I had posted in Facebook (in both an Atheist group as well as the regular Timeline) a couple of days ago and thought I’d follow it up with a post on this person. This is what I posted:
A muslim friend of mine is coming out as Atheist to her family. She wants to remove herself from the religion and is moving to Australia in fear of retaliation from family & community. She’s been planning the move & job in Australia for 3 years now and has only revealed her plans to 4 friends and 1 cousin. Says she lost belief in Islam & Allah, and religions in general, several years ago but was fearful of her family. Her story is quite sad, she’s had a lot of pain & suffering. I hope she finally finds some peace and can live a good life. She is getting help & support from some friends who have helped her get a place to stay in Australia and arranged the job.
Ok now let me tell you how I know her. I think I first met Nazreen through mutual friends back when I was 16-17. Nazreen had lived in Dubai for a few years before her family resettled in Cochin. I would often see her on the way to computer classes and we did share many common interests and hence became close friends. Like me she was into science fiction; Star Trek TNG & the X-Files would later become our common favourite tv series and the center point of our phone calls. She also liked some of the same rock bands that I did but preferred the ballads more. I remember an incident that happened one late afternoon : usually it would be Nazreen who called to talk to me and we had certain times that we assigned for said calls. This one day I was bored and thought I’d give her a call. Her mother took the call and said that Nazreen wasn’t home. I was about to keep after saying thank you and that I would try later, when she said that her husband would want to talk to me. I was surprised but said ‘ok’. So Nazreen’s dad come on the line and asked me who I was and how I knew his daughter. I thought ‘Oh oh” but told him how and asked if there was a problem. Sounding a bit confused and hesitant, he said that his daughter was not “allowed” to have male friends or talk to boys over the phone! Not knowing what to say I said sorry and we closed the call.
Afterwards I thought about it for a while and then called back. Her mother took the phone and I asked to speak to Nazreen’s father. They were both surprised but she handed the phone to him and I apologized once again, said I wasn’t one to cause trouble. We were just friends who share similar tastes in fiction & music and I didn’t want Nazreen to get into any trouble because I had called. I wish them both a good day and said goodbye knowing that if they had any decency they would be embarrassed about the whole incident. Well they were – a couple of days later Nazreen called me up and said that she came to know everything from her parents and that she had a fight with them over it and called to say sorry to me. I stopped her and said that no apologies were necessary because her folks were never mean or rude to me. However we still remained friends and continued to talk over the phone but I knew that it was in secret for her.
Years passed and we still remained friends although I rarely got to see her. Then we started keeping touch via email and on cell phones when I finally got one in 2003. After a year or so I completely lost touch with her but heard about her from mutual friends. Her parents & family had become increasingly orthodox and she was even forbidden to have non-Islamic friends!! She contacted me on Facebook a few years ago – but guess what? It’s under a fake name so her relatives can’t find out that it’s actually her. So after a gap of a few years, we renewed our friendship. She told me about the restrictions – no music that’s in English in her house (she later moved due to work and was living with friends sharing an apartment in Bangalore), mandatory wearing of the hijab, no friends who weren’t Muslims, forced prayers etc. They tried to get her married off against her will but she revolted and it was only because of an uncle that she remained single. They wanted her to stay at home and not work, despite her education, and stay at home if she wasn’t going to get married.
Finally she agreed to move back home to Cochin, provided she could continue working. But she faced some physical abuse from her family because she did not believe in Islam and refused to pray. For the last 3 years she planned her move to Australia with the help of 4 friends and a cousin. And she’s gone – yesterday was her flight, her escape from her family & relatives. Her job had been arranged through her friends and she’s gonna share a house with 2 friends – and get this her family – who are lesbians! That oughta get the men in her family pissed off and their knickers in a twist! I hope she’s gonna be happy and finally live in some peace and start life afresh.