The New York Times did a story about the Women in Secularism conference that took place recently in Alexandria, VA and much of the article focuses on Heina Dadabhoy, who will be joining Freethought Blogs as soon as the redesign is finished (yes, it’s still coming, I promise), and a few other ex-Muslims. She talked about the difficulties of leaving Islam:
Anyone leaving a close-knit belief-based community risks parental disappointment, rejection by friends and relatives, and charges of self-loathing. The process can be especially difficult and isolating for women who have grown up Muslim, who are sometimes accused of trying to assimilate into a Western culture that despises them.
“It was incredibly painful,” Heina Dadabhoy, 26, said during a discussion called “Women Leaving Religion,” which also featured three former Christians and one formerly observant Jew, the novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. “My entire life, my identity, was being a good Muslim woman.”
Ms. Dadabhoy, a web developer who lives in Orange County, Calif., and who often gives talks about leaving Islam, said the hardest part of the process was opening up to her family.
“The sense they got was where I was turning my back on them,” Ms. Dadabhoy said. Her parents accused her of thinking that she was better than her grandparents and other ancestors. “You think what you have is better than what we have? You think you’re like those white people,” Ms. Dadabhoy recalled them saying.There are few role models for former Muslims, and although the religion’s history contains some notable skeptics, very few of them are women. Today, Muslim feminists like Irshad Manji and Amina Wadud advocate more liberal attitudes toward women in Islam, but neither has left the faith. And many atheists resist identifying with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-American (by way of the Netherlands) whose vehement criticism of Islam is seen, even by many other atheists, as harsh.
One group that seeks to bridge that gap is Ex-Muslims of North America, which had an information table in the exhibition hall. Members of the group, founded last year in Washington and Toronto, recognize that their efforts might seem radical to some, and take precautions when admitting new members. Those interested in joining are interviewed in person before they are told where the next meeting will be held. The group has grown quickly to about a dozen chapters, in cities including Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York and San Francisco.
We have another of the founders of Ex-Muslims of North America joining the network as a blogger as well. I think it’s important to provide a platform for these brave people to be heard as widely as possible. Their voices, their perspectives, need to be heard. They have experiences that most of us have not had and there is much we can learn from them.