The Inspirational Story of a Woman Who Left Islam to Avoid an Honor Killing

Kimberly Winston at Religion News Service has an incredible profile of 20-year-old “Samya,” an ex-Muslim woman who grew out of her faith and ran away from her family to avoid being the victim of an honor killing:

Samya, out of reach of her family. (Sally Morrow – RNS)

Her parents, she said, think she is guilty of two serious crimes: She rejected a marriage arranged by her father, who came to the U.S. from the Middle East when Samya was an infant. And perhaps more serious to her parents: She has become an atheist.

… One day ["during Ramadan, the Muslim month of daily fasting"], Samya remembered, she was hungry, thirsty and tired from rising before dawn to pray. At that moment, she said, “something just clicked.”

She went into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. A radical thought hit her: “There is no God.” She turned on the tap and took her first sip of water. “I thought, ‘I am free.’”

During a family gathering, an uncle told her that her father had arranged a marriage for her to a man she’d never met in her home country. She was horrified. When she said there was no way she would agree to the marriage, her uncle said he would kill her if she ran away.

“I believed him,” she said.

Samya was rescued, in part, by atheists she knew only through Twitter, who offered her a place to stay, rent-free.

That was two years ago.

Now, she has a new name, a job, and — best of all — freedom.

This is just a glimpse of a longer profile filled with excellent reporting. It’s not a perfectly happy ending — sudden, unrestrained freedom brings with it its own perils — but it’s very likely a happier ending than Samya would’ve seen back home.

Know hope.

On a side note, Kimberly also wrote a wonderful sidebar about Ibrahim Abdallah, the founder of Muslim-ish, a group for former or questioning Muslims based out of New York City and expanding to other cities.

If you’re Muslim and have serious doubts about your faith, know that you’re not alone. The journey out of religion is never easy — certainly it’s tough to leave Islam — but Samya and Ibrahim have done it and their stories will undoubtedly help others out of the wilderness as well.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Rich Wilson

    This reminds me of the opening to chapter two of “Superfreakonomics”

    If you know someone in southeastern Uganda who is having a baby next year, you should hope with all your heart that the baby isn’t born in May. If so, it will be roughly 20 percent more likely to have visual, hearing or learning disabilities as an adult.

    Three years from now, however, May would be a find month to have a baby. But the danger will have only shifted, not disappeared; April would now be the cruelest month.

    What can possibly account for this bizarre pattern? Before you answer, consider this: the same pattern has been identified halfway across the world, in Michigan. In fact, a May birth in Michigan might carry an even greater risk than in Uganda.

    The economists Douglas Almond and Bhashkar Mazumder have a simple answer for this strange and troubling phenomenon: Ramada.

  • Mario Strada

    She needs to get rid of her cellphone like yesterday. Apparently he brother has her cellphone number and he sends her text messages telling her to come back.

    That’s just plain dangerous.

  • chicago dyke

    when people ask me why i’m a “militant” atheist, stories like these are why. i and my atheism hurt no one, just as a gay marriage hurts no straight marriage.

    but religion? it kills. women. gays. those who ask questions. if we must have war, let it be against the idiotic claims of religion, which put invisible silent beings above family members.

    her family is despicable. like catholics who let women die, because the fetus is “more important” or orthodox jews who rape and kill their own wives in the name of “purity,” all religions are horrible anti-social anti-family destructive forces for evil in this world.

  • Noelle

    As in the Ramada Inn?

    Oh, I bet you mean Ramadan. My Muslim friends told me pregnant women are exempt from fasting, as are children and sick people. Are they fasting anyway.

  • Rich Wilson

    Women are expected to make up any fasting days they miss. As in, while breastfeeding. Many just fast during Ramadan

  • sane37

    the cell phone might be her (rather dangerous) security blanket. A link to her past.

  • FernandoSaid

    Where is this nebulous “Middle East” place you describe? Is it just safe to assume that this could have happened anywhere in Barbarian-land, or are details and specifics actually important? I feel for her, but atheists do indeed thrive (and have for centuries) throughout the “Middle East.” Shame on you for a sloppy, stereotypical account.

  • Mrsteve180

    I have a Muslim friend who has serious doubts about religion, and I’ve been reinforcing those doubts lately, but this article makes me hesitant. As soon as she finishes college her highly religious parents are arranging for her to be married, and I know they would aggressively disown her if she decided to leave Islam. But after reading this I’m afraid they may do something like these “honor” killings, so I’m thinking I should just stop trying to pull her away from that, for her own sake.