Friday, May 29, 2015

Facebook Wants Ex-Muslims to Put Themselves at Risk

Forgive the clickbaity title, but that's basically what it is. They may not realize they are doing this...and so should be informed.

If you are familiar with my work, you will know that I am a critic of religion in general. I believe in equality, sex-positivity, compassion for all humankind. These are the values I live by and these are the values that prevent me from having much respect for religion (the idea). I engage in a variety of discussions, with both theists and non-theists alike. I try to keep my critique limited to the ideas contained within the obsolete doctrines I oppose. And I argue passionately for others to do the same, to not generalize entire groups of people as savages, etc.

I am against bigotry from the religious and also towards the religious. I am intolerant of intolerance, I speak out on issues that put my life at risk almost on a daily basis. I cannot count for you the amount of death threats, rape threats, other threats I have received, through facebook alone.

As an ex-muslim with extensive lived experience in an Islamic theocracy, I consider it my right and duty to speak about the injustices I have seen, excused away by religion. When I see such beliefs being shielded by the politically correct liberal west, I feel I must speak out and share my perspective too, as a liberal who doesn't agree with protecting people from rightful criticism only because they are minorities in west.

Till last night, I had a pretty vibrant facebook profile. Full of discussion, friendship, building bridges, asking questions...learning from one another. Even though I am a harsh critic of Islam, I do have several Muslim facebook friends (and why wouldn't I be a critic? I am a *woman* who managed to apostasize, and so far, remain alive to advocate for equality in the religion of 'peace'). Many of my muslim friends tell me they find my work interesting, thought-provoking and yes, balanced - something that presents an alternative perspective they don't often get to consider.

From Wikipedia 
 - This is the risk we are at, shocking that facebook would demand we out ourselves. If this is the mentality surrounding apostasy in the muslim world, don't you think these ideas are carried to other countries too?

Contrary to some opinions, that I am a (Pakistani) white supremacist, I do spend most of my time on the internet working for (*gasp* non-white) Muslims, offering help in any way I can. Just recently I was engaged in private conversation with a Muslim woman who lost custody of her son to her abusive ex-husband, taken away under the convenient cover of Sharia law. I speak to people on how to remain safe when expressing their views from Pakistan. I provide support for young LGBT teens from the Muslim world, telling them there is *nothing* wrong with them...and that there is hope for the future. I speak to Muslim mom's of LGBT teens who want to know from an outside perspective how to deal with certain situations, I speak to mom's about ways of tackling difficult topics of sex and sexuality with their children approaching/going through puberty. People come to me for all sorts of advice and help, surrounding sexuality, doubt, disbelief, I've even helped some find safe, non-judgemental medical assistance. Facebook has always been an avenue for people to connect with me and for me to offer help if I can, the most common avenue in fact.

But that has changed.

Facebook has now decided that I am not a *real* individual person.

"Personal profiles are for individual people only and should include a real first and last name"

My account was disabled with no warning, or even an option presented to change my account name had I wanted to.

No Facebook, I don't think I'm an organization, business or brand. Though those terms are vague enough to be argued. Is my blog a brand? Is my small patreon account considered a business? My meagre 700 or so fb friends hardly make me a 'public figure', but again vague enough to be argued.

I can assure you that I am *one* individual person. One who's work is blocked/banned in much of the Muslim world too, so thanks for adding to that! :)


I think it should be up to me to decide how I better reach my audience, and not facebook, right? I am a huge supporter of free speech. Even ideas I loathe, I will argue for their right to exist as part of the conversation in a free world. I will not support the ideas I don't like, but I will unfollow and move on. What Facebook's curiously-timed action regarding my account tells me (this is just speculation, obviously, I could be wrong); is that people have probably tried to report me for harassing or posting inappropriate content before. But that has been unsuccessful, because I don't do either of those things. One thing people have successfully been able to shut down my voice with is the fact that I have a pseudonym - which I use for the very valid reason of ...'remaining alive'.

As someone who is shunned by her own community, and as a self-hating 'racist' by the liberal west, threatened by the Islamic far right as an 'enemy of god' who is 'worthy of death', time and time has become second nature to expect yet another way to be silenced. So here we are.

Social media is a tool I use mostly to help others, I am disappointed that 'reporting' accounts has been misused in this way by enemies of free speech. And I am disappointed that Facebook seems not to care. There has been a systemic targeting of Ex-Muslim accounts, Atheist accounts on social media recently...and it is plainly before us just how many religiously bigoted, hatred-spewing accounts are spared this scrutiny.......because religion.


Interestingly, my account was disabled shortly after a conversation I had with a pedophilia-apologist.

I get it, that Mohammed is widely revered and 'untouchable', I get that people are shot just for daring to draw him. I get that, and I don't accept it. Someone was likely very offended, but I cannot support many of the things he has done or said according to scripture. It is my right to question a woman, as an someone declared worthy of death by the religion Mo founded.

I don't understand how Facebook thinks their 'real name' rule is fair, how they cannot see that it targets certain people specifically. The only reason I don't use my real name is because I'd most likely be killed if I did. The insensitivity that someone would *demand* I use it or be declared 'not a real individual' by the most popular social media site in the world is alarming. This targets Ex-Muslims especially hard, and we have our fair share of grief already.

It targets anyone who wants more privacy or anonymity, perhaps because of a violent, vindictive ex, perhaps because of workplace concerns. It targets performers, people with pen names, stage names, possibly members of the trans community who often struggle to have their names acknowledged as *real*...This rule of declaring individuals not *real* based on them exposing their legal names, targets individuality, expression, creativity - and most importantly free speech.

Not to mention, the taboos around atheism are under-discussed and under-estimated. People can lose jobs just for identifying as an atheist....why should these people have to use *real* names. What's next in Facebook's socialmedia-cracy - requiring fingerprints? ID's? Ironic, given how many Jihadists are able to recruit and communicate via social media.

My account was disabled shortly after I posted this screenshot of a Twitter conversation on Facebook. 

Sure, I'll 'convert to a page' if thats what you want Master Facebook, I'll let you define how I use social media for me. What choice do I have?

Currently, I'm waiting on fb to email me a confirmation that they have compiled my account info so I can download and's been over 14 hours now. Nothing yet.

Will the transfer be smooth? Will I lose people, opportunities to have helped someone? Will I lose the ability to participate in other facebook group discussions, being a 'page' and not a 'person? Wouldn't my page have to be connected to an account anyway? Will your next step be to prompt me to verify my name and endanger myself further?

Govt. ID required to reinstate a social media account. Sigh.

The most frustrating part about this is that facebook seems to be directly unreachable via facebook :/ (either that or my tech incompetence is making it hard for me to find how to contact them). All I come across is endless loops of FAQs and forums that lead me to other forums. No actual way to contact.

Whatever it is, however many ways we are silenced...I don't think people will succeed in silencing the collective voice.



-People are asking me why I have not yet converted my profile to a page yet. I am in the process of trying to do that, but facebook tells me they will email me when my profile info is available for download and transfer, nothing from them yet in over 48 hrs. 

-Also I fear that transferring to a page will have to be linked to a profile, which will then require a 'real name', which would be unsafe for me. 

-Since having my account disabled, I have discovered that this has been a huge issue targeting several communities. There is a protest happening at facebook headquarters regarding this very issue on Monday, June 1st. 
Drag queens, others plan Monday Facebook protest
-Another related piece: Native American activist to sue Facebook over site's 'real name' policy
-Someone has also created a Reddit post about my suspension, you can check it out here

-An excellent infographic was also shared on Twitter. Really shocking that these valid reasons are not taken into consideration.

UPDATE 2 (3 Days later): Looks like there may be some hope! Let's see...

Also, a friend of mine has taken the trouble to set up a fb page in support of getting me back on facebook. Do click 'like' on it if you can


UPDATE 3 (10 days later) : Sigh. I finally managed to get my facebook info downloaded, and attempted to 'convert to a profile', but as I suspected. It wouldn't let me. 

From my twitter (@nicemangos) 

FINAL UPDATE : I AM BACK ON FB :D Come find me here - I am sadly no longer a person, but now converted to a page. So If we were fb friends in the past, fb has automatically unfriended us :/ 

FINAL FINAL UPDATE : I have been targeted and removed from facebook yet again. This time fb is demanding I show govt ID. Well, that probably isn't going to happen for safety reasons. Do keep in touch via the blog or Twitter. Miss you guys x 


A huge thanks to those who wrote to me today,  and to those tweeting to @facebook in support. I hope the message will get to my friends on fb, that I have not abandoned them. Please share this post (especially on Facebook) and help spread the word.

Please consider supporting the blog via patreon. There are so many ways people try to silence Ex-Muslims. I do not intend to let them win.

Monday, May 25, 2015

You cannot Marry a non-Muslim Man : When Fundamentalist Christians are more tolerant than Moderate Muslims

*Personal identifiers have been changed to protect the privacy of the submitter.

Dear Eiynah,

I hope this finds you in good health and good cheer.  I'd like to first say a simple, "Thank you," for speaking up; for being one of the brave ones; for seeking after the truth.  I became aware of your blog after seeing your "Open Letter to Ben Affleck" being discussed elsewhere, and it's touched a nerve with me.  If you'll bear with me I'll explain why.

I'm an American, who met a Pakistani woman online, about 8 years ago.  At that time she had just moved to Germany, having been born and raised in Pakistan, graduated college and offered a wonderful job in a different part of the world. We immediately hit it off, and started chatting every day.  That led to talking via Skype, which led (about a year and a half  later) to meeting for the very first time in person.  She came to the U.S., stayed in a hotel for a couple of weeks, then went back to her resident country of Germany.  The next year I went to see her, and stayed at her apartment for a couple of weeks.

The following year I visited again, and this time she asked me to stay permanently.  Unfortunately the German government didn't see my chosen trade as something they felt they needed in their country at the time, and denied me a residence permit.  We attempted to apply for a "domestic partnership" visa but were denied that, as well, twice.  Their advice?  "Get married.  If you're married, you can apply for a 'Family Reunion' visa."

We didn't want to get married. For my part I saw it as a symbolic gesture.  I don't need any state or organization's "blessing" or approval of my love for someone.  Neither did I feel I needed a piece of paper to justify the relationship.  My girlfriend felt the same way, but also had serious concerns over her family's reaction, over the legality of her situation, etc.  As you're no doubt aware, it's illegal for a Pakistani Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man.  So instead, I stayed in the country beyond the allowed period of time, and attempted to remain under the radar as much as possible.

[Eiynah: (Forbidden in Islam yes, not illegal from what I know)]

(click to enlarge) While there are increasing numbers of people who don't believe in this in our shrinking world, because of it's impracticality. This is a pretty common traditional view. Incredibly unsettling, this mentality of marrying non-muslim women and ensuring that their children are raised in *your* faith...whilst not allowing your women to marry outside of the faith so their children may not be claimed by another faith. And it's disturbing aside from the treatment of women as objects and baby-making machines. It's disturbing because of the 'conquestatorial' (not a real word, I know) attitude...

That brought it's own set of stresses.  Knowing that my girlfriend could lose her job and be deported if we were caught made for some rough days and nights. Eventually we decided, after trying for a 3rd time to get me a visa, that we'd get married, and we did so earlier this year.  Within 30 days the German government had approved our application and I'm now a legal resident here, happily living with my wife and our cat.

The stress isn't over, however.  My wife told me, prior to our marriage, that she was thinking of not telling her parents.  They'd already reacted predictably to knowledge of our relationship: they wanted nothing to do with me, at all.  (For background: she grew up in a moderately wealthy suburb in Karachi; her parents are "moderate" Muslims.)   At first I was offended, and resented her.  "If you loved me you wouldn't care who knew." So, she tried to appease both me and herself and her parents, and you can imagine how that worked out.  I sat in the other room, listening to what was supposed to be a conversation between her and her parents, as she told them she wanted to marry me.

In the hour that talk over Skype lasted my then-girlfriend probably only managed to speak for perhaps 5 minutes.  The remainder of the time was taken up almost exclusively by her father, who seemed to be doing everything in his power to belittle her, to patronize her, to put her in her place.  His viewpoint was implacable: you cannot marry a non-Muslim man.  He even suggested to her, at one point, that she get me to simply *claim* I was Muslim, proving that, with him at least, it was more about appearances and societal expectation than actual religious conviction.

Image from
My views, on the other hand, changed entirely in listening to that one conversation.  I couldn't apologize to her enough.  I was so sorry that I hadn't understood properly just what she was going through, and how hard it was for her to even broach the subject with them.  I told her then that we could marry and we didn't have to tell anyone, if she didn't want to.  I told her that I didn't care who knew, because the important thing was that we knew how we felt about each other.  If I claimed to not care for the State's blessing on my relationship, what kind of hypocrite would I be if I were unable see beyond my own base desire for recognition from her parents, whose opinions I'd also claimed to not care about?

So we're married in secret.  Her parents don't know.  Her friends, with one notable exception, don't know.  Her siblings don't know.  We checked with lawyers and government officials ahead of time, to make sure that the gov't of Germany didn't have any sort of automatic notification system with the gov't of Pakistan where they'd be told one of their citizen's marriage status' had changed.  They don't, so Pakistan doesn't know that "one of its own" is secretly married to a dirty anti-theist male, and an American to boot.  The horror.

And now we almost couldn't be happier.  We still have some of the same stresses, but they're in the background in a sense, and most days they don't amount to anything more than a low-grade sort of anxiety and a feeling of helplessness in the face of complete un-acceptance from her parents and her country.  I'm sad to know that I'll likely never be able to visit the place where she came from, never be able to eat street food in Karachi, never be able to visit any of the beautiful gardens or mosques I've seen only in pictures.  But we deal with these things by indulging ourselves in other areas.  There are hundreds of places in the world to see, and we'll never be able to fit them all in in our lifetimes, and we both think that's great.

One irony in all of this is that my parents are fundamentalist Christians.  Evangelical bible-thumpers.  What was their reaction when they first heard about her?  Ecstatic.  Happy that I'd met someone and fallen in love.  Their reaction when told we'd gotten married at a courthouse?  Disappointed that they hadn't been there, but overjoyed that we could finally be together in Germany without the worry of being afoul of the law.  Her "moderate" parents have, to date, refused every offer to even *speak with me over Skype or by email*.  My fundamentalist parents have accepted us with open arms.  Psychoanalyze that.

So, Eiynah, when I read your open letter I started to cry, and damned if I'm not doing it again right now.  I wish we all could have a discussion.  I wish we could see each other as human beings first, and as Americans or Pakistanis or Muslims or whatever second.  I wish the dialogue didn't get drowned out, time and time again, by the voices of the most vehement and spiteful and hateful among us. So thank you, very very much, for speaking on behalf of my wife and I, even though you don't know us.  It makes me feel just a bit more optimistic that things might change for the better.  I apologize for being so long-winded.  I suppose I've been keeping a lot of this pent up for a long time, but something about your letter struck a spark and I felt like I had to let you know that the words you wrote *did* make a difference, however small.

You made one person feel a bit better about the world today.  thank you for that, and I hope the rest of your days are full of wonder. 




Dear D,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt letter. It made me quite emotional to read your story, because I relate to it a great deal.

Even though my husband and I are both of Pakistani background, and both belong to Muslim families...his family is *a lot* more conservative than mine (I'd define my family as very progressive, and his as 'moderate', like your in-laws). When our relationship had started getting serious and they heard he'd met a Pakistani girl who had piercings and tattoos, purple hair...they were pretty disgusted.

I'll spare you the details of the drama that ensued. But let's just say that ours wasn't a very traditional, family-filled Pakistani wedding. We had the full support of my family, but not at all of his. His parents didn't attend, they didn't want to know me at all. Prior to our wedding, during phone conversations with my then boyfriend (where his family tried to convince him not to marry me), I was often compared to a 'white woman', a gori - as if that was some terrible if that was the most incompatible kind of person for a Pakistani to marry.

I didn't actually meet or speak to his parents till years later. I can tell you it's not a wonderful feeling to be so loathed before someone has even met you. Nor is it healthy for a person to suddenly be abandoned by his entire family simply because they choose not to accept who he loves. :(

I too realized just how difficult it was for him to broach the topic of 'us' with his family, and felt terrible for him. Several years down the line, his family and I are civil with one another...but the  underlying tension never quite goes away.

Through all this, our relationship as a couple grew stronger, our bond deeper. But there is also some sadness...there are so many questions, so many 'what if's'. Even though I am not an overly girly girl, I did imagine a certain kind of wedding....not one where the love of my life had to make a choice between me and his family.


So I've been there. Despite my being Pakistani and technically Muslim....

If a Pakistani doesn't fit the mould like they are supposed to, even they are met with intolerance.

The part about your parents being fundamentalists and hers being moderates - yet yours being more accepting is incredibly telling. There is definitely something about Islam and Muslim culture that is arrogant and inflexible, where orthodoxy is implied....even amongst our most "moderate". There is a literalist approach to scriptures that isn't present today in the majorities of other Abrahamic faiths.

How are our communities claiming to propagate peace and love, when even such differences are not acceptable to them? I do not know... :/

Islam is newer, several centuries behind....perhaps it has not yet gone through enough witch burnings to reach an enlightenment. What surprises me though is the strict adherence in this age of modern science, social media and the internet. Googling anything, anywhere is a smartphone away. There isn't a good enough excuse to be this orthodox, as intolerant as Christians and Jews from times past. Yet the literalism thrives, the ignorance is using social media to spread itself it seems, rather than eradicate itself. 

As you said,

"I wish we could see each other as human beings first, and as Americans or Pakistanis or Muslims or whatever second." 


I wish you both the best. Make the most of your travel, and your lives with each other. Use this experience to strengthen your bond. You two have been through a lot together, and sacrificed a lot for each other! You get a head start in terms of marriage-bonding, if you ask me :)


This post is dedicated to my rock and best friend Mr. Mango.

Thanks to my patrons: Fred, Steve, Martin, Ruthless Atheist, Lisa Fontaine, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Alexander, Know the Question, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke Van Houten, Alberto and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

Please help me devote more time to the blog by supporting here !

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Muddy Waters of 'Freedom of Speech'

Charlie Hebdo

Freedom of Speech is being discussed a lot these days...

...because people keep killing, or trying to kill others for offending the sensibilities of a *certain* faith.

Cartoonists, illustrators, writers are particularly under threat.

You know someone's fighting a losing battle when they have to defend their ignorant beliefs by using a gun to respond to a pen.

Most of the ways I hear 'freedom of speech' being talked about are maddeningly twisted. There is confusion amongst those who desperately try to find things that 'appear valid' to curb said freedom. There is also confusion amongst those who try to use it to violate human rights and dehumanize entire groups of people. Unfortunately, it seems too many are unable to distinguish one from the other.

Among those who had difficulty telling the difference between instances when human rights were violated and instances where ideas were simply being challenged... were some very influential writers unfortunately: Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, and Taiye Selasi all withdrew from attending the PEN literary Gala, that took place on May 5th. They withdrew for the distasteful reason of protesting an honour being given to the dead. Because they saw it unfit that Charlie Hebdo was given the PEN Freedom of Expression Courage Award. All citing some combination of the "they are forcing secularism on people", "they are racist", "they taunt the marginalized", "they are Islamophobes"...

What astounds me is that these writers of high esteem didn't stop to do a 5 minute google search. They could have easily found context on the drawings in question. They'd have learned that much of the outrage has been an ignorant misunderstanding, that CH is indeed an anti-establishment, anti-racism magazine, an equal opportunity offender of all faiths...

There was incredible anger over a depiction of French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as a monkey, and at first glance - it's completely understandable to be upset by this image, especially if you don't know French Politics. I was taken aback by it too initially...but a quick search on the internet led me to reading what this picture means. You too can read context here. It is in fact mocking prior right wing, racist references to her. 

Sure, I can understand initial anger...but those who are presented with facts about CH's intent, their politics... deliberately choose to ignore them, and continue on with their faux-rage. For example, if this picture was a malicious racist depiction, I doubt the justice minister herself would have attended the funerals of the slain....and I doubt she would have given a eulogy at one of the funerals.

You can see the video of her eulogy and read a translation here.

In a similar manner, I have done mock anti-masturbation ads. If looked at without context of who I am, what my views may indeed seem like I promote the idea that self-pleasure causes natural disasters. But my intent was to put it in the form of what an anti-masturbation person might say. It is so ludicrous on its own, that I'd hope I wouldn't have to explain that I was mocking the viewpoint I created the poster from. However, if this was circulated in certain religious schools, amongst those who think natural disasters are indeed because god is angry....they might take it at face value. If it was viewed in places where people had no idea what I write about, they too might think I was a god-fearing anti-masturbation person.

The information is out there, it is readily available. It is for *you* to verify your claims before you go around spreading lies about the brutally murdered. Especially if you are in the public eye. Wilful blindness is such a shame.

Some people deliberately misrepresent and omit facts to try and validate their claims about CH. Do they not stop and think for a second... about how awful it is to misrepresent those recently murdered, those who are no longer here to speak for themselves? People have been sharing images from other publications, that are *not* Charlie Hebdo at all, to back their claims of "racism". Some fail to see context, but some also deliberately misrepresent. Sigh.


Katie Hopkins, Jihadist Joe & Vive Charlie

On the other side, there's the issue of those who don't wish to challenge ideas...but instead deem entire groups of people inferior. People like Katie Hopkins for example, who recently wrote an article for the (UK) Sun, where she claimed migrants were like cockroaches and viruses. Here are some quotes from Katie:

"No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care."

“Because in the next minute you’ll show me pictures of aggressive young men at Calais, spreading like norovirus on a cruise ship … These two populations are the same. The migrants harassing Brit truckers at the port are the same as the vagrants making the perilous trip across the Med.”

“What we need are gunships sending these boats back to their own country. You want to make a better life for yourself? Then you had better get creative in Northern Africa.”

“Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.”

I know, I know, she sounds like a *delightful* dinner party guest....and someone you'd absolutely want to work with, someone you'd want to represent the credibility of your publication, right? Imagine my non-surprise when Vive Charlie (a magazine set up by Jihadist Joe, a popular 'satire' Twitter account that 'critiques Islam', but ends up being more anti-Muslim than anti-Islam) decided to team up with cuddly Katie. YAY 2 bigots are better than 1, if efficient bigotry is what you're going for.

Don't get me wrong, I am an ardent critic of the ideology myself. I am not even remotely a fan of Islam. Growing up Muslim *and* having a vagina in Saudi Arabia doesn't exactly leave you a fan if you manage to de-indocrinate. However, I attempt to keep my critique focused on the ideas contained within Islam, and not on the *people* who practice (the people who claim scripture is infallible sure, but that isn't what all Muslims think). Muslims are diverse, and some of them want change just like any critic of Islam, some of them find the scriptures problematic too - to group them all in as nazis or fundamentalists is incredibly ignorant and misrepresentative.

I know Jihadist Joe and his magazine Vive Charlie are popular in the atheist 'scene' - because shielded, problematic Islam needs to be criticized and scrutinized. Rational people will support when it is, except sometimes the subtleties of 'criticizing ideas *not* people' are lost on those outside of the community. Critique of *Islam* is not always what's going on with Jihadist Joe or Vive Charlie....when critique of ideas bleeds into generalizing, or mocking entire groups you are crossing the line into bigotry. Anti-Muslim bigotry is real, mosque burning is real, the shouts of "go back home you terrorist" are real, and they hurt... As an ex-Muslim, I face both anti-muslim bigotry because of my name, my pigmentation, etc ....I also face Muslim bigotry because of my dissent, my non-belief.

(Click to enlarge) We are often abandoned by 'liberals' in the west, who are happy to mock Christianity and its dated ideas. There is only recognition for the blue circle of 'the oppressed'...but little to no recognition for those who are oppressed by those already within the blue circle. 

There is no win for people in my position...we are alienated, we are called Islamophobes or self-hating racists by our communities (and often times the liberal West too), and we are called Islam apologists even, by those who think its ok to say all Muslims are fundamentalists, extremists, or that all Muslims are like Nazis...

Screenshot from Homoeconomicus Weblog
I personally know plenty of moderate Muslims that call for the end of extremism, and actively work towards it. Sure they endorse the same ideology (even if they interpret differently), and also often claim their scripture is inerrant - that's an issue. But to lump them in with alien-sightings..... sigh.

It's one thing to say *more* Muslims need to call this stuff out, but another to say it's non-existent.

Nice to see my educated, freedom loving, secular supporting family also being referred to as "savages"
...because 'Muslim' = savage. :/

As secularists, we need our critique to be razor-sharp if we want it to be credible, if we want it to be taken seriously. Sloppy fallacious claims like the screenshots posted here are only harmful to the point we want emphasized - which is that Islam has a real problem, and it continues to be shielded.

We don't want to be written off as 'anti-Muslim bigots', most of us secular critics of Islam are not...some of us even have Muslim families that we love and want the best for.

Dawkins too, occasionally crosses this line into generalization unfortunately (and I bet I'll have some 'freethinkers' very upset with me for saying this).... but Dawkins' endorsement for Joe's account speaks for itself really. I am a fan of Dawkins, and the work he does...don't get me wrong, but I don't always agree with his tweets.

Here is a bit from Tom Owolade's excellent blogpost on the topic:

"I should say he [Joe] doesn’t do just that, because although his account certainly traduces ideas within Islam, it also denigrates Muslims indiscriminately and assumes innate maleficence in their character. This is blanket bigotry. Assuming, a priori, that being Muslim entails you engage in rape or you’re equivalent to Nazis is not a legitimate critique of Islamic ideas, it is blanket bigotry. And saying so doesn’t make me an apologist for Islam, or islamophilic , it simply suggests I find bigoted views contemptible and sufficient for obloquy.

The attitude of Dawkins’ defenders has highlighted very starkly that cognitive dissonance isn’t peculiar to religious people. "

Some excellent points have been made by John Sargeant of the Homoeconomicus blog too, regarding Jihadist Joe, Dawkins and Dawkins' support for Joe...who quite clearly is:

"A global conspiracy believer who uses it to justify his use of bigotry against Muslims has been promoted by Richard Dawkins. That saddens me as a fan of his work and as someone that writes about secular issues."

"Superbly witty" is not the description of Joe I'd expect from someone I respect very much. But no one is right all the time I suppose :/

Of course, Joe's free to say whatever he wants, and endorse whatever narrative he likes. I will always defend his right to be a part of the conversation (I don't think his or accounts like his should be banned at all), but I certainly don't have to approve of his thoughts. Many over at Vive Charlie seem to think that the concept of free speech means that one cannot voice opinions or disapproval even. Free speech doesn't mean a lack of opinion...

Your right to exist will be defended, as will my right to criticize your shitty ideas. :)


A few weeks ago I was contacted by Vive Charlie to write for them. And this was after I had already been open in my criticism regarding their alliance with someone as inexcusable as Katie Hopkins. An interesting situation to be in as an ex-muslim, immigrant, person of be asked to write in the same publication as Katie. But I'm all for free speech, however loathsome - so I said, if they wanted me to write for them, I'd do it only if I could address my issue with the magazine teaming up with a bigot. Because really...Joe's views are problematic on their own, but Katie's views are even more problematic...this magazine is set up in honour of Charlie Hebdo who is too often falsely accused of being racist. I feel like Vive Charlie does CH no favours by 'honouring it' and hosting people who think migrants are cockroaches. There is enough mess around CH as it is...

Their response [paraphrased] was that I'm being petty, and am anti free speech. Katie is just another writer after all, why would I want to stifle her views? Why would I want to take out my personal grudge with her in the publication, didn't I want to write about 'more important' things? -----I'm sorry, but anti-migrant racism and bigotry is incredibly important to me. Even more so when it's being muddled with things like Charlie Hebdo, or valid secular critique of the ideas within Islam. Publications like VC only serve to discredit our critique further if we are conflated with them or their often ignorant ideas. We as secularists need to speak up on this to distinguish ourselves from unfair critique of people.

Hmm...kind of like your grudge against *all* muslims?

They told me they wanted me to write about recently murdered Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud, whom I was in touch with. "How inappropriate," I thought to myself...."Sabeen gave her life speaking up for the oppressed....for people that were also Muslim...for people that could very well have been the migrants Katie Hopkins refers to as cockroaches. Honouring her in such a publication would not be honouring her at all."

But Joe, while speaking to me, did mention that *I* was the racist here....for assuming all migrants are people of colour. Yes, I'm a racist...but Katie is worth defending as not racist. Nice to see how twisted some people's logic can get.

He then mentioned that I was not what they were looking for, because I didn't support free speech fully (Yeah, ok Joe...)

And I can add that her perspective was defended several times during our being 'anti-policy, not anti-migrant'. 

Just before I wished him well and left the conversation, he said oh, well Sam Harris has just (convenient timing) agreed to write about Sabeen for we'll go with that!

I'm still waiting to see Sam's piece for Vive Charlie... :) (and wondering how much truth there was to this claim...or if it was just meant as a 'fuck you we've got someone better anyway' kind of bluff...if it is indeed untrue, to drag Sam Harris' name into this is a rather strange decision...especially when it can be verified that he hasn't written about Sabeen for them).

Update: Sam has just confirmed that this was indeed a BS claim...

Incredibly amusing to see them attempt to backpedal and squirm out of this...


And to further Vive Charlie's defence of Katie Hopkins...a very strange ultimatum has appeared in their latest issue:

(Screenshot via Vive Charlie) Not supporting a bigot like Katie is 'the dark side' apparently. Hosting bigots who demonize weak and helpless people is what freedom of speech is about - got it. $ doesn't have to be involved for this to be a project someone won't support, FYI.

 Freedom of speech still allows people to have opinions, you know? 

(Screenshot via Vive Charlie)
Oh dear.... :/ 



I've often tried to put myself in the shoes of the Charlie Hebdo would i feel about their murder if I really believed Charlie Hebdo was bigoted? - the answer is, their content is fucking irrelevant because people don't deserve to die for drawing. Disapprove of their content, but if that's the issue that takes centre-stage for you over *murder* are deeply troubled.

Sadly, the Garland shooting happened - and unsurprisingly it was a 'draw Mohammed contest' ....sigh... (luckily no one was seriously hurt except for those attempting murder, but it could have gone differently)

why does this act always beget violence? or attempted violence... I hope the defenders of Mo realize one day that they are not doing him any favours by killing people for drawing him. I don't think the act of drawing someone that no one knew personally or someone we can't even prove the existence of is bigoted in any way shape or form. It is most certainly not comparable to anti semitism....which involves degrading and dehumanizing actual people who were killed, persecuted for who they are.

And some of us don't think Mo was such a nice guy... why shouldn't we be free to express that? There is some scriptural stuff he is supposed to have said and done..that I just can't approve of, I'm sorry.

However this contest was organized by a known bigot (Pam Geller). My response however, remains the same... it doesn't fucking matter who's doing it, because all they are doing is drawing, the ones raising weapons are the worse humans in this.

Was her intent hateful? Sure... doesn't change the fact that she organized a 'drawing contest' to express her hate, and the other party attempted to kill.

according to Pamela, everyone that doesn't support Israel is a savage jihadist, ok then.

Here's her ad claiming that moderates basically eventually become terrorists.
image from pamgellerDOTcom

By far the most terrible thing about this is that Pam Geller's conspiracy theorist worldview gains credibility through such attacks, or through defence of such liberal apologists, by people saying 'she should have respected their beliefs'. Stop making Pam Geller more credible ffs. She's someone who needs to be ignored, not made a hero out of...and her critique of Islam doesn't come from an intellectual place, it comes from a xenophobic one. So no, she owes it to no one to respect their ideas...just as we don't owe it to her to respect hers. But use your words to fight back, not weapons. Write articles, draw pictures...whatever.

The fact that she is the better person in all this is a bizarre reality we have to face...a reality Muslims created.

Let me finish off with some choice tweets I encountered that day:

 As you can see, it was a busy day for me...I was firstly busy with my sworn white supremacist duties..and secondly, it's a lot of work for me to single handedly contribute to invasions and bombings of entire regions. You guys really underestimate all the things I'm capable of. :/ My dear Islam apologists see my true potential and power.

ps- christians are way worse than any muslim shooter because they *wish* an eternity of hellfire upon non-christians (and muslims don't do that obvs :P )



Thank you for surviving this extremely long post! If you enjoyed this, you might also like my previous one: A Former Apologist on Free Speech & Tribalism


Thanks to all my patrons: Fred, Martin, Ruthless Atheist, Lisa Fontaine, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Alexander, Know the Question, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke Van Houten, Alberto and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

Please help me devote more time to the blog by supporting here 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

From one Sinner to Another

Below is a letter to the brave filmmaker Parvez Sharma, who decided to document his dangerous pilgrimage, (as an openly gay man) to Mecca, Saudi Arabia:

Dear Parvez,

I saw your film at the Toronto Hot Docs festival on Saturday, and I wanted to start off by commending you on your bravery. Though as a godless ex-Muslim woman, who has spent at least half her life growing up in Saudi Arabia, I disagreed with some of what was said….despite that though, I understand the film’s significance, it’s beauty, it’s power for change. Thank you for being the kind of Muslim that challenges Islam, by going to the very heart of it no doubt (at great risk to yourself). Instead of conforming to fit with it’s rigid make it fit you. You make it your own, and that’s exactly how it should be. I wish religion was as personal and fluid for more people, more Muslims - as it is for you. The world would look incredibly different if this were the case...but sadly it isn’t. 

In the Q&A after the film, I heard you talk about how distressing it's been to receive so much hate mail. I feel for you, I really do...I am so sorry people feel the need to write in and make the effort to oppose such a beautiful and positive project. Last year I wrote a children’s book tackling homophobia in Pakistan, and the hate mail still hasn't stopped. Even as a straight woman, the constant homophobia directed at me hurts greatly. But I'm certain the pain I feel, is not comparable to what it'd be like if I was gay myself. The attacks, though greatly offensive to me even now, would be much worse if they were personal. 

I am labelled an enemy of god and "worthy of death", and only for writing about LGBTQ issues.

I live in Canada, and the reaction from our desi (South Asian) communities in the West has been horrifying. My book probably hasn't even reached a fraction of the people your movie has, so I can only imagine what you must be going through. :(

I cannot believe you had to have heightened security at the Hot Docs festival just because you dared to make a movie about tolerance, acceptance and diversity. 

I'm deeply saddened when I see such resistance to a simple thing like 'equality'.

For those who have not seen or heard of Parvez's film, let me briefly explain that it documents the filmmaker’s Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca as an openly gay Muslim. It showcases some of his internal struggles with wanting to be accepted by a faith that doesn’t necessarily accept him. It is also the story of a touching journey - to gain his late mother’s acceptance through becoming ‘Muslim enough’ to make the pilgrimage. The film is important and beautiful on yet another level as well. Parvez chooses to make his pilgrimage as a Sunni Muslim, with a Shia group of pilgrims. It is not only in defiance of the traditional homophobia in Islam, but also in defiance of the sectarian issues within the faith. 

There are many interpretations, many paths in Islam that can be taken, as with any religion. There is an ugly path, as we see in ISIS, and there is a path of peace, as we see in many of the non-violent Muslims around the world.  Most importantly, there is diversity - this is something that is not acknowledged enough in mainstream media. So thank you for being that representation for Muslims, it makes me proud (as someone who still considers themselves part of the community) to see creative minds like yours who want to take control of the narrative surrounding Islam. 

However there are some issues I feel, that need to be addressed...especially because so many Westerners will be seeing this film - people who are not familiar enough with the ideology to make their judgements accurately. I do understand and tremendously appreciate the risks you took, and the efforts you say you will make (as you did with your last film Jihad For Love) to smuggle it into Muslim countries. That is really where your message needs to be heard most of all. Places like Saudi Arabia need to be addressed in order to create a wider change in Islam, I completely agree. The rate at which Arab imperialism affects the Muslim world, is alarming. The unforgiving tentacles of Wahabbi Islam leave less and less breathing room for progressive thinkers. 

Though there are two paths that any Muslim can take from the teachings of Islam, one of peace and one of violence….that is not to say that violent, oppressive, disturbing raw material isn’t present within scriptures at all times.

The difference lies in how many verses you are willing to ignore…and I think it’s important to mention this fact, so us and our future generations are better armed with knowledge and better equipped to eradicate extremism. The violence, misogyny and homophobia are not exclusive to Islam either - but the difference between those who choose hate and those who choose peace, is simply that of how closely they are willing to follow a set of ideas that belong in another century. This is where the importance of your film comes in, it helps one to see they can indeed take the ancient doctrine and mould it to fit their lives in the 21st century instead of vice versa.

There was one point you mentioned that Mecca was one of the only mosques in the world where people are not segregated by gender, I humbly and respectfully disagree. My mother and I, have had our ankles caned there (lightly), right in god’s house…by the religious “morality” police, in order to herd us into the designated praying areas for women. It is not segregated in the main pilgrimage areas, only because the logistics of such segregation in a stampeding crowd would be impossible to manage. Where manageable, segregation is indeed enforced.  

I absolutely loved that you brought in some aspects about Mecca that are rarely questioned, like the commercialism, the presence of Starbucks, etc. In a city where non muslims are not allowed…the irony of this has been something I’ve been fascinated with all my life. When we were younger, my siblings and I would go to Mecca with our parents quite often. After our exhausting pilgrimage we’d head up to the local mall’s Burger King, where we sat with our American fast-food in hand and looked down from the windows of the mall into the holy mosque. The strangeness of those moments never went unnoticed by me. I once touched upon this aspect of life in Saudi, in my article The Land of Minarets & McDonald’s, but not nearly as vividly as you. It’s not something that comes up often when discussing Saudi, so I was thrilled to see it in your film. 

The consumerism of the pilgrimage industry, the garbage left behind by the pious, the little hypocrisies that make up life in Saudi …were captured incredibly well. Thank you for drawing attention to that irony, and for the intellectual satisfaction!

The parts about Islam being “hijacked” by extremists, are not something I can agree with though. How can a doctrine that contains the raw material for any hate, bigotry, discrimination, be *hijacked* by those who simply draw their inspiration from what is before them. I remember as a child, I was told by my Quran teacher, and family members as well, that the Ka’abah, was a place of idol worship before Islam, and the prophet “thankfully” came and destroyed the idols. This image of someone revered as a hero, smashing other people’s property hurt me even then…"how is this a good thing" I thought? Today, when people in Pakistan follow that example and smash idols in Hindu temples, moderate Muslims are so quick to condemn it, but not many make the link of where these people get their ideas from. Why condemn one act and celebrate the other? This is something akin to the hypocrisies of Saudis, except amongst "progressive" Muslims.

Image from Wikipedia: The Ka'abah

When you say the prophet wouldn’t recognize the current form of Islam, I beg to differ…I think both peaceful and violent paths within Islam are a part of him. It is important to say this, so our younger generations may know it and consciously make a decision of which part of him they wish to idolize and follow. I will spare you the detailed discussion about scripture, but if being honest, we can see that indeed two sets of opposing directions can be laid out from the same texts. 

A verse from the Quran often quoted by progressive, liberal Muslim thinkers. Live and let live, seems to be the message here. 
A contradictory, more violent verse from the same Quran. 

The last point I wanted to bring up, was that it hurt me incredibly, to see you distressed and yearning for acceptance from something that doesn’t have room for you in it. Your words, "Do I belong in this religion that condemns me?" Continue to haunt me, long after I've seen the film.

Sure, you took control and carved room for yourself - which is commendable. But the desire to gain acceptance from your culture, your faith, your late mother was something visible throughout the film. It is obviously not my place to judge you for what you believe or how you believe it, but I so desperately wish that you didn’t have to try so hard to prove you were equal, or to prove that you were indeed "muslim enough”, that you were worthy only via pilgrimage/religion of your mother’s love. I wish these weren’t the conditions you put upon yourself for feeling accepted, and loved by a god that many would say is homophobic. But they are, and you are so brave to face these conditions head on, to ask these questions in front of the world. I heard someone say in the audience that your film touched them, even as an atheist. And I feel exactly the same way…. I found myself resisting the conflicting urges to hug you and debate you when I saw you in the hall. But I thought it was best to stay back and admire your efforts from afar. 

I wish you all the best, and I wish you freedom from this struggle, this desire to find acceptance outside of yourself. I wanted to write and tell you that this sinner thinks you are wonderful with or without acceptance from god. :) Thank you for being part of the Muslim world and for trying to make change.

Kudos to your husband for dealing with your desire for dangerous journeys!

Much love,



A special thanks to The Non-Conference: A Conference for Non-Believers for tickets to the film! Do check them out and support them Ontarians! 

A Huge thanks to my Patrons: Katrin, Martin, Fred, Ruthless Atheist, 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!

Please help me devote even more time to the blog by supporting here !