, ankles, and voice could incite men to sexually assault my person. I’m moved to tears just thinking of the hell I endured. I remained silent because I knew how little worth my female life had. It’s way too easy to buy a gun in the US and honor killing was very much in my purview.
My life has just begun. I’m much happier now. I know I have high self-esteem and self-regard. I desire to be free. I am grateful for the privilege of leaving because in 13 countries around the world, leaving Islam is punishable by death. I have nothing to lose but my chains.