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Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One)

February 1, 2019

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 19.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Fifteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: February 1, 2019

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,586

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Yasmine Mohammed is an Author and the Founder of Free Hearts, Free Minds. She discusses: family background; the tone of growing up; being a Muslim girl; people who stop believing in Islam; emotions of having no one to go to; building a new community or finding a new one; going about doing so; and being forced into marriage.

Keywords: FHFM, Islam, Ex-Muslim, Yasmine Mohammed.

Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom: Founder, Free Hearts, Free Minds (Part One)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview was conducted in early 2018.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, to begin, was there a family background in both religion and irreligion or simply religion?

Yasmine Mohammed: Wow, that is a good question. No one has ever asked me that before! There was a family background in both, but I never knew my dad. My parents divorced when I was about 2-years-old.

I saw him a few times up until I was probably about eight, but only little visits. So, I never had that father-daughter relationship with him. After that, I never saw him or had any contact with him at all.

But I knew that he was not Muslim. I knew he was not religious. I knew he was not a practicing Muslim. I knew that he did not identify as a Muslim. So, some Muslims, they identify as a Muslim, but they do not practice!

But, even he was like, “No, I do not like all that garbage.” But he was not the influence in my life, my mom was the influence in my life because she is the one who raised me.

She raised me to believe that my dad was evil and he is going to burn in hell. So, if we were being bad, she would threaten us with “I am going to send you to go live with your father,” which was the worst thing because she was going to send us to live with a non-believer.

2. Jacobsen: I want to freeze frame on the tone there, the emotional tone. You described that as the worst thing: to be with your father, not because of your father, but because he would burn in hell.

Is this a common theme that you hear in conversations with friends and others growing up? Not if non-Muslims will burn in hell, but if a threat is either tacit, or explicit, as per your mother’s statement about your father that they will burn in hell – as a threat to keep kids in line, for instance.

Mohammed: It is not a threat. It is the best way to describe it. For somebody who did not live in that world, it is when you are little. Your parents say that Santa is not going to bring you any presents.

If you believe in Santa Claus, and if you would think that you are being bad, he is not going to bring you presents. It was like that, but much worse. It was that, but it was not real. You felt it as real. Your parents thought it was real too.

So, Santa Claus is not a good parallel because parents know that they are joking, but it was these stories about what would happen to you in the grave. The punishments on the Day of Judgment. Punishments that would happen for eternity.

We are not told threats or stories. They were absolute. They were definite. These things would happen to you. It is the default. It was going to happen to you and only if you were able to do something amazing and wonderful and serve God in an over the top way would you be able to protect yourself from that.

So it is the opposite of Christianity, which has forgiveness and your people are inherently good. If they do something wrong, then they can ask for forgiveness. However, for Muslims, it is the opposite.

3. Jacobsen: As a girl and an adolescent young woman growing up in a Muslim family, what was the experience of that for you? Did you notice differences in treatment between boys and girls?

Mohammed: So, there is a difference in treatment. Islam is a religion by men for men. it is created by men for men, so it is male-centered. The female’s rule is simply to serve men, so even as a child you are raised this way.

I have a video that I shared on my Facebook, recently, with girl who is probably a seven or eight-year-old. She is wearing a niqab. Then they show her cooking and bringing drinks on a tray to serve her brother and cleaning the kitchen.

The song that is being sung is, while she is doing all this, about how wonderful she is and how she is going to go to heaven because she is such a good girl. That is how we were raised. Your whole purpose is to be a good wife one day. That is how you serve Allah.

That is the best person you could possibly be. It is to be able to serve your husband and make him happy and make babies, make more Muslims. Those kids have to be religious.

4. Jacobsen: What happens to people in the family if they stop believing in Islam?

Mohammed: I do not have any experiences of knowing anybody that has stopped believing, so I did not when I stopped believing. It is a long story. I separated myself completely from my family, from my community, from everybody because I knew the punishment for leaving Islam was death.

So, I severed all ties. I suspect that probably other people have done that too. That is why you never hear about them in the community. There is no talk about this person that left the religion.

They do not exist, so a common thing you will hear from many ex-Muslims is “I was the only one.” Then they say something like, “Me too!” I thought that I was the only one because you are raised to think that it does not happen.

It is not possible. You are raised to feel it is an identity. It is who you are, so you cannot ever decide to be non-Muslim because it is who you are. So, now that I am open, I meet many ex-Muslims all the time from all over the world. A lot of them have similar stories to mine, where they had to cut ties with their family, their friends, and everything else.

They came out and then they were ostracized and had to cut ties anyways. At the end of the day, it is a negative experience. Ali Rizvi is one of the only people that told his parents that he was not going to be Muslim anymore.

They said, “That is okay. We still love you.” I was like, “What?!” But it is mostly because they were extremely nominal Muslims anyway. They were Muslim by culture, by heritage. They are not practicing.

So, it is not that big a deal. It is a small step. My family was hardcore. So, I was more like a Mormon. He was more of a universalist. A Unitarian or something, it is not that big of a deal for him, but it is a big deal for my family.

5. Jacobsen: If there is an identity that is implicated from a young age, and you are leaving that behind when you stop believing it yourself, but you have no one to go to, what are some of the emotions and feelings that come up?

Mohammed: These are such good questions. That was one of the hardest parts of leaving the religion. It is re-discovering and re-building who I am from the ground-up. I was always told who I was, what to think, how to act, what to say, and what to wear.

Everything is outlined in your life: how you eat, how to drink, how you go to the bathroom, how you eat, how you put on shoes, how you cut your toenails, and so on. Literally, the stuff of your life is outlined for you, so when you walk away from that it is not cold turkey. It is weird. It takes time.

It is scary. However, I did a lot of reading in those days faked it until I made it. This is who I want to be. These are the values for me. In the beginning, it was doing the opposite of what I was taught, to be honest.

If I was not sure by default, I would do the opposite. Then I would take some time to think about it. It was weird. It was one of the hardest parts of leaving Islam.

6. Jacobsen: That sounds like a reaction from an interview with the Temple of Satan, a chapter leader and spokesperson, Michelle Short and Stewart “Stu” De Haan, respectively.

They noted different branches including the Church of Satan, the Temple of Satan, and the general category of the Theistic Satanist. They noted that the Theistic Satanists are not what they are, and almost impossible, because they amount to an opposing reaction to Christianity.

They are Christianity inverted rather than something non-supernaturalist and that takes Satan as a metaphor. So, even in a different context, I see a similar development there.

Even if you have those emotions coming up, of fear and others, which is an ancient emotion evolutionarily, what becomes of you when you are trying to build a new community or at least find a community?

Mohammed: My case was different because I had a daughter. I had a baby when I ran away, so I did not have time to do much soul searching. I had to get my shit together as quickly as possible because I had to raise her.

So, when I was talking about doing a lot of reading back then, I was in university. Anytime, I could take an elective. I would take child psychology or something. I wanted to make sure that I raised my daughter in the right way.

7. Jacobsen: With those associated motions, how do you go about building or finding a community?

Mohammed: So, building or finding a community did not happen, I did not find or build a community. I lived a double life. I do not think I ever replaced that community that I lost, or even if it can be replaced.

That is a thing that a lot of ex-religious are missing. that social community connection. That tribal part is comforting and dangerous because you always have ‘the other.’ But I did not find a replacement for it.

It was scary. I was lonely, but I figured it out step by step. I do not have a good answer for that.

8. Jacobsen: You gave a completely appropriate answer as far as I am concerned, because you described the personal context. You ran away with a child. You needed to get your “shit together” as fast as possible. It is reasonable.

But there is a gap. Your father not being in the picture. Your mother said, “I am going to send you to his house and he is going to hell.” All of the sudden, you are leaving the community and escaping with your child.

What is the gap? What is in-between there?

Mohammed: That is a big gap. So, my mom has been trying to force me into marriage after marriage, ever since I finished high school. There is no option of going to college or anything.

But I did not want to get married, so I kept on sabotaging it.

So, I would not get married. She kept on getting new people and different people. Eventually, there was this one guy, she was adamant about him.

She said, “I am kicking you out to the street if you do not marry this guy. I am done with you. I am tired of you. You are marrying him, whether you like it or not.” So, these are the days before Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. So, I had no connection to my friends that I went to high school with.

I lost all the connections because I had been in Egypt for two years. That was another issue. We went to Egypt to visit as a family. Then she left me there because she wanted me to be fixed. She wanted to leave me in a Muslim Society, so I could stop being so Western.

I did not know that I was going to be staying there for two years. So, one day I woke up and my family was gone. In those two years, I had lost contact. My friends all started traveling Europe and going to university.

Anyway, they were not living at home anymore, so I had no way of contacting them. When she forced me to marry this guy, I did not think I had much choice anyway. What was I going to do? Even if I did find a friend, I had not spoken to them in two years.

So, I eventually gave in, married the guy, and got pregnant almost immediately. I did not realize until later into the marriage that he was an Al-Qaeda member because I was contacted by CSIS, who is the Canadian CIA.

They contacted me when my mom had an emergency. She started bleeding from her nose. She was coughing up blood at the same time. So, I called 911 for an ambulance. I went with her to the hospital.

Up until that moment, I had never been away. I had never been alone without my mom or him. That was the first time. CSIS, they swept into the scene. They were there, so they have been monitoring him and trying to get to me for some time.

This was the opportunity they finally got. So, when my mom was with the doctor, they came into the waiting room. Then they asked me to go into a private room together. We talked about it. They told me. He was a member of Al-Qaeda.

They started asking me about Osama bin Laden. None of these things sounded familiar to me because it was pre 9/11, so I had no idea. None of it sounded familiar to me. I knew that he had been in Afghanistan because he always talked about Peshawar.

How much he wanted to be back there, he loved it. I knew that he might have been involved in some jihad-ist activity, but it is not like he ever talked to me about it. My role was to cook, clean, and get raped. There was no actual relationship there.

So, once I realized who he was and what he was a part of, they told me that he was in Canada to be part of something. They did not know what, but there was something brewing and he was part of the network.

It turns out it was for 9/11. However, that is when I decided I needed to get out of this relationship, get away from this man and get my daughter out of this life because I realized I did not want my daughter to live the same life.

Everything was repeating itself. I was condemning her to live the same life. She is what propelled me to have the courage to get out. It was a two-step process: I had to get away from him and then I had to get away from my mother.

Because my mom, she is the same ideology as him. The only difference is that she is a woman and he is a man. She would throw things at me, but she is not as physically scary. So, I got away from him.

Then I got away from my mom eventually. That is when I started university because I am lucky enough to be living in Canada. I am able to get student loans and start my life. That is when I took a History of Religion course.

In that course, it is when I learned that this divine text that was supposedly the word of God. That was so poetic and perfect. I find out it is plagiarized, from Christianity and Judaism and Pagan stories before that.

It took away all of the divinity. All of the respect that I ever had for it. It was a joke. I was happy to learn because people talk about the sadness that they felt when they realized they have been lied to all these years.

I felt anger that I was lied to. However, initially, my first reaction, “I am so glad I do not have to follow this shit anymore,” because I was only doing it because I was so scared. I have been scared from a young age.

I was terrified about what would happen to me if I did not do what I was supposed to do and say what I was supposed to say and wear what I was supposed to wear, etc. So, I only did that stuff out of complete fear.

So, it is the Wizard of Oz once you lift the curtain. You find out that there is nothing to fear. I was elated. However, that is cognitively right. I understood logically that this was not right, but I still had all of this fear that was programmed into me.

It took me a long time to stop thinking about it, to stop worrying about it, to stop questioning myself, “What if I am wrong?” I had to own it. That took a long time. A lot of ex-Muslims that flipped. They went straight, as soon as they found out it was lies.

They went straight into outright blasphemy, bringing in the Quran. However, I did not have the need to do that. Even now, I did not find the need to do that.

I wanted to be free. I wanted to free myself. So, that History of Religion course. That was an elective. I took it because the professor was Lebanese, so I assumed he would be Muslim. So, I thought this would be an easy course because it is all about Islam.

I went to Islamic schools my whole my life. My mom was a student at a university in Medina. I am going to ace this course. It turns out he was a Lebanese Christian, but because he was a Lebanese Christian. He knew so much about my experience.

He understood Arab Muslims because he was raised in that society. Not only that, he did not have any of the apologetics that a regular Canadian professor would have had because he was Arab.

He did not care. He would say what he needed to say. He would talk with honesty about all of the issues with the religions. So, I was lucky to have taken that course. It changed my life.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Author; Founder, Free Hearts, Free Minds.

[2] Individual Publication Date: February 1, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2019: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One) [Online].February 2019; 19(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, February 1). Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 19.A, February. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 19.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 19.A (February 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 19.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 19.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 19.A (2019):February. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Interview with Yasmine Mohammed on Choosing Apostasy, Endorsing Ex-Muslims, and Living in Freedom (Part One) [Internet]. (2019, February; 19(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mohammed.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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