Leaving Islam, Losing Family

I have been thinking a lot about suffering lately. I am suffering a great deal because I am trying to come to terms with life without my family. They simply can’t deal with the fact that I am no longer Muslim, and that my spiritual exploration has led me to the conclusion that I am an atheist. A short while ago I was invited by my elder brother and sister to have a long awaited ‘chat’ with them about my disbelief. My mother pleaded for me to agree to the meeting and discuss this with them in the hope that some change may occur. I simply accepted the offer; after all I’m still naively eager for their acceptance of who I am. For the last few days I’ve wondered why I did this, and why I was taking it so lightly. I mean, I was going to walk into a lion’s den, and yet I appeared to be calm about it.

HalimaDays went by and my anxiety grew. I wondered whether they were going to lovingly tell me about what they thought would be a better way for me. Or that maybe they truly just wanted to tell their little sister not to make this life mistake by forsaking their God. Thoughts of reuniting with them gave me both comfort and feelings of terror. I anticipated a bittersweet reunion. I spoke to a few of my close loved ones and all of them strongly disagreed with this proposition. They felt that it was not going to work out well and that it was way too soon to get into a situation where I would be outnumbered and simply beaten down through emotional manipulation and abuse. Even though my intention in going was only to stand up for myself and speak my mind, in reality I would be entering into unequal territory and one-sided conversation. They don’t want to hear me; they want to control me and keep me in line. Why should I put up with such abusive behaviour?

Abuse. That’s when the penny dropped. I cannot imagine my family and the word ‘abuse’ being in the same sentence. I don’t want to accept that perhaps there is some abuse going on there. That they are being vile and unaccepting of me simply because they want to be seen as the ‘saviours’ in our family dynamic. They want to save my parents from the ‘evil horrors’ of their younger sister. I find this so hard to believe, perhaps because I am unable to accept that I could be a victim of abuse from my family. I always say I am lucky, as my family have never been physically abusive, nor have they ever threatened me. However, this emotional manipulation through the systems of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ has been crippling me. I speak often about the horrors of this, so how could I not comprehend that I myself was living through it?

Abuse. It is a hard term to swallow. It’s hard to accept that perhaps you’re the victim. Despite feeling supremely strong and brave at times, I feel like I am a victim of my experiences and family. I want to be angry to tell them this is not fair. I want to say that I’ll be completely ok without them, and ask why I should want such people in my life who do not accept me, but simply wish to control me? I mean, after all, isn’t the whole purpose of this meeting for them to ‘understand’ me and then somehow get me to ‘seek their permission’ for me to change in order to just be who I am? I know they’re not bad people, but even good people can be abusive because all they know is how to control. They are simply insecure.

Validation is key; pursuit of validation from family compounds the inability to recognise abuse or to even acknowledge it. Pursuit of validation from others gives us little self-worth. So then why do I seek it? I have become this woman who on the face of things has it all together, but look deeper and you’ll see the fragmented pieces. Although I know true validation comes from oneself, in reality, practising it is pretty darn hard.

Validation. Abuse. Control. Survival. Suffering. They all make me overwhelmed at times. I am not speaking of this because I am weak. I speak of this because the impact of a family that demands absolute conformity based on religious and cultural upbringing is insurmountable. Nonetheless, suffering is part of the human condition. What matters is how we deal with it. Today, I chose to share it.

Halima Begum

Halima Begum

Halima Begum is an ex-Muslim, feminist, campaigner for secularism and blogger. Following her decade-long journey of exploring both the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, as well as Islamism, Halima is now an outspoken advocate of gender equality and secular liberalism. Her study, British ex-Muslims: Negotiating the Essential and the Revolutionary", won the Best Dissertation Award at Birkbeck University in 2014. Halima's core aims are to promote freedom of expression and uphold rights of personal autonomy. She hopes to share her journey and help others dealing with faith-related issues to find a way to live according to their own values. You can follow Halima on Twitter (@thumbalima), or through her personal blog, Tales of Courage (talesofcourage.wordpress.com).

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8 Responses

  1. Georges says:

    You are a brilliant example of courage to stand with your convictions.
    Religion is based on faith which is believing without proof, avoiding doubt. Of course they have doubt, but they try hard to ignore it as their religion taught them to despise apostates and they fear the rejection from the community that would ensue. To them, you represent that doubt and you make it harder to dismiss.

    The pursuit of truth needs doubt. Without it, you will fall for any crazy superstition. Religion fears doubt for that reason: it needs you to believe in spite of contradicting facts.

    I wish you courage in your pursuit of the truth.

  2. Omar says:

    I had quite the same experience , nearly the same emotional turmoil

    however it was much easier for me , I know the risk females and homosexuals from both genders would undertake to do what I did , and I respect their courage

  3. Garabet says:

    what you believe is what you choose, being “branded” since birth with what you should be and what you should believe in is not acceptable if you are not convinced that it is the right thing for you or reflects what and who you really are.

  4. Azemina says:

    The same thing is happening to me (and I have not even officially ‘came out’ that I am no longer a follower of Islam). It is very hard, I cry often. Memories and missing them gets me. Its as if a great deal of people die at once in your family, except worse (I’ve had family members die and I personally feel it is worse) that you know that they choose not to see you, talk to you, be your family.

  5. Chaxter says:

    So what happened?

  6. Brilliant young lady. Stay strong. Don’t let the bigots grind you down!

  7. Ken B says:

    Hi Halima,
    I just left this link for Aliyah Saleem and thought you might enjoy it as well:
    https://youtu.be/z_bDgox6iqM
    I hope it helps you on your journey!
    Ken B.
    (Stupid autocorrect spell checker changed your name on my first post!)

  1. 21/02/2016

    […] Edit: This post has been cross-posted  on the Double Bind Magazine. […]

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