No one is more excited to trash talk Islam than Islamophobes. I speak openly about why I left Islam, how I escaped honor-based violence while marveling in everything that was once forbidden including solo female travel, bigots flock into my mentions in droves as soon as I speak out about my experience as a former Muslim woman. Newsflash: I’m still Black, immigrant, and woman. Although I am grateful I live in a country that does not enforce laws against apostasy, I am still fearful for my life. Being Black is a universal experience. In Colombia, I was treated with suspicion until it was discovered that I was, in fact, an American tourist. In the Muslim world, Black women receive virtually zero access to quality housing, healthcare, education, and employment.
Could you imagine what would happen if I renounced Islam in my birth country of Somalia? They would hunt me down, enact gruesome acts of sexual violence, then publically behead me. Fortunately, I don’t live there (so grateful!), and instead, I am planning a backpacking trip across Latin America which has always been a dream of mine. I am able to exercise my reproductive choices, make my own money, travel the world solo and date without the worry of repercussions.
I didn’t have to get on a plane, learn a new language, navigate racist US immigration system, risk wage theft, deportation, imprisonment and sexual violence as an undocumented asylum-seeker. This life would’ve never been possible. However, I am still afraid that I will get killed by the police. I still earn 32% than a white man for the same amount of work which makes it difficult to leave abusive relationships. I still live at a dangerous intersection, but it’s still better.
I have no idea what will happen in 2020. I’m enjoying my new life. I wake up feeling grateful that I don’t have to worry about getting hacked to death as soon as I step outside. There is so much violence in the US against Black women—particularly Black trans women—that a Black woman elected president will not overturn institutions, systems, and structures that exist. Improving optics is not the same as liberation. Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death of Black women between 15-34. Black trans women have a life expectancy of 35. Being a Black woman is knowing I am particularly vulnerable to violence and murder simply because of my lack of access to safety, protection, and financial stability. We have to work two sometimes three jobs to survive.
All of this to say, my life hasn’t really changed. I was worried about getting killed by the police before I began worrying about getting killed for leaving Islam. How sad is that I feel prepared? I receive DM’s from women worldwide who ask me how I did it. One woman asked me for advice on how to escape with only a green card. She arrived on her dad’s visa. It’s so hard not to break down crying. I am happier in my day-to-day life, but structurally and systemically, nothing has really changed. I am still fighting to survive. I’m still pursuing my dreams because I refuse to allow suffering and chaos to absorb my life. Why should I?