NULLI: We have known each other for a very long time. In fact, you met me whilst I was in full niqab. What was your first impression of me?
THE BOYFRIEND: I thought that well this was different. I had never interacted with a niqabi before. I didn’t know what I was allowed to do, like could I give you a pen was that allowed? It was so foreign. I didn’t know how to interact with you, you were dehumanized hidden behind a cloth. I thought you were one of those crazy terrorist fuckers.
And when did you realize that I wasn’t a crazy terrorist fucker?
You were hanging around the “bad” (bad according to Muslims) crowd and you often would engage in shit talk and I remember seeing you wearing jeans under your abaya that I thought “Hang on, she’s normal!” No ankles though!
Did it occur to you that I was forced to wear the niqab?
Yes, it did because I found it hard to imagine the person I knew underneath the niqab as being someone who would voluntarily wear one.
You say that the person I was on the inside didn’t match the image I portrayed, could you elaborate?
The more time I spent talking to you, the more I realized you were someone who was being held captive by a belief system they didn’t believe in.
I have mentioned to my followers that you are a vocal atheist, were you an atheist back then?
No. I didn’t know what an atheist was. I guess you would have called me your typical orthodox christian who would celebrate Easter and Christmas but other than that I didn’t really care.
We lost contact after my mother stopped me from leaving the house until I reached out to you a few months later. Was it a surprise hearing from me?
Yeah, it was. It was like out of all the people that I knew from university, you called me. It was shocking but nice.
Were you shocked when I propositioned you?
Oh my god yes. It was so weird.
You still had no idea what I looked like, so what was it like when you saw me for the first time completely unveiled?
I wasn’t disappointed and yes I know typical male response.
I was still living at home at the time, did you get anxious or worried for my safety?
Oh yeah, all the time. Muslim parents are absolutely fucking crazy when it comes to their daughters. I would get worried if I hadn’t heard from you in a while given that I knew your parents took your phone and laptop off you at nights.
I left home a few months later and our relationship grew. How do you remember feeling as I was going through all the abuse my family was giving me?
I was angry. I couldn’t comprehend parents who would disown their child over religion. It was so foreign to me. I also felt helpless. I couldn’t understand the world you had come from.
What were some of the biggest challenges you think I faced when I first left home?
Everything. You literally left home with just a phone and purse. You didn’t have any legal documents and couldn’t get any government aid. I was on apprentice wages and it frustrated me that I couldn’t do more to help you.
My parents were constantly harassing me with phone calls, you even spoke to my father at one point. What was that like?
By the time I spoke with your father, I already hated him. I remembered answering the phone with “Salam” and he hung up the phone. He called back a few minutes later. He wanted me to bring you to him, to leave you because it wasn’t right. He said that I wasn’t Muslim but you were so I should return you. That annoyed me. You weren’t someone’s property that I could pass around.
You still identified as Orthodox for a few years. Did my lack of belief in a god play some part in your own version of apostasy?
You didn’t really speak much about religion. I think you wanted to ignore everything to do with Islam or religion. My culture has always had a particular hatred for Islam so I always knew Islam was bullshit. But it took a long time for me to realize that I had also been raised in a different kind of bullshit.
And have you experienced similar issues as I when it comes to the religious family members?
I have the luxury where I can talk about religion with my family but they won’t disown me. They’ll mutter under their breaths and say that I’m going through a phase. But the difference between my family and yours is that in my family, Family is Family. You don’t kick them out for this shit.
Did my lack of life experience put a strain on our relationship and how do you think we made it through the bad times?
It was both our first real relationship and we were both learning and didn’t know what the fuck was going on. It didn’t help that there was no support network for you beside me. I resented your family. To get through the bad times, you have to talk to your partner. Communication is vital. Don’t let things bottle up.
What are some changes you have seen me go through?
Well, you had absolutely no social skills. You were like a cavewoman. The niqab was like a force field. It stopped people from interacting with you. You were very uncomfortable around men, swearing, and alcohol. You had absolutely no confidence or self-esteem. Seeing you experience simple things that I had taken for granted showed me to view the world in a different light.
Are you proud of me?
Of course, fuck yeah. From leaving home with absolutely fucking nothing to where you are now is amazing. The person I met behind the niqab to the person you have become today is a happier, confident, strong woman. You were always trying to please everyone, even if it left you absolutely miserable. You grew a backbone and you helped me grow mine.
What do you think of my being involved in the ExMuslim community?
I think it is great! You are helping people escape that terrible unhappy hell. That is what I think of living in a Muslim family or country. Hellish.
We plan on having kids and your family is quite big on interacting with each other, how do you feel about my choice to not allow my family to be a part of our and our future children’s lives?
Oh, it makes sense. Your family is fucking crazy. They are not nice people.
What would you do if one of our future children was to become religious?
I fucking doubt it. Between you and me as parents, we will probably be called to school because our kids will say Jesus isn’t real and break some little christian kid’s heart.
Your parents drowned you (read: dunked you in holy water) when you were a baby. What if they expect us to do the same?
They won’t. They know me very very well.
What is some advice you can give to the partners of ExMuslims?
PATIENCE. ExMuslims have a lot of shit they need to go through. Sometimes you won’t understand their quirks, like leaving a water bottle in the toilet or only eating with their right hand but at the end of the day, their quirks are what makes them, them. Also, your life experiences can not enable you to fully comprehend being an ExMuslim. Being Muslim is an identity and when someone becomes an ExMuslim they need to relearn who they are without the religion.
And finally, who is your favourite ExMuslim?
Ayan Hersi Ali because she is a survivor. Long before ExMuslim was a known thing she was challenging the Left’s view on Islam despite the murder of her good friend and constant death threats. She is not afraid to speak up.