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Ex Muslims and Crap Marriages, or Why Did I Stay Muslim?

26 Comments

Having been a Muslim blogger for six years or so, I notice that every few months themes appear on which all of us seem to blog. This month’s theme seems to be the rising awareness of ex-Muslim blogs being blogged about. Ms. Safiya’s latest postand the ensuing comment and counter-posts got me thinking on the topic of ex-Muslims, converts and specifically convert marriages.

The critiques on Muslim marriage in these blogs follow the same lines as the general criticisms from both inside and outside the ummah today: quickie marriages, men “going p”, bad advice from Imams and communites in the face of domestic violence and STDs, questionable sexual relationships both in and out of marriage, marriage for papers…These critiques aren’t entirely unfounded- the ummah has SERIOUS problems when it comes to men and marriage. I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lot of us who have “good” marriages and I am not overly optimistic on my chances of re-marriage given the “dating pool.” But yet throwing the baby (Islam) out with the bathwater (shit marriage) seems too simplistic to me.

My premise on ex-Muslim blogs is simple. I don’t like reading the blogs because it puts me back in the state of mind I was in earlier in the year- angry at the world, blaming my ex, and just generally anxious and pissed off. I see the stories of women who are stuck in this cycle of pain I have transitioned out of and no longer identify with. Some could argue, and wouldn’t be totally wrong, that my marriage wasn’t as bad as what is out there. Those who know the former DH know that he isn’t 100% asshole. As far as people choosing to leave the religion, ok Islam didn’t work for you, and good luck finding that which does works. But just because your marriage was bad and my marriage was bad, don’t call me out for being a tool for staying Muslim after leaving my big bad Muslim man with back homeland pseudo-orientalist baggage. I reject the idea that people who leave Islam after a bad marriage have somehow woken up from a bad dream and that those who choose to stay in Islam are delusional and haven’t digested their breakup enough. I also won’t buy stock in any argument by someone who comes to me saying that Islam is a fundamentally bad religion for women, which is one of the tactics the ex-Muslims try to use in “raising awareness.” That said, I had a discussion with a friend of mine a few weeks back about conversion theories. I completely buy and am willing to co-sign the idea that one of the reasons I choose to believe in God period is because I grew up in the southern US where believing in God is normal and accepted. Maybe had I grown up in Switzerland, I wouldn’t have chosen any religion or maybe I would have left Islam after my separation. It’s a logical possibility, but not the whole story.

Some people like to make the difference between women who convert in order to get married and women who convert before getting married. I make no difference. People are “called to Islam” through a variety of ways, and I have met plenty of girls who “converted for marriage” who are just as sincere in their deen as the next girl. I don’t know if girls who “convert for marriage” are more or less likely to leave the deen after than marriage fails but I don’t like the idea that that is how it is presented. And Muslims and non-Muslims are just as guilty as dismissing these “converted for marriage” girls and people are oh-so-impressed to hear that I converted before, and still plan to stay Muslim. It makes me want to call bullshit.

I’m definitely NOT the same Muslim I was when I was living with my husband (as people IRL and in Lausanne can attest), Eight months on, I’ve gone through – and am still going through- an adjustment period of what being Muslim outside of marriage means- but I defy anyone to call into question my identification as a Muslim. I definitely did not have a “bad” marriage when I read what passes for “Muslim marriage” in the blogosphere, but it didn’t work out, we both hurt each other, and it sucked and still hurts A LOT. I don’t think it is fair in 100% of cases to blame the brothers. In my case, I know what I did wrong and I know my shortcomings. I just don’t think it is fair for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to call into question the sincerity or the validity of converts’ decisions (from whether choosing Islam or not, to having the odd ham sandwich, etc) after a painful marriage and divorce where your whole world falls apart. So, in short, a lot of things aren’t fair. But reading ex-Muslim blogs is nothing more than rehashing train wrecks, it doesn’t uplift me and I can’t relate because I went through the pain and chose to stay Muslim. To each their own.

(For the record, the most “famous” of the ex-Muslim blogs is purported to be the work of a former Muslim blogger par excellence. FWIW I don’t buy it is her, the ex-blogger is a better writer and critical thinker and more informed than the ex-Muslim).

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Author: Nicole Cunningham

American Expat and convert to Islam living and working between Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland.

26 thoughts on “Ex Muslims and Crap Marriages, or Why Did I Stay Muslim?

  1. I’m guessing that if someone converted after being involved with, or shortly before being in a relationship or a marriage with a Muslim (especially a born-Muslim), then they’re likely to have looked upon said Muslim as a bit of an example on religious issues – in a sense, one would see Islam primarily through them.

    And it’s quite a disappointment when the Muslim one looks up to the most turns out to be an arse.

    I am generally of the opinion that converts and non-Arab Muslims are better than, well, us Arab Muslims. (Over-generalization which I hope you will permit).
    To that I’ll add that, for Muslims who have been through such tough experiences and have managed to hold on – and not throw the baby with the bathwater – they have my most sincere respect and admiration.

  2. I don’t have anything “smart” to say right now – but absolutely have to tell you that I enjoy your posts and find you to be such a “breath of fresh air,” whatever the h* that means, anyway.

    Thanks for all you share with us!

  3. I’ve known a handful of women like you who remain Muslim post-marriage. Most of them came to their faith before meeting the ex. On the flip side, there certainly are a lot of women that convert for marriage/the new identity/the perceived exoticism of their new partner’s culture/religion (both so intertwined the women is pressed to separate the two). To these women, their ex is the embodiment of Islam. He was once this strange and unique creature from a different land, and she found his religious and cultural customs endearing. Marriage goes sour, woman slowly drifts from Islam. What once attracted her, repulses her. I do think, Nicole, that this is the more common scenario, but I’ve certainly known some exceptions.

    • I think, especially for Americans, and I would be lying if it wasn’t part of it (even though I was Muslim a good year and change before marriage, which also puts me in a minority for convert marriages) that the “exoticness” of this new life and new partner was fascinating. But when your spouse embodies Islam and then proceeds to do horrible things to you, the glimmer fades, like you said. But I don’t believe a convert who says orientalist fantasyland didn’t at least play at least a small part.

      I gotta keep it real 🙂

  4. It’s really crappy that you have to re-affirm that you are Muslim to others. It really makes me angry on your behalf. It is such a deeply personal question and one that is so loaded, as if your religion can be based on another person.

    I know you converted before but so what if a girl/guy was called to the religion because of a person? One person sure as hell isn’t going to make them stick to the religion!

    Re the growing up in the South point – I definitely feel more out of place up North because I find myself referring to God in every day conversation. That is definitely more accepted in the South than up North. Yankees.

    • I try not to blame people who ask, a lot of times, especially with some work friends, it was asked out of innocence, especially considering I am kind of a laid-back crunchy Muslimah anyway. I could see in some contexts where it would be an honest question. However the question becomes quite loaded when it comes from Muslims who have only known me as a Muslim for ten or eleven years.

  5. @ Abu Dhabi – I don’t believe that one person can make one stick to the religion. The Muslim who attracts the non-Muslim can be the initial factor, but most converts that I know thought seriously about converting and later (if not from the start) made their own connection to Islam, that was independent of their relationship to their spouse.

    I don’t personally know of anyone who stopped being Muslim. The converts I know moved away from the Muslim community (the ones who go to the masjid regularly) and/or the cultural centers but continued being Muslim.

  6. “Some people like to make the difference between women who convert in order to get married and women who convert before getting married. I make no difference. People are “called to Islam” through a variety of ways, and I have met plenty of girls who “converted for marriage” who are just as sincere in their deen as the next girl. I don’t know if girls who “convert for marriage” are more or less likely to leave the deen after than marriage fails but I don’t like the idea that that is how it is presented. And Muslims and non-Muslims are just as guilty as dismissing these “converted for marriage” girls and people are oh-so-impressed to hear that I converted before, and still plan to stay Muslim. It makes me want to call bullshit. ”

    very good point. why is converting through friends classified as a higher status conversion than that of someone who converts through their husband? could it not also be argued that, since the husband of the convert was probably not practising,his meeting with his wife was as much a factor for him becoming a practising muslim as it was for her and that in such relationships there’s reciprocity.

    • “could it not also be argued that, since the husband of the convert was probably not practising,his meeting with his wife was as much a factor for him becoming a practising muslim as it was for her and that in such relationships there’s reciprocity.” Preach on. I agree with you completely.

  7. Assalamu alaikum, I’m having one of these moments where I know what I want to say, just not sure how to get it out. I can definitely relate, though, to bad marriages/husbands having a terrrible affect on one’s Iman/Islam. And I can definitely see why said bad marriages/husbands may inevitably drive someone away from Islam. And I can’t say that much on whether people who marry before conversion or after are more likely to leave Islam or not, but for me, and speaking only for myself, I really had to keep reminding myself that I became Islam becuase of Islam, not because of Muslims. And IMHO, to me, there’s a difference.

    • Like the dude who said ‘I’m so glad I learned about Islam before I met Muslims” 🙂

      No seriously, indeed there is a difference (and indeed I have met some awesome born muslims in my time to make up for all the jacked up ones)!

  8. And btw, I guess I’m outta the loop but I don’t generally read ex-Muslim blogs, I just don’t find it healthy. But I can relate to having to blog aobut certain thigns, just to get them out there and out of your system. I don’t think, though, that if one leaves Islam they shoudl criticize those who choose to remain Muslim.

  9. Bismillah

    as salamu alaykum

    Nicole, I didn’t realize you had another blog. I used to read your previous one. A friend linked me here to this post and I had a lot of thoughts all night that I couldn’t not post.

    I’m married and have been married for several years now. Marriage is hard, especially for those of us with baggage, of which I have my own.

    It is scary to me to see where we can end up in our deen because of the problems we face in our marriage or because of any other situation in our life, honestly. When I became Muslim, I became Muslim because I believed in Allah and knew that there was nothing purer than the Monotheism of Islam. I became Muslim because I knew it could change my life and it gave me a clear purpose. I did not become Muslim for Muslims or because the scarf was pretty or because fasting seemed cool. Ginny’s comment is such a good reminder. A lot of times we just need to sit down and reflect so that we can realize that Islam is not the problem, but instead our ego is. It can be hard to realize we need to change, to accept that we have baggage, that we may have contributed quite a bit to the destruction of our marriage (in this example), and so on. It is very overwhelming and easier to just ignore.

    I have found in speaking to people who have stopped practicing Islam (not so much left it, but I have read the blog you refer to amongst a few others) that they are just tired of trying. Life is a life-long battle, an amazing journey if we embrace it — and we should remind each other not to give up. And yeah, just because someone gives up on Islam after a hardship like a broken marriage, doesn’t mean that suddenly everyone else is foolish for remaining Muslim. This is the difference between being Muslim for God and being Muslim for something else. I feel bad for people that leave Islam during hard times because I know that our faith gives strength and puts things into perspective. I understand situations can become hard and very painful… been there, done that. But people need to stop blaming religion and start looking at themselves more.

  10. Pingback: Indigo Jo Blogs — The problem of convert disillusionment

  11. just wanted to make it known that a certain ex-muslim blogger, whose blog is named after something from nordic mythology, has, in a malicious move, seen fit to post a comment under my online name in the comments section of one of her earlier blog posts. the cooment itself reads “allhu asghar” and has nothing to do with me.

    she posted that after i called her out on the rampant sock puppetry on that blog (sayyeed, bettye, gaius) and the fact that the accounts are more than likely faked. after mention was made of the multiple identities in the comments, one of the suspected sock puppets started to take on a very tongue-in-cheek , “so what if i am just an alter ego?” type tone, but this was never the case in the earlier commnets made by these identities.

  12. Assalamu alaikum, also wanted to add that even though reading sites of ex-Muslims is not healthy for me, I was still tempted to ask “which sites” and where? But I held back lol. But I’m still kinda curious as to what makes some people leave Islam and some people stay.

  13. Assalamu alaikum,

    I must have missed sticking this blog into my RSS feed, because I’m totally behind in all of this!

    I’m sorry to hear about the breakup of your marriage, but also glad that you aren’t bitter about it. May Allah (swt) give you peace and happiness.

    I really do hope that this is a conversation that will be played out more in the islamo-blogosphere, as it seems that it’s an issue we converts are having to face more and more every day.

    • wa alaikoum salam!
      Welcome!

      I am happy to hear you say I am not bitter about it…maybe I am not bitter but I am VERY ANGRY at dude for ruining a better marriage than a lot of people have. And some people interpret my anger as bitterness.

      I do think Muslims, especially Muslim women, need to talk about marriage breakdowns in the blogosphere without going the “airing the dirty laundry” route (and admittedly I have toed the line on that). The problem is that most of the breakdowns we see played out by Muslimahs are the ones where there is a lot of DV, emotional cruelty, abuse, polygamy and the like. I wish more people like me with what were essentially normal marriages, except for the marriage breakdown part, would talk more. Beyond DV and P, muslim marriage and divorce really isn’t talked about in the blogosphere.

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