I was born and raised as a Muslim. This blog is my way of venting about issues, news, opinions, and stories I had, and will, run across. Some of my views will surely be controversial to some readers, but at no instance will I be offensive, or at least I will try!
One day during Ramadan, my wife and I were invited by a close friend of mine to break fast. I was not fasting of course, mainly because I had not practiced my religion since my teenage years, but also because I must conform to a strict dietary lifestyle dictated by diabetes.
That night, I was introduced to others who were close friends of the host. They were all Muslims. After dinner, as we all gathered in the family room for tea and dessert, the conversation turned to religious fundamentalism and the Middle East. My friend, who was fully aware of my weakening faith, was in the mood for debate. As the conversation heated up as to why I do not practice my faith to its fullest, he pointed out to all who were present that I do not pray five times a day, read the Quran, nor steer clear of alcohol. Of course, he had drank wine many times in my presence, while away from his wife and family. I did not wish to ignite a heated argument between him and his wife, so I decided not to enlighten the rest as to his hypocrisy.
Little did he and the others know that I had completely let go of my Muslim faith. I had discovered, following years of inner conflict, that religion did not conform to my growing hunger for rational reasoning, and was not useful in my life. I find the solitary enjoyment of reading and writing is all the spiritual cleansing I need.
Following that night, I was obsessed at finding a way of making my friend understand my point of view. How do I open the mind of a religious conservative in order to understand what an atheist believed? I did not wish to drag him away from his faith, rather I longed for him to see the world through my eyes if not but for a moment.
A short story of a relationship between a young Muslim boy and his father was what my imagination produced. I built a new blog for which the sole purpose was to present the story. Within a few hours readers had shared the link to my website with their peers on numerous social networking websites. By the following day the story had attracted almost twenty thousand readers, and by the fourth week more than seventy thousand visitors had read the story. I was immediately inundated with emails and commentary by the readers. The feedback was mostly positive save for some harsh criticisms.
The negative reviews were made by readers who found the story to unfairly target the Muslim faith. This was not my intention. Rather, the message of the story was to present my personal view of all religions. The main character in this story was Muslim only because I was Muslim.
I am of Lebanese descent but was raised in Saudi Arabia during the earliest years. My father decided to move the family to Canada shortly following the end of my first decade of life. His reasoning was he could not fathom to have his children grow up in such a conservative nation. My father has liberal views, and is not religious to say the least. He never was truly religious for as long as I can remember. I was never sure however, if my father’s weak faith was indicative of sincere disbelief in a higher power, or rather a manifestation of his lazy persona. As a child, I believed my father’s faith was in his couch and television set. My mother on the other hand is truly religious. Unlike my father, she continues to pray everyday, and fast for the full thirty days once a year.
It is in Canada that I shed the bulk of the fundamentalist religious teachings that filled my innocent mind throughout my early educational years in Saudi Arabia. Canada was a beacon of intellectual and cultural freedom. It is there that my mind was allowed to pursue a journey of self-discovery. Canada is a beautiful country that presented me with a venue for expressing my thoughts in the open, with no fear of punishment. I do not suggest that I had let go of my Muslim faith as soon as my feet touched Canadian soil. Rather, I lost my faith following years of inner-conflict and self-contradiction.
My faith began to wane during my early teen years. I had always loved to read. Through books, I discovered the histories of ancient civilizations, the teachings of philosophical minds, and the inquisitiveness of scientific geniuses. As my mind acquired further knowledge, my curiosity had blossomed. I was constantly asking myself questions about my faith. To most of those questions, satisfactory answers never existed.
It was not until my college years that I knew I would not be a Muslim. I can recall the very moment that my journey of self-discovery had come to an end. My wife had asked me if I would expect my children to adhere to the Muslim faith. I said, “No, I would not.” Through that answer I knew I had solidified my departure from Islam. Yet, socially, I would continue to introduce myself as a Muslim to my parents and extended family members. I hid my true self mainly to protect my parents from social retaliation, and embarrassment. Even to this day, as my life reaches the end of its third decade and enter its fourth, I continue to mask my non-belief. I do this out of fear. I fear the consequences for both, myself and those dear to me.
It is sad to realize that in today’s society, with its intellectual advances, there continues to be a stigma attached to those that have an alternative view from the masses. It is more difficult for a fundamentalist Christian to understand the arguments of atheism than those of conservative Islam. This is the reason I decided to expand the short story into a full book in order to share my view with the rest of the world. This is assuming that those that oppose free speech do not ban the reading of it. Those that wish to expand their knowledge and open their eyes to new worlds must not adhere to a strict and biased education.
Unguided reading had always guided my intellectual freedom.
You can contact me at:
a d m i n @ n i c o r a j . c o m
(without the spaces)