Conference speech 2019
by Sabeena Mozaffar

My family, my social circle, my peers in the university and random strangers on the street. As a vocal ex-muslim I have attempted to speak to all of the above about the topic of Islam. And this simple attempt to start up conversations has left me with some memorable nicknames: a bigot, an islamophobe, a disgrace to the family name, a whore, a sell out to the west and an imposter.

There was the gay muslim who equated islam to peace love and tolerance towards homosexuality and solely blamed colonization for why the Middle East was anti-queer. Then the female law student who considered me bigoted and misinformed about islam because I stated how it promoted violence against minority groups. And even an exmuslim himself who equated criticisms or mockery of islam to anti-muslim bigotry and believed Muslims to currently be the most persecuted minority in the western world. Its pretty clear that how varied the responses on this topic are always directly linked back to 2 factors: their personal knowledge about Islam and their willingness to not let emotions override accepting objective fact as a reality. It’s not as if I can’t comprehend where their perspectives come from. The regressive leftists fear vilifying a minority group and contributing to their persecution or the gay muslims’ desires to still belong to a religious community that is accepting of them. On most levels it is even better to have Muslims who genuinely believe in lgbt rights, religious freedom and a secular government than the hardcore islamists attempting to justify extremist mentality. Yet it creates obstacles when attempting to criticize islam objectively because it contributes to leftist denial that Islam itself is the problem. It makes having these conversations all the more essential.

To state the obvious, most of the people from either extreme are adhering to a confirmation bias, a classic mindset I have seen time and again in Muslim communities– the more you tell them they’re wrong, they will only consider it further proof that they are right. The more you present them with objective facts contradicting their pre-held beliefs, the more they will jump on the #fakenews bandwagon and succumb to the beliefs that there is some hidden agenda for why their quote on quote righteous beliefs are being tarnished. For the majority of Muslims, the only information that is ever factual is anything that portrays Islam in a positive light, showing it to be superior to all other religions or modes of thinking. It’s no wonder why so many Muslims in the west think only culture is to blame for why 13 Muslim majority countries punish apostasy with death, how Rahaf was apparently a porn-star who was never a true muslim not deserving asylum or any sympathy or how such a large portion of Muslims in the Middle East and beyond believe Israel is responsible for 9/11, committing it as part of some mastermind plan to defame Islam which is apparently the true global threat for world domination – at least according to some videos on the internet. It is because in this reality Islam and Mohmmad are the innocent victims, not guilty of any wrong doing. This "systematic persecution" of Islam is obvious evidence that Islam is in fact the correct path.

Initially, I assumed such a bias was being held subconsciously, until I realized it was purposely being enforced by imams, scholars and other so-called academics of islam – all to brainwash the vulnerable– at the mosques and even in schools, integrated into the learning curriculum of primary school kids. Growing up in Pakistan, Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha was already being taught and normalized to me in grade 3, as were the justifications behind Muhammed marrying his daughter-in-law and the military rape and kidnap of Safiya. Looking back at it now, he just appears to be one horny man but in schools I was taught he was nothing but a noble figure compelled by god’s command to do controversial things for the sole purpose of bettering humanity. They found some way to always justify the war and violence committed, but when Muslims partook in real-life violence in the present-day, either the West, the Jews or culture were at fault. They brainwashed people, especially women, into their own oppression so early on. And subsequently brainwashed them into believing the supposed justified persecution of others.

And how far can this brainwashing go to in the Western world? I still remember the time I asked the female Vice-President of the Muslim Student Association at university why a man should be entitled to having 4 wives. Her response was because men cheat more than women in relationships. She considered it an indication that a man should be considered incapable of controlling their sex drive and shouldn’t be pressured to restrain it whereas a woman has the god-given patience to tolerate her husband’s other wives and overcome her feelings of jealousy. Yes, there I was speaking to a 20 year old girl who had grown up in a community that, unlike her home country (of Pakistan) or religion, placed no restrictions on her because of her gender and actually held men accountable for their actions, yet was still in the mindset that she wasn’t even deserving of her own husband’s loyalty. And she didn’t reach this conclusion by herself. An imam did in fact teach that to her. I still remember in 2015, it was Islamic Awareness Week on campus and I asked the Islamic scholar brought in by the Uni MSA why men were allowed to have 4 wives.

His Response: Well, your husband is going to cheat on you any way, would you rather it be with someone infested with diseases or someone you actually approve of.

I think its pretty obvious now why speaking to Islamic scholars in an attempt to regain my faith only made it worse.

Ironically, later that same girl even attempted to quote-on-quote console me on the Islamic position of apostasy. Yes, in an Islamic state you would be killed but in any other nation Muslims are required to oblige to the law. Therefore, you needn’t fear for your safety.

I’m sure even the regressive feminists today wouldn’t be so silent on these kinds of mindsets being promoted in society if the person saying them was a white Christian not a brown Muslim or the topic at hand was rape and not murder – oh yes, in accordance to my beliefs, it would be completely legal and justified to rape you & I’d totally do it but don’t worry for your safety because my beliefs require me to follow the laws here.

I think it may also now come as less of surprise when I mention the Muslim Student Association at UNSW and several other universities in Australia are heavily associated with the Islamic extremist organisation Hizbut- Tahrir. But that’s a conversation for another time. Thank you.