The moral implications of acting like a Muslim

About my person: I am an 18 years old, closeted, female ex-Muslim who wears a head-scarf and teaches Qur’an in the mosque.

I can’t come out to anybody, because despite living in the west if I confess to apostasy my life or at least my health will be in jeopardy. I am planning on running away, have been doing it for years, but I am not even sure if and when I’ll be able to go through with it for a lot of different reasons – like my reluctance to abandon younger siblings, the fear of making my family extremely unhappy or my own psychological and financial shortcomings.

Due to these circumstances I never had the courage to stand up for myself and I still go through the motions of our deeply religious life up to the point of representing and teaching Islam. For doing so I feel extremely guilty and it only gets worse. I try to tell myself that if I didn’t do the job someone else will and that I don’t really make a difference. But I always condemn even moderate Muslims for supporting Islam and and enabling extremists – and isn’t that horrible hypocrisy right there? While I do try to teach my students about democracy, tolerance and a peaceful approach I still strengthen their faith in a dangerously totalistic belief-system.

My Question: While I know that getting myself killed or in serious danger won’t do any good to anyone I can’t get over the guilt. Are these feelings rational and valid or is self-preservation a good reason to act like I do? Is there maybe a more sensible approach to my situation than I have been able to find?

Posted: October 16th 2011

flagellant www

Firstly, I have great sympathy for you in your plight. I find Islam silly, just like other religions, but I also regard it as very unpleasant. You indicate some of the reasons: treating women as objects/property/second class human beings, the penalties for apostasy, and the implicit support for extremists.

It is important to make your personal safety a prime concern; although you live in the West, you are still at risk. Do not discuss your position with your friends and/or family. There are many so-called ‘honour killings’ in the West. Most Muslim families seem to place obedience to religious rules above the law; they seem to have little concern for the needs of individual members, so you must be very careful. For this reason, you should not concern yourself overmuch with the effect on your family. As for the thought of abandoning your brothers and sisters, you are doing something non-selfish for yourself, for your safety, and for your happiness; you are doing nothing malicious to your siblings.

Your current position, as a trusted teacher within a mosque, should work to your advantage: it is unlikely that anyone will guess that you have doubts and you should not feel guilty continuing there until you are good and ready. You say that you have been ‘planning on running away, [having] been doing it for years’, so it is important to make sure that you get everything right, if you are to make the break successfully.

The first thing you must do, before anything else, is to ensure that you have a secure means of communicating: you do not want any hint of your thoughts or intentions to leak before you are ready. If you already have a social media (e.g. Facebook) page, keep it separate. Better still, don’t start one. You should establish a new email address, without giving your name or street address. (Make them up, perhaps.) Only email from an internet café, library, or other secure/anonymous computer. You can get information on how to remain anonymous on the net by googling for it.

I suggest that you establish contact with an organization that specializes in helping people wanting to leave Islam. Your initial contacts will perhaps be slightly hostile and inquisitive – this is to be sure that you are genuine. To find a contact, you could try Apostates of Islam . Then there is The Council of ex-Muslims of Britain. And for more information on European movements, try The Central Council of ex-Muslims . These organizations are full of people who have successfully abandoned Islam and made their escape; they will be able to advise you further.

Finally, you say that you can’t get over the guilt and ask if your feelings are rational. They are not rational but they are clearly powerful and understandable to an outsider. I have already commented on your relationship with your family. As you say, getting killed or injured will do no-one any good. You have no cause to feel guilty about anything you have to do to escape from the clutches of your dreadful, oppressive religion.

You are right to approach atheists to express your anxiety and to ask for suggestions as to what you should do next; we have every sympathy with your situation and wish you the very best.

Posted: November 1st 2011

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Daniel Midgley www

I can’t add much to everyone’s responses, but there’s one thing no one’s mentioned yet: Somehow you need to work your experiences into a book. Other people need to find out about what you are going through because it’s going to be happening to more and more people.

Posted: October 29th 2011

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Leeta www

Hey sister. I’m from the Middle East, I know what you’re going through.

Listen, you’re talking about life and death here, in dealing with Islam and apostasy. I don’t know where you live, but I urge you to speak to a social worker, a counselor, or someone (outside of the religious world). What you want to do (teach democracy and peace in a qur’an class) is noble, and I understand why, but really, it isn’t worth the rest of your life.

This isn’t a decision to make lightly, so I think you should talk to someone who can help locally, and in secret. This is tantamount to women running away from abusive, stalker husbands – it can be very dangerous and it isn’t a decision to be made lightly and without careful thought and planning.

Best of luck.

Posted: October 28th 2011

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George Locke

Richard Wade had some very cogent thoughts on a similar case. I recommend them: link link.

There’s no honor in endangering yourself needlessly. Be strong.

Posted: October 28th 2011

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Galen Rose www

A desire for self preservation and avoidance of pain is eminently rational. Your actions to this point make perfectly good sense. However, you are clearly deeply conflicted and unhappy and to go on this way is only going to continue your misery. There appears to be little or no chance that you will ever be happy in the life you are leading.

It’s only one opinion, but, despite the pain you would feel from disappointing your parents and leaving your siblings, your only hope for happiness in this life (the only life you are ever going to get) is to get away to where you can be who you really want to be. It is your right, now perhaps you should make it your duty. Save your money and go for it. And you may still be able to reconnect with your parents and siblings some day. Dream it, plan it, and do it!

Posted: October 28th 2011

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Ophelia Benson www

To be honest I think you should go ahead with what you’ve been planning for years, and leave. Do everything you can to be safe, of course, but leave. You say you feel extremely guilty and it only gets worse – the answer is to leave. You won’t be abandoning your younger siblings, you’ll be showing them that escape is possible.

Posted: October 28th 2011

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You are an remarkable person. Remarkable people often have a very tough time coming to terms with how they will act in any given situation. I think that you are doing well as you know the conflict and are seeking some kind of resolution with which you can live. No one could ask for more. There is no more sensible approach to your situation. I salute your rare ability to live with conflict and function as well as you do.

Your rather young age means that you have less options than you would if you were older. So keep planning for your own autonomy and when you are ready and know that there will be a good chance that it will work, take the plunge (make sure by then you have an alternative support group on which you can depend).

Posted: October 28th 2011

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