Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Journey of Disbelief: How did you tell your parents you were an Atheist?


Hi Eiynah! 

I came across your blog a few years ago and I'll be honest, it irked me. Reading posts on your Facebook that were against Islam infuriated me, yet I would still come back and stay updated about everything. I guess there was a part of me that was questioning my religion back then as well. 


After taking a few courses on Islam at University of ***, I slowly started to question my religion openly. I even visited an imam and asked him for answers, but his answers did not satisfy me. 


I started researching more and found more flaws in my religion. Growing up, I was only taught to read the Quran in Arabic, fast during Ramadan, pray sometimes, etc. I was not taught the controversial verses in the Quran, the flawed islamic history, etc. 


Today, I am not religious at all, but my family is. My question is, how did you tell your parents you were Atheist? I am tired of living a secret life. I want to wear whatever I want without worrying about putting family on privacy on Facebook. I want to openly confess that I drink. I want to be more vocal about homophobia, especially in our culture. I come from a Pakistani family as well. I do not want to lose my parents or disappoint them, but I am 21 and old enough to believe what I want. I won't say I am a full Atheist, but there is a lot of things in the Islamic tradition I find corrupt and flawed. How do I approach my parents without them wanting to disown me?


On a lighter note, I LOVE your blog! Keep up the great work. Women like you deeply inspire me.


- Shazia

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Shazia,

Thank you so much for your kind and incredibly wonderful message. It's emails like yours, that make speaking out about this stuff worthwhile.

I am thrilled that you kept coming back even though what I was saying was hard to digest at that moment. I hope a similar curiosity lingers in other young Pakistani Muslims. We are so rarely encouraged to think critically, its hard to rid ourselves of indoctrination... I've been there, I can relate... though I think my journey was slightly easier than the average desi dissenter, because my parents weren't that religious and I was a skeptic even as a five year old. Though my parents of course didn't take it seriously.. I was always asking 'inappropriate' questions, or difficult ones they did not have answers for. They still don't have satisfactory answers but are less willing to entertain my questions now ;)

I will break my response down in sections, as I have quite a bit to say.


Early Questions

I grew up in a very progressive Muslim home, I suppose that encouraged rational thought. My dad was often critical of ultra-religious people, whilst never renouncing the faith...he showed me it was ok to question these things and even find them silly. A lot of my family members drink alcohol, but there was always a secrecy surrounding it, as if they were doing something they knew was 'wrong' (It didn't help that I grew up in Saudi where alcohol is illegal and acquired on the downlow). Those kinds of things confused me, because why would you do something you think is wrong in the first place? And if you don't think its wrong... why is it so hushed?


From my Shariah Beer post, check it out here


It was this search for a lack of hypocrisy, for consistency, that led to the undoing of my beliefs at an early age. I used to ask my mom how she knew we were born into the right religion, if there were others.... what if we were following the wrong one. She could never convince me really that she knew we were following the right one. That was a worry in the back of my mind as a kid.. because hell sounded horrific, frightening.

I asked for evidence of god before I hit 5 I think, and never was given any. I was told he is everywhere - which led me to feel rather awkward in the shower.... and wonder why this creep watches us bathe. I asked why he let bad things happen to good people and no one could really tell me why. As an adult, these questions seem valid still... so I guess it was pretty early on that I decided I wasn't buying it. This made the blow of my eventual godlessness much softer on my parents as they watched me grow up challenging everything. Of course I had some brief periods where I flirted with religion, nothing long lasting though.

One time in my life I decided I'd give religion and prayer a quick go, was right before my O levels (11th grade exams) - the most hardcore exams I had ever had till that point. Anyway, I just didn't want to take any risks...so I prayed. And studied... and did quite well. But then I couldn't keep up the religiosity for long after, and thought to myself..."surely if god is real, he knew I was making an opportunistic deal to pray only during my exams with him. So why would he help me do well...if he knew I wasn't really into it, and only doing it for selfish reasons. Is he easily fooled/tricked.... or did I do well because I studied..?"

Another constant concern in my childhood, was the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own fucking kid to show devotion to god. I remember feeling horror upon discovering this story.. and asking my mom about it. I asked her if she'd do that to me if god asked her or appeared in her dream...She said "Of course not!"

Hugely relieved, my young brain thought, "She's bad at being religious because she wouldn't follow Abraham's example and that makes her a good person! Phew... SO thankful my mom isn't good at being religious and won't sacrifice me if god asks!"

This god guy was starting to sound like an asshole.


Raised with Moderate Islam

Anyhow, aside from a few brief periods of dipping my toe into belief for purely selfish reasons, I was critical of what I saw around me all the time. I even remember asking for god's help (lol) in escaping my Quran classes, and whaddaya know, sometimes 'god' obliged. My Quran teacher would come in the late afternoons for an hour when I'd rather be playing in the park. Often, I hopped on my bike as soon as I saw him turning into our street. If my dad had returned from work, he went looking for me in the car - but I went into narrow alleyways and crossed through people's backyards, where the car couldn't go. I dodged him many a time, and successfully evaded class for that day. :D My parents and I often chuckle about this stuff when we talk about my childhood now.

When menstruation happened in pre-teen years (intelligent design indeed), it was an excellent tool to skip Quran class, (which sigh, yes I was *still* fighting to escape.... from about the age of 7 to like 13) - because god doesn't like filthy women praying/touching Qurans with their dirty menstruation hands (which *he* created supposedly) ... early menstruation cycles are irregular and can last longer... I took full advantage of this, and often added on an extra WEEK to my menstrual cycle, which no one questioned ;)





I never really had to 'come out' to my parents as a non-believer... it was an unspoken fact. I think somewhere in teenagehood I did say "I am not a Muslim.... don't call me that" once , and I'm sure I upset the parental units, but I don't think I shocked them in anyway. Of course, they have wondered about their own failings, and where they went wrong to raise me as such a heretic. Perhaps they blame their progressive ways... as they grow older they sadly become (a bit) more religious, but all things considered, fairly accepting of my non belief. It was more of a struggle when I was younger of course, when my parents thought they had more authority over me, or more responsibility to make sure I don't go to hell ... (which I am not convinced they themselves can entirely believe in) ...

Like you, I was not taught the bad, violent verses. I was not taught about blasphemy or apostasy even being a thing. The version I was taught truly seemed a lot more peaceful, even if it did claim that every non-muslim would go to hell. It was definitely more palatable. And I don't think I was purposely taught *only* the good parts, its really the only parts my parents knew about. Just like yours, our Quran lessons were in arabic and didn't mean a thing to me, I was just repeating words I didn't understand at all (which I thought was rather pointless). Now, that I have read a lot of the Quran in english, and looked at it with a critical eye, so much is utterly ludicrous. I sometimes show my mom verses...I ask her why she follows a religion that endorses this. I need to know for my own peace of mind.

Her immediate response is, "This can't be real". And then her response is, "I don't know, I have never seen that before" . What I have come to realize is that many of the more progressive and modern Muslims (like moderate Christians) know not what they endorse by 'believing in' their scriptures. And by the time someone questions them on it, its too deeply ingrained to be unraveled. They get defensive, and are unwilling to listen... they shut down all conversation. Cognitive dissonance...the fingers go in the ears.... la la la la....

I can hardly fault people for being a little resistant to criticism of something that has seemingly been so harmless their whole life, something that has provided them with so much comfort. I fault them for not listening, yes. You were irked by my posts, but you read, you tried to see the other side. Not shutting off conversation is very important if one wants to truly think for themselves. If you don't have answers to why certain things are a certain way, it is on you to seek them out. If you refuse to seek them out, then you are not thinking for yourself. So kudos to you for searching, for going to an Imam, for searching beyond that when his answers did not satisfy you.


My Agnostic Years

For most of my life I identified as an agnostic. Even before I knew there was a word for it....one doesn't really come by such terms in Saudi Arabia, especially in the pre-internet era. When we had internet, every second site was censored. I knew I didn't believe in religion at all, but I was reluctant to say I didn't believe in god...even though, on the inside I felt kind of silly clinging to this ....I felt incredibly untrue to myself ..for not being able to say I didn't believe in a 'creator'. I tried to deflect, and say maybe the creator was just a 'force' or 'energy' or 'science' or whatever....trying to imply that it was not the traditional understanding of god. I read more about atheism, and realized that I could no longer pretend. I did feel that making a leap from agnostic to atheist would ruffle more feathers than my pretty uneventful journey from 'muslim' to agnostic...and in my life this was true. This was perhaps what was holding me back from saying it. My last five agnostic years felt oppressive, and I felt I was keeping my disbelief in check just so I didn't upset anyone, just so I didn't offend.

Finally I could take no more, I had lost the will to pretend... I think my blog had a big part in that. Once I started writing about sexuality in our culture (In the early days I promised myself I'd not write about religion, and keep my views about it to myself because of the risks involved). Back then I took apologist stances which did not reflect my actual thoughts, 'This is not true Islam' etc. I tried to write just about sexuality, but it was hard to divorce it from the effects that religion has on it, especially in our part of the world (Pakistan). It was difficult to write about injustices towards women and not mention the correlation with religious belief about these things.

I also found that just writing about sex I got enough death and rape threats, which I was initially trying to avoid... and gradually said, "Fuck it. I can't sugarcoat anymore." 


Atheism

Once I became an 'unapologetic' atheist as opposed to a tip-toeing (closet) one, it came as no surprise to my parents. So things have remained uneventful on that front. There are occasional tensions during dinner table conversations, when I visit ('Moderate' Muslim passive-aggression towards non believers is another blogpost entirely). Thankfully no one in my parental home prays before a meal *gag*. 

However, things didn't go so well with some agnostic friends....I lost friends I used to laugh about religion with, only because I spoke out as an 'atheist'... that was a bit odd. But its cool, I am a freer person for it.

I can feel your pain with the parents. Even though mine have never been overly religious, there were religion based rules we had growing up. Obviously no one listened... but we couldn't be open about dating, drinking, wearing short skirts. However, when I moved out (to Canada) for uni I did whatever I liked and my parents kind of gave up I guess. They were not thrilled with the purple haired 18 year old returning home from uni, or with the piercings I was adding to my collection...but there's only so much you can do when an 'adult' offspring rebels, right? This is of course different if you are in Pakistan..but luckily I wasn't.

My extended family and Pakistani family friends had a field day spreading rumours about how I was a slut, how I had joined a devil-worship cult, how I drank blood, how i was into bestiality (whut?) .. but these are the kinds of things one must prepare for if going against the Pakistani/Muslim mould... especially if you have a vagina.


How to tell your Muslim Parents you are a devil worshipper Non-Believer

1) First, identify what kind of muslim parents you have. Are they extremists? If so... best to lay low till you get out of their house, I'm afraid. You could be in actual physical danger if you express non-belief. If they are 'moderates' or progressives, you may be safe from physical harm, but may still be shunned. Also remember that the prescribed punishment for apostasy in Islam is death. It is justifiable to some people's conscience, so always know that in the back of your mind when wanting to 'come out'. Even a slight expression of doubt can have you branded as an apostate. Safety first. Only approach your family with doubts if you are confident no one will harm you, and even then...take it slow.

2) Once you have identified that your family is approachable about your non-belief. Express it in baby steps. Its important to be gradual and do this over the long term for most effectiveness. If you are a teenager expressing doubt and you know your family can handle it, its better to express it now, in small doses, rather than hold it in all your life and shock your family all of a sudden.

3) Social media hassles are not worth it. Trust me, just have a separate Facebook account for your family. Even if you try to fiddle with the privacy settings and what not, someone somewhere will see you holding a pint of beer in a picture. And then all hell could break loose depending on your family's alcohol policy. :/ It's just simpler to have a 'kosher' account and a regular account. It sucks that we have to do this, but I'd rather no one got into trouble over photographic evidence. I have heard of girls being honour-killed over photos with their boyfriends (not saying your family is like that, but someone's might be). Sorry, as a community we are just not there yet ..to trust an extended network of people with photos of our heretic lives. Even if it's not physical danger you are worried about, you will certainly be branded as a whore or something along those lines. Your parents might be shamed.... its just not worth it. You can have two profiles...or keep your Facebook minimal. Don't share too many photos, be vigilant about changing privacy settings, etc.

4) The wearing what you like bit - that can be done gradually too perhaps...maybe you can start by wearing something semi-controversial and work your way up? Are you moving out any time soon? Because thats an effective way to tell your parents that you are an adult. I know its rarer in our culture for kids to move out before they are married... :/ I am so bad at relating to this part, especially because by 16 I was wearing dog collars ..which my parents loathed, but I did it anyway.... I guess, just do little things you want to do and build up their tolerance... ? Is that even helpful? :/

5) Alcohol - At 21 you are certainly of legal age, and old enough to make that decision for yourself. My parents have known I drink for years, but they are still uncomfortable when I have a glass of wine in front of them. Im not sure how to normalize this. I talk about drinking in front of my parents all the time, I've had friends over at their house, I've had drinks at their dinner parties, we've had beers during barbecues in their backyard....but there is always judgement in their eyes. I don't know what it is... especially because I'm a woman... and trust me I am over legal age haha.. but somehow its more acceptable for them that my husband or brother drinks..my mom still makes comments about how girls shouldn't drink much. Smh. I love her dearly... but i don't know what the fuck to do about this. People tell me just being able to drink in front of your parents is a big deal in Pakistani culture... but it still seems pretty awkward to me.

6) Sex - you are 21... no one but you gets to decide sex matters for you. Just remember to be safe always, and if you have questions I'm here :) If you live in the west, I'm pretty sure you can get access to condoms from uni. Don't let anyone pressure you into anything you're not comfortable with. Doctors here are understanding of the fact that sex is a part of normal healthy adult life, you should have no problem talking to your doctor about it, if you need to. If you are in Pakistan, be very very careful discussing this even with your doctor. Look to science, not religion for matters of (sexual) health always. This is advice i'd give to people of any religion, any level of belief or disbelief. Pakistani parents (people) are not so easy to talk to about sex, it's one of the reasons I started my blog

7) Maybe watching movies, documentaries on the topic of disbelief might help your parents understand your perspective? Or will help you get a feel for what their thoughts are on the subject, before you open up to them.

8) Stop praying - if this is demanded of you in any setting (and you are uncomfortable), refuse if possible. Especially being a woman, a lot of people at community gatherings don't question much... incase you have a case of the monthly devil blood. Eventually people get used to you being one of the ones that don't pray. This is a good solid step. :)

9) Human Rights - this is something you can take a solid stance on without compromises (and watch any religion come undone itself). I've seen many 'religious' muslims supportive of equality... rights for women and LGBT. For their roundabout justifications you can visit their websites :P Might be a good way to ease family into it. The modern world is on the right side of this for the most part (Not Indiana), you do not have to feel like you are alone in calling out homophobia, misogyny. There are tons of articles, videos, resources to turn to and to show to your family if they question why. If they openly say 'this is forbidden in our religion', then you can question if that makes sense...

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Hope some of these tips are helpful, I know they won't work for everyone... but this would be my advice based on my lived experiences. I also hope that sharing my journey of disbelief was some consolation and offered some support. To anyone questioning, my advice would be read, search, look up whatever you are doubting.

Thank you for writing Shazia, I hope you inspire others. I have been hearing from quite a few young Pakistanis who have been questioning their faith and who have found some comfort in my blogposts. You guys are hope for the future, our way out of this ancient indoctrination, this culture usurped by extremists.

Much love,
E

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Response to 'My Niqab gave me a Voice'


Just when I thought things couldn't get any more bizarre surrounding the niqab debate in Canada...I read the most er, 'surprising' article by a niqabi woman....claiming her niqab gave her a voice.

Yes and cheeseburgers help me lose weight, handcuffs help me feel liberated, etc.

This debate has been heated with both sides speaking passionately. However, some perspectives are missing from the discussion at large - making it a little one dimensional. The whole thing has been brought about by Pakistani immigrant Zunera Ishaq's refusal to take off her *face* veil in citizenship court, where absolutely no one else gets to wear a mask.

This rigidity, this sense of superiority...this opposition to following rules that EVERYONE else has to abide by, asking for religious privileges, this is exactly the kind of political Islam that I have seen my birth country, Pakistan, be destroyed by.

Many a Muslim cleric will even tell you that the face veil is not a mandatory part of Islam. This is not about religion necessarily, this is about not backing down, this is about ego. This is about politics. This is about 'playing the race card', when this is not a 'card' to play... racism is a real and very horrible experience, and yet some people are attempting to manufacture a tinge of racism here.... to use it to their gain. How are they any better than the opportunistic politicians they seem to oppose?

This is about using freedom to propagate oppression. It's truly an insult to myself, my family, and many immigrants like us ...that are regular people...who are not manipulative in this way, who do not demand 'special' privileges under the guise of multiculturalism or cultural relativism....We are happy to abide by rules and laws meant for everyone. We are happy to extend a hand in friendship and to meet others, to learn about other cultures while sharing ours. We hare happy to be reasonable, to give and take, to find a balance in our new country's culture as well as our birth country's culture. We are happy and proud to embrace both.

I thought framing the niqab as some sort of feminist tool of bodily autonomy was the most ludicrous, topsy turvy thing I'd ever heard of... but today this letter to the Prime Minister from niqabi-Canadian, Aysha Luqman-Pandor seems to have surpassed that. She frames the niqab (the epitome of misogyny) as a tool of empowerment. Oh the irony...And as far as I can tell, this letter is not meant as a submission to The Onion.

I had so many thoughts while reading it. I thought I'd unpack some of what I was thinking for you here. It is so easy for extremists and fundamentalists... apologists for the awful that religion in general does, that Islam does, to shut down critique by screaming racist, or bigot. Those words or even the implication of those things will scare most reasonable, well intentioned people into silence. Anyway, here we go:

Here's the maddeningly manipulative and misleading title (for those who do not know what the niqab is about, or know much about Islam)


'My Niqab Gave Me a Voice'

Raised in a hockey-loving household, a woman explains why she donned the veil.

I mean thats exactly like a slave saying his or her ball and chain is what gave them an identity. And why throw in the hockey-loving here? 

In an attempt to frame this conversation as an us vs. them thing perhaps.... 

This is not about making you, as immigrants, seem less Canadian, so stop trying to put it like that. You can play hockey and eat poutine till it leaks out of your ears but it won't turn the niqab into a practice that embodies the Canadian values of equality, freedom. That's not anti-immigrant, that's just a fact. 

"Do you know who I am? You should, because you are asking me to unveil myself. So, let me tell you who I am.

I am a Canadian." 

He wasn't asking you to unclothe yourself or bare your soul. Please do get the facts right. This particular incident is not at all trying to frame you as any less Canadian than anyone else. This is about calling an ancient misogynistic practice what it is. We have been able to do that with FGM (female genital mutilation) but with the niqab, the damage is only psychological, not physical. So niqab-apologists are able to disguise it, and get it to slide under most people's human rights radars. 

"often terrified, but not a terrorist, a fan, but not a fanatic. I am just me."

Sure, you're absolutely not a terrorist. But you just want to fight for your 'right' to wear this symbol of extremism, thats all. I am certain you yourself are not at all violent or intend harm to anyone. But you wish to physically associate yourself with many that do. Because you certainly aren't associating with 'moderate muslims', nothing about the niqab is moderate. You seem to want to physically display that you have more in common with extremists than you do with moderates. You may endorse their ideologies too, you may be a homophobe, or think apostates deserve death. But how would I know, I have nothing to go on except for the fact that you wish to fight for your right to look like the bad guys. Yep, I said that. 

It's true of niqab, and you may be able to fool the average Westerner who has little knowledge of Islam, but you certainly won't be able to fool me. The fact that you wear a niqab (as you say of your own choice) is alarming in itself. 

This item of 'clothing' is the very definition of extremism.... It would be a cause for concern to anyone rational who knew you or was around you. And yet you have the audacity to lie blatantly and claim you are NOT a fanatic? Your niqab and your fight for the right to niqab in courtrooms is only existent because of your fundamentalism, your extremism, your fanaticism. 

"I am the administrator for a private school. I'm completing a degree in foundations for teaching as well as classical Arabic. I am the mother of three children; two sons, age 11 and eight, and a 10-year-old daughter."

Hmm... I wonder what kind of *private* school you work for, and what your motivations for studying classical Arabic might be? Ohmigosh, could the answer to both those things be *religious* - could it possibly be that you work at a school that specializes in indoctrinating little minds, with the glory of say, um... Islam? 

I also wonder what kinds of messages you are sending to your children, with your advocacy and desire to wear this symbol of female oppression. Er... you are indeed telling your boys, that it is a woman's responsibility to keep men's lustful desires in check. It is what the woman wears, and not the unchecked entitlement men have and objectification of women that is the problem. You are telling your daughter that this is the right way to be.... You are leading her by example. 

To me, teaching a little girl about such levels of 'modesty' as protection from the male gaze, is objectifying her. Its not much better, and possibly worse, than telling her at a young age, that the right way to dress is in g-strings and t-shirts that say 'slut'. It is objectification to the max. How is this an ok message to send to your daughter? How can you as a woman justify this? How can you raise sons to be respectful towards women when you would rather hide your own face in public than explain to them what respectful boundaries towards women look like?

"My parents, though practicing Muslims, never enforced or imposed religion on us."

Well, if you're going to go about this by lying blatantly, then I guess I can also say that my parents can speak to Allah, and he has directly told them he doesn't want you to hate women so much, and he wants you to not endorse the niqab. It *might* have been useful in the 7th century, it certainly has no place now. You may be able to mislead people with no experience in the culture, by saying there is no force or imposition, but sorry, I call bullshit. 

If your parents are traditional practising Muslims, there is no way they would have given you a choice to become an apostate or explore other religions and pick one that suited you better....what you call not imposing, is maybe at best the fact that they didn't 'force' you to pray. I'm sure they taught you the Quran, and shared aayats and said Salam, they definitely told you about Muslim women being modest, likely about not dating, and not drinking...These are all impositions. And I'm not saying that parents don't have a right to raise their kids how they think is best (as long as they are not doing harm, psychological or physical) Your parents may have been wonderful, liberal Muslim parents. Mine are. But if they truly believe, there is imposition, 'guidance'.

So please Aysha, do not purposely misinform people in your defence of the niqab. The imposition is ingrained into every little thing, what hand we eat with, what direction our feet face when lying in bed. 

"I was shy, more reserved, voted most likely to disappear by my classmates."

And so this is what you decided to do? You *actively* decided that the best path in life for you was one where you actually disappeared? Where you'd be faceless in public? 

" I did lose most of my so-called friends when I began to observe the veil. "

Well you are wearing the uniform of extremism and pledging physical solidarity with them. Perhaps that made your less fundamentalist friends uncomfortable? Or maybe you felt it was your duty to 'guide' them towards the 'right' path, that can be offputting..... or maybe they just missed seeing your face at the mall? Maybe it was getting hard to go out for a slice of pizza with you? It's understandably difficult to be friends with someone who insists on being an anonymous silhouette in public. Non-verbal cues go out the window.

"I did gain a really great one though, my husband of 13 years, who is also my best friend and greatest support."

Oh your husband supported face veil?! What a shocker.... really. Imagine that, a Muslim man in favour of having his wife hidden away from the public eye, kept only for his sole enjoyment? Never have I ever heard such a thing. 

"My faith, I believe, was the reason for all this."

Yep. Your faith, the faith I was born into, my beloved family's faith. It is a reason for many things. It is also the reason why I have no choice but to express my views behind a pseudonym. It is the reason why I receive countless death threats, for my unpopular views. It is the reason why anyone questioning anything to do with *one* particular religion is afraid, walking on eggshells. It is why you can probably wear a niqab in court and kick and scream and get your way, but no other types of masks would be allowed. Heck I'd probably be thrown out If I tried to wear a Charlie Hebdo T-shirt next to a Muslim family in citizenship court. Because we must respect your religion, otherwise there will be blood, you see? 

"We dress in ways to reflect our choices, our beliefs, our attitudes and our mentality."

Precisely. So glad we agree on something Aysha, and you are reflecting an alarming, extremist mentality by what you choose to wear. What's next? Will you fight for your right to wear ISIS merchandise? 


"So, if covering myself makes me feel safe, comforted, spiritually elevated, and an equal in the eyes of those who see me, then what are you saying by asking me to take it off?
"

You know what makes me feel safe, comforted, spiritually elevated and an equal in the eyes of those who see me? Wearing a large strap on as a big F U to patriarchy, walking around with two rifles and a pitbull foaming at the mouth (well not really but hypothetically speaking) - would I be able to do this in court? Probably not. And maybe the white supremacist living down the street from me feels safer and more spiritually elevated in his KKK hood. But guess what, he isn't going to be granted that privilege in citizenship court either. Because this isn't about the state 'dictating' what you wear, as you and other apologists have tried to frame it. This is about treating everyone equally, not granting special privileges... and not allowing masks/face coverings in citizenship court. That is what he is saying by asking you to take it off. He is saying no masks in citizenship court. Not even for Muslims, and especially not masks which are solely for the purpose of degrading women. Because THAT is not a Canadian value. No matter how much hockey you play. 

So tired of repeating this...over and over...and over. 

"I'm not here to state a ruling on whether the veil is mandatory in my faith or not, I'm here simply to say it is mandatory for me"

Oh, I wonder why you are not here to make a comment about whether it is mandatory in your religion or not? Hint: because you can't make that claim, and so your freedom of religion defence goes out the window. It is absolutely not mandatory, and many clerics have gone as far as declaring fatwas against it, calling it unislamic. If its mandatory for you, you certainly aren't representing mainstream moderate Islam. You are representing extremism. This is a red flag in itself. 

"I find it oddly unsettling that your number one issue with the niqab is that it wasn't expressing a "Canadian" identity."

The irony here is that many people find a faceless silhouette pretty darn unsettling. Something that is rooted in inequality is absolutely not expressing a contemporary Canadian identity. I would support your right to wear the Hijab and even fight for that right along side of you Aysha, because that is a reasonable expectation, as is a turban, or kippah.... but to hide your *face* from others and have that advantage of anonymity over them is not a reasonable expectation. 

"You never mentioned security, feminist issues or even safety issues in wearing it."

You say that as if mentioning those things would have convinced you and the other niqab apologists somehow? 

 "I feel it's belittling of a politician of a high rank to play fashion police. Furthermore, I feel you stepped out of line when you mentioned it was an act deeply rooted in a culture that is "anti-woman." 

This has nothing to do with 'fashion', and you know that. As does anyone with half a brain.

How is stating fact 'out of line'? Please do not try to manipulate the conversation and play 'lets shut the white people up by using the shield of race/culture/religion'. There are absolutely times when many people are out of line, please do not take away from those incidents of real bigotry by trying to classify this as one. What is the sole purpose of the niqab? I think you know as well as I do that it is not exactly to empower women, unless you lie to yourself along with lying to the rest of the world.

"It has me a little furious that you would refer to my religion as a culture."

You know what has me a little furious? Is that you are trying to conflate the religion of my parents with this vile symbol of extremism. The niqab is not mandated by religion as you yourself couldn't clarify above. If it were interchangeable with 'religion' then all Muslims would wear it. And let me tell you, my openminded, progressive female Muslim relatives who have fought the system to get the freedoms they have today do not share your extreme beliefs, or your desires to hide their female existence from public. This is nothing but culture, which is why you see it's presence vary from region to region. Your untruths are honestly what have me 'a little furious'. 

"I have nothing to hide, and when asked to do so for security reasons, I unveil myself to prove it."

Great, then you should agree that the courtroom also has procedures and codes which EVERYONE is expected to abide by. No masks for me should mean no masks for you or anyone. If you've nothing to hide, then ten minutes in citizenship court shouldn't be turned into such a big deal, and in fact should show how flexible and willing to adapt, accommodate and mingle Muslims are. 

"So who am I to you Mr. Harper? You know I am a voter"

You know why you are a voter? Because women unlike yourself fought for your right to be equal to men. And here you are now, fighting for your 'right' to live in a seventh century bag, made to specifically hide women away. Could there be a more blatant double standard? Here you are celebrating your right to vote, while fighting for your right to go back in time in certain regards. It hurts the brain, your pretzel-like logic... it truly does. 

"You know I am a Muslim because I presented myself as one. You know I am a human because you observed me as one.

 But do you know who I am?"

Nope, and you can't really blame anyone for not knowing who you are because you are an unrelatable, unapproachable, faceless being in public. how is anyone supposed to know anything about you apart from the fact that you share views with extremists? 

"I am that 16-year-old girl who was facing a horrendous time fitting in, and belonging, until one day, she took the initiative to determine how she would be seen. My niqab gave me a voice, a place and a hope. It made me who I am."

I am truly sorry you had a hard time fitting in, I can relate. I have a hard time fitting into Pakistani culture, and I would probably feel more comfortable, if I was ever in a mosque - in a tank top. But they'd probably ask me to respect their norm and not wear one. We all have codes and customs, this is not out of the ordinary. If you can expect me to respect the custom in a mosque then I can ask you to respect the secular custom of masklessness in the citizenship court. 

Do you really think removing your face from the equation is going to help you fit in? And to position it as something empowering....sigh.

Whether you were pressured by your belief, hellfire, or whatever...this is not a true choice in my opinion, but you know.... we are a free country, feel free to exercise that 'choice' outside of the courtroom...but then also, don't complain that you feel isolated, because you are separating yourself from others. If this is the image you wish to project in public, then so be it. Please don't be upset when people call it extreme, or think you are an extremist. 

This is the 'voice' you have supposedly chosen for yourself. You think the niqab gives you a 'place', yes it sure does, a place below men. Because unlike men you are not allowed to be in public without your coverings. This made you who you are in the same way a prison uniform makes a prisoner who they are. I am sorry that that is such a huge part of your identity. And I am sorry if it sounds harsh to you, but to women like me who have grown up around morality police, in Islamic theocracies, who have seen what forced modesty can do to women.... it is obscene that you tout your privilege of 'choice' in this matter... regarding a garment that is MOSTLY, overwhelmingly used to oppress women. 

If you truly have this choice, why not use this privilege of yours to stop this from happening to your 'sisters' in Islam, who do *not* have this choice? Why not get on the right side of this yourself, and not fight to perpetuate this female facelessness? 

Sincerely, 

-An apostate

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If you enjoyed this piece, you might also like my other pieces on niqab:




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A huge thanks to my patrons: Lisa Fontaine, Ali Sajid Imami, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Alexander, Know the Question, Mb Cunney, Leneke Van Houten, Alberto and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

You too can support here ! 

If you feel my voice needs to be heard - and you can add a dollar or two to help this project continue, I would greatly appreciate it!
Cheers! 



Monday, March 16, 2015

Stand up for Fetish Gear Rights in the Courtroom!


I am all about Equality.

And I have seen the light. I am completely not ashamed of my previous anti-niqab posts.

As someone born and raised in the religion of peace, the one that prescribes such reasonable levels of modesty for only women...I now understand that fighting for equality is the answer.

Niqabs in the court room? Hellz YEAH! My government shouldn't get to dictate what I wear during the few minutes of citizenship oath. So in order to celebrate this epiphany, I have created a totally ludicrous serious ad campaign. Instead of reducing people's rights, we should absolutely be fighting for *more* rights. So let me get on that...and ask for equality for others who may also feel like not having their bodies policed by the evil dictatorial government.

It's so clear to me now. Why did I not see this before? I propose we plaster the city with these. Rights for all, freedom to choose! Cover your face during official procedures all you want...THIS IS NOT ORWELL'S 1984!! WE ARE FREE CITIZENS...and I demand rights for all!

Screw YOU big brother!

Here are my subway posters and billboard ads. Do let me know via the comments section if you approve....if there are enough of us who see the light, we can definitely try to source to funding for this incredibly important and serious ad campaign.








Background photo from brandsbyovo.com

Background photo from brandsbyovo.com




Background photo from www.halrothphotography.ca

The above post is in reference to the Canadian case of Pakistani woman Zunera Ishaq who is refusing to take her niqab off in citizenship court while taking the oath. She is happy to be pre-identified, as would any of the lovely folk in my above ad campaign. More rights for everyone! Let's get some tax dollars towards hiring some professional peekers, who can verify that all these ppl are who they say they are. 

Please feel free to share these images! Just link to my blog or twitter (@nicemangos)  if you are :) Thank you! 

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Please support my not Muslim enough, not Western enough, not atheist enough, not feminist enough voice here .