I received this letter from an Iraqi ex-Muslim studying at a Belgian university, among countless others, after publishing my piece on the invisibility of ex-Muslims. The author suggested sharing his letter, but he wishes to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. It is a powerful testimony that deserves to be read, especially by those on the Regressive Left who have betrayed ex-Muslims like him.
Dear Dr. Boudry,
Before I waste any more of your time. I regret to inform you that, like the floods of ex-Muslims who contacted you before me, I cannot partake in your symposium. I really wish I could, but I just can’t. Mainly out of fear for my parents. They still live in Iraq, and if news of my participation in such an event wold reach the “homeland” (and I use the prefix ‘home-‘ very loosely here, because it never was a home to me), their lives would surely be in danger. But if you would indulge me, I would like to share a few things with you.
The thing that bothers me the most about extreme leftists is the term “Islamophobia”, because as far as I know, the suffix ‘-phobia’ means ‘irrational fear’. And fear of Islam is anything but irrational, and I am speaking based on first-hand experiences. Yes the vast majority of Muslims aren’t terrorists, but for many of them it is only for practical reasons. Either they don’t need to be terrorists because they already live in an Islamic state (e.g. Iran, Saudi Arabia) or in a country that is being rapidly ‘islamicised’ politically (e.g. Iraq, Turkey, Indonesia). So the government is already or will soon be doing the terror on behalf of them. Or because they think jihad is now futile, there is no real caliphate yet, no banner for Muslims to unite under, thus all effort would be in vain. The first group, though they do not commit acts of terror with their own hands, they are, for all intents and purposes, terrorists by proxy. While the second group are just sleeping terrorist, give them a leader who aligns closely enough with their own version of Islam, who can convince them that there is a real chance of victory against the infidels, and they will join the call to jihad in a heartbeat. So fear of Islam is one the most rational fears one can have.
Yet I must admit there is a third group, Muslims who aren’t terrorists on principle, who are actually peaceful, who think sharia law was never actually intended to be exercised, or that it’s a law for times long long gone and we shouldn’t even attempt to enact it now, or that the Quran isn’t even the literal word of god but is just a vague inspiration that Mohammad wrote in his own words based on his own simple understanding of the world back then. All of whom integrate perfectly after coming to the west. And although they are in the minority compared to the rest, there are still many of them. And if they talked out loud about their beliefs, they would be considered just as much infidels as you and I. And that is what bothers me about the extreme rightists. All Muslims are bad, everyone who comes from a country with a majority of Muslims is bad (except for religious minorities, atheism not being one of them of course, because there are no atheists in these countries, you are born with a religion, and you can only change it to Islam if it isn’t already, otherwise you’re stuck. I’ve been an atheist for the majority of my life now and all my official papers still say that I am a Muslim, but I digress).
I came to Belgium seeking a home. And although I am fearful that by the far right I will always be considered an outsider, and by the far left an “islamophobe”, I am hopeful that maybe most Belgians are closer to the middle, and that is what I have seen during my so far short stay here. I came here with a student visa, hopefully by the time I finish my bachelor’s degree I would have proven myself an asset to the Belgian workforce so I can stay on a work visa. I haven’t yet sought asylum status and I wish I never have to, because I don’t want to live off of the work of others, but mainly because I am afraid that I will surely be denied. Because Iraq is internationally considered as a good country, where only the places that are under the direct control of ISIS or on/near the battlefront are considered dangerous. Because the Iraqi government is an ally to the west, and so the shi’ite militias that were recently integrated into the Iraqi armed forces (who are virtually no better than ISIS, and this is coming from an ex-shi’ite) are also somehow allies to the west. How would I bring forth my case? “I am an atheist, sir”, I imagine the response would be “And you live in a democratic country that respects freedom of religion”. I don’t know whether I’d cry or laugh at such an answer. This system is broken, it forces people like me to lie, but I don’t want to lie, and I don’t think I can pull it off even if I wanted to.
As I said earlier I wish, with every atom of my being, that I could join your cause and help you, but 20 years under oppression has made me a coward. And although I have overcome my fear of questioning and thinking long ago, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to overcome the fear of speaking out. The fear to speak even in your own house because the neighbours might overhear you, that feeling that “the walls have ears”, it just haunts you.
And though I am lucky enough to have a shot at an alternative, countless others, such as my parents, aren’t even that lucky. While some people want to send their parents nice gifts, dream of buying them a nice house, maybe a nice car for the old man, my wish is only that I can help my parents spend the last years of their lives in a place where they don’t have to fear for their lives, where they are treated with at least some respect and dignity, surely that isn’t too much to ask for? So please, never stop fighting.
A Young Contrarian