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.
Women who claim their parents aren’t abusive yet they’re forbidden from traveling alone, spending money on how they want to, leaving their faith, dressing however they choose or dating whomever they desire. Abuse isn’t just physical. This is trauma bonding 101. 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 incongruent 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.