About three years ago, I published a post in which I threw in the towel. “I’m done!” I declared, decrying numerous acts of discrimination, misogyny and isolation I had experienced at the hands of being a Muslim. I left my friends. I left my mosque. I left my life. And I journeyed ahead for a new one.
People came in droves. The criticism wasn’t actually new- I faced constant criticism as a Muslim for my life choices, both intentional and unintentional. Friends were outraged that I would point out the obvious sexism in cultural Islam. The homophobia and transphobia. The racism. The ableism. Their first line of defense? “That’s not Islam!” I never said it was. But I definitely pointed out the very real cultural problems within our faith that were constantly talked over. Constantly victimizing me, from both Muslims and non Muslims alike. There’s no manual for Islamophobia.
So there I was. The man who beat me for years and abducted me and ran me over with my own car had gotten out of jail and took me to court to get contact and visitation with our daughter. Despite being in abject poverty, I was forced to pay for a GAL, and he promptly stopped paying his child support to make sure I was completely paralyzed. Our GAL was bias and lazy, ignorant and ableist- and my daughter has severe mental illness and more than a half dozen times I had solicited the help of the state to prevent her from further abusing my youngest child. It was a mess. I wasn’t safe.
I was pregnant. By month 4, I had lost 5lbs, had hyperemisis gravidarum so badly that I only gained 12lbs total by month 9, and I developed hives all over my body. They got so bad in fact, that I went into labor at 30wks, and I was put on bedrest. The day I got off bedrest at 37.5wks, I gave birth within 3hrs.
Long story short, my daughter finally assaulted my son so badly that she had to go live with my grandma. I moved, 2wks post partum, next door to her so I could help parent and provide for her.
What does that have to do with my faith?
Well, it seems impossible to understand, but imagine being a disabled Muslim in a custody case and involved in a DHHS investigation for sibling abuse between two of your children. Are you catching my drift? Compound that with living in proximity to disapproving Christian family and you’ve got a grand cluster fuck.
So I pulled my white privilege card, and after having a talk with my partner, decided I wasn’t going to tell people I was a Muslim anymore and just try to “fit in”.
I was washed over with relief. I didn’t have to have a conversation every.single.holiday. over our boundaries and expectations. I just stopped asserting myself. I didn’t have to answer concerned DHHS questions, or face disapproval from our GAL. “No worries here, look at our holiday photos!”….”Of course I don’t make my daughter wear hijab! She’s like everyone else…” I didn’t have to explain to anyone why I prefer jeans. I didn’t have to fight the schools. I didn’t have to fight to protect my daughter from toxic Christian ideas like original sin and sexist ideas about women’s autonomy. I didn’t have to fight to explain why I loved someone that everyone thought was unworthy of love. I didn’t have to fight to explain how I have 3 kids by 3 men. I didn’t have to fight to help people understand my disability. I didn’t have to fight. I just laid down and died. I was exactly how they wanted me. No worries here. No more “extremist” Muslim ideas. You won.
So here are the lessons I learned, and why I’m back to talk about it.
Firstly, the most important lesson I learned is to NEVER align with christianity, whiteness, cissexism, ableism, or heteronormity. This is a huge problem in the Islamic community, to the extent of cultural white washing and being prejudice against others. The reason this form of self hatred became toxic to me should be obvious, but let me explain. By surrendering myself to cishetero white christian culture, I wasn’t just erasing my own identity, but i was making it harder for others to maintain theirs and teaching cishet white christians that their oppressive tactics work. No, it is NOT ok for you to force me to explain Islamic holidays, customs or cultures- you have the internet. And when I DO explain them, you don’t have a right to police how I convey the information. You do not get to have an opinion about it. It’s take it or leave it. I’m not going to explain my hijab anymore. Read a book. I recommend the Qur’an.
Just a side note here- aligning with christian white cishets also does not make you safer. They sniff you out. They condemn you. They laugh at your efforts.
Secondly, I learned that christian white cishets are never going to be satisfied because I cannot be a christian white cishet. I can fake like one, but I can never BE one. My giant christmas tree, rotting pumpkins, faux easter grass, sexy tank tops, western music, american decorum, and seemingly cishet relationship are never going to be enough. It’s actually NOT less work suppressing my identity for the one they gaslight me into thinking they want, it’s more work, and its at the expense of my mental and physical wellness. Furthermore I cannot be able bodied. I am disabled. I didn’t ask for it. No sheik is going to cure it. I’m ok with that. There are worse things in this life than being disabled- like being an asshole.
Third, people who said they were friends to my face actually were not. One- ONE friend messaged me privately and was like, “…are you ok? Something is off.” Girl, the GAL even filed a motion to SILENCE ME from talking about her investigation. The complaint I filed against her was so big I had to ship it IN A BOX. Brittney, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I couldn’t tell you. And to the rest of you- you can eat a bag of dicks. Friends- if you EVER have a friend do what I did, you need to get your imam involved, their parents, family, suicide hotline, SOMETHING, because this behavior is not normal AT ALL. If your friends are ditching you because you are denouncing your faith, they are not friends. Friends lift eachother up. Lucky for you and I, I wasn’t ditching my faith OR killing myself. Phew.
Fourth, I am spiritual and not religious. Without the outside pressures of prying eyes and ears, I could explore my faith. I studied Rumi. I read more Qur’an. I spoke with Islamic reformists. I found strong female role models, and separated myself from toxic rigid thinkers. I learned that Islam does not have to be black and white- there are millions of other independent women just like me, who listen to music and wear jeans, and *gasp* DATE. I don’t have shame- I DON’T HAVE SHAME for being who I am or how I live my life. Navigating my life without Muslim parents doesn’t have to be some life crushing burden. Being a single mother doesn’t either. I can be myself, and that’s ok. There is a unique criticism that WOMEN face in Islam for how they practice. There’s this idea that we have to be “good” and “pure” while men do not face equal criticism. This is why hijab is so emphasized in Islam, but smoking, a common act by men, is often NOT. I literally had someone at a dinner party tell me that I should “take any man that will have me because no man is going to love my children like his own, he’s simply not, and will never support them.” Ha. Thanks.
And also, Islam is the leading faith in innovations in math and science. Can we all just pause and acknowledge that medicine exists for a reason? It’s because Allah swt gave us brains to problem solve and help ourselves. Neurotransmitters don’t grow on trees. And some people have deadly allergies. It’s really ok.
Lastly, we still have to have conversations about tough issues in Islam and I’m not afraid. I was shocked when my “friends” started emailing me with extreme eyeroll worthy comments. I probably shouldn’t have been, to be honest, because issues like cissexism, homophobia, misogyny, and racism are alive and well in most circles. I found it shocking though, that more startling to them than me saying I didn’t want to practice Islam was me pointing out the prejudice I was facing within the community! I wasn’t going to take it laying down like they did. I wasn’t going to accept one more person telling me to be “patient with my parents” who openly criticized Islam, or criticism about my relationships and children, and I definitely wasn’t going to allow one more person to dictate how I dress, where I go, or what I do in my spare time. It was completely beyond them that a lot of their ideas were steeped deeply in misogyny or cissexism and heteronormity. Gross, am I right? Listen- gay is ok, black lives matter, no person is illegal, women have a right to autonomy, there’s more than 2 genders, and Muslims aren’t terrorists. These are not separate issues. And they all effect me and my family.
So, asalamu alaikum wa rahtmatullahi wa barakatuhu, it’s good to be back in Maine.