What would you do if you were born into a religion that you can never leave; where even your government and family tell you that you don’t get a choice? In my country, leaving Islam is an offence punishable by death. Good or bad, you must pray to a god in whom you have little or no faith and practice a religion which you don’t believe in. That’s the situation in which I find myself in, and there is nothing I can do about it.
Throughout my childhood, I was forced by my family to be religious — otherwise, I would be punished. All the time, they would lecture me about religion. More specifically, they would tell me that I should pray more. But, I have never felt close to God and was too afraid to question why I should have to be. Their argument was always the same — I have to force myself to pray even if I don’t like it. I understand why they say that: They’re afraid. They’re afraid of what it will mean for them in the afterlife if I fail to be a good Muslim. They believe it will show that they have failed to raise me well. As I got older, I stopped caring if they would punish me.
Despite my upbringing, I have always wanted to do my own thing. A very religious family like mine doesn’t easily accept a son who is gay and non-religious. I’ve just never had the desire to be religious. Sometimes, I feel bad that my family believes that they will be punished in the afterlife because I’m not religious. I’ve been hating myself too. It feels like I’m a failure and, in the past, this has fuelled my anxiety and led to me attempt suicide.
Everyday, I feel guilty about hurting my family because I think and feel differently from them. I can’t blame them for being scared though. I would be too if I was raised the same way as them, but I guess I was lucky when I was growing up. I was exposed to a lot of different views from the friends and teachers I met, both online and offline, and that really helped open my eyes to the world.
Right now though, I feel trapped and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I recently told my family that I don’t want to be religious anymore. I don’t know what they will do, but I think they are going to try to isolate me from both my local and overseas friends. They’ve already taken away my WIFI access. I care about my family and don’t want to hurt them, but I can’t go on living like this. I need to be true to myself and live my life as the person I really am, not who other people want me to be.