As a Muslim I have been forced to do things and react to things in a certain way. The worst part is that it’s not because the religion is oppressive but because people are. In any society you learn at an early age that you must fit in or else you’ll be in one way or another considered an outsider. When you are born, in any society, everything is chosen and readily planned for you, they choose your name, your religion, and your identity, and eventually they’ll shape your thoughts. They set the criteria and you are expected to stay within it.
I decided to wear the veil at the age of twelve; I was expected to cover my hair and body the moment I reached puberty. To many it may sound bizarre, but this was part of our religion. Many would also think it is oppressive, but anything in life is a choice and people, including parents, tend to take that choice away. I was one of the lucky ones; my parents didn’t like the idea of me wearing the veil at such a young age. They even refused when I suggested it, telling me I had to be more religiously responsible to take such a step. I never understood that, but I decided I will start with the basic everyday five prayers, which caught my parents’ attention and by the age of twelve, they agreed to let me wear it. My mom’s eyes watered with pride and my father called me from abroad, simply, to tell me how proud he was and to give me advice on how to handle myself from that point on. I was so convinced and truly believed that it was the right path, who would have known I would take it off eight years later.
I have always been too mature and philosophical for my age, I wanted to grow up so quickly and take as many responsibilities as possible. My parents would travel and leave my brothers for me to supervise and care for, and that built, I guess, my maternal instincts. My brothers don’t just look at me as a sister but also as a mother, which I take great pride in. I was an introvert, preferred to stay indoors and only socialized with my family members. I had only two friends and that was perfectly fine by me. I would huddle in my room and read book after book, losing myself to the worlds they showed me. I lived my life through these books. I was a princess, an elf, a man, a joker, a knight, a wolf, a vampire, or anything I wished to be. I could go anywhere I want to, it was like the door to limitless and different worlds. Even though most of my readings were of novels, but they taught me so much and one of them was the reason I started on this journey.
The way people spoke of God was in a very fearful way, they speak of Him as if He were the boogeyman. The way I portrayed God was that He knew nothing but destruction, if I sinned his wrath will find me and I will be cursed for life. I will be thrown in the deep pits of hell and burn over and over again. So I became so scared of life and living, I mean why should I when everything has a possibility to anger God or could be considered a sin. Strangely, this train of thought led me to start doubting God’s existence, which when I voiced, of course, was told that these thoughts were whispers of the devil. It was the devil trying to pull me to the wrongful path and doubt. This made my life a bit more complicated, I stopped voicing my questions because the replies were always the same, I would have been happier if people and my family told me that they didn’t know the answers. It would have made much more sense then, however, this was not the reason I have stopped believing in God.
One day I went to a bookstore with two of my cousins, and as we were paying at the cashier a book caught my attention. It was a tiny one and could be easily overlooked, but for some reason the title interested me. The book was called “What on Earth Am I Here For?” by Rick Warren and it was a religious Christian book. As I decided to buy that tiny booklet, one of my cousins told me that I shouldn’t read such a book that it will make me doubt my beliefs. I didn’t care though, and bought the book anyway. I understand why people are so scared of the truth, scared of doubting their beliefs and thoughts. The booklet was, at the time, my book of hope and answers. Even though I got what I desired, it invoked so many more new questions. I felt conflicted and mostly scared. My thoughts were evil and I truly believed that I was blasphemous and would burn in hell. It didn’t get any better, the more I read the more confused and scared I became.
I rarely voiced my thoughts, there was no point really. I was a hypocrite; I would speak of religion and pretend to be a true Muslim, when in reality my thoughts were full of doubts. I don’t know if I was aware at that point, I think I was in denial. I couldn’t face my contemplations, and with every passing day my mind would scream with confusion and fear. I felt lost and cursed with every question or contemplation that crossed my mind. We were told that our brains were one of God’s miracles, but I felt like it was a curse. I wanted to stop thinking, to stop observing and analyzing every single detail around me. With each passing day I wore the veil and identified as Muslim, the more I hated myself. I felt fake and dirty as my fear controlled me. I reached a point where I felt like I was suffocating, like this body I lived in was not my own. I reached a point where my body itched and all I wanted was to peel my skin away.
My fear eventually turned partially into anger and hate towards Him, I was filled with rage at how unfair He was. By then I had read of almost every religion possible that both currently existed or once did. I saw the beauty in them, even though some things were bizarre to me, just like the veil is bizarre to you. It didn’t matter because I came to realize it wasn’t God’s fault. My anger towards Islam and eventually other faiths was not any religion’s fault. It is the realization that people have a tendency to twist things to suit their needs and wants. I have come to realize that God is not a child, nor is He a man. It didn’t make sense that I’m capable of mercy, when God cannot. It didn’t make sense that parents have supported and loved their own children despite their sins, and God cannot. I had come to realize that God is not pathetic like us humans, who have managed to destroy everything around us including each other; God is so much more than we will ever fathom.
Yet I took off the veil after eight years of hypocrisy. For over four years I have not cried once, which I, later, realized was due to depression, but I have broken down twice in front of my parents by the end of the year. At the time I didn’t truly grasp why I was such a mess, till I made my choice and finally took the first step. I went and spoke to my father and mother and told them what I wanted to do and surprisingly they were very supportive. I pushed my luck in a couple of months and I went and told them that I no longer believed in their religion and announced I was atheist. That, though, did not go so well. My mother chose to blame herself, she tried to speak to me and lecture me. I wouldn’t have it; I couldn’t listen to anything at that point. My father did not say much, he understood and gave me my space, but throughout the year he pushed me to choose a religion. He really didn’t care which. My parents feared for my life, which is a bit extreme and understandable, and they were a bit disappointed in me but they never stopped supporting me nor did they stop loving me.
As I was writing today I realized that I have never stopped reading and searching for God. I no longer wish to have a title for who I am, because it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter if I chose to be Muslim, Hindus, Sikh, Christian, Jew..etc. What matters is that I find Him, and this is the path I have come to choose. The path to find my God.
So I killed my hypocrite self, and I have managed to break a huge part of my fears and walls. I dwelt beyond my comfort zone in many ways to better myself, and to finally live. Most importantly I no longer have to pretend to be someone else either, well most of the time. There are some necessary masks that one must wear for certain people. I respect every religion out there, including Islam. It is not my intention to offend; I simply wished to share my chain of thoughts throughout the years that led me to the path I am on now. It is people who oppress; it is neither religion nor God who do so, because by the end of the day everything is a choice.