The author has asked to remain anonymous.
Born with a vagina, my path was sealed from the moment I was conceived. As a girl born to a South Asian Muslim family I had many obstacles in my way to overcome, or to simply tolerate. Growing up in the west, engulfed in this culture without an Islamic community near my home, there were no external community pressures in such a sense to keep my mind boxed in. I remember my first doubt of Islam; the doubt was as simple as not understanding why Allah wanted us to use a particular language to pray to him. Surely an all knowing, powerful being who created absolutely everything in existence will be capable of seeing to the very core of us, every moment, even when we don’t have the words ourselves to express our gratitude and wishes. From such thoughts, the doubts in my mind grew only numerous. I coasted it for many years, not really addressing my discomfort with religion until I could no longer avoid the elephant in the room.
Freeing of the mind comes at a cost as one takes a step out of line and opens Pandora’s Box. As exhilarating as stressful it is, breaking out can tear a mind. Even more so when you know those closest to you wish you to follow their faith out of love and desire for you to gain eternal happiness – a mother’s love for her child – how does one break her heart? They say life is too short to not live it as you desire, but perhaps life is too short to break the hearts of those you love for something as simple, yet complex in many a ways, as intangible belief. For this reason I have chosen to live an alias life; one for myself and one for my family. I have been fortunate enough to have this option by living away from my family, enabling me to grab life and mould it the way I can align it with my core principles about life, philosophy and beliefs. To truly align one’s life to that which you know to be the blueprint for living allows you to find harmony and a confidence which only comes with this form of living. I achieved this only by working strategically in order to push the boundary with my family gradually as far as I could without mentioning my lack of faith and by this I have managed to live away from home even as an unmarried woman. I was lucky to have my parents realise the importance of an education for both men and women, and together with my hard work I moved out of the grasp of Islam to study my Master’s year.
On boundary pushing; removing the hijab was one of my main goals after realising Islam is no longer my religion. The hijab was a beacon for the world to say I am a Muslim and all that is attached to it. It no longer represented me and a material covering my head had no significance other than the misrepresentation of ‘I’. On removing the hijab, my mother decided I was no longer her daughter for some time. I began wearing the hijab from the beginning of high school and during most of my university years, so the time I chose to remove the hijab it was a shock to my mother and her reaction was intense. The very typical way south Asian parents try to maintain control through the use of emotional blackmail was also her tactic to keep me wearing the hijab. I stood my ground; we exchanged words that were less than pleasant, and her expectations of me being the good Asian Muslim girl were not met. Fortunately, with time my mother came around to accepting this is how I will now dress; sans hijab. This was only one of the many steps to take edging towards freedom. It was a process over years, even before my official apostasy; I was fighting the cultural restraints on a woman.
Marriage was one of issues top of the list to fight. I quickly realised what it was to be viewed as a woman of marriageable quality, and so avoided acquiring ‘womanly-traits’ to ensure I was seen to be a girl and not woman for as long as possible. Choosing not to learn skills of cooking that is essential to all South-Asian girls to play the role of the good future housewife, I stepped aside from that line. As a woman in Islam we are blessed with all the duties we have to our husband to be. These are the duties of a girl to uphold the honour of her family. The very apparent inequalities in the rights of the different sexes were another major factor which pushed me to leave Islam.
I know not all women are as fortunate as I have been in escaping the clutches of Islam once I lost faith or simply overcoming the cultural restraints in their communities. I hope young women will come across this blog-post, those who are not too dissimilar to me, and find a little help in continuing with the internal struggles to reach the other side.