After this article
was published in the Independent about Ex-Muslims in the UK, we were sent this powerful personal testimony by a young man living in the north of England.
So in today’s Independent, there was an article about Ex-muslims, about people who were once Muslims, but have ‘committed’ apostasy, and how that cuts them off from their respective communities, etc.I am a 16 year old from England, and I am an ex-muslim. And I don’t know how to tell my parents.
I was brought up in northern England as a Muslim. Most of my extended family follow the religion, and it was just the norm. I didn’t really think anything of it, except that one day I would go to heaven for an eternity. That thought scared me.
Honestly, as a small child, maybe 5 or 6, I would lie awake at night, trying to wrap my head around how you could live in heaven for an eternity! I could not understand that, I remember crying because I couldn’t. And while this confusion did not lead me to question God’s existence, it was certainly something.
I also remember learning about the Ancient Romans, and how they believed in all their gods, and I remember other children saying how the Romans would go to hell, for not believing in Allah! I did not say anything, but inside, I was thinking how unfair that was. I was only a child, but I knew Islam didn’t exist 2,000 years ago, so how is it the Romans’ fault? That was the first doubt, I guess, but I soon forgot it and got on with my primary school life.
In June, 2012, a few months before I abandoned Islam, I had a sudden ‘desire’ to start being more religious, to start praying and to stop being a ‘bad person’. For me at the time, I was a ‘bad person’ because I liked girls, and spoke to them, and hung out with them. When I think about that now, I don’t see how anyone could think that doing that, acting as nature intended makes you a bad person, but I thought so.
I hated that part of me, which just goes to show how powerful religion can be upon people, and how it can convince that they are in need of God, that without His help, they will burn in Hell. So, I wanted to get in God’s ‘good books’ again, I wanted to rid myself of sin, and for a while I tried. I really did. But I couldn’t. If I’m honest, I was just bored of it. Whenever my mum would tell me to go to the local mosque to pray, I would make excuses, or just not go, and if I did go, I would be annoyed by it.
This lead me to think ‘hang on a minute, why don’t I want to pray?‘. I pondered, does my not wanting to pray affect my life, really? Does it make me a bad person? Some part of me knew that of course it didn’t , prayer doesn’t make an ounce of difference, but that was drowned out by another voice in my head, one that didn’t come from me. And so I believed that I was a bad person because I wanted to be me and not anyone else.
Ramadan came and went that year, and I did not participate. My parents didn’t really think anything was wrong (or rather, they didn’t voice these thoughts to me), and I just carried on as normal, but still identifying as a Muslim. I couldn’t help having doubts though. The more I looked into Islam, the more I found out about it, the more I disagreed with it, the further I found myself running from it. I disliked its views, and I guess I was agnostic at this point, only I could not admit it to myself.
School started again in September that year, and in one of the Religious Studies classes, the teacher was asking us what religions we were a part of (if any), and I found myself deliberately dropping my pen when she asked who was Muslim, so that I wouldn’t be seen as a part of Islam, but also would not be asked why I was not a part of it. That was the first time I admitted, if only to myself, that I was not a Muslim. I kept quiet about it. When you go to a school where the biggest religious group is Islam, you tend to want to keep things like apostasy to yourself.
Losing my faith was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I felt a whole spectrum of emotions, from pain to guilt to self-hate, and finally, to peace. And also, I am not ashamed to admit, a sense of relief. Losing God was terrible for me because what if I’d got it wrong? What if this was just the work of the Devil, like I had been made to believe for my whole life?
I didn’t say anything, not even to my atheist friends because I hated it. I hated not being a Muslim at all, despite knowing that of course it’s not real and how wrong a religion it actually was. It was like pulling off a plaster, I guess. At first it was painful and I was scared to stop being a Muslim, but then the pain was over and I had rid myself of something which had stopped helping me a while back.
At some point, I ‘came out’ as a non Muslim in school, and while I would like to say that this was stress-free and caused me no problems, I cannot. Because it wasn’t.
Most people would stop me in corridors or come up to me during classes and ask me 1) if I’m an Exmuslim and 2) why I am an Exmuslim. A lot of people would avoid talking to me, treating me as if I carried some terrible disease when really I had freed myself of one. Some people would try and make me come back to Islam, by literally forcing me to watch ‘Miracles Of Islam’ videos on YouTube, or to read ‘anti-evolution’ articles.
I’ve had all sorts of violent threats directed at me, I’ve been told to change my name, I’ve had so many rumours being spread about how I’ve been possessed by the Djinn, or the Devil. One guy even went as far as to not return my high five because I was an Exmuslim and he would have to shower. There is even a Muslim teacher in school who warned his tutor to not talk to me in case I turn them against God. All this just strengthened my opinions on religion. I found myself hating them. And, I guess, hating myself.
Over a year has passed since I became an ex-muslim, and while the odd person will strike up a debate with me about the ‘flaws of evolution’ or whatever, and there are a few people who just won’t talk to me on account of my lack of muslimness, I just don’t care. What I have found is that there are quite a few others in school ‘coming out’ as ex-muslims, so there are people I can talk to. Others, in the same hole as me. Others, who are discriminated against because of their rejecting Islam.
One or two of these people have told their parents. I haven’t. I don’t know how. How can I say that they’ve failed in one of the main reasons they believe they live for? How can I tell them that I don’t actually believe in Allah, and that this shouldn’t change anything? Because it shouldn’t. I ‘came out’ as an ex-muslim in a majority muslim school because it shouldn’t matter. I share atheist quotes/pictures on Facebook, with the knowledge that most of the people on my friends list are muslim. And it shouldn’t matter. Yet, having said that, I can’t bring myself to tell my parents, to tell my family.
The punishment for apostasy under Shari’ah is death, usually. Now, whilst I don’t fear that I will be killed, I fear that I will be abandoned. That I will be disowned like so many others have been. A lot of people fear their parents dying, they can think of nothing worse, but I can. Because having your parents leave you by dying is nothing like having parents who want you to leave them, who want nothing to do with you.
I am a 16 year old from England, and I am an ex-muslim. And I don’t know how to tell my parents.