Photo: Flickr / Guilherme Yagui

Still breathless

There are things about Islam that still take my breath away – not in a good way. I became an atheist at the age of 15. Truth be told, I was just bored. At 15, I couldn’t be bothered to pray and read the same book over and over again, or fast, or cover my head. It was just boring to me.

At 19, after an arranged engagement, I gave it another go. I knew that if I wanted to avoid being beaten by my soon-to-be husband, who was a man from Pakistan, I would need to be sufficiently religious. I read the Qur’an; and not just in Arabic. I read it in a language I could understand. Well, partially understand: it was written in old English, rather than the modern version we speak today. I always found it ridiculous that we blindly followed something that we didn’t understand. I was always told that Islam was the religion of peace, tolerance and equality.

One of the main reasons I thought I would give Islam another go was because of my upcoming marriage. I wanted to know what my rights and obligations would be as a wife in Islam. It turned out there are many obligations and not so many rights.

There were many aspects that offended me. The two main things that stood out time and again were that my husband could beat me, sorry, lightly beat me, and that I could not refuse him sex. That would mean I was his plaything. If it wasn’t enough that my husband could sexually assault me whenever he felt the need, he could also have multiple wives.

I have been an atheist for 16 years now. A couple of years ago, I went a little further with this and realized that I am not only an atheist, but also an anti-theist. I hate religion. After suffering the loss of my brother and the imposition of a Muslim funeral by the community that we had grown up in, I realized that I truly hate religion.

My family knew that my brother was an atheist and wanted to be cremated, yet he was buried in the Islamic way. They read naats and verses of the Quran at his funeral, whilst I shouted hysterically for them to stop because he was an atheist and this would have been the last thing that he would have wanted.

And yet, although I have been an atheist for over half of my life, and an anti-theist for the last few years, there are still some things that take my breath away.


When Islamic books are put on the floor.

It’s just a book, I know that. Whenever I have needed to use Islamic works for research, I still put them on the floor, but it always makes me feel nauseated.



Some of them are so cute but I still hold my breath as I walk past them. I still think they are really ugly. I hear myself telling myself off in my head: it’s not their fault that Islam hates them.


Pictures of Mohammed

I absolutely support anyone wanting to draw pictures of Mohammed, encourage it even, as well as the right to feel offended by it, but I still have this terrifying feeling that the world is going to end because someone drew a picture of an ancient warlord.


Writing this, I can sense the absurdity, but years of indoctrination and brainwashing do have a lifelong impact. It becomes a never-ending internal battle to counter years of conditioning.