When I come first to this country, they thought I have come escaping IS, that I whatever I have suffered in Iraq was related to that Islamic beast occupying Mosul and other western town in my country. When I explain to them that I come from Shia family, living in Shia dominant area and never came across IS, or never suffered any abuse from them, I can see in their faces question marks, wondering why I would escape my home if I lived a peaceful life. Why a university lecturer, having a good job, would uproot herself and choose to live the life of a refugee in far away land. For those who think that life in Iraq suffers only from IS, I would say IS was the least of my concerns.
Having survived the last four decades in the country with all their wars and sanctions, IS seemed to me just another chapter of an awful life in Iraq. It was not news to me, nor to many Iraqis living in middle and south of Iraq. Our nightmares consist of some other beasts. As a woman, I have more to fight against and struggle with, as secular scholar I had my battles in the university and in the family. If Is had to do with what I had to struggle against, then it was the polarization of religion that IS increased during the last three years.
Coming from a religious family, I had to practice religion, without truly believing it. I read the holy book hundred of times, and every time I tried to convince myself that there was a miracle and message to all humanity. I tried to persuade myself to take pride in being Muslim woman and wearing hijab. I remember that I for sometime when I was 11 years old, I hated to pray but the peer pressure I get from sisters, I resumed my five-times prayers. I remember that during the 1991 war, everyone was saying that this war because Allah was angry with the Iraqis, and everyone started to look into their sins in their daily acts; I was one of them and decided to come to terms with hijab, intensified my prayers and read the quran constantly. I even memorized its first five chapters, which are the longest when I was 18. But all that didn't make me believe, nor convinced me that I have the grasped the essence of knowledge through Islam. I thought I was too angry to bring myself to believe and always blamed myself for not being able to overcome my childhood anger, when I hated the gender roles and expectations imposed on me as a girl, in the way I should act, dress, and look.
My education increased my doubt and nourished my skepticism. I studied English language and literature, through I was introduced to many great thinkers who changed the world with their ideas, but they were not Muslims. They were infidels who drink alcohol, had their affairs and many were actually homosexuals. In my master study, I wrote my thesis about an American poet, Hart Crane, who was homosexual. As a Muslim, I should have hated him, or feel disgusted with him, which was the reaction Muslims show toward homosexuality, if not anger and call for killing whoever is involved in the term. For me, I sympathized with the man, and loved his poetry. Because I touched his humanity through his words, I decided to read about homosexuality, away from religious texts, and found out its scientific explanation. I came to terms with that and started to question why their creator would torture them for being something he cause in them? Then, the same questioning included everything: why we would be punished for doing something our creator deemed so awful but then he could have stopped us from doing it in the first place. What is the purpose of this sick game where you place people in painful situation and when they choose to relieve themselves from pain, you punish them because they chose to end their suffering? I couldn't understand the twisted mentality that this creator had. But I couldn't say anything about my doubts, my questions because I was surrounded by religious family, and society that couldn't accept the mere term of atheism.
When I started teaching in the university, my lectures were the only platform where I could have raised these questions, but then I needed to be careful then as I started immediately after 2003, when religious tides started to sweep all over Iraq. One day a student who couldn't accept his failing in learning English, snapped in the class and questions the importance of learning the language of the infidel west! It became part of the teaching discourse then to question the west and their real motives in doing anything in the Middle East. Even learning their language was considered a step of blasphemy. Reading their literature was considered even worse.
But English literature opened my eyes to my worth as a female. In these English texts of different writers I realized that I didn't need to be fair to be pretty and desirable. That I am human and smart even if I was a female. I realized my humanity in a way that I couldn't achieve the same through all the books of religion I have read. With every text I read, my wish to escape increased. I failed to communicate with my own family, my colleagues, and my students. My prayers became a routine I had to do, my hijab was just convenient way to save time and trouble before going out. My feminine self was put asleep, my intellect is suppressed and my whole existence was waiting for the ultimate end of death. If I talked to God, I would simply tell him, you should have given me the choice to live or not, because I would rather not exist at all than live this miserable life which I hated every single moment of it.
Religion was imposed on me and made me miserable because I had to believe in it, rather than choose it. Now, I wonder why anyone would choose to convert to Islam or any religion in their adult life? I can talk about Islam and it is honestly not a very attractive religion, whether it is Sunni Islam or Shia Islam. It is simply a repressive religion that ask humanity to keep suffering so they will be rewarded after death. It tells homosexuals, Allah punished people in ancient times because of this and you are next! it tells men you will satisfy your sexual desires with white women and beautiful young boys (no idea what is the purpose of the boys!). I am sorry for all Muslims who are still waiting for a man whom they is still alive for more than 1000 years and still think that humanity didn't suffer enough yet.. For me, I am out..