Leaving Islam

From  The Fort Worth Weekly:   http://www.fwweekly.com/2014/05/21/leaving-islam/

Kenneth Kost
May 21, 2014

Keys to freedom can take many forms. Samya’s was an iPod, a Twitter account, and a group of North Texas atheists.

Samya is not her real name. The young Tarrant County resident asked that a pseudonym be used in this story because she fears that the family members she left behind might track her down and try to persuade her to come home — or even kill her for dishonoring them by rejecting an arranged marriage.

Her escape began more than two years ago, several states away from Texas. Here she found intellectual and physical freedom, friends, college, and the chance to build her own life. What she left behind, the 21-year-old says, was a life of abuse and imprisonment and a future she couldn’t face.

Her family is from the Middle East and steeped in an insular, extremely authoritarian version of Islam. They moved to the United States when Samya was just an infant.

“My mother has been mentally ill most of her life, and my father was very violent and angry,” she said. “I grew up with a dad I was afraid to talk to. Anything would set him off. He would come into my room, throw me against the wall and beat me, and I wouldn’t know why.” Her parents never showed her affection, she said — no hugs, no kisses.

The older Samya got, the more her father tightened his grip on her life. She was allowed to attend public schools through eighth grade. From age 15 on, she said, she was allegedly home-schooled. But there wasn’t much schooling going on.

“They kept me locked inside the house most days, and I wasn’t really even home-schooled,” she said. “I was being taught how to take care of a family — cooking, cleaning, doing the dishes and laundry. I was learning how to be a submissive housewife.”

Her father continued to beat her, as he had her older brother, until she was about 16 but never abused her younger siblings, she said. “I’m not sure why it stopped. Maybe he got older and calmed down.”

After she was pulled from public school, Samya was told she couldn’t have non-Muslim friends. She did go to an actual school once a week to pick up lessons and about once a month to do lab work for math and science classes. She wasn’t allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.

“The only kids I saw on a regular basis were the girls from my mosque,” she said.

She still thinks sometimes about those girls, many of whom were allowed more freedom than she, but most of whom intended to follow the path laid out for them.

“Some of them were allowed to drive, go to public schools and college, and had parents that were far more liberal than mine,” but those young women still accepted the idea of arranged marriages, she said.

A few of her friends also were physically abused by parents and siblings, she said. And other girls dropped out of school because they felt no need for it since they were just going to get married and be housewives.

“It’s really horrible — some of them had rough parents or were beat up by siblings,” she said. “The parents wouldn’t do anything about it, because it’s the boy, and it’s justified.

Continue reading at:  http://www.fwweekly.com/2014/05/21/leaving-islam/


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