Note to readers: “Faithful Reader,” who wrote last week’s letter wants to respond to your comments, which were wonderfully caring, encouraging, and full of helpful practical suggestions. Here she offers an update on her situation, and answers a question about the way I had used the term “Muslima.” She also asks another question about protecting her privacy while using the internet.
I’m publishing it here as a new post rather than as a comment on the original post because very few people would see it there. Once an article goes to the second or third pages of this site, readership drops to almost zero. These two letters combined illustrate how very complicated and precarious is the tightrope walk that so many ex-Muslims face all over the world, not just in predominantly Muslim countries.
Dear Richard, Dear Commenters,
To read your answers helped me more than you can imagine – emotionally but also practically and therefore I want to thank you. Thank you very much for everything. Especially your technical advise is highly appreciated, as I lack any know-how.
But I’m very sorry to have caused some misunderstandings and would like to clear things up:
While my parents believe my siblings to be complete failures, they don’t disagree on religion. Also, luckily, I don’t face the danger of a forced marriage just yet, as my father supports my education. And some of you suggested that I could try to change things gradually or expect help from my mother, but I fear that’s pointless in my case. I know that a lot of religious people can overcome their bias slowly – My family definitely can’t.
I also wanted to explain the appropriate use of “Muslim(a)” the best I can. Being a Muslim(a) is just a matter of faith, it isn’t linked to ethnicity. A lot of atheists from Islamic backgrounds would even feel insulted by being labeled one, because that is a common way for Muslims to deny even our existence. So while I certainly don’t feel insulted by you, Richard, it’s generally more advisable and correct to use the term ex-Muslim instead.
After I wrote my first letter to you a lot changed for me but to make it short, my mother found out my younger sister had premarital sex. My whole family lost it, my father threatened her with a knife. I don’t even know what would’ve happened if I wasn’t there to step between them and scream him down. It’s unfathomable, but she still thinks they are right and won’t let me help her.
My father’s reaction showed me, what he is capable of once more. Everytime he flipped out before, I fell into the same cycle of forgiving him again and again. Your encouraging words helped me to break out of that cycle this time. I already knew that he isn’t generally decent to us because he thinks it’s our right to be treated that way and he doesn’t deserve any more forgiveness than my mother. It’s just hard to hold on to thoughts like that if you are the only person you can ask for confirmation.
All I really want to do this moment is to leave this mess and everything else behind right now. On the other hand I know that if I take this step it’ll be forever and I want to be sure before doing anything. While I’m not conflicted about the “if” anymore, I still am about the “when”
My first problem is the financial one. I saved money before but couldn’t prevent my mother from taking it. If I attend college here I will profit from a scholarship and my money will be save on a new bank account. If I don’t, I’ll loose the scholarship and the chance to begin with my education this year.
Without money I would also have to go to a shelter and I already know where to find them. Now I also keep their contact information memorized as you suggested, but I always hoped I wouldn’t have to go there, as I suffer from severe social anxiety. It would be difficult for me to live with strangers, but it is better than no emergency exit.
Another problem is that I feel nowhere in this country will be safe enough, because there are people from our community everywhere. Some family members also occupy public offices here. All in all they have a slightly better than average chance of tracking me down. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I wouldn’t even feel safe in other parts of Europe. If I manage to stay for three years until I – hopefully – finish my Bachelor it would be much more easy for me to leave Europe.
I also would have more time and opportunity to work on a plan if I stayed. When the term starts I will be able to stay away from home the majority of time, I’ll have internet access and a locker on campus, where my family can’t find it. The locker is really valuable because nothing I carry on my person or leave in my room is safe and the only friend I can rely on has abusive parents.
There is also my sister to consider, because I don’t really want to abandon her completely before I know that she’ll be safe and unharmed, even if she doesn’t share the sentiment when it comes to me.
It has to be tiring to read this, but I don’t mature enough to make this kind of decision completely alone. I’m really afraid of doing the wrong thing and I don’t want to decide emotionally. It would help a great deal just to read other opinions on this..
My last question to the people with more knowledge about internet safety: Is there a way for my family to gain information about my internet activities if I use the internet at home using my own notebook?
With my deepest gratitude,
A faithful Reader
Dear Faithful Reader,
I have little more advice to add other than to reiterate my and others’ remarks about believing in your own value and your own goodness, persevering in building a better life for yourself, and being very careful, patient, and prepared. With every passing day you continue to mature, and your self-confidence will continue to increase. The solutions to your puzzling dilemmas will continue to become clearer. Please keep us informed of your progress. You have friends around the world now. To the readers, I thank you in advance for any further encouragement and/or practical advice that you can offer.
You may send your questions for Richard to . Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. There is a very large number of letters. I am sorry if I am unable to respond in a timely manner.