I often write about the fringe benefits of apostating from Islam and rarely see any negative effects of apostasy, if that is what you want to call them. Granted there aren’t many but they do exist. I am speaking from the perspective of an American woman who, for the most part, have the freedom to bounce around from religion to religion with little to no adverse effects other than being disowned from family or viewed as being weird and indecisive. It is not like Saudi or other middle eastern countries governed by Islam where you risk being flogged, jailed, or losing your life for bouncing between beliefs. That is most definitely a negative effect of Islam and one that needs to be eradicated.
What I am speaking about are little nuances that have crept up from time to time that resulted from my leaving Islam that I never thought be a problem until now. When you convert, most Muslims feel like they are going to be Muslim until they die. And many people do remain that way although probably out of fear more than true belief in the system of Islam.
As of late one of those negative side effects has been rearing its face. For quite some time I have been both underemployed and unemployed, an uneasy combination of being a stay-at-home mom for the time I was “married” through my “divorce” and continuing through my apostasy, life has been difficult but bearable. I have been heading into a different phase lately while reconstructing my life from the effects of Islam(which I hope to write about soon) and have been applying for jobs. During the application process many employers ask for references. This is nothing new it is just some that I have not had to deal with in a very long while.
I was going through an old application I filled out while I was still Muslim and noticed I had references listed on the application. However they were all old Muslim friends and they were people I no longer speak to. Excluding one friend who eventually apostated as well, all of them broke off their friendship with me the minute I disowned Islam. People who claimed to love me and care about me went completely ghost the minute I no longer practiced the same belief or spoke highly of their belief system.
One sister called me crying and asked why I chose what I did but that she ultimately didn’t want to know because she knows how thorough I am about research and my decisions. That was the last I heard from her. This was a woman that had been present at almost all the births of my children, halaqas together, confiding in one another, Ramadans together, Eids together, the whole kit and caboodle. Poof, just like that, the friendship was obliterated the minute I decided not practice Islam. She is one of the references listed on my application.
There are several others who cancelled our friendship and yet there are some sisters that I still speak to occasionally who don’t see it as a threat. Although sometimes I wonder if they weren’t married would they still be Muslim but that is a different issue. Sheep mentality comes to mind.
Islam has a way of, and is designed to, absorb your entire life. It is painted as a full scale solution and model for a fulfilled life when it is anything but. On occasion, Muhammad and the other creators of Islam, got a few issues right but it is not a testament that the religion is true or that there is an existence of Allah or any other invisible god for that matter. When you convert, Islam becomes your entire life from cradle to grave, waking to sleeping, work to play, and every other facet of your life. This also happens in other religious cults including the various forms of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and so on so this lesson can be applied across the board. You can fill in the blank with any of these religious denominations and still get the same benefits and negative effects, it is not just limited to Islam.
Your friends become adopted family especially if you converted and are the only Muslim in your kafir family. Your community, your life becomes Islam all of the time and it is expected you will live and breathe in the fold. Even as the trouble spots start to creep up, the Muslim family comes racing to quell any and every disquiet in your mind typically known as “whispers of the shaytan”. Your love life, your work, your sleeping, your eating, your parents, your community, even your bathroom proclivities, EVERYTHING centers around Islam. It is socialism on steroids. Or like socialism, fascism, and communism got together and had a baby and Islam was the result.
Once you apostate, all or much of that is lost depending on how many roots you have in the religion. A single person with no Muslim family members who accepted Islam and apostated after a few months may not feel the same negative effects as an Indonesian Muslim child born and raised in that environment. It is a sliding scale and the effects will be felt as such. I feel like I am somewhere near the middle because I converted and wasn’t born into it. Yet I have several children by a man who is still Muslim and I was entangled in the life for 14 years. I walked around with full black hijab, jilbab, and niqab(as if they have crows on their heads) the majority of the time and was pretty embedded in the belief. However, I took issue with many things that Islam taught(thus the source of many an argument between the ex and I) so I don’t feel I was anywhere near the extremist level but not so soft that I was barely recognized as a Muslimah.
Now that I am back to my old life I see how ridiculous indoctrination of any stripe can impact your life from the small inconvenience to the large problem. Two such ways I have encountered this issue thus far has been what to do about new references and trying to explain my name change. For 14 years all of my friends and family were Muslim and I have not gotten out to establish new bonds with new non-Muslim friends for them to vouch for me as a reference(I tried dabbling in the atheist community for a while to make new connections but that is a different story of indoctrination for a different day).
So many a time I stare blankly at the reference section trying to figure out what to do. Ultimately I just add family members but I feel bad for apostates whose family has disowned them and they have no one to fall back on. Interestingly I used to argue with the ex that if I wasn’t going to work at a job then I needed to volunteer somewhere so that I would have continuous work experience and work references even if I wasn’t receiving a salary. My argument was that he wasn’t guaranteed to live forever, Muslims couldn’t purchase life insurance, and its not like he was fully providing for us so this would help me in the event of financial disaster. But he would howl and whine and thus it never happened. So now I have this weird gap in my career and references that looks odd to employers and raises eyebrows. And this has definitely proven to be a negative effect of apostating. Or more like a negative effect of being Muslim.
The other negative effect is that I changed my name legally during the whole salafee spree of getting rid of your kafir name for a more appropriate Islamic name. My name change is on all official documents including most of my childrens birth certificates so I have spent almost 20 years legally known as someone else. The only people who know me by birth name are family, high school, and old college associates most of whom I’ve lost contact with. People are always asking me about the origins of my name and how my parents must have been history buffs to choose it. Foolishly, I used to launch into an explanation of the name and that I chose it myself. I have since learned to pick and choose whether I bother to tell anyone that story though because people often want to know more and I have no desire to tell complete strangers that I was once Muslim unless it proves useful on some level.
So this comes up when I fill out background checks for employment and other applications that ask if you have ever been known by another name. Which technically shouldn’t be a problem, you should be able to name yourself Barney Clown if you want but many people want to know why an adult voluntarily changed their name or it raises flags. Especially in government employment that requires special clearances. A professional employer may not be swayed by something so simple but the average local U.S. employer is not professional so they get bent out of shape over name change and may not hire you or select you for a contract. If push comes to shove I can always say I was the victim of some sort of abuse and changed my name to protect myself but at this time I do not feel that it is necessary. It does illustrate how seemingly mundane religious requirements or even recommendations can have a negative impact on your life.
The drivers license was also a problem for awhile because I had hijab on in the picture in my old picture and bank tellers would inquire about it because I was no longer wearing it. Anyone who needed id would look at me weird when I had to present it and thus I was so relieved when it expired and I could get a new license. But then I run back into the name change issue at the DMV and many social service offices because I have to drag my name change papers with me wherever I go when filling out official government forms. This will become more complicated in the foreseeable future because I plan on having my childrens last name changed back to their fathers family name instead of one he chose sometime after we got together. That is Islam, making life complicated for 1400 years.