When I lost religion a few months ago, I did what any sane and reasonable person might do to cement the deal and make it official: I changed my facebook profile. Under the religion heading it now reads, “Free from religion”. Of course, it is true that I have never really been free from Islam. In fact, since just before my apostacy, it has taken a hold of me like an ever lurking, suffocating presence, never far from my consciousness.
While some commenters have chosen to take an aggressive and accusatory tone towards my discontent and others have been sympathetic,this and this comment really sums it up the best. Losing religion is like a breakup. It’s an earth shattering and cathartic process. Sometimes it’s torturous and other times exhilarating. But mostly torturous. Sure, there’s the realization that I no longer have to worry about eating certain things or asking the waiter if there’s wine in the brown sauce or if there’s bacon grease in the mashed potatoes. There’s the ease of going to get my hair done in an actual salon among real people, not hidden away in some back room because I cover my hair. There’s a slew of things that I can freely enjoy now that I didn’t before. Things that blogger evebitestheapple calls “Fringe Benefits”.
But mostly it’s been torturous, a constant battle to overcome regrets and resentment. There’s a reason why the phrase, “losing my religion” exists in the vernacular. It’s not just an REM song, it’s a commonly used southern colloquialism which means something like “at the end of my rope”. It’s what a person feels when they’ve just had enough and can’t take it anymore.
It’s definitely not easy.
I’ve been fighting an epic battle to overcome the negative emotions. Anger and resentment still lurk. But in the last few weeks, it’s gotten better. For no particular reason, it’s like a tiny weight has been lifted. A small measure, to be sure, but noticeable still. I don’t want to be angry anymore. I’m tired of reading blogs and feeling a veiled sense of hostility. To be honest, it’s been the progressive and moderate voices that disturb me the most. Perhaps because that’s the only way I could ever imagine my life as a Muslim, and yet I find it so artificial. So false. I find it dishonest that (especially) women are taking great leaps to make Islam livable and acceptable to our modern morality, changing essential concepts found within the Quran and hadith and cemented by 140o years of scholarship, “reinterpreting” them into something so far away from what must have surely been the original intent as recognized by the Bedouins of the 7th century. Because God couldn’t possibly have thought women were lesser, or that non-Muslims unequal. The prophet couldn’t have possibly married a child or ordered stonings and beheadings. No, that’s impossible. So instead, let’s change the doctrine into something that works for today, rather than abandoning it altogether. It’s easier to change the religion instead of leaving it. I chose the latter. But that’s my opinion and you know what they say about those.
It’s wrong of me to feel anger towards reformists.I’ve realized that while I stand by my beliefs and assessment, it really doesn’t matter what Islam was meant to be as orchestrated by Muhammad, or his loyal followers or the fourteen centuries of scholarship. It only matters what it is today and what it will be in the future. It only matters what it can be. So for the sake of humanity everywhere, for my daughter and future grandchildren, it is much more advantageous to seek out an Islam that gives women equal footing in public and in private, an Islam that is tolerant to non-Muslims, and an Islam that views God as one of forgiveness and love while seeking out the kind and gentle qualities of its prophet. An Islam that can coexist.
It’s wrong of me to feel this anger because of what I am and what I believe. I believe people in America have the right to practice their faith in whatever way they see fit. But most importantly, I believe that women have the right to see their chosen destinies fulfilled, a right to self-determination and an essential belief in their own self worth and value, irrespective of traditional, conservative gender roles . I believe this can only be accomplished through progressive and reformist thought and for this reason, most especially, I support the movement.
More than anything I resent myself. I truly wish I never converted. I simply cannot understand why I ever chose to willingly enter a community in which questions of whether it’s okay for a woman to pray next to a man, or uncover her head, or even speak in public is “acceptable”–a community in which most of its members would answer a resounding no to the above questions. In this day and age. What the hell was I thinking? I can’t believe I would willingly enter a religion in which owning a dog is a scandal and listening to music controversial. Why on earth would I choose such a thing for myself? Me, the girl who used wear bright purple hair and listen to punk rock. The girl who never listened to anyone and could never be tamed. The girl who was wild and fun and mouthy and just a bit crazy. The g irl who used to smoke ganja perched atop ancient oak trees, far above the world, swaying in the breeze.
Perhaps this has been the hardest question of all and one I will surely continue to ask.