Feminism has been my guiding light throughout this tumultuous journey. Because of feminism, I was not a child bride. I am able to drive, travel solo and file charges against marital rape. Feminism made forced marriage illegal. Leaving Islam was not easy. I’ve had my life threatened, nearly forced into an arranged marriage, and wore jilbaab to avoid homelessness. I have been through a lot, but I prevailed. I still left Islam despite the violence, threats and financial uncertainty. I was determined to leave, and no one was going to stop me. Leaving Islam was the most liberating experience of my adult life so far. Here are the 5 feminist things I can do since leaving Islam.
1. Travel solo
GabarIskuFilan was launched to document solo female travel. I am obsessed with solo female travel because it enables me to experience what freedom, autonomy, and decision-making power are like. When I was a Muslim woman, solo travel (domestic and international) was unthinkable. Let’s be honest: living in the US afforded possibilities that wouldn’t exist in the Muslim world for a Black refugee girl like myself. I went to Colombia solo and I had an incredible experience. I’ve been able to travel for work, school, and leisure. I am no longer adhering to a religion that requires a male guardian to travel the world. I am finally free to explore, connect and learn about the world around me without fear.
2. Divorce my husband
Muslim women can’t divorce their husbands. I didn’t know this until I was older. This is why I can’t take the term “Muslim feminist” seriously. How can this religion be feminist, but you’re not allowed to divorce your husband? Divorce shouldn’t be something you plead and beg to access. It’s your inherent right to free yourself. There are so many things women cannot do, and once I figured out that the extent of oppression was actually much worse than I once believed, I knew I had to leave ASAP!
3. Refuse him sex
I grew up being told that any woman who denies her husband sex while she isn’t on her period or in labor, “the angels will curse her.” Marital rape was only outlawed in the US in 1993. Marital rape is gender-based violence. My legal relationship does not grant a man irrecoverable access to my body. Also, consent cannot occur alongside the fear of losing housing, citizenship, financial support, or healthcare. No one can consent while they’re afraid.
4. Remove my hijab
As someone who was forced to wear a hijab for nearly two decades, taking it off was liberating. The first time I wore a swimsuit in public, I cried. I cried because I was grateful no one assaulted me. I definitely have PTSD from being forced to cover. I am grateful I now can live a self-determined life without oppression, violence or restrictions. I grew up being told I would be responsible if I’m raped because I’ve chosen not to cover. Before we call the hijab an “empowering” act, let’s free every woman imprisoned for removing it.
5. Run a radical feminist blog
Do you know what happens to feminists in Muslim countries? They disappear. They’re imprisoned, tortured, and often forced to seek asylum in the US or Canada. When I left Islam, I couldn’t help but recognize my good fortune. I didn’t have to get on a plane, learn a new language, risk deportation and sacrifice safety and access to healthcare. I didn’t have to run a campaign or start a fundraiser. I am financially able to renounce Islam, move across the country and travel solo. I feel extremely lucky. For the first time in my life, I am actually excited about the future!