I knew all along that the decision that I have made—converting to Christianity from Islam—would have undesirable consequences. I knew the path I chose wasn’t a walk in the park. But I guess I, somehow, managed to deny this truth for quite awhile. Somewhere in my mind, I thought I was living in a perfect world, that somehow (however illogical it might sound to those who know about my situation) it was all going to be alright.
Recently, I found out how wrong I really was. I had my fears realized and that realization for me has been earth-shaking and profound. The world has taken on different, frightening dimensions, and I don’t think it will ever be the same.
Sometime last month, my parents and I were sitting at our dinner table here in Dubai, discussing the war between Israel and Lebanon which had just recently been concluded in a ceasefire. My father, as usual, declared his opposition to the “Israeli barbarity” and that he knew that “Israel wants to wipe the Muslims off the face of the earth”. Discussions at my house are always like this and this was nothing new or different.
However, the conversation this time took a different path. That’s because, for the first time, I openly tried to defend Israel in my own home. I started by reminding my father that “it was Hezbollah that started that war by kidnapping IDF soldiers and raining rockets on innocent Israeli civilians”. But my father replied in a somewhat aggressive manner that “this” was “the Zionist propaganda” I was mindlessly “repeating”. In my father’s scheme of things, I had been following the “lies of the Zionists”, and he told me that I “should always side with the Muslims because Allah is with Muslims”.
I was quiet for a time, angry—I wanted to scream—but I didn’t. Calming myself down, I asked him, “If Muslims always do right, then why did the Mutawwas (the Saudi religious police) let several young girls burn to death just because they weren’t wearing a burqa? That counts as murder and murder is prohibited in Islam.” I thought that he would try to explain away that crime somehow. But all he did was look at me angrily, and retorted fiercely, “That’s impossible, that can never happen in Saudi Arabia, they’re real Muslims, you get your news from Zionist sources and you’re wrong!”
Shocked by his response, I told him that even some Saudi newspapers reported that news—I asked whether they were written by Zionists too and his answer, again very simple, was, “Yes!” Without another word, he got up and left the house to go to work.
All this time, my mother was just listening to us talk. I turned to my mother and just said, “What I said there about girls in Mecca is true, it actually happened.” She said, “You should show your father the Saudi newspaper that said that.” But I asked, “Why won’t he believe me? I am his son!” She didn’t say anything to that even though she knew I was hurt.
Since I had opened the discussion about Muslims committing crimes and not being perfect, and dad wasn’t around anymore, I said to my mom, “Muslims do bad things all the time—recently, in Afghanistan, they wanted to murder a person (Abdul Rahman) just because he had converted to Christianity from Islam.” She asked me again what he’d done and I told her, “He was born a Muslim but then 16 years ago he converted to Christianity, and they wanted to kill him for that. But they couldn’t because of international pressure, so now he’s in Italy as a refugee.”
Without thinking about it for even a second, she replied, “They should have killed him for that, he deserves to die. He committed a crime and that’s the punishment for it; anyone who leaves his religion should die.”
Silence filled the room. I was shaking and looking at my mom while she appeared very peaceful and normal. She wasn’t even looking at me; she was not paying any attention to me at all. I was looking at her though, and thought not a word came from my lips. I wanted to ask her, “Should the Christians who convert to Islam be murdered too?” But I didn’t, because I already knew the answer to that question.
That day, for the first time, I heard from my mother’s mouth all that I had feared—my own family hated who I was, my own mother despised me. I knew that their love for me will cease on the day they come to know the truth about me. What my mother said felt like someone had just forced a dagger into my chest, and instead of dying, I was left with that pain forever.
I got up from my chair and went to my room, overwhelmed by an empty feeling that I am in this dreadful situation totally alone, abandoned to my fate. Almost everything that has happened in the past six years, everything that I have contemplated, came back to me flashing like a movie being played in the theater over and over. I was horrified, losing hope. My head was spinning and I almost lost control. “Why did my mom say what she said? If she knew the truth about me, would she still say the same? What if she does?” I was asking myself all these questions.
I was afraid, not so much because death seemed not so far away, but because I thought that now I would die “as a slave”—that now I will never get to see and experience the freedom I am fighting and hoping to have for so long. To me, it seemed like the end of the world.
Since that day, I have started spending most of the time in my room away from my whole family. I’ve been lucky my parents haven’t ‘yet’ brought this up again, but I don’t know how I will face it if they do. I fought against almost everything for six years, but that one sentence from my mom broke me. I feel weak and tired.
I don’t regret the decisions I have made, not at all. I don’t regret being in my family. What I do regret is that I am unable to show what I know to be true to my folks. I regret that I live in a world where, even though I know the truth, I can’t experience it freely. I can’t share it because I am afraid. I regret that I haven’t been able to overcome my fears, but then, if I had—I would be six feet under by now.
To be honest, I count myself a failure. While it is true that I have found the light, I have lost almost everything I had—my family, my youth and my hope of attaining freedom. All I have left now is my two best friends (who’ve always been there for me), but who are so far away that I can talk to them only through the internet. And there’s God who too, it sometimes feels, has turned His back on me. It hurts!
I don’t know how long I will be able to stand before I collapse but I am firm on one thing—I am never going back to Islam, no matter what the price.