Just enough of a Muslim, just enough of a sinnerPosted: June 16, 2015
The first Muslim in my life carried Islam around like a ball and chain.
The time we shared together was short-lived. We only dated for a few months, and broke up a bit before I converted. But the brief moment our diverging paths met offered me a glimpse into what dating while Muslim may be like.
Most of the Catholic by birth kids I know who abandoned the religion never seemed to regret the choice much, myself most definitely included. Her departure from Islam was different.
It was a looming crisis, always capable of pulling the ground out from her. It made her uneasy. At times, it sent her spiralling into depression. Her heart hadn’t been in it for a long time, and her body had stopped going through the motions now too. Praying and fasting were out, making room for sex, alcohol, and with my help, drugs.
But this switch wasn’t made easily. It was inevitable, but it wasn’t smooth. Instead, it dug into her skin and dragged slowly, leaving gashes that would start bleeding again at a moment’s notice.
The way she bore this cross, though, made her all the more attractive to me. Her parent’s desires pulled her down, but she wasn’t willing to cut them loose. She cared about them, and was trying to find a way to live her life while keeping her parents happy. There wasn’t much in Islam that she liked anymore, but she wasn’t one of those Muslims who trashed the entire faith because it didn’t work out for them. She defended her shackles while simultaneously trying to escape them. Her complexity fascinated me.
We don’t speak anymore, but I can’t escape her. Her dilemma is one I find most of the Muslim women in my life facing, to an extent, although the women I’ve come across since do still make an effort to be Muslim. But the questions are the same. How much of Islam do I take? How much do I leave out? How much control over my life should my parents have? How much autonomy do I want?
She hasn’t figured out the answers to these questions yet, and I wonder if she ever will come to a conclusion she feels comfortable with. The same is true for the other women I’ve come across, and this crisis has always been the third party in our relationships.
This has made me wonder what role I play in the whole scheme. Before I converted, it seemed pretty simple. I wasn’t Muslim, but I also knew enough about Islam and was a vocal advocate against Islamophobia. My lack of religion, and excess of left wing political views, made her feel comfortable sharing her problems with me. Of course I would always be her secret. Not Muslim, not Arab, not Egyptian. Three strikes and I was out.
I thought this may change when I converted.
Instead, I’ve found that I’ve served the same purpose in the lives of Muslim women that I’ve come across since. Just enough of a Muslim to somewhat satisfy their desire to make their parents happy, but enough of a sinner to make them feel safe figuring their shit out with me.
Does this mean that I’m a non-judgemental person, or just a bad Muslim? Maybe both.
Either way, I’m comfortable with the role I’ve been assigned at this stage in life. I’m just worried for the future when I’m actually ready to settle down. Will I still be relegated to an experiment, to a learning experience, to a story of misspent youth to be shared later down the road?
I hope not. But I worry I may be, and that I may be just as much to blame.
Read Luca’s debut post “Love, Sex, & Dating After Converting to Islam”, here.
Luca [pen name] is a journalist living in Canada.