WHY I RENOUNCED ISLAM, ALLAH, AND MUHAMMAD.
I never thought I would have the courage to publicly announce that I have left Islam. I have been hesitating to openly declare this; according to many Muslim leaders, I am now an “infidel,” the worst thing I can possibly be in their eyes. I was mostly concerned about the repercussions and risks to my family and relatives. But, in the face of the horrors that have spread throughout the world, I have finally made the decision to write my life story in “The Muslim Renegade: A Memoir of Struggle, Defiance, Enlightenment, and Hope.”
A Muslim believes that the Qur’an contains the verbatim words of Allah and should be implemented without reservation, regardless of time and geographical location. The Islamic reward for killing an unbeliever or apostate, someone who departs from Islam and renounces Allah and Muhammad, is receiving the best place in heaven, according to some Islamic teachings. The penalty for renouncing Islam is execution, legally administered in Islamic societies by governments, Islamic courts, or some religious groups and individual Muslims who desire to fulfill their duty prescribed by God (Allah), Muhammad, and the Qur’an. These Islamic and Sharia laws did create some concerns, fear and caution in me to tell my story.
If you are born into, or become a follower of Islam, abandoning it is not an easy task. A Muslim is indoctrinated from the early childhood. I believe the indoctrination evolves and transforms into deep-seated fear about questioning, let alone rejecting, Allah, Islam, and Muhammad’s rules. Deciding to be free and independent, liberating oneself from being the slave of Islam, become inconceivable and out of question. Once one becomes the slave of Islam, it kills his/her courage and will to leave it. As was also mentioned, Islam and Muslim leaders also punish abandonment of Islam, Allah, and Muhammad with death.
I grew up in a religious family in Islamic societies until a few years ago. I was one of the few who genuinely read the whole Qur'an word by word. I read it several times, and attempted to follow the rules meticulously, line by line. I didn't just see my religion as a title; I wanted to live it as a devout Muslim. To do that, I had to be a strict follower of Islamic rules. I was the "good" Muslim according to many imams I spoke with.
But who is this "good" Muslim, according to Islamic teaching? A good Muslim follows Allah's verses word by word. You cannot cherry pick the rules that you like or that you want to apply in certain situations. You must follow every legal, social, and spiritual rule. Not just anyone can be a good Muslim; a good Muslim feels a deep-down belief that they have been "chosen." Only you are on the right path, and everyone else from other religions, even other Muslims, is not on this sacred path that leads to salvation. A good Muslim must also be a follower of his imam or ayatollah in addition to Allah, Muhammad and the Qur'an. Socially and legally speaking, according to Allah’s words in the Qur'an, you must accept “Allah’s rules” that a man can marry more than one wife simultaneously without asking for their permission (as my father did), that the testimony of a woman is not equal to that of a man in the court of law, that women inherit much less than men (half of what their brothers inherit), that you can have as many temporary marriages as you want, that having slaves is not an issue, that you should not be a passive Muslim, but you should be a jihadist who is willing to impose Allah’s rules in any society by following three steps: telling those who are not following Islam the correct path, if they do not listen, warn them, and if they still defy, punish them (resort to violence). A good Muslim believes in the superstitions that the Qur'an details such as the “evil eye.” A good Muslim hides some of his/her true feelings, avoids having normal fun, and views other religions as incomplete since Allah states in the Qur'an that Islam is the last religion that completes all the deficiencies of other religions, and so on.
When I came to the United States a few years ago -- before the Paris, Orlando, San Bernardino, London and other recent terrorist attacks -- I attempted to raise awareness and warn about the inevitable terrorist attacks that were going to happen in the name of Islam. Islam can provide a powerful language and tool to commit some of the worst crimes against humanity, while simultaneously the perpetrators of those attacks feel blessed, privileged, rewarded, and on the winning side.
Unless we gain a better understanding of the nature of Islam, its transformation and reliance on Qur'anic verses, as well as its norms, values, principles, and ideology in the modern world, we will not be capable of addressing this threat. It will only to continue to increase in intensity and spread further than most can imagine.
I am not suggesting this based solely on an academic and epistemological view of world cultures, but on my first-hand experience of growing up, studying, and working in predominantly Muslim societies for most of my life. I was born in the Islamic Republic of Iran and grew up in both Arab and Persian cultures.
It is my opinion that those who try to convert people into Islam first begin with some appealing notions from Islam. Once you sign up to the religion (by pronouncing two sentences: Ash hadu an la ilaha ill Allah wa ash hadu anna Muhammadar Rasul Allah; "I declare there is no god but Allah and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger"), then gradually the restrictions, discriminatory rules against women, etc. will slowly follow. Without the new convert noticing, he/she becomes the slave of the Islamic ideology as well as the imam. Your freedom will be taken, and a new world, new God (Allah), and new set of rules will be created for you. Once you submit to Islam, there is no way to return, because if you leave this ideology, you are an infidel, an apostate who deserves to be killed, according to Allah’s words in the Qur'an.
In my book I share my own experiences in part because I believe deeply that as people become more interconnected, the most dire challenge to the current world order—to Western democratic values, universal human rights, the rule of law, social justice, gender equality, civilized society and all of humanity—is not nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, or other military capabilities, but it is modern Islamic ideology. For how long will the mainstream media and politicians remain “politically correct” on this issue? My intent is to raise awareness of what is happening in the very shielded and silent corners of fundamental Islam. To me it is imperative that the American people be educated about extremist Islamists who view them with such intense hatred.
Is the Islamic ideology an ideology of peace as many Muslims and imams argue? There are some verses and ideas in the Qur'an (likely plagiarized from the ideas of Christianity and Judaism) that do promote positive things.
But the violent and discriminatory rules in the Qur'an overshadow any hint of peace.
Would you consider an ideology or a leader peaceful if that leader tells you one good thing, but, at the same time, tells you that you can kill in the name of this ideology (as stated by Allah in the Qur'an)? Will you follow someone who tells you one good thing, but then tells you that women should not be considered equal to men in the legal system?
The Islamic ideology, its harsh teachings, and impossible rules, created contradictions inside me. I began soul-searching, which led to my inner transformation and revolution. I was born as a slave into this ideology, and finally I had to be free to make my own life choice (when I was in Iran few years ago) to liberate myself from the chains of this ideology. Doing so, leaving everything I had been taught for more than two decades, was not an easy task.
If you are born into a Muslim family and live in a Muslim society, where Sharia and Islamic laws are being legally implemented by the system, it is heartbreaking and dangerous. The fear of violence and death has permeated my life from the moment I was born -- up to this very moment. Despite the risks, I feel I must speak my truth. The chains and cruel threats of this ideology will haunt you wherever you are. Knowing that I would become a target, along with my family and friends, knowing that I would lose everything I ever held dear (including many of my family and friends), I could have given in to my fear. Instead, I decided not to. It was a decision I had no choice but to make.
ABOUT DR. MAJID RAFIZADEH
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist, author, business advisor and public speaker, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review (Harvard University). Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh grew up most of his life in Muslim countries (both Sunni and Shiites nations). He is the author of the memoir “A God Who Hates Women” and the upcoming memoir “The Renegade.” Dr. Rafizadeh can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu. Follow him at @Dr_Rafizadeh.