I have been asked by a number of people as to why I identify with being an ExMuslim, and not just “Christian.” This blog is an answer to that question with my best effort to be honest, sincere, and sensitive to those who will read this whom may disagree. I’m addressing this for three types of people: The Christian, the secular Muslim, and everyone in between- especially - those Middle Easterners & Western Muslim’s who are in the grey area. The grey area is where the crisis is experienced. I know it is happening because 150K tweets of the hashtag #ExMuslim and #ExMuslimBecause began trending a few months ago. . . Western Muslims and Middle Easterners all began sharing their harrowing stories by using that hashtag. I encourage you to look it up and see it for yourself.
Personally, I feel like Western Culture and the Islamic nations are at an unthinkable crossroads. And this crossroads is magnified due to the two most complicated topics converging at once: Religion and Politics. So as you get deeper into this blog, I hope you relate to what I am going to say. This is not me trying to “be right.” In fact, being ExMuslim, I am very cautious to see if someone is actually serious and aware that this can and – will - impact your life. I remember the days when I had 1 minute at the end of my show to “lead people to Jesus.” I was faithful to the opportunity but what many of you don’t know is that it was awkward for me.
Why? Because I lost everything. My conversion took a whole 3 long miserable horrifying years of navigating myself, my culture, the mosque sermons, my fathers’ ideology- Let me tell you, guys… it was a nightmare. Literally, night sweats and nightmares, whispers of fear, hiding in secrecy looking over my shoulder, as I remember digging into the Quran and the Sunna (Supreme Example) of Mohammed (which is gathered from his authentic sayings aka Hadith & his Biography by Ibn Isshaq. Dr. Bill warner refers to these source texts within Islam as “the Trilogy.” [Genius.]
When I had my “crisis of religion” back in my early teenage years, life was everything but good. If you have heard me speak or follow my social media & website, you know that I have been telling my ExMuslim story for years. It began with a genuine search for inner solace and peace. Have you ever searched for the thing you knew you REALLY NEEDED but it was nowhere to be found? Seeking healing came from that need for some sort of stability, I lived in a beautiful house but needed a home. I had a lovely stepmother who was expected to ignore the monstrous event that the man she just married had NINE -9- children from a previously failed marriage. What we all needed was to talk about the split. Ignoring the monster elephant in the room for the next 15 years would be detrimental to all of us- including my father. I have even grown to appreciate the effort my brave stepmother took to take us on. Truly, that was brave and that deserves some respect.
So what was I to do when I needed an anchor on the inside? Usually, they say home is that anchor, with people who love and support you each step along the way. But my anchor was nowhere to be found. I looked hard for those things that only a spiritual vibrant relationship with God can heal- at least in my Middle Eastern culture. Please hear my heart right now and avoid listening to your preconceived idea, thoughts, or biases. It would be amazing if everyone- Christian- Muslim- and finally ExMuslim friends, would hear this out...
Being born as an American [waves old glory] while being told I’m Arabic- and by the way- before anything: First and foremost, I was Muslim! I literally had every intention to find God when I moved to Jerusalem at 12 years old. By 13.5 I was in full blown depression and living in an extremely dark space. Had I had the courage, I probably would have committed suicide. Had I not had a support system of good people who took me in and taught me what it was like to be a member of a healthy family, I would have ended up either in a gang, on drugs, or in the Psych ward. This is not to denigrate my blood relatives- in fact, I love them all very very much. They will forever be cozied up in the deep chambers of my heart and soul. In my heart: because you cannot turn off your heart. Especially when you have aimed to follow it wherever it may lead- even if it means being labelled an apostate. In my soul: because my biggest hurts and pains because of the converting has left a mark, a wound, a limp like Jacob when he wrestled with the Angel. They are deep in my heart because at the early years in my twenties, I determined that I would stop looking for all the sensations of my Christian faith & spirituality. I actually made myself available to the Christian world and the Muslim world by literally displaying my life for all to see. That was horrifying too. I was and is my story and because I am a storyteller, I will forever tell my story.
The truth of the matter is that my life is extremely influenced by my spiritual Christian self. There is NO way around this. It is popular in the West to be ‘spiritual’ and I love that, I really do, but my story is that it was Jesus who helped me. For this, I am indebted to tell my story honestly. I cannot hide this nor would I ever: I do, however, reserve the right to adopt to my own worldview. So am I Christian, yes. Am I ExMuslim, yes. Can I separate the two- maybe- but why would I? For the believers’ out there in social media land, please understand that to ask me to be “Christian” and ignore the ExMuslim part would be half the story.
So, what is your point and why Hazem? I’m glad you asked. Now I will offer this piece of my heart to the Muslim who loves his religion: I am not your enemy nor do I want to offend you. However, I can’t help but to think of the hundreds of ExMuslim’s that I personally have encountered. Most of them are still Muslim on the outside because of repercussions with family and their communities. Dear Muslim, please help me. I need to know how those teachings (which are in the Quran itself) are ok? Honestly, how can anyone in 2016 agree with the prescribed Islamic codes. I hate to be the guy who does this but we were lied to. Our culture and religion told us that our pride and honor was the most important thing- a typical common falsity within tribal culture, the standard or honor and pride got out of control. Our girls began getting married at 14 (and younger) while becoming subjects and not people. If this is not your experience, I respect your experience. In fact, I rejoice with you for that blessing. Most ExMuslims I have met, were not so fortunate. The vast majority of ExMuslim’s I know had an incredibly difficult journey. It is those people I relate to as well.
So asking me to just talk Christian and not ExMuslim is kinda like asking me to change the color of my eyes. I can do that, but that would be fake. And given the incredible time in history we are living in, I firmly believe that if we ignore the ExMuslim masses, we will lose to all those things which steal our innocence like drugs, gangs, suicide, etc etc. So my dear ExMuslim, I promise you two things.
1) I promise to be your friend. I promise to give you the space that you need to wrestle with Islam. Because you will either come away anchored in your soul, and therefore help fix or reinterpret, or alleviate the crisis. and if nothing more, you will find your own path to emotional recovery and psychological well-being. &
2) I promise to not try to “convert you.” There was a time I would do this. But I found that the most spiritual thing I can do is to be available- to be vulnerable. Show my wounds- my fears, my insecurities. truly, the best I can be because I am in that wrestling space myself. I am aware that just like me, you are ready when you are ready to wrestle with truth and spirituality. I had to study Islam because I needed to know for me whether those things I discovered were true- bc I could have made a mistake… And lastly I studied Christianity because I wanted to grow my spiritual walk and grow in love and grace. Otherwise, I would be in a completely different place right now.
I hope you hear my heart. Being vulnerable with the hardest topic in the world is not easy. So dear Muslim, if I offended you, I genuinely apologize. I simply am trying to get the majority of the secular Muslim’s to realize these teaching are there- and it is not a phobia to question questionable ideas. As long as the majority of loving- kind secular Muslims’ continue to conflate the idea that Islam is peace and these crazies are all terrorist’s, there will continue to be attacks, more violence, and more corruption in the name of Islam. The best thing the concerned ones- the secular Muslims- U CANNN step up and take charge. There are more of you who want to not believe in Jihad than there are those who are doing it. As long as our influential Lefties refuse to engage ExMuslims, and as long as the influential Righties continue to show anger to the Muslims, the problem continues and bad ideas get spread even further.
Who knew? That in 2016 the establishments would be tip toeing. Who knew that in 2016 the American’s would revive their voting process? Who knew that covered up crazy things like the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia would be questioned! Why is Obama allowed to make claims like “the first ambassador to the US was a Muslim” when in reality that “ambassador” was sent to threaten and extort baby America’s vulnerability? (see my Thomas Jefferson video-def. must see)
This is why the left needs to get their act together. And the right needs to chill out with the whole Muslim thing. I do understand both reasons so I get it. But at the moment, now it is time to re-evaluate. Corporately, everyone is going through some sort of this.
For me, it has been a long journey from hopping on the greyhound at 17 running away from home; looking over my shoulder. I am now 31. 15 years later, I’ve never been more optimistic. Why? Because when true change happens it is all encompassing. I feel like the Bush era is over. The Clinton era finally being challenged and quite honestly, if it survives, I would be surprised. But as with everything, one step at a time. By November, those like me will be sure of who to vote for. Without expounding, you can see why we may or may not be limited this election season.
As Hazem Farraj, obviously a very human being… an ExMuslim... and follower of Jesus…seeing hashtags like #ExMuslim and #ExMuslimBecause may have only been a trending hashtag but for us who have been at this a while, hiding for our lives, dodging blasphemy laws, and in the meantime missing our loved ones, we don’t see just a hashtag, we see 150k tweets of hope. So the good news to the masses who are struggling in secret: I am going to make you a promise. You are going to be ok. Just don’t stop. Stay courageous. Stay curious. And stay human to the non-humane teachings.
In the end, I compared the ideas, values and cultures of both worlds and came away more proud of the things which makes America great. For this reason, I am going to do everything within me to influence the Middle East to rise up again and fast forward our calendars to 2016. The separation of Mosque and State would be a good start. I don’t know- I may be naive but I know I’m not the only Middle Easterner who loves the idea…
I hope the Left and the Right have the wisdom to discern the times, and not politicize the greatest Islamic crisis of our time.