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FtBCon3 Transcript - Understanding Ex-Muslims

Jan 28th, 2015
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  1. FtBCon3 Transcript - Understanding Ex-Muslims
  2.  
  3. https://ftbcon.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/understanding-ex-muslims/
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pACEnMOaUuY
  5.  
  6. Panelists: Sakeena Almulhida, Heina Dadabhoy, Kaveh Mousavi
  7. Facilitator: Stephanie Zvan
  8.  
  9.  
  10.  
  11. Stephanie: Good morning and welcome to the second day of FtBConscience3. Today is January 24th, 2015. It is 9:00 AM Central Time. And thank you to everybody here who all of our panelists who would normally be sleeping. This is the "Understanding Ex-Muslims" panel. I will let our panelists introduce themselves when they get started, but you can ask questions of the panelists using the chat. If you go to ftbcon.org over on the right-hand side, there's a set of handy links. There is a loink to the Pharyngula chat room, and you can ask your questions there. And with that I will turn it over. Thanks everybody.
  12.  
  13. Kaveh: Hello everyone. Let's begin by introducing ourselves from left to right. So let's begin with Heina first.
  14.  
  15. Sakeena: Wait who's going first?
  16.  
  17. Kaveh: Did anyone hear me?
  18.  
  19. Sakeena: Yeah I can hear you, but I think you always show up on the right side of the icons.
  20.  
  21. Kaveh: Oh ok. Let's first Heina, then Sakeena, then me. What about that?
  22.  
  23. Heina: Alright. I'll start off then. My name is Heina Dadabhoy. I blog at the FreethoughtBlogs network under the scariest handle of all: "Heinous Dealings". I've been an out Ex-Muslim since 2006. And you can sometimes find me hanging out with fellow Ex-Muslims of North America.
  24.  
  25. Sakeena: Hello. My name is Sakeena. I am a Saudi Ex-Muslim. I'm semi-closeted. And I used to blog, but I don't anymore. So I'd be surprised if there's anyone here who actually used to read that thing. Oh, I'm also trans, so that'll probably come up in this conversation a lot.
  26.  
  27. Kaveh: I'm Kaveh Mousavi I live in south Iran, which is a theocracy as I'm sure you all know. I blog as "Margin of Err" at Patheos Atheist. And as you can probably infer, I'm not out. I'm going to begin with the first question. When I think of the Ex-Muslim experience, I usually think of it as a broad experience. Something that we face a lot of is hatred among Muslims for being apostates. At the same time, we face a lot of hatred among non-Muslims for belonging to the Muslim community in a sense. At the same time, there are accusations of homophobia from sections of society. And on the other hand, you're accused of being too close to Muslims. That is my experience as far as I have been active in ex-Muslim circles. I wanted to see if you share this experience, or you think it's just me.
  28.  
  29. Heina: There is no way that it's just you! I completely understand that. Because I try to demonstrate understanding and nuance when criticizing Islam - which is something I can't NOT do because this is what I know, right - I've been accused on Twitter of being a fake ex-Muslim and of committing Taqiyya. If you don't know what that is: non-Muslims think it means you can lie all the time as a Muslim. I had never even heard of Taqiyya before I became an atheist, and then atheists told me about it. Yeah, I don't know what that's about. But at the same time, people accuse you of islamophobic just by existing. I get all the same types of people, except on the other side of it. And they're like, "Well you just don't understand Islam," or "Well how dare you say Muslims are this way?" And I'm like, "Well maybe because Muslims present themselves to me that way." Sometimes you feel like no one's on your side.
  30.  
  31. Kaveh: I think that another problem - in addition to this dual experience that everyone seems to think we are against them - is a lot of ex-Muslim erasure is going on. Y'know, you have written a lot about this, of course. And it's not strange to think that browsing the internet and seeing shows, you see ex-Christians and ex-Jews talking about Islam and having debates, and ex-Muslims seem to be very absent from these debates. I wanted to ask you, do you think this is true? And if this is true, what do you think is the reason for that? Personally I think the taboo of apostasy within Islam is one factor definitely. And of course maybe the erasure of Middle Eastern people is another. But I wanted to see what you think. Do you think I'm right or wrong about this?
  32.  
  33. Heina: I think, yeah, it has something to do with erasure, not just of Middle Eastern people, but also Southeast Asians - hey. Part of it too is... There have been times where I've tried to start a conversation about this, where I've said "Why aren't ex-Muslims being included in the conversation?" And the response: Almost always I get at least six people telling me that the reason is almost all ex-Muslims are either closeted or dead. It's like, "Hello people, I'm here!" I think part of it is this perception that all Muslims are in hiding to the point where we could not communicate with the outside world, or we've been killed for it. I get that it is the case in a lot of countries, and Kaveh, you're using a voice distorter and no picture for a reason. But at the same time, this perception that we're all just dead or cut off from the outside world is part of the problem.
  34.  
  35. Kaveh: Exactly. How do you think we can remedy that? I apologize for saying "Middle Eastern"; this is just my mental shortcut. Can we as ex-Muslims do anything about this?
  36.  
  37. Heina: Keep yelling?
  38.  
  39. Sakeena: Yeah, I guess we'll have to try to be more visible.
  40.  
  41. Heina: There have been some real shifts lately. It's still a problem. I'm not saying we're done, it's fixed, and all that. But there have been paradigm shifts to some extent. You see more ex-Muslims being invited to things. You see more things happening. Just on my own end: I was in the New York Times; that article, by the way, keeps popping up; every once and a while, someone shares it, and then I notice that people are suddenly paying attention. There is an increase in visibility, but obviously there's a lot of work to do to get more people aware.
  42.  
  43. Kaveh: Alright... Also I think another big issue is intersectionality when it comes to being an ex-Muslim. I am a man, and inside Iran, I have a lot of privileges. And I'm a Persian, so I have racial as well as gender privilege. [...] As women and racial minorities and of course transgender people have it much worse when they are ex-Muslims. Apostasy for people like you is a much different experience than for someone like me. And this is something that I feel is usually missed when we consider Muslims as this big monolith. Even when we consider ex-Muslims themselves, we rarely consider the problems we face.
  44.  
  45. Heina: Okay, I guess I'll say something. Cause I have a lot to say about it, but I wanted to make sure to give you space too.
  46.  
  47. Sakeena: No, I need to gather my thoughts.
  48.  
  49. Heina: Okay, I guess I'll go ahead... You sometimes do see replication of various intersectional issues within ex-Muslim communities. It's becoming less of a problem at least on the sexism front, I think. A lot of ex-Muslim leaders are female. A lot of them are intersectionally aware - even the ones who aren't women. There's less of it, thankfully. I think there's an awareness that we've gotta be on the lookout for it. Yeah, there are people who aren't so great with those things, but that's where the discussion comes in. You bring up the monolith, and I think that's important to think about too. It's like with any minority - we're the minority of the minority of the minority of the minority. And so with minority groups, there's this tendency to hear one voice, and think that they represent all the other voices, that they speak for all of them, and that their experience is true for everybody else's experience. This is especially true of ex-Muslims since there are so few of us that a lot of people don't even know we exist. That's something we're all doing our best with, but it comes up a lot, that monolith problem.
  50.  
  51. Kaveh: Sakeena, do you want to chime in?
  52.  
  53. Sakeena: Yeah... My experience, even with ex-Muslim spaces is they're not that good on trans issues to be honest. And LGBT issues in paricular.
  54.  
  55. Heina: Every once in a while, you see in ex-Muslim spaces the people who want to JustAskQuestions, right. They're just asking questions, but they're asking the worst questions - they're wording it in the worst way possible, y'know. There's this tendency with apostates of almost any religion who become atheists, rather than members of another religion, to get all sciencey - not necessarily in a good way. And so they'll turn up in these spaces and say "I'm just asking questions, but what's the scientific basis of being queer? What's the scientific basis of being trans?" It's like "Really!? You couldn't google some things before you opened your mouth?" A lot of it too comes from this background where maybe you were kept from certain information, and now you wanna learn. But there's a definitely a lack of awareness that could be rectified.
  56.  
  57. Sakeena: I don't mind as much when they're actually asking questions, at least in some form of good faith. My experience with Arabs in particular... Their mindset is the same as it was when they were Muslims. This was something that was entirely new to them. It's like they don't even know how to wrap their minds around it.
  58.  
  59. Heina: That can be a problem. Where you're raised in this very restrictive background, and then you come out of that. And you've lost a few of your beliefs, but not necessarily all of them.
  60.  
  61. Sakeena: That's true. It took me a very long time. When I left Islam, I was not a liberal. It took like another ten years to really become aware of social justice issues even though I'm trans. There's a lot of education that you have to go through. It makes it difficult when you actually try to occupy the space as a minority, 'cause I feel simultaneously excluded from every space. The ex-Muslim space typically aren't good at the queer issues. When I go to western atheist spaces - they're actually also not necessarily good at those issues, but they're better - there's a lot of microagressions in those spaces. It ends up being that there's nowhere where you can feel normal.
  62.  
  63. Heina: Absolutely. When I first left Islam, I had to... Part of it is you have to being a designated female at birth, you kind of question things more maybe as an ex-Muslim? Because y'know you leave Islam, and then you find out that sexism isn't just from religion. It's from everywhere. Patriarchy is everywhere, so you have to start examining these things. There are plenty of issues where I didn't realize how bad I was being until years later 'cause I did grow up upper-middle class, so that was definitely a big problem, where I didn't understand that not everybody in America who works hard becomes rich. I didn't understand that. Then surprise: that's not true!
  64.  
  65. Sakeena: I went through a Libertarian phase after I left Islam, so that sounds familiar.
  66.  
  67. Heina: Looks like we can proceed if we wanna take that tangent... Yeah that has started to become a problem within those spaces, but outside of those spaces... I'm actually very curious about this: in trans spaces, how is your ex-Muslimness taken?
  68.  
  69. Sakeena: It's taken almost the same way as being Saudi is taken in atheist spaces. Everyone assumes my family is going to kill me at any moment. It's that assumption that you're in danger, which isn't necessarily wrong. It's not easy being trans and being Saudi, but I think I know what my risk profile is.
  70.  
  71. Heina: I was actually thinking about this recently because there've been issues with queer spaces being a little bit too religious lately, I think. I try to get into these queer spaces, and a big part of me being queer is me being an atheist. They're not separate things. I knew I was weird, and there was something different about me when I was Muslim, but I didn't explore it. I didn't have the freedom to explore it. Once I left Islam, I had the freedom to explore it, so my atheism and my queerness are intrinsically linked. So in these queer spaces nowadays, they're all about promoting religion. And that has become such a problem because the elephant in the room is that so many religions are very anti-queer - but we're not supposed to talk about that, because inclusivity. That goes back to what Kaveh asked about islamophobia: people criticize Islam, and they say "You're just an islamophobe," "Well, that's not true but..."
  72.  
  73. Sakeena: I haven't actually run into that much. Probably because I don't even go to LGBT spaces that often. Everywhere I go, it turns into a Saudi 101 conversation. People were like, "Oh you have an accent. Where are you from?" "Saudi Arabia" And then it turns into a million questions.
  74.  
  75. Heina: Even if you didn't have an accent though, you look exotic just like me.
  76.  
  77. Sakeena: I dunno. I usually get read for being white. And that's a whole 'nother conversation too, 'cause pre-transition, I was read as Latino. Post-transition I got read as white, and it was like a very different world.
  78.  
  79. Heina: Yeah, I guess that's true. One thing I try not to do is talk too much with cab drivers. It's like, I swear, every time I get into a cab, it's a Muslim driver. That's not something that people realize necessarily. ... Uh, since the person who had our questions ready to go seems to have some inconsistencies. I think we can take any questions that've come in.
  80.  
  81. Stephanie: I haven't seen a lot of questions yet. Althogh Tauriq Moosa is following along, and he said, "It's weird being closeted, and dead, and having a blog on FtB." I will put out another call for questions, but in the meantime... Are there spaces that are better at this point for ex-Muslims, and what can those spaces do to improve?
  82.  
  83. Heina: I would say that most of the intersectionally minded spaces tend to be a little bit better. They don't do as much of the condescending, "Oh you're gonna die. You poor thing. Let's never talk to your parents." There is the problem - and this is a problem that just arises naturally when you have minority groups - where you have this tendency to ascribe traits found within a member of one of those minority groups that you know to all of them. To take an ex-Muslim speaking up to be representative of every single ex-Muslim. And that's something I've unwittingly been a part of sometimes. People'll say, "Oh, well Heina said this..." No one elected me queen of the ex-Muslims. That hasn't happened yet. I'm a big fan of trying to bring more voices. I joke about this all the time. I *want* more competition for my speaker spots. I want more ex-Muslims to be out there. I tan talk about everything else that I can talk about. I'm not going to be out of a "job" yet.
  84.  
  85. Sakeena: See, the thing is for me... I'm still a closeted atheist to my family. And for me, being more active on the trans side, has been so much more important than being an activist on the atheist side. 'Cause I can't hide being trans. I am out to my family as a trans woman, and they're still trying to deal with that complication. Being visible as an ex-Muslim takes a backseat to being an Arab trans woman.
  86.  
  87. Heina: In terms of improvement, I think it means being cognizant of that particular cognitive bias. If we don't know a lot of people from a certain minority group, or can't really in this case (how many ex-Muslims can you know?) - we tend to take traits from one person and ascribe them to the entire group. Traits, beliefs, opinions, and so on. I as an ex-Muslim who is kind of out there and fairly visible, I try to remind people, but I could always do better, and y'all can help me by remembering that yourselves too.
  88.  
  89. Stephanie: We do have a question from Mel, who asks, "What part of religion do you find pops into your head unbidden?"
  90.  
  91. Sakeena: Uh, the prayers. All the little things you're supposed to say when you're trying to find [???] or you're lost or whatever. Those still pop into my head. I still say "Basmala" before doing anything scary.
  92.  
  93. Heina: Y'know, it's been almost nine years, and I've been pretty thoroughly heathenized in those nine years. But you're right, Sakeena. It's like when I'm freaking out, some part of me wants to recite one of those prayers like an incantation to help me - especially when I'm feeling really helpless. Also there's a couple of things. I'm still really uncomfortable with dogs licking me. I'm not completely scared of dogs anymore, but when a dog licks me, some part of me feels like I'm tainted, and I need to go wash myself a million times. It's from Islam. There's no other reason.
  94.  
  95. Stephanie: Well, I won't entirely say that. It is a little slimy. I still feel that way myself sometimes, and I did *not* grow up Muslim.
  96.  
  97. Heina: For me, it's more like I wanna peel that piece of skin off.
  98.  
  99. Stephanie: It's nothing to that extent for me.
  100.  
  101. Heina: In Islam, if a dog licks you, you have to wash it seven times with water and one time with clean earth. They're that dirty. Although I have seen peoples' dogs eat a lot of poo, so maybe there's something to that.
  102.  
  103. Stephanie: Okay. Um. Another question. Alex wants to know - and you may not have compared enough experiences for this - "Has anyone noticed commonalities between the ex-Muslim experience, and the experience that say ex-Catholics share, or former members of other religions with a large following across cultures or ethnicities - while still being traditionally bound to a couple of those?" Basically things that people don't necessarily shed when they become atheists that you run into in people's understanding of your religion.
  104.  
  105. Heina: Um... My first good friend who understood what it was like to be an ex-Muslim was not an ex-Muslim. He's an ex-Mormon. So there is a lot of similarity. There's no ethnic component to that Mormons are like the whitest of the white people-
  106.  
  107. Stephanie: That's still an ethnicity!
  108.  
  109. Heina: If there's any space where whiteness is ethnic, it's Mormonism. 'Cause like, ethnic is an "other". Mormons have their own thing going on. There are similarities with the ex-Catholic experience... I know a lot of Hispanic ex-Catholics. A lot of the time, ethnicity and religious identity are so linked when you leave the religion, your parents might say something that sounds ridiculous. "Do you think you're better than your grandparents?" "Why do you hate your family?"
  110.  
  111. Sakeena: The accusations of being westernized.
  112.  
  113. Heina: Oh, that's a huge one too. "You wanna be like them? Be free and run out with the wind in your hair?" There are a lot of similarities with ex-Mormons, ex-very-religious-Catholic, ex-Evangelical, ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, all that. Or even super-orthodox Jews of the kind you find in neighborhoods in New York that don't want women to walk around with their legs uncovered and things like that. No similarities there!
  114.  
  115. Stephanie: How 'bout you Sakeena? Have you had enough exposure to notice any similarities?
  116.  
  117. Sakeena: There is an ex-Hindu blog that I used to read - I cannot remember the name of anymore. It actually really spoke to me as being very similar. ... Being an ex-Muslim here is very different than in Saudi Arabia. Like there's two different experiences that I could talk about...
  118.  
  119. Stephanie: Do you maybe want to address those differences a bit?
  120.  
  121. Sakeena: Lemme talk about the western context because as an immigrant I usually want to be in the immigrant spaces, with familiarity. This is more so for being trans than atheist, as I'm not already out as an ex-Muslim in my Saudi circle, but it would be the same thing in a sense: you get ejected from your minority circles. So you don't have a safe space to be yourself in the racial sense or the ethnic sense. Whereas in Saudi Arabia, I can just take my Arabness for granted, and everyone else takes it for granted.
  122.  
  123. Stephanie: I don't want to speak for anybody, but I'm hearing echoes of what you say of some things that black US atheists have said.
  124.  
  125. Heina: Yeah, I've never really thought about the spaces where I didn't feel other in terms of my ethnicity, but yeah. The only spaces where I didn't feel other for my ethnicity were religious ones. And now that I don't have those anymore, I don't think there's any spaces where I feel really... like I'm not... someone's not staring at me trying to figure out "what I am". There's always that person. There's always somebody. No no, I guess with Ex-Muslims of North America, when we had our big party at Women in Secularism... yeah I definitely felt like my ethnicity wasn't super relevant there, although somebody was grilling me about it anyway.
  126.  
  127. Stephanie: I was actually going to ask whether that plays out in ex-Muslim spaces. It's one of those things where it's general to the atheist movement. We have obviously shared interests that draw us together. I was wondering whether you felt the traditional tensions from the outside world pushing you apart.
  128.  
  129. Heina: It's really more like... This is something I'm not used to anymore. I used to go into spaces full of brown people. There is this sort of tendency for them to ask each other what sub-ethnicity you are, essentially. Like, you can't just say "I'm Desi." In non-brown spaces, I say I'm Desi or I'm Indian; that just answers the question. Going into spaces with other brown people, they wanna know the specific details of that... which makes me incredibly uncomfortable because my dad was a refugee, and my mother spent part of her childhood in Canada, but she grew up in Pakistan, but we all come from some small village in India. But at the same time, we come by way of like six different countries. And to add some fun to that, I didn't exactly grow up with Indian or Pakistani culture as much as I did religion. And so when people want to get at me and be really specific about that and try to bond with me ethnically, it doesn't work necessarily because I'm not in tune with that.
  130.  
  131. Sakeena: I feel similar to that sometimes, but not as much. I guess that's because I came as a young immigrant. So I feel like I'm in between two worlds where I can do *some* of that ethnic bonding, but some of the details also escape me. Going back to an earlier point - you were asking about the ex-Muslim spaces - I still feel left out of ex-Muslim spaces for being trans, even the good ones. Uh, it's not that there's anything malicious in like Ex-Muslims of North America for example, but I still get cisgendered occasionally. When there's like thirty people there, it sort of adds up - a few people doing it occasionally. It sort of adds up to feeling like I'm excluded. There's no place where I always feel normal, where I don't feel excluded.
  132.  
  133. Heina: And one thing I think that we can do in ex-Muslim spaces - and this is maybe something I should bring up in our actual discussions of how we conduct our meetings - is something I've seen done in other spaces to promote more inclusivity: as an ice-breaker when you introduce yourself, you give your pronoun, but everybody has to. So it's not going to other anybody who has non-cis pronouns. There's always ways we can do better, and we always want to.
  134.  
  135. Sakeena: It's not bad with Ex-Muslims of North America. I'm pretty happy with the space. It's like the only ex-Muslim space, which I feel comfortable going to.
  136.  
  137. Heina: Well yeah, "/r/exmuslim" I had fun on there.
  138.  
  139. Sakeena: Oh god, no. I avoided that one.
  140.  
  141. Heina: I went there because I wanted to talk to more ex-Muslims. I was essentially bullied out of the space by somebody who thought I was a bad person for being out. There's a fetishization of closeting, I think, on "/r/exmuslim". That's a problem where they're like, "You're smart, and you're gonna be alive if you're closeted." I get that a lot of people have to be closeted, but come on. Do we really wanna be invisible forever?
  142.  
  143. Sakeena: I actually feel like we emphasize the danger too much sometimes. Not everyone is at risk. I'm not. I live in America. I have a very liberal family. I *could* come out as an ex-Muslim. They might disown me, but I'm not gonna get killed or anything.
  144.  
  145. Heina: I guess it's a risk people just don't wanna take because you do hear about the people who get a really bad reaction.
  146.  
  147. Sakeena: I get that. Some people do have to be closeted. I just feel like we need to emphasize that you might not be... you have to figure it out for your own situation. And if you're not at risk, if you want to, you can be more visible.
  148.  
  149. Heina: That's what I try to emphasize. I had trouble with my family at the beginning, but now we're okay. We're like any family with a black sheep.
  150.  
  151. Sakeena: Mine is that way too. It's just with being trans. I came out trans to my family a few years ago. And it took em about eight years to get around to it.
  152.  
  153. Heina: Do we have any more questions?
  154.  
  155. Stephanie: None from the chat, but as long as we're talking - this being the "Understanding Ex-Muslims" panel - give me a question that you get all too often that you would never like to get again. And answer it here, so you can just point people to the video.
  156.  
  157. Sakeena: I actually would like to not get why I left Islam anymore. This is the most common question I get: "Why did you leave Islam?" And I just do not have a good answer to it because there is just not... What happened basically is as I grew older it just started seeming less real and more silly. It really didn't take much to knock me out. There's no story to it. Recently I had a few friends who were atheist, and then they just got me thinking, and I thought about the Koran "I don't take this book seriously as the word of god. It's just not impressive enough in any sense: moral, linguistic, or whatever." And so without the Koran, everything else just crumpled. That was like less than a year of thinking. It was a very quick and painless process.
  158.  
  159. Heina: With the "Why did you leave Islam?" question, I don't mind getting it because every time I try to come up with a different witty answer. The problem with that question is it's so broad for me. There was so much that went into it. I have this essay that I expand annually about why I left Islam. Because there's so much that went into it for me. So much so I have the opposite problem to you Sakeena. It's too much of a story to tell! Do you wanna sit down for the next couple hours and listen to me yammer? Probably not. I guess one question that I get more often... I brought this up on other panels, but I'll bring it out here. Please DO NOT ask me if my genitals were cut. They were not. That is an Arab and an African thing, and sometimes in Malaysia and Indonesia. On the Indian subcontinent, it's really not done by Muslims. And in fact when I first heard about it, it was in school when non-Muslims were telling me that that's what had happened to me. And I'm like I don't think so. I go home and ask my mother, and she looked horrified and said that's not allowed in Islam. She's wrong, of course. It's not universally practiced by every Muslim ever. Islam is not limited to one culture. It manifests itself differently across different cultures. And in my particular culture that I come from, FGM is not a thing.
  160.  
  161. Sakeena: That's a very invasive question!
  162.  
  163. Heina: Oh oh, another one, real quick. When people ask me if I left because of the sexism... No, I didn't leave Islam for the sexism. And if I wanted to leave sexism, I would have to create my own little commune somewhere.
  164.  
  165. Sakeena: I sometimes run into the assumption that I left Islam because I'm trans or queer. That may have played a part in it, but I was too easily self-repressed until after I left Islam. That just did not factor. Just leaving Islam gave me the freedom to examine it.
  166.  
  167. Heina: Oh, a question that I get from Muslims, if any Muslims are even watching this. A lot of em like to say, "Oh, you left Islam 'cause you started rebelling and partying, and you wanted to get rid of the guilt." I was a Muslim atheist for about six months. I wore a head scarf. I still didn't eat pork. I still didn't talk to boys. All that stuff. It took a while for me to become the hippie that they think I am.
  168.  
  169. Sakeena: The funny thing is I don't drink, but I'm the only person in my household who does *not* drink. All my Muslim relatives drink!
  170.  
  171. Stephanie: How about things that people don't think to ask? Assumptions that they make that are completely wrong.
  172.  
  173. Sakeena: Everything everybody thinks they know about Saudi Arabia is wrong.
  174.  
  175. Heina: Sometimes people don't even bother to ask me whether my family loves me anymore. They just assume that I never talk to my family and that I'm dead to them because I'm out as an ex-Muslim. I definitely perfer people asking "So how are things with your family?" to assuming. Or they assume that I was thrown out on my ear and left to the wolves as soon as I told my parents I was an atheist. That's not quite how it happened. It was a rocky road, certainly. But it wasn't, "The second I said I was an atheist, they threw me out, and that was it."
  176.  
  177. Sakeena: I get the same thing on saying I'm trans. They either assume my family disowned me for being trans or there was a bit of a problem there. They're not exactly happy with it, but I haven't been disowned by any of them. The funny thing is... the family I have that still live in Saudi Arabia are far more accepting of me being trans [???] and the ones who accept me the most tend to be the most religious too.
  178.  
  179. Heina: Yeah, the knee-jerk liberal religious people can sometimes be the biggest problem certainly. They're so defensive about it.
  180.  
  181. Okay, we have just a few minutes before we're done here. Is there anything else? You have this opportunity to speak to people who presumably want to understand ex-Muslims, since that's the title of the panel. Anything else you want to get out there and say?
  182.  
  183. Heina: While we wanna make sure we have a diversity in ex-Muslim voices, there are a lot of ex-Muslims out there who are out. And if you wanna understand us, come say hi. Those of us who are very out and very public, that's *why* we are. What other reason could we have? It's not like I'm getting big paychecks for this or anything. And there's a reason why I try to emphasize that. If you want to talk to an ex-Muslim who isn't me, chances are I could hook you up, too. You can talk to us. A lot of us are here for that.
  184.  
  185. Stephanie: I'm gonna couch that with the typical "Please respect my time" sort of thing. 'Cause that's not *all* you're here for!
  186.  
  187. Heina: Yeah. That's what my contact information is here for really. Obviously I'm not gonna be at your beck and call. Respect non-linear communication. Send me an email, and don't expect me to respond in two seconds, of course.
  188.  
  189. Stephanie: How about you, Sakeena? Any last thoughts you'd like to leave people with?
  190.  
  191. Sakeena: I don't know. There are too many things. Let me think... No.
  192.  
  193. Heina: Oh, one thing I will add... There are things that ex-Christians tend to share that ex-Muslims don't. This is gonna sound really obvious but... There's one that atheists can think about more: that things that speak to ex-Christians don't necessarily apply at all to ex-Muslims. Specifically I'm thinking of things that mimic church events. They may fill a role for people who have left Christianity, but they may not be at all relevant or interesting to people who haven't.
  194.  
  195. Stephanie: Are there kinds of social opportunities - I guess that's what a lot of those are set up to be - that're a little more welcoming to ex-Muslims?
  196.  
  197. Heina: I guess just make them a little more casual. I've never had a problem with a casual meetup where you just drop in. More structured ones that feel churchy to me; they just feel alien and bizarre to me. Let's say you're an ex-Christian, and you're in a society that is mostly ex-Muslim. And everybody meets Friday afternoon in the middle of the day, and everyone expects that everyone would care and want to meet at that time. It would feel weird. It would feel odd. I think the non-churchy flavored outings are a little better for us. Obviously those types of gatherings need to happen, but I guess I'm expected to care about them more than I do, and people wonder why. Well, standing, and clapping, and singing, eh. That's weird. I don't want to do that.
  198.  
  199. Stephanie: Well, we are at 9:50, which means that we are officially out of time. I would like to thank you both for coming on and being patient with me, as I play the role of "person who doesn't understand Muslims at all". And I'd like to thank Kaveh, too, who has heroically throughout this entire thing tried to solve his tech problems and get back to us. And thank you to everybody who tuned in.
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