Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Final Blog Post

This week, our members are concerned with goings-on happening across the world in Muslim countries where we come from. These are causes for concern for us because they have to do with our contemporaries living abroad who are not fortunate enough to be living in a secular country like us. In Pakistan, there is a man who was a university teacher there who was accused of blasphemy and was jailed before he could be mob-lynched by the students and townspeople. Many people from EXMNA know him from their correspondences online because he frequented the ex-Muslims forums they all visit. His lawyer who was defending his case was just shot and murdered yesterday, for defending a "blasphemer". In Saudi Arabia, an activist has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for "disrespecting Islam" by creating a "liberal website". His lawyer has also been arrested.

On a lighter not, a member is flabbergasted that his sister who is in medical school and is taking many advanced biology classes does not believe in evolution. He is wondering what is going through her head when she is learning enough to understand the theory so well that she aces the tests, but still the cognitive dissonance does not allow her to accept the theory.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

EXMNA gained two new members this week. One gentleman originally from Sudan, who now lives in NY, and another who is in Oklahoma and has joined the North Texas/Oklahoma group. There are smaller sub-groups so that meetups can be more easily arranged, and North Texas (Dallas) and Oklahoma do joint meetups.

One of the members told us a rather shocking/disturbing story this week. A harmless one, but still very shocking and something that shows a certain mind-set. She had set a profile picture on Facebook of her and her sister, from when they were about 7-8 years old. The girls are wearing dresses in the picture. The member told us that her mother sent her an email with the picture with their bare legs cropped out, telling her it's better if she put that version up! The picture is of two little girls, and her mother sexualised it by wanting her to hide her legs in it.

In another post, someone has posted an "article" from a Middle-Eastern newspaper. It's basically a propaganda article, saying that the UAE has been ranked "First in World for Treating Women with Respect". The members are having a bit of a laugh at this one. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

EXMNA has affiliates in Britain (LEMC: London Ex-Muslim Council and CEMB: Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain) and one of the LEMC head members has written a post on EXMNA about a project he's working on so that EXMNA might do something similar if we think it is a good idea.

He is taking Quran classes at an "inclusive" mosque (which is called the "gay mosque" by Muslims who disagree with the mosque because they accept gay Muslims). This mosque is very liberal and  allows gay Muslims to worship there, which is pretty unheard of in the Muslim world. By taking Qur'an classes there, he is learning more about his ex religion so that he can approach people who are in vulnerable positions and are on the edge of becoming ex-Muslim and need someone who is knowledgeable in both Islam and secularism to talk with. By taking classes at this inclusive mosque, he is also creating a tie with the Muslim world. After all, the aim is not to shun them or be shunned by them but to create connections and harmony between the two groups and support those Muslims who include all those Muslims who are shunned by the mainstream Islam.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This week we have been discussing the event I will throw for this class on EXMNA. Everyone isa really excited and some people are readily willing to participate and people even want me to film the event. The main concern we are having is whether I should invite the Muslim Student Association folks. On one hand, we believe they should know about EXMNA so there can be reduced animosity and more acceptance between the two groups, but on the other hand we have safety concerns.

Another big thing that has happened is that one of our members has come out as polyamorous. He believes he is capable of loving more that one gender/sex and multiple people at a time. Everyone has been really supportive to him. This has to do with our class for this week which was about gay rights (including LGBTQ) issues. It was awesome to read the words of advice and support offered to this member!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 7 blog post (late)

This week, we are helping a member who is afraid for her life. She is a junior in college in the US, but her and her family are here on a Visa which makes it hard for her to get a job or loans. Her family, especially her mother, is threatening to kill her and she doesn't know what to do. She is afraid to tell the police because that would make her the "bad guy" in the family and create more trouble, or worse: get sent back home to Abu Dhabi/get marred.

Members are trying to present solutions. They have offered her accommodation in various places where they're situated, but she is going to college and doesn't want to waste her semester which is paid for.
Other people have experience with information regarding the visa situation, so they are presenting some solutions regarding that. There are also suggestions she see the counselors at the international office at her university. The biggest advice they are giving her now is to take back what she's told her parents - that she made a mistake and is still Muslim. Taking her words back is something that could help her until she gains independence. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spring Break - extra post

One of our members (who ran away from home and her parents set Hezbollah to kidnap and torture her - she has gained asylum in the US since) has a blog documenting her life as an ex-Muslim and what she endured at her home country in Lebanon. When she was a teen, she was forced to undergo a test to see if she was still a virgin by her parents. They sent her to a gynecologist who routinely conducted the test (and basically broke her Hippocratic oath to take care of her patients) and in her blog the member has written about this experience.
If you have a blog, you can trace what Google search terms lead to your blog. The author of the blog shared a list of terms that led people to her blog in the last 30 days only. It is pretty sickening and sad how obsessed with "virginity" and virginity tests people are in that culture. The following is a link to the image with a list of the search terms. The commentary isn't by me but by the author of the blog:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Week 5

I waited til today to make my post because I wanted to publish on Women's Day. EXMNA compiled powerful testimonies from their women members about how they viewed their self worth and self image in an Islamic country of family and it was published today. I will post a few very moving quotes from the publication:

“When I was Muslim, I was called a “whore” or a “slut” from around the age of 10 for wanting to a classmate’s birthday party or stay at school past 3 pm to do after school activities. I didn’t even understand what sex was, and I thought of myself as a whore for wanting to do certain normal things. That means every time I had a thought in my head about wanting to attend a sleepover with my friends or join the soccer team at school and wear the shorts that came along with the uniform, I thought of myself as a whore. That’s very, very powerful.” – Taslima

"I need not feel shame. I had never thought of it consciously prior to leaving Islam, but as a woman I always sat with some shame – of my body and my voice, for example. I was always learning to hide myself. I could not be too outspoken, too bold. I am still struggling to let myself speak. And I still find myself thinking I am a burden. But I have lost so much shame. I realized there is no reason to hide myself. For who? For a man? For all men? Why? I refuse.” – Noura

"As a Muslim girl, one of the most traumatic experiences, that troubled my heart, nearly broke my spirit, made me ashamed of my female body, my female self, was that notorious saying of Muhammad standing on the footsteps of hell and proclaiming that most of the screams, and burning flesh were that of women. I asked my 12 year old self, what is it about women that makes her more deceitful, more disloyal to her god and his messenger than her brothers? Why did I have to be born within such a lascivious group? What a curse! Why does god damn some for eternity and endlessly reward others?” – Nandi

"Ten years ago, I thought of my body as a dirty, unfortunate vessel that just didn’t seem as perfect as that of a man. My mother used to shame me every time my period would come around. Even after I was disowned, I would shy away from my boyfriends and tuck away that dirty, bloody little secret. But recently, I've come to cherish the sheer beauty and complexity of the female human body.” – Maha

"I wear bright colors and let the skin drink those delicious, warm rays of the sun. No longer are the days that I fear that my father would punish me for wearing short sleeved shirts." – Maha 

Find the entire post here:

These posts were so moving. Even though (thankfully) I didn't have to endure these awful feelings, I know people who did and still do to this day. I am so happy that these women are more empowered and independent today and that they live a happy, fulfilling and free life. I am also very happy for all the support they give and receive to/from one another. Reading and writing these testimonials have been very therapeutic for everyone involved.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Week 4

This week, a member who moved alone to the United States from a Middle Eastern Muslim country described to us just how liberating a small thing like taking a run in shorts and a tank for the first time and feeling the wind on your legs and arms felt. She could never even have imagined doing that in her country or even here if her family was here. She described how she took a walk at 10PM alone and felt so guilty as if she were doing something wrong, because at home or amongst family, something as simple as stepping out of the house is a big deal. The site and group provides the members so much support and when people share their small but significant milestones, it makes others come up and share their stories as well, bringing everyone closer to together. After her post, many people, especially the female members came forward and shared similar stories of liberation after they abandoned their faith, the veil, etc. Many came forward to say that Muslims will insist that they CHOOSE the veil and the hijab, but they felt that they were forced and it wasn't a choice. The group is such a great platform to relieve so many people of their stresses and guilt they have about doing something as innocent as talking an evening walk. The members all came forward and supported the original poster and let her know that there is absolutely nothing to be guilty of. I think this is such an important platform for us because we can support each other overcome hurdles, big and small.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Post 3

This week, a member is tired of living in the closet and is asking for advice on how to "come out" to her family about her ex-Muslim atheist status. She is concerned about her family's reaction (she asked what to do if they come out with "hangers and stuff to hit me or something") and is nervous to tell them, but  is getting increasing frustrated living in this way (she lives with her family) and having to be silent about who she really is. Basically, this girl doesn't have the right to be herself in her own home. She doesn't have the right to dress how she wants and say what she wants. She is nearly completely stripped of her civil right to express and be herself. 

What's buzzing:
A funny fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority) has been passed by some Gulf imams (Islamic scholars/priests/authorities) and the EXMNA members are having a bit of a laugh about it. They have ruled that it is un-Islamic for Muslims to go to Mars! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week 2

EXMNA gathers members usually by word of mouth. You have to be a trusted friend or acquaintance of a member in order to become a part of this group, because if we have an impostor it can be very dangerous for the other members. If you find EXMNA through their website, and want to join the organisation, you must have multiple interviews over phone and Skype with a member of the administration, and possibly an in-person interview after that by a correspondent in a nearby city. EXMNA takes safety very seriously because in Islam, apostates are "liable to be killed". I know this sounds absurd in this day and age and in a country like the USA, but there is still danger to members from their communities and families. Honour killings are not unheard of, and of course shipping off to the home country is also more common than we would like. It is especially dangerous for female members to be exposed because females have less power in Muslim societies and families.
I think EXMNA does a great job of keeping their members safe.

What's buzzing this week:
Hot Snakes Media, which is a production company which created the show "Breaking Amish" has been contacting some of the EXMNA members because they are interested in creating a show about ex-Muslims. This is discerning for the group because they aren't exactly sure how Hot Snakes Media is finding us. We are not interested in starring in a show that fetishizes our ex-Muslim statues and makes a "reality show" out of it that people watch for entertainment, because it's not a light matter.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

First Post

One big job that EXMNA fulfills is being an outlet for the community members. Ex-Muslims cannot express themselves openly around their family and Muslim friends, because the fear of excommunication is very high. The members come online and if they have to vent, or talk about something personal, they do it on the group. A recent meetup took place in Waterloo, Canada and members had a great time meeting people in similar situations as them.
EXMNA was also buzzing this week about the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate about whether or not creationism holds up in our contemporary, modern, scientific world.
Link to the debate: