What would you do?

My parents are devout Muslims. I’m an eighteen year old, atheist, girl. I have been for three years now. Every year, as I grow older, my parents’ pressure on conforming more and living by Islamic values increases.

For example, almost six years ago, I was forced to wear the Hijab (I was no longer allowed to leave the house without it on). If that wasn’t bad enough, now, that I’m older, I’m not allowed to wear pants or non-layered skirts.

I’m constantly verbally abused for being a bad Muslim. I wish I believed; I wish I could believe. But I can’t. I’ve read the Quran through and through and it doesn’t make sense. I refuse to believe in a God with the characteristics of the God in the Quran. I’ve looked into a multitude of other religions and there is NO credible evidence that God exists.

I go to college this fall and my parents are only willing to pay for a university in a Muslim Country (for ex. Weill Cornell in Qatar). I’ve been accepted to quite a few schools in the states and thus far, I’ve even been offered a full ride merit scholarship (I don’t qualify for any need based aid) at an extremely prestigious university. I want to take the full ride offer. BUT, since I’ve never been allowed to work (my parents believe girls shouldn’t work), I don’t have money saved up.

So here’s my question(s): What would you do? I don’t have anyone to turn to, all my close friends are poor, and all the adults I know are Muslim. Are there any organizations to help with this? Would it be wise to contact Richard Dawkins or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or someone of the sort?

Thanks in advance.

Posted: March 9th 2011

flagellant www

I have great sympathy for you and your plight: the attitude of your parents is distressingly unreasonable (I was going to write something even stronger) and I empathize with your conflict between your personal integrity and your parents’ hidebound attitude.

You have a sound basis for your belief, having done the work to conclude that God doesn’t exist. You clearly have considerable personal strength and resolve; you are going to need all your fortitude.

Tauriq Moosa has given you some useful advice. I’d like to add to it. The problem with talking to/communicating with others is that what you say may get back to your parents, or even worse. You must therefore be extremely careful whom you contact. You must also devise a secure method of communicating with non-Muslim individuals/organizations. You could read about this on the net.

The practical problem seems to be one of finance: either you go to a college of your parents’ choice, or you don’t go to one at all. One way to continue your education would be to go to Weill Cornell in Qatar, in accordance with your parents’ wishes. As I understand it, Qatar isn’t the most extreme of Islamic countries and, once you were there, you might find the academic atmosphere more congenial than that at home. (I understand that Weill Cornell is in Doha. Women are not expected to cover their heads, so you should be able to dispense with your hijab.) From there, you may then be able to transfer more easily, to the US, or to Europe.

If you were to go along with your parents’ wishes, initially, this would solve the problem of finance. When they can see that you are making a success of your studies, they might start to appreciate you more as an independent individual, which in turn might lead to them to be more tolerant of your beliefs and choices. Equally, it may not. But, by then, you will be better qualified to take charge of your own life and finances.

I too would recommend that you contact the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain . There are similar organizations throughout Europe. Just by looking at these sites, you would see that there are many people who have actively and publicly renounced Islam. I am not suggesting that you should join them, yet, but it would comfort you and stop you feeling alone.

If I were in your shoes, I would avoid acting precipitately and work patiently and carefully with what help is available. I do not believe that would compromise your integrity in any way. Rather it would be creating a safe platform from which to build a successful, fulfilling, and happy adult life. Good luck!

Posted: March 12th 2011

See all questions answered by flagellant


Contact the admissions department at the university that has offered you a full ride, explain your situation, and ask for their assistance. You aren’t the first person who has gotten that sort of scholarship but needs some help using it.

Posted: March 11th 2011

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

Tauriq Moosa www

Your case merits the highest concern. Nothing matters more to me than the ability for women to think, act, and speak for themselves. Given our mutual connection to Islam — mine a discarded rag, yours being sown more fully with the threads of age — I can suggest some guidance.

Firstly, congratulations on being able to ask this question. It is important to know you have access to communication devices, which your family aren’t monitoring. There were cases in Muslim countries where women were killed for being on Facebook and talking to unrelated men.

Secondly, getting information is your most important weapon. You have begun here at least. Look at what others did. Ayaan Hirsi Ali thought her life so jeopardised she fled her country to live in a secular country, where her family couldn’t follow her. I’m not saying you should do the same, of course, but you should consider all aspects. After all, any reason that will lead to your further inability to be a free woman should be tackled with the fiercest opposition: not with violence but with considerable strength and confidence on your part. It should also receive the widest attention.

Thirdly, I would recommend finding others like you. Perhaps some in your area. What are your friends doing? Do you know someone similar to you?

What does the scholarship offer? What is the worst case scenario of you going, despite your parents’ claims that they only care about funding a university in a country of their choice? Think carefully on this. Will they really let their daughter starve? Do you think they will honestly do this to you, if they love you? Otherwise, they merely love what their religion dictates. And Allah after all instructs parents to love their children.

I think you’re way out will be the college with a full scholarship and finding some way to save money. Perhaps a job that involves web-work, with a non-disclosed bank account that they know nothing about? The only problem I would have is that deception is often unhelpful.

The best would be to at least make the case for your own life, which is not a threat to theirs. If it is possible show them that you can be happy and fulfilled without Islam, but that it need not deteriorate their faith, that would be your best option. This raises several other issues though, which I don’t have the space to raise here.

I’m particularly worried about the implications of you being “bad” Muslim. Maybe you can point to people like Tariq Ramadan who studies at Oxford and various liberal institutions, but is regarded as one of the world’s leading Muslim scholars and does not support women’s oppression. You need not say “oppression” but perhaps conservative views of Muslim women.

I wish I could help you further, considering how troubling I find this. I don’t think challenging them with regard to atheism is the correct move, since this could prove very damaging. You at least want to dislocate them gently, by showing that just because you don’t conform to their way of doing Islam need not mean you are a bad person. Many people have had to at least do this bridging, by pretending for a while, while slowly planting seeds of dissent until fully bloomed atheism was in view and could be embraced.

For your convenience, since you did not (wisely) disclose your location, please see if anyone is close to you from these websites:

http://www.maryamnamazie.com/ (If you can, email Maryam. She is an amazing woman who might be able to advise you more than me, considering the institution she runs (http://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/).

Posted: March 11th 2011

See all questions answered by Tauriq Moosa


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