Two weeks ago, I had a discussion with a sister who had also started questioning Islam. She has not left the faith though, just taking time to re-evaluate things. Even though she doesn’t yet wear the scarlet letter of full-fledged apostasy, some have already started to treat her that way. As I listened to her experiences and reflected upon my own, the emotional pain involved hit home. When I left the deen I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on the coldness I received from people. I was too preoccupied getting my life back on track and taking care of my child, so focusing on people’s opinions was a luxury that I did not have. But I am not going to lie, some of it really hurts.

I think that what galls me the most is the fact that people judge you so easily. Friends and family who have known you for years, the spouse that shares your bed every night-they can all turn on you and declare you persona non grata out of the blue. And not because you committed a crime, or mistreated them or did something unethical. No, all you did was question or modify your religious beliefs.

I personally experienced this in my dealings with my ex. Here was a man who had not spoken to me or even bothered to see how I was after her completely abandoned me and refused to give me an Islamic divorce. Yet the minute he noticed that I was no longer wearing hijab in my profile picture on FB, he began harassing me. This was someone that I had loved, someone that I had welcomed into my life and my family. Yet here he was in December, telling me that I had committed an unforgivable crime and that I was the worst type of human being because I’m an atheist(which BTW I am not. He just assumed that non-Muslim=atheist for some reason) and that I deserve to die. Here he is again in July, harassing me, insulting me and calling me a whore and a kaffir, then telling me that I’m lucky I wasn’t around him when I apostatized from Islam as he would have carried out the punishment with his own hands. To him, I was no longer the opinionated, feisty, sweet and intelligent woman that he had proposed to. No, in abandoning Islam I became a kaffir and a munafiq, unworthy of tolerance, respect or even oxygen. And that is what hurts the most: being completely dehumanized-not because of anything you’ve done-but because of your beliefs.