Monday, July 27, 2015

How can I come out as a Non-Believer to my Wife?

Hi Eynah,

I came across your blog while reading an opinion column on Freedom of speech during the Charlie Hebdo massacre early January. I was fascinated by the content, fresh ideas, alternate opinion and was even more impressed learning it came from a liberal Pakistani Canadian woman. I really enjoy your wit and honest opinions on delicate and important topics. I have been putting off writing to you for a while now.

I understand your audience is mostly targeted towards youth who have a background growing up in orthodox Islamic families and are struggling with coming to terms with their beliefs, sexuality, etc. What I wanted to kind of discuss with you is - 'How I can come out as a non believer to my wife who is a lot more religious and creator-inclined'

Before I go on, I need to give you some background about myself. I'm an Indian citizen, born and raised as a Catholic. Live and work in the US with my wife now and would describe my world view as being liberal - Live and let live! Growing up, my family had been moderately religious in that we did go to church every week and tried to say prayers regularly, etc. I was always taught to think for myself and not have blind belief. However I didn't ask too many tough questions, finding it easier to 'go with the flow' of things and I did believe that the Catholic faith was true in preaching about God and actually helped humanity in achieving peace within oneself as well as in relation to the eternal world. 

But I was never completely certain that this was the case being a science student. Because the theory of evolution and the origin of the world/universe was very different from what the book of genesis preaches for example. I had always been interested in astronomy and somehow what I learnt from the science text books v/s the bible never really added up. I would always reconcile this by thinking that you cant take all that written in the Bible literally and perhaps its a metaphor for something greater that we cant understand being human. 

The doubt always remained though (especially when I read books/viewed films about the Crusades, prosecution of scientific thinkers like Copernicus, Galileo, learnt of the sex scandals in the Catholic church & corruption in the highest ranks in the Vatican) and to be fair my parents never really pressured me into following the catholic faith or doing ritualistic things. It was just me trying to explain the 'stories' in the bible to myself.

This doubt recently has been turned into something I'm certain about now. Certain that I was blind all along to the fallacies and regressive ways in which the guardians of Christian faith had been suppressing scientific thought and radical thinking. This transformation was slow and perhaps took way too many years but what tipped it was Carl Sagan's Cosmos and insights on origins of the universe from a host of other scientific personalities such as S. Hawking and Neil De Grasse Tyson. Once I had understood the basics of origins of the cosmos, evolution theory I realized there was no need to cling to religion or faith in a divine creator. It was great to finally see the world and universe though these new lens of reality :)

Phew, that background was longer than I expected it to be...coming to the problem I have now. On my latest India visit I told my parents about my disbelief in any formal organized religion as well as the existence of a divine creator. They were surprised sure, but like your story they were not totally shocked. Guess they were disappointed, but they didn't chastise or criticize me for my opinions. It felt good to come out with the truth. 

However I haven't been able to do the same thing in telling this to my wife. Before I go on, just wanted to point out that we met way back... and dated for a long time before finally getting married a few years ago. During those years I was still kind of on the fence about the whole religion thing. I was totally in love with her and didn't mind one bit that she was religious (in fact that may have been one of the qualities I adored in her)

She comes from a far more orthodox Catholic family. Growing up I guess they were more hardcore in imposing ritualistic worship, faith and belief in the holy book than my parents were with me. Although she is pretty liberal about her views on tolerance towards other faiths, alternative sexual orientation and is a science graduate herself I feel it will be more difficult...or even impossible for her to abandon her beliefs, faith in the preaching of the Catholic church.

Shes not a fanatic by any means but certainly will find it hard to digest that I do not believe in religion.

The reason its getting more and more important for me to come out now is because we are planning to start a family soon. And I do not really want our kids to be raised with blind faith in any religion. Although I appreciate the good aspects of community, peace, humility which do need to be instilled in kids I dont believe religion is the best and only way to do so.

I dont know if I will have the courage to stand up and say to my wife that I cant bear to see my kids raised believing in a God that doesn't exist...Hence I feel I need to explain my POV to her before we get to that stage. 

I'm really sorry that I've been rambling for so long now, but felt like I needed to explain to you in detail the situation I'm in. Just confused about how to articulate my disbelief and ensure that she doesnt have false expectations from me going forward. I'd like to point out that on the other hand I certainly do not want to impose my beliefs on her i.e. turn her against her religion or anything like that. All I want to do is come clean and explain why I cant bear to ingrain religious agenda in a young mind...

Thanks for understanding. Any suggestions or pointers would be helpful....look forward to hearing from you.




Dear D,

Thanks so much for writing to me, and for your kind words. While I'm honoured and flattered, I'm also a bit saddened by how many people are 'surprised' to discover I am a Pakistani woman. It seems the bar for us is set quite low...and there is definitely a specific mould people expect us to fit. This perception is absolutely the fault of how rarely that mould is broken by Pakistani women. Shows desperately we need more of us to break free of what is expected. I often get people doubting I am either Pakistani *or* a woman :/ 

Anyway, I'm very glad you're here...and hope you will continue reading the blog!

I think you're not alone as far your situation with your wife goes. And it really is a tough one....when one partner's beliefs change during a relationship it can be hard to come to terms with for the other person. And it can change the entire dynamic of the relationship too - so I understand your hesitation to 'come out'. However, if your relationship is strong and you love each other I'm sure some reasonable compromises can be achieved. It's a daunting task to express a changed belief, especially such an important one, to your partner....but the longer you don't address it, the wider the gap becomes. I'd say do it sooner rather than later. It also can't be easy on you to not be who you are freely in front of her. 

People are very sensitive about kids, especially when taught to expect something as 'natural' - like wanting to raise your kids in a faith. But....there are some very good logical reasons that you can present to your wife to make a case of 'letting them choose for themselves' when they are old enough. I think this is something even parents of faith should do, to be quite honest. Teach them and make them aware about beliefs but don't force religion on them when they are too young to consent to a belief system that could impact their entire life. 

Maybe you can teach them about the existence of a bunch of faiths, and also things like greek mythology. So satisfying your wife's desire for them to know her faith..but also making sure they are clued in to the wider picture. Everyone (now) knows the stories in Greek mythology aren't to be taken seriously ..and you can point that out, that they're just stories ;) While teaching them about world religions you could also give them knowledge about science and evolution and the importance of critical thinking... so they get to know about it *all*, and they get to have tools to help make their decision when they are old enough. 

I have some Atheist friends who talk about shielding their kids from religion for as long as possible, and I just don't think thats practical or wise. We live in a theist majority world... and kids will be exposed to religion all the time, from sources you can't control. The best thing we can do is prepare them and arm them with the right tools to differentiate between things that we have evidence for, and are real.... and things we don't have any proof for. 

Of course doing this in an age appropriate manner is also important, you gotta let them have things like the tooth fairy or Santa when they are really little... I think a little make-believe early on, can only help creativity :) They will soon enough start recognizing what's real and what isn't on their own, and that's when you can start guiding them through that, picking out facts from fiction. 

And don't explain it to your wife like this - Just tell her that you're open to teaching about world religions and mythologies as a compromise on your part, and you'd be happy to teach them about her beliefs too...but you would like for them to not be raised as Catholic, just so they can choose what's best for them when they are old enough. 

If she's as liberal and lax and science-friendly as you say, hopefully she will be on board with this. And who knows, raising kids is quite the journey I hear....maybe it will open up her mind too.

All the best to you and your wife!

Hope this was helpful.


A huge thanks to my patrons: Fred, Martin, Steve, Ruthless Atheist, Katrin, Berivan,  Lisa Fontaine, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke, Alberto, Jakob and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

Please support the blog here!

Friday, July 24, 2015

An Ex-Muslim Perspective on Cameron's Extremism Speech : Listen up Canada.

David Cameron's speech on extremism was surprisingly, refreshingly on point. And like any other liberal, it makes me a bit uneasy to say I've agreed with so much of a conservative politician's speech.

But as I discuss more and more often on Twitter and in real seems politics is becoming less about the dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative, more about who's willing to address specific issues. I could never identify as a conservative...but I identify less and less with 'liberals' now too. There are so many things they have failed people like me on.

So many.

Being a minority within a minority group, I'm often overlooked by those who defend the faith I was born into (Islam). They prevent us from progressing, they are roadblocks to our reform, our betterment, our enlightenment...because they don't allow any real discussion about the role of Islam in Islamic terrorism. In their misguided attempts to shield 'the minority', they do it a great disservice.

Maajid Nawaz, an ex-extremist himself - someone with the exact lived experience we need to look at, had a hand in helping with this speech. It was thrilling to hear Cameron get all the terminology right. Carefully differentiating between Islam and Islamism, making a point to be very inclusive towards Muslims....looking to them as an important part of Britain, an important part of the solution.

The speech was well balanced between honestly calling out the issues and the ideology of Islamism (political Islam), it's link to the religion (which is becoming undeniable) while also trying to build a bridge with Muslims... who are indeed diverse - and the primary victims of Jihadists and Islamists.

To me as an ex-Muslim who is very much steeped in the someone who has a liberal Muslim family I care about immensely, it was a wonderful, moving speech.

I can only hope that my country, Canada, looks to the UK for examples of what it's gotten wrong with its brand of multiculturalism. Britain has its own shariah courts and modesty patrols ffs, it has a few far right 'anti-Islam' nationalist groups in existence. All very problematic results of cultural relativism.

I would like Canadian politicians to take a page (not every page) from Cameron's outlined strategy to combat extremism (apart from the 'Extremism Bill', which sounds a bit like our Anti Terror Bill that has been causing legitimate fears of curbed free speech, mass surveillance, etc).

In my not-so-important opinion, I think that legislating and curbing speech is never the answer. Speech that incites violence definitely...but drawing the boundaries for hate 'speech' is a difficult task and a slippery slope. Some people feel persecuted if others talk about marriage equality. Many Muslims feel it's hateful towards them to draw cartoons of a person they've never even met.

Calling things out, changing the narrative, holding everyone to the same moral standards, no longer being afraid of 'offending' certain cultures - this is what needs to happen. To me, it's offensive that someone will defend misogyny and 'bagging' women because they assume it's a part of my culture. No. Misogyny is only a part of my culture because everyone stands by and lets it continue. So join me in opposing it, or stay out of the conversation.

Canadian liberal media is cringeworthy with it's inability to recognize soft Islamism. Under the guise of tolerance and acceptance it promotes such principles as universally 'Muslim', it fails to hear from people within the Muslim community who value secularism, free speech and equality. In this way, it's not just the Fox News types but also liberal media that's responsible for creating a one dimensional narrative as far as 'depicting Muslims' goes.


Below are some quotes from Cameron's speech which I thought were important (you can read the entire transcript here):

“It’s here in Britain where different people from different backgrounds who follow different religions and different customs, don’t just rub alongside each other - but we are relatives and friends, husbands, wives, cousins, neighbours and colleagues.”

“It’s here in Britain where success is achieved not in spite of our diversity but because of our diversity”

“As we debate these issues neither should we demonize people of particular backgrounds. Every one of the communities that has come to call our country home has made Britain a better place"

It's incredibly hard for me to understand why despite statements like these, his speech is being said to have 'demonized Muslims/Islam'. 

“Tackling Islamist extremism, not Islam the religion” 

He specified he wasn't talking about 'Islam the religion' - what more do defenders of Islam need to hear? Are they really this petty and unable to compromise? Do they really lack an ability to be reasonable, to cooperate, to drop this tribalism and unite against evil? It's embarrassing to me as a member of the community...that Muslims often come across like this because of their response to anything that isn't going their way. The contrast between outrage they can create over an unopened can of Diet Coke and their silence on atrocities committed in the name of their faith, is sad for me to see. 

“I know what profound contribution muslims from all backgrounds and denominations are making in every sphere of our society. Proud to be both British and Muslim without conflict or contradiction.”

“I know how much you hate the extremists that are seeking to divide our communities”

And Cameron doesn't just address one side of the extremism coin. He talks about the 'poisonous far right' also sowing division, attacking mosques. He talks about non violent extremism too, hatred, racism and marginalizing communities. It all plays a role and he acknowledges that.

I'm especially glad he brings up the British Muslims who feel both things are an equal part of their identity. It's a topic I brought up during my discussion with Tommy Robinson, former leader of the EDL on Godless Spellchecker's podcast. And again, I'd like to thank Stephen for providing the space for it. For not shying away from who Tommy is and who he is said to be - if we don't engage with and confront prejudices and bigotry from all angles... if we don't have honest discussions, we cannot possibly move ahead. I also think Tommy deserves credit for being open to engaging respectfully with criticism as long as people aren't shutting him down and hearing his side as well. 

Tommy is more reasonable than you might think, though he still says some incredibly crude and anti-muslim, anti muslim immigration things.... he was willing to listen to my perspective, and even admitted briefly that his generalizing *all* muslims is not at all helpful to combat extremism. One thing I asked him was why he was fixated on defining people as 'British lads' vs. 'Muslim lads', why could Muslims not be included in the 'British' identity according to him? His response was that who he was referring to were people who themselves identify as Muslim not British. While he may not be referring to *all* Muslims, his language is divisive. Language matters, which is why I'm happy Cameron addressed this exact point. 

For others to divide people's identities in such a way, just contributes to the feeling of alienation....which leaves people vulnerable to radicalization. Far right nationalists, anti-muslims might think they are fighting against Islamism by 'exposing' it or whatever, but in reality they are contributing to it indirectly. 

The way forward is unity and not tribalism Cameron surprisingly, eloquently put it. Something that both Muslim bigots and anti-Muslim bigots need to understand.

"Ideas – like those of the despicable far right – which privilege one identity to the detriment of the rights and freedoms of others.

And ideas also based on conspiracy…

…that Jews exercise malevolent power…

…or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam."

I'm so glad he touched on conspiracy theorists, it's something that frustrates me greatly within my own community. This desire to shift blame, this desire to not acknowledge Islam's own role...this constant anti-semitism.

The flipside of these conspiracy theorists is those who think all Muslims are conspiring to take over the West and impose shariah here. Let's face it...conspiracy theorists are a bunch of nuts, not to be taken seriously when coming from either side.  

"...the extremist world view is the gateway, and violence is the ultimate destination."

The above line is such an important one to understand. It's not just the ones supporting violence that are 'extreme', fyi. If only the Canadian left or Western left in general could grasp this. There is such a thing as 'soft Islamism', Your niqab defenders, your gender segregators - these people make strong  visual, personal statements in allegiance with an archaic, bigoted, discriminatory belief system. These things are political, they are a nod to, an acknowledgement of the validity of a misogynistic system....and their affiliation with that system. We need to at the very least be aware of what we're tolerating as 'culture'. Are you listening Canada? 

"the adherents of this ideology are overpowering other voices within Muslim debate, especially those trying to challenge it.
There are so many strong, positive Muslim voices that are being drowned out."

Yes, yes and YES. Thank you for saying that David Cameron. It's about time someone did. Here in Canada, dissenting Muslim voices are often avoided by the liberal media like the plague. The 'liberal' perspectives you will read in our papers will be some Muslimah claiming her niqab is actually a feminist symbol, or an article proudly proclaiming how open minded a Muslim mother is, for not freaking out when her son asked her about 'boobs'. These voices are given a platform as some ostentatious display of how 'tolerant' and 'liberal' these publications are. That they are aiming to dispel stereotypes about Muslims, hearing from these conservatives and hailing them as progressive heroes they fail miserably and in fact reinforce the stereotypes of all Muslims being orthodox and 'different', they contribute to this otherization of Muslim communities. Not only that, it's so bloody patronizing to have our communities be treated like a spoiled baby or a pet that just doesn't know any better. The fact we cannot be held up to the same moral standards as others by 'liberals' in the West is truly offensive. 

If you listened to these sources alone, you'd think we didn't have any progressive voices amongst us, no one to look inward and one to who wants to move forward. But those voices are avoided because no one wants to be called an 'Islamophobe', or be associated with someone who is called one. And there lies our problem, this is how our voices are drowned out....this is how our communities continue to be stuck in a rut. The masses are listening to the wrong voices amongst us. The fact that Cameron collaborated with a true Muslim progressive like Maajid Nawaz is heartening, for all of us. 

"the third plank of our Strategy is to embolden different voices within the Muslim community.
Just as we do not engage with extremist groups and individuals, we’re now going to actively encourage the reforming and moderate Muslim voices.

This is a significant shift in Government approach – and an important one."

The fact that any major politician has stood in our corner, openly declaring he wants to empower 'reformist' (dissenting) Muslim voices... is unprecedented. It is indicative of a shift in the right direction. It's exciting, it's emotional....

Canada take note. Please. 

So Cameron is a politician, the next quote is the obligatory 'Nothing to do with Islam', he's kind of got to say it if he wishes certain people to absorb his message...

"It cannot be said clearly enough: this extremist ideology is not true Islam." 

If the raw material is there for people to interpret in an ISIS like way, it's not really for anyone to decide what is true and what isn't.

However he does promptly make a statement to clarify he's not denying a link. It's unbelievable really, that a politician is saying these things openly...and not avoiding certain words. 

"But simply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn’t work…

…because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims.

The fact is from Woolwich to Tunisia, from Ottawa to Bali, these murderers all spout the same twisted narrative, one that claims to be based on a particular faith.

Now it is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous.

To deny it has anything to do with Islam means you disempower the critical reforming voices…
…the voices that are challenging the fusing of religion and politics, the voices that want to challenge the scriptural basis which extremists claim to be acting on…

…the voices that are crucial in providing an alternative worldview that could stop a teenager’s slide along the spectrum of extremism.

These reforming voices they have a tough enough time as it is: the extremists are the ones who have the money, the leaders, the iconography and the propaganda machines.

We need to turn the tables."

Absofuckin'lutely we do. It took people a hell of a long time to realize this.... but I'm glad some are starting to get it. Seek out the secularist Muslims, seek out the true open minded ones... the ones looking forward...not the one's with a foot in another century. 

"We have to back those who share our values.

So here’s my offer.

If you’re interested in reform…

…if you want to challenge the extremists in our midst…
…if you want to build an alternative narrative…
…if you just want to help protect your kids…

…we are with you and we will back you – with practical help, with funding, with campaigns, with protection and with political representation."

"And I know that for as long as injustice remains – be it with racism, discrimination or sickening Islamophobia – you may feel there is no place for you in Britain.

But I want you to know: there is a place for you and I will do everything I can to support you."


The only bit in the speech that didn't make a lot of sense to me was the part where he talked about faith schools being wonderful (yikes), and how he chose one for his own kids, *but* he also said they don't help with the integration. 

If faith schools are segregating kids on the basis of religion, then they can't be all that wonderful. Especially when it is recognized that a lack of integration is a possible contributing factor to radicalization, alienation.

Thankfully there wasn't much focus on how wonderful faith schools are....the bulk of the speech was awesome. 


So what are some criticisms of this speech you ask? 

Well, Muhammad Shafiq of the Ramadhan foundation had this to say to The Independent:

"There is also a contradiction between Mr Cameron extolling British values such as free speech and then suggesting that Muslims who object to gay equality are somehow extremist and their views should not be tolerated."

This is the same person who led a Twitter hate campaign against Maajid Nawaz (who helped write the speech) for daring to tweet a Jesus and Mo cartoon last year

Wikipedia says: "Shafiq then posted on Twitter "We will notify all muslim organisations in the UK of his despicable behaviour and also notify Islamic countries."[31][32] Shafiq further Tweeted "Ghustaki Rasool Quilliam," so linking Nawaz's anti-extremist think tank with an Urdu term which means "defamer of the prophet",[33] which under Islamic law is a crime that carries a death penalty.[34] "

What was The Independent thinking, asking someone like that for their views? He basically had Maajid marked for death...what do you think he's going to think of a speech Maajid helped write? These are precisely the kinds of people mentioned in the speech that we shouldn't be giving media time to. 

To address his actual issue here, legislating against people's thoughts or beliefs however hateful, is problematic for me... but i'm not sure that anyone opposing sexual equality would be prosecuted. Mentions of being tough and 'cracking down' were kind of vague. Calling these people out as 'extreme' or intolerant is not wrong though.  

From what I gathered, he asked the media to exercise judgement in who they hear from more...and is this guy listening to himself? Did he actually just say that people objecting to 'equality' are not 'extreme'? I mean we're talking about denying human beings 'equality'! How on earth is this not an extreme view? No harm in calling it what it is. 

Shafiq's basically just said 'well why won't you tolerate intolerance coming from Muslims' - and he's put this in a paper for everyone to see. 

Then The Independent went on to ask Cerie Bullivant, spokesman for Cage (an organization Cameron addressed by name in his speech) 

"But there is another domestic problem which David Cameron is not addressing. A lot of Muslims don’t feel safe in the UK any more and the types of policies that Cameron is pushing are making that worse."

Umm... I think Cameron did address that a few times actually, he even referred to the far right as 'poisonous'.

"And I know that for as long as injustice remains – be it with racism, discrimination or sickening Islamophobia – you may feel there is no place for you in Britain.

But I want you to know: there is a place for you and I will do everything I can to support you."

Here's what Cameron had to say about Cage in his speech, and rightfully so. What I've seen of them has been vile.

"And while I am it, I want to say something to the National Union of Students.
When you choose to ally yourselves with an organisation like CAGE, which called Jihadi John a ‘beautiful young man’ and told people to “support the jihad” in Iraq and Afghanistan…

…it really does, in my opinion, shame your organisation and your noble history of campaigning for justice."

In another piece, The Guardian gave even more space to Mohammed Shafiq to air his grievances. What is wrong with these publications? Who are they having on as ambassadors of Muslim opinion? What reputable paper would ask someone who's led a campaign marking someone for death as an 'insulter of the prophet' to write a piece for them? This isn't even 'soft Islamism', this is the real deal... telling someone they would notify Muslim countries of their blasphemy....we all know what that implies. Charlie Hebdo is still fresh in our minds. 

He makes a terrible comparison equating hate preacher Anjem Choudary with Tommy Robinson. 

"I abhor what Tommy Robinson and Anjem Choudary stand for and what they say, but removing Choudary’s right to free speech will restrict our ability to confront him."

Anjem has openly said people should die if the shariah punishment is applicable. Tommy may say hateful things, may have gotten into fights, but he doesn't advocate for the deaths and stonings of innocent people. They are in no way comparable. To try to put them in the same box, is to try and minimize the violence advocated for by Islamists. Tommy has also left the EDL, he has tried to make a change, despite some instances of continued anti muslim bigotry....but Anjem hasn't exactly made an effort to be less 'extreme' at all. 

The fact that Anjem has spewed his hate for so long, the fact that protests against British police where Shariah has been demanded have happened in Britain show that it is a country dedicated to free speech. This doesn't mean caution against people advocating violence shouldn't be exercised.

"But we British Muslims will continue the fight against terrorism" 

How? By throwing dissenters to murderous sharks for blasphemy? Fuck Off. 


A huge thanks to my patrons: Fred, Martin, Steve, Ruthless Atheist, Katrin, Berivan, Harpreet, Lisa Fontaine, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke, Alberto, Jakob and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

Please support the blog here!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Should Surgeons be Fasting while Performing Surgery?

While on my *favourite* social media site, Facebook (sarcasm) ....I came across a photo posted to a group dedicated to exposing medical negligence in Pakistan.

I'm glad such a group exists...because while there are many wonderful, selfless doctors in Pakistan, the number of unprofessional, religion-before-science 'doctors' that continue to practice there is ridiculous. 

I've had some interesting run-ins with Pakistani doctors myself in the past. Some complained that my promoting condoms and safe sex offended their delicate religious sensibilities. Some patients came to me for advice (even though I'm not a medical professional) because there was no where else to turn - Since too many doctors in my motherland think 'unmarried women' should not be given pap smears. Others have proclaimed they have no shame in judging a woman's character/morality if she comes in for something 'taboo' like an std test. 

Seriously, you'd think they were a bunch of ignorant, judgemental highschoolers..not adult doctors.

Oh - and then there was the doctor who went on TV and prescribed prayer as a 'cure' for masturbation. FFS....

Anyway, the point is we have an alarming number of terrible doctors in Pakistan. And it's not entirely their fault either, they've had their brains clogged up with ancient magical beliefs since they were kids. Every waking moment of their lives, those beliefs have been reinforced. They're taught to bring religion into everything they do...even science. 


Going back to the picture I posted above though - It was shared to the facebook group as some kind of defence of how noble these pious doctors are (as a demonstration how not all doctors are negligent). Operating on people while fasting in the holy month of Ramadan...only turning to sip water to break their fast *during* surgery.

This should obviously be applauded *eyeroll*. No food or anything to drink for over 10 hours...and they're still ready with scalpels in cut you open and perform the most intricate, dangerous procedures. 

This photo had the opposite effect it intended to. 

(Granted, if these were non fasting doctors who just wanted a sip of water, this photo would be perfectly fine. But the idea they have not eaten or drank for hours on purpose before the surgery is a disturbing one.)

I would certainly not want a starving, thirsty doctor cutting me open. I would want them to be on their A game, not give themselves a handicap purposely. This picture realy got me thinking, why had I never considered this before? It's a terrifying thought that someone could be drained, exhausted, dehydrated and also responsible for your complicated c-section/heart surgery/brain surgery.

Fasting for people cutting open other people should not be allowed. I wonder if it is in Canada, is this something people could yell "Islamophobia" about? I mean it's common sense really. If you have someone else's life in your hands do not purposely starve yourself, so that you can concentrate fully. Why would you put an added risk on someone else? It's ridiculously unfair. One of those times where people really need to keep their relationship with god between themselves and their skydaddy. The person on the operating table should not suffer because of your faith. 

Anyhow, I went googling for some answers....couldn't find much except for the needed pre-surgical fasts for patients. I did find a few religious sites talking about it however. One where someone posed the question, "if a surgeon was mid-surgery at sunset (when the fast is broken) could he wait till after to break his fast" And they were essentially told no, that it was important to break the fast right at sunset. Fine, fine if there really wasn't a way to stop and eat mid-surgery, then they could delay.

It's mind-boggling really, it's as if surgery is some secondary thing to these people. What's important is that these ancient rituals be fulfilled exactly on time. Surgery? Meh... that can wait. 

Then there was another question asking if a surgeon who couldn't concentrate properly because he's fasting, was allowed to break his fast so that he could, you better, save more lives....

This person was also basically told 'no'. Instead they were given some ridiculous suggestions like;

-Move the surgery to the night time
-Take a month's leave during Ramadan
-Find other work

Like... wtf? What is wrong with the pious? 

The religious post starts off saying its 'obligatory'...So that doesn't leave much wiggle room does it? 

Praise be to Allaah.
Fasting Ramadan is obligatory for every adult, sane, non-travelling, healthy Muslim, because Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious).
[al-Baqarah 2:183, 184]
I certainly hope that neither myself nor my loved ones (or anyone really) ever have to have a fasting surgeon. Ever. That thought is terrifying. Being cut open is terrifying enough, being cut open by a starving, dehydrated a whole new level of terrifying. 
Religion, you never fail to surprise me. 
While googling things about surgeons fasting, I also came across this:

And what in the fuck. Why is this even a question? Why do these idiots 'differ' on this? I know someone with asthma, and when they need their inhaler...they need it. They are having trouble breathing, and breathing is kind of important. What is the point of a fast that will almost kill you? What kind of god requires that you are almost asphyxiated to prove that you are obedient to him? This question should be a no-brainer. If you need medication, take questions asked - except for "should you be fasting in the first place?"

This past June, over 1400 people have died because of a heatwave that hit Pakistan....during Ramadan. People were fasting...there was no electricity, no nutrition, poverty, no water....death. Some of which could have probably been prevented if the government or religious clerics had warned beforehand to *not fast* in such conditions. 

Please think twice about when you're fasting, whether you have any medical conditions, if you are breastfeeding a baby, or if there is no electricity....if you are a doctor with someone else's life in your hands. Think.  

Don't religion. Think. 

If you must religion, do it thoughtfully. 
A huge thanks to my patrons: Fred, Martin, Steve, Ruthless Atheist, Katrin, Berivan, Harpreet, Lisa Fontaine, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke Van Houten, Alberto, Jakob and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!

It is imperative we start questioning the ancient beliefs passed down to us, especially in places like my birth country Pakistan. Please help me share more stories like this one, by supporting the blog here 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"They'd grown up calling women without hijab sluts."

Image via 

I received this email in response to the 'controversy' that's been sparked because of my week long curation of the @genderlogIndia feminist Twitter handle - where I *dared* to express that I believe the niqab is a tool of oppression. *Gasp* I know... 

This brought out many people's thoughts on not just the niqab however, but the wider concept of imposed modesty on women in an Islamic context. I will address the response in more detail in a future post, for now, I'm just sharing one person's story. 

You'd think people hanging around a *feminist* Twitter handle wouldn't rage against someone opposing religious patriarchy...but you'd be wrong. 

My week there has inspired many to speak out from both most of the pieces so far, sanity and rational thought have prevailed. 

The person expressing his views below is a man, yes. He shares his lived experiences and real life observation with female relatives. If he from the 'top of the Islamic ladder' can see this is a problem, then its got to be glaringly obvious. I know there will be those who will discredit his views and brush them aside, simply because he's 'a man', while accepting and fighting for the continued perpetuation of male-mandated standards of modesty. The irony of this is lost on them sadly.


I've been watching the fallout from your week curating Genderlog, and I keep swaying between wanting to rant at the people missing the point with their kneejerk reactions, and blocking the whole world on Twitter. I decided instead, to share with you, because your patience is, frankly, amazing to me.
Allow me to admit, right off the bat, that I'm a male, and my own opinions, admittedly, only carry so much weight. My only insight into the cultural battleground of the hijab comes from observation and my sisters and mother. A little background first. I grew up in the Middle East, like you, my family was/is fairly conservative muslim, middle class, educated. We're from the northwest of Pakistan, so perhaps a little more conservative than most, but culturally more inclined to the chador than the hijab.

My sister's were never forced into the hijab. They had the example of my mother, and the constant silent pressure of being informed that this is what god wants. They were hugged closer for wearing hijab, told they looked beautiful when they tried it on as little prepubescent girls, so their decision to wear it when they were older was inevitable. I supported it wholeheartedly, a young boy who thought of women as only someone raised with the double dose of misogyny that is Islam and Northwestern Pakistani culture can. I ended up losing my faith as I got older, and read more and more about Islam from Islamic texts. 

This was well before my exposure to the world of Sagan and Hawking and Hitchens and Dawkins. 

I left the middle east to attend med school, and took my heresy with me. During this time, I barely spoke with my sisters, just the occasional summer meetings. They maintained the hijab throughout, and I made pointed comments to them about their religion, but little more. It was much later, when I was done with school and we got to spend time together that I found that my sisters were done with religion too, unable to reconcile it's obvious contradictions and misogyny with a supposed divine source. They still wore hijab, and explained to me why. -They'd grown up calling women without hijab sluts. They knew that men in our societies were more likely to harass women who didn't wear hijab. Our parents would be crushed if they removed the hijab. They had trouble with colleagues at work judging those women who chose to "expose" their hair. My family had lived in Saudi Arabia for a while, and while the compounds were havens of freedom, any movement in public required hijab. They said it was their choice, but they also explained how it was no choice.

Is the niqab/burqa the ultimate slut-shaming/victim-blaming device?

How do we have issues with Western culture when it puts the blame on what women wear for provoking men, but not the same issues with our own Muslim culture....the hypocrisy is astounding....

I also dated a Pakistani while in school in Pakistan, and she wore the hijab too. She had about as much religion as I did, but she told me she wore the hijab because she didn't want to be harassed by men in public, because her father was less likely to control her movements as long as she wore it, because she didn't want to be known as a slut. 

She and I lived together for years, but for a lot of that time, in public, she wore hijab. She doesn't any more, she lives in a society where she doesn't have to, and admits to me that she avoids muslim communities because of the silent judgement.

Lastly, to my mother. My mother was, for the longest time, the most religious person in the family. She switched to the hijab from our traditional chador, and she raised me like any good Pakistani woman would, as a very observant muslim. She and I remain very close, and she was the first to know of my doubts about religion, which became shouting matches later on. When my family moved to Saudi, she was beside herself with joy at the prospect of weekend Umras (pilgrimage to Mecca). Somewhere along the line, my parents migrated to the United States.

Living in that society, which admittedly has flaws, but away from the social morality of the muslim world, I saw my mom change. She started to smile more. She learned how to drive, got herself a license, bought herself a car. She still believes in god, the god of islam, fire and eternal torment, all those fun things. She's stopped wearing the hijab though. She avoids muslim communities.

I'm sorry I got so long winded there, believe me, I had to reel myself in to avoid going into every little observation and criticism. My point is, the defenders of the Hijab go on and on about how supposedly NO ONE is forced into it, how it's their choice, like textbook examples of Stockholm syndrome. I despair of ever being able to explain to them that the illusion of choice is one of the worst cages to find oneself in. 

I consider myself a feminist, and I would never consider telling them what to wear, how to behave, but I'm also a firm believer in rational thought, and there is nothing rational about being indoctrinated and proclaiming it to be a choice. Cults and religions pride themselves on getting their victims young, because those childhood chains are the hardest to shed. I still catch myself thinking of things in Islamic terms at times, and this is as a straight male, the summit of the Islamic hierarchy. 

Imagine thinking you're free to make any choices as a muslim woman in a muslim society. All the terrible attempts at arguing with your criticism by bringing up the laughable bikini comparison left me sad. Almost as sad as misguided western liberals defending the hijab. They can rail against the church and the power of the religious right in their countries all day, but if I, or my sisters, or any ex muslim in or from a muslim country tries to criticize our own untouchable institutions, we're shot down as bigots and and Islamophobes. My frustration comes from living in the muslim world, living here in constant fear of being outed as an atheist, hacked up like the bloggers in Bangladesh, and being told by muslims and faux (or perhaps just misguided) liberals in free societies telling me that I'm the bigot.

This rant could go on for a while, so I'll stop, since it's time for me to go and pretend to break my fast, because that's what deviating from the iron rule of islam means in muslim society, a lot of pretending.
Thanks for indulging me.


My heart goes out to truly does. I know it's rough and I know that we have very few allies...we are unique in this because even the liberals in our own communities defend orthodoxy.  I think you've hit the nail on the head here, especially in the last paragraph:

"They can rail against the church and the power of the religious right in their countries all day, but if I, or my sisters, or any ex muslim in or from a muslim country tries to criticize our own untouchable institutions, we're shot down as bigots and and Islamophobes." 

Stay strong this Ramadan. More power to you and all the ex-muslims out there feeling alone and isolated. 

A huge thanks to my patrons: Fred, Martin, Steve, Ruthless Atheist, Katrin, Berivan, Harpreet, Lisa, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Know the Question, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke, 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 telling such stories by supporting the blog here