Gene Expression

Diary of an ex-Muslim

A friend of mine pointed me to an interesting weblog, Here in Glitner. From the “About” page:

Reflections from my life as a Muslim, perspectives on Islam in my true life as a non-Muslim. I was a Muslim woman, a Muslim wife, a Muslim mother, a Muslim sister. I wore hijab, abstained from pork, obeyed my husband, studied quran and sunnah, and avoided all forbidden and doubtful things as much as I could. And then, slowly, from the blip of one thought to a full-blown realization more than five years later, I emerged into my true life, into reality, and realized my atheism. As you will read, if you go back to the start, it took a long time – roughly two years, to sort out my lifestyle, the life I was living, my family, and my beliefs. This blog mixes in old journal entries from those times with my thoughts on Islam from the perspective of a kafir – an infidel.

The friend is an ex-Muslim as well, though they keep that information to themselves because of negative experiences. By some definitions I’m an “ex-Muslim,” insofar as I identified as a Muslim before the age of eight, at which point I realized I was basically what would be termed an “atheist” (I didn’t know that word at that point). But I never had a coherent supernatural world view. Though before the age of eight I could parrot the general cosmology imparted from Islam, my genuine understanding of the world was totally naturalistic. I had always had a deep interest in evolution and astronomy, and even when I wasn’t a self-conscious atheist God had no place in my model of the cosmos. Nor am I culturally Muslim, as my social network is almost exclusively non-Muslim (and mostly irreligious to boot). Though I can repeat suras I was taught as a child, I never grew up in a world where Islamic material civilization was prominent in any way. In other words, my lack of connection with my “ancestral religion” has had almost no psychic or social cost, and I do not have any personal history of rupture with a tradition which accompanies apostasy. My shedding of a Muslim identity as a child was plainly superficial, as I had never evinced a deep interest in religion, and generally dreaded the boredom of Islamic holidays.

That is why I am fascinated by the weblogs of both converts and apostates, though naturally I have more affinity with the latter. The psychological experiences are in a sense deeply alien to what I am familiar with. I suspect it is analogous to never having been drunk. The mental shock of going from a world filled with supernatural agents to one without, or vice versa, must be jarring. But from what I can tell most religious people take great solace in their personal beliefs, so losing such an anchor might be analogous to a hangover.

Comments

  1. #1 Hisham
    November 30, 2009

    Thanks for pointing out this blog.

    “Here in Glitner” lists several similar sites, but are there any other blogs of the same type (Atheist ex-Muslim) that you would recommend?

  2. #2 razib
    November 30, 2009

    my reading of non-scienceblogs is pretty limited, so i haven’t kept track of the ‘apostophere’ ;-) i just like to give link love since they’re a bit more bold and courageous than the typical blogger.

  3. #3 Christopher
    November 30, 2009

    Back when was more irreligious and hostile to religion, I frequented an ex-Christan website, with most people going from Christianity to irreligiousity, so I understand where you are coming from.

    Myself, I’ve brief moments of religious feeling and atheism & secularism. I mellowed out to apathetic agnosticism now.

  4. #4 Dinz
    December 1, 2009

    Funny how they all write in perfect English. Maybe they all read the same Richard Dawkins books.

  5. #5 Signy
    December 1, 2009

    Imagine my uneasy surprise when I saw my dashboard today. That’s all I have to say.

    Dinz, I write in “perfect English” because I’m educated and it’s my first language. Or are all Muslims / ex-Muslims ferriners? I read some of one of Dawkins’ books once. I have his new book but didn’t read it yet.

  6. #6 Thursday
    December 1, 2009

    It isn’t just the loss of supernatural agents, but the loss of identity.
    http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html
    There is a book called The God That Failed about how devastated by losing faith in Communisim, even though there was not loss of supernatural experience.

  7. #7 razib
    December 1, 2009

    thursday, right. some of this implicit though. i spent elementary school in upstate new york in a heavily white catholic area. i know this because the catholics left every tuesday 30 minutes hour for church related activities. it was me, a few jews and protestants, and one or two black kids. but in hindsight it is clear to me that our implicit identity was that of greater new england. IOW, the way the teachers presented things, the puritans were superior to royalitsts and tories, the north was superior to the south, and upstate was superior to the city. these things were only clear when i moved away, and when i read more history (i hard time elucidating why i empathized with the roundheads when my own personal beliefs would probably due better under the relaxed cavaliers).

    as for religion without he supernatural. point taken. though i think the non-supernatural aspect of communism shouldn’t be overemphasized, like it or not, the masses have a tendency to deify leaders of the communist movement operationally. because communism is materialistic there’s push back against this, but the psychological phenomenon is clear.

  8. #8 razib
    December 1, 2009

    perhaps the contrast was with my prose? :-)

  9. #9 razib
    December 1, 2009

    ah, i see reddit has given this post some love. enjoy the secondary traffic spike :-)

  10. #10 vanya
    December 1, 2009

    But razib, upstate New York is not New England. I’ve never heard of “Greater New England.” As a kid in New Hampshire I always understood that New England was superior to New York state, which was mostly a nest of Dutchmen and Tories in 1776 anyway.

  11. #11 razib
    December 1, 2009

    But razib, upstate New York is not New England. I’ve never heard of “Greater New England.” As a kid in New Hampshire I always understood that New England was superior to New York state, which was mostly a nest of Dutchmen and Tories in 1776 anyway.

    excluding the hudson valley most of new york was settled by yankees in the 19th century. yankees were the dominant cultural influence on burned over district. also, eastern long island was settled from new england as well. see the cousin’s wars. greater new england is in blue. also see this map. the “north dialect” is descended from new england. if you read much about 19th century american history ‘greater new england’ (‘yankees’) is something you’d encounter. the dutch of the hudson valley complained about them.

  12. #12 Jansen
    December 1, 2009

    People can walk away from Islam? I keep hearing horror stories of people who’ve tried that. Don’t they get stoned to death or something like that, for even daring to think of walking away from that religion?

  13. #13 razib
    December 1, 2009

    it’s the majority consensus of islamic law. but i looked into it, and it’s more complicated. the reality is that if you aren’t public about apostasy it usually isn’t a major issue. the rationale for killing apostates isn’t that they’re going to hell (though that’s an issue), it’s that they’re an affront to public order and the stability of islam. IOW, those who argue for killing apostates operate under the assumption that it’s tantamount to treason. different schools of islamic law have different standards of apostasy, and there are dissenters who have basically nullified apostasy laws because they’re so stringent in their criteria.

    as for operationally, the attacks on apostates seem to exhibit a difference according to region. in indonesia and in much of religiously plural africa one can leave islam and convert to other religions. there is an african (former) head of state who converted to islam, and then converted back to christianity. muslims have converted to islam a fair amount in eastern orthodox nations; the tatar nobility for example generally converted to orthodoxy after the conquest of their lands by russia, or, emigrated to turkey. in the core muslim lands, the arab world, turkey and persia, islam is so dominant that apostasy is more serious, and the subordinate roles of jews and xtians is so ingrained that it naturally seems more objectionable than it would in africa, where the religions are often at parity. in india the situation is complicated by extreme powerful communal identities, whereby the treason logic operates at subnational scales.

  14. #14 Danny
    December 2, 2009

    This is really off topic, but the upstate superior to the city? How so?

  15. #15 omar
    December 2, 2009

    About the apostate issue, I would add that its to some extent a question of how much risk is too much risk for you? If you are in the US and you convert away from Islam, you are very unlikely to face anything worse than social hostility in Islamist gatherings, but even here, you are not home free. There is always the small but non-zero possibility that some nutcase will take it upon himself to execute shariah law, so to speak. That risk is probably less than the risk you take by just driving on the intestate, so most people may chose to ignore it.
    On the other hand, if you are in Pakistan, you face a much more significant risk but you CAN get away with it. The likeliest scenario is that no one will actually arrest you or kill you right off, but you will live with this added burden that if you piss off someone in the area over some unrelated matter, he could bring this upon your head. In the end, most mob killings turn out to have been instigated by interested parties for very mundane reasons, but by apostasizing, you have given them that opening. is that a risk you are willing to take? Depends on what faith you are converting TO. Atheism is hardly worth risking your life for, but what if you have the urge to join the early christian martyrs? Its been known to happen…

  16. #16 razib
    December 2, 2009

    Atheism is hardly worth risking your life for, but what if you have the urge to join the early christian martyrs? Its been known to happen…

    yeah. mozarab christians in muslim spain martyred themselves. some of them were apostates from islam. they basically would do things like going into mosques and insulting the prophet. the local authorities didn’t always want to kill these people, as they wondered if they were mentally ill, but in the end the people wanted to get killed for their faith so they just kept blaspheming and disturbing until it happened (this also occurred sometimes with christians during the pagan roman period, where local officials would have preferred to ignore them, but christians kept disturbing the peace until the officials snapped and went along with the mob and implemented anti-christian laws).

  17. #17 Signy
    December 3, 2009

    @omar: “In the end, most mob killings turn out to have been instigated by interested parties for very mundane reasons, but by apostasizing, you have given them that opening. is that a risk you are willing to take? Depends on what faith you are converting TO. Atheism is hardly worth risking your life for, but what if you have the urge to join the early christian martyrs? Its been known to happen…”

    Leaving Islam doesn’t mean that one has to convert *to* something else. How does one convert to atheism anyway – La illaha? Is that how it is done? ;) If you leave Islam – no matter what you put in its place, if anything – and you *say* it what you are doing is affirming freedom of conscience, freedom of choice, freedom of religion. Aren’t those things worth standing up for? People certainly risk their well being and even die for it.

    I hope I don’t have to, and its because of this that I maintain some anonymity, mainly because I did already get threatened / harassed by a few people who knew about this in my real life.

    Would any of us ex-Muslims declare that we had returned to Islam just to escape the sword (the Muslim state’s or the lone nutcase)? It’s an interesting thought. I can’t say what I would do.

  18. #18 razib
    December 3, 2009

    when i was a participant at talk islam i would sometimes point to the existence of crypto-atheists among muslims who feared for their life. this was met by skepticism among some. but of course, i couldn’t name names! it’s kind of a conundrum.

    i can’t say i’ve had death threats. and american born or raised muslims who find out that i’m an atheist aren’t belligerent. but i had some weird interactions with international students in college from muslim countries. i sensed a reflexive hostility from some when i told them i wasn’t a muslim, i was an atheist. it was as if i was proudly boasted about my practice of incest :-)

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