I was 5 years old the first time I entered a mosque. As with every other situation in my young life, I wasn’t given a choice or informed about this new experience, I was simply led to this new building and I did what I was told to do. I learnt Arabic and Urdu, I wore a burqa and I memorised the last 30 surahs of the Quran. I didn’t exactly pray 5 times I day but my early years were spent in preparation for this. Even when I was asleep I would dream that one day I would do a pilgrimage to Mecca and all would become clear, I was somehow chosen and enlightened and my faith would get me through this, my living nightmare, because God knew and only He could make it go away.
My grandparents were staunch Muslims, or at least their definition of it. When I think about some of the cautionary tales told to me as a kid and how hungrily I lapped them up, I am amazed at myself that I am now a ‘non-believer’. Hellfire was a common feature. For the first decade of my life, I believed I had an angel on each shoulder, documenting all deeds good and evil. I was told we had to cover our hair was because otherwise Satan would urinate on it. I was told I couldn’t cut my hair because our religion forbade it. There were a million and one reasons to control every aspect of my life and I guess this is why I rebelled.
One of the first things to occur to me was the number of non-believers destined for Hell. I couldn’t understand why God, all knowing and omnipresent would condemn a large portion of his creation to destruction, in this way. What a waste of His time. And if they merely existed to serve as reminder to us, the Chosen Ones, of how we must not stray, well, how is that even fair? Born to die for our sins. That’s just weird isn’t it? And the worse my life got, the more my innocence was chipped away, the less afraid I was to challenge God and seek answers. If it was God that created me then He created this desire for the truth and I didn’t believe God to be so tempestuous as to admonish me for needing to know. Anyway I was angry, he’d made me a girl and apparently girls weren’t worth a helluva lot.
I left my faith at the door of the last mosque I would ever attend. Aged just 10 I’d had enough of the Imam and his inappropriate use of my body. I was glad to be free. I would endure weeks of hurtful comments and physical abuse because I’d rejected my teaching, my family were none too happy about this. I was expected to memorise the whole of the Quran and bring praise on my family but I’d done the opposite. But I didn’t care. I was beyond all of it.
As an early teen, I’d sneer at the Muslim boys. I’d happily feed the little racists group about how I was more in control of my life as an atheist (though it was many more years before I would actually feel this way). That period of my life reminds me of Richard Dawkins. Smug, free, privileged, hurtful, bullying. I had this new found feeling of superiority, I’d cracked the God code and I was gonna laugh at everyone too stupid to figure out the truth. Except, I was a kid and I grew out of that phase. I met more people and realised the world was too big a place with too many different shades of everything to just conveniently slap one label on them all. I met Muslims I actually liked! And get this, Catholics! And all the other religions and ways of life. Because people, all the people on this lonely planet, are full of good and bad. Being atheist doesn’t give you a get out of jail free card, like somehow you can’t be hateful and controlling because it’s righteous hate and control, check yourself and your privilege and take it down a notch or ten.
Muslims slaughter their animals by slitting their throats? That’s common practice in non halal UK abattoirs. Yes, the animal is stunned first but stunning isn’t always accurate and are you telling me those animals don’t know they’re going to die? (Watch the series Kill it, Cook it, Eat it). And how dare one person killing and eating an animal tell another person their method is not to their liking? They’re all killing and eating animals, why is one worse than the other? Is it so convenient to tell half a truth to a sycophantic audience? It’s downright dangerous and he knows this.
I don’t like Richard Dawkins because he is just as bad as the fundos with their beards. He is in a position of great power and he uses this to control. How dare he try and define trauma for victims of sexual abuse? I’ve never heard a single survivor use the word ‘icky’ to describe a sexual violation. They haven’t just trodden in dog poo; they have been physically/sexually harmed. He is the voice of patriarchy and patriarchy is white and middle aged.
I don’t want him to speak for me.