So, you’re considering leaving Islam. Congratulations! This is a major step that takes integrity, self-determination, and bravery. It wasn’t easy for me, but I’m grateful I no longer have to live a double life. I’m very outspoken about my values, beliefs, and experiences. I don’t want to live in fear. Living in fear is very demoralizing. I will travel, speak my mind freely and make choices about my career, finances, and relationships. Nothing is more important than my liberation. I also recognize that leaving Islam without having to get on a plane is a major luxury that is not afforded to people living in Muslim-majority countries.
1. Be financially independent
The importance of financial independence cannot be understated! You do not want to be homeless! It is incredibly difficult to find a job without stable housing. Financial abuse is insidious. It’s very important to have control over your financial decision-making power. Demanding access to your bank account, preventing you from working and sabotaging career choices are all forms of financial abuse. You might have to work multiple jobs. Working 60 hours a week is a lot, but my livelihood depends on it.
2. Put everything in your name
It’s so important to put everything in your name. One of my first major purchases as an adult was a car. I financed my first car, so I would be the only person whose name is on the title. Financial independence is much more difficult if things are not in your name. In the US, having my own car was a major factor in whether or not I could maintain financial independence. Financial abuse also includes requiring that large, joint purchases be in their name only (such as car loans, mortgages, cell phones, or apartment leases).
3. Practice a lot of self-care
Self-care is so important for us. I practice self-care by enforcing boundaries, maintaining appointments, and budgeting. It’s so important for me to create a community with like-minded individuals. As women and LGBTQIA folk, we’ve had to endure a lot of abuse to remain alive. Nothing is more rational than survival. Let’s be kinder to ourselves and each other. There’s also a Reddit group for ex-Muslims if you’re searching for community. I also recommend reaching out to Ex-Muslims of North America.
4. Do something nice for yourself
In February, I will be quitting my job, celebrating my first carnival, traveling to Trinidad & Tobago and Cuba solo and moving to a new city by myself. I am celebrating my newfound freedom by traveling to places I’ve always dreamed of. As someone who used to put her jilbaab in the trunk of her car before changing into a body-con dress, I can honestly say that I am still shocked that I did it.
5. Recognize religious PTSD as a real condition
Religious PTSD is something I deal with. Being forced into the faith without my consent, then subsequently threatened with honor-based violence if I refused to submit was incredibly frightening. Certain sounds will cause my body to tense up. I still get jittery whenever I talk about it. I am still getting used to leaving the house whenever I want to. I find myself double-checking to make sure I have my keys, debit cards, and passport. I still have a grab-and-go bag ready in case I need it. Even with these barriers, I am excited about my new life.