To all the Ex-Muslims that are trending on Twitter: Religion and culture are not the same

When I was thirteen years old, I asked myself the following question for the first time: “Am I Muslim because I believe in God or because I was raised in a Muslim family?”

This question was thought-provoking. It came up because I saw so much injustice within the Arab community. I remember seeing how elder Arab women would yell at their daughters because they had arrived home an hour late, while not being bothered by the fact that their sons were partying and intimate with women all night long.

The most important thing, they would say to each other, is that our sons will marry pious and good women. This sentence always opens arguments when said in front of me. I can’t comprehend the amount of sexism in their way of thinking. So I would push them until they said what this is truly about.

“You are asking why there is a difference between men and women?! A man can’t get pregnant! A man can’t control his feelings. When a woman commits a sin, it’s a disgrace for our community.” That was their ultimate argument. So I soon realized this wasn’t about committing sins or displeasing God. It was about culture, ignorance and sexism. They didn’t care about their sons doing unislamic things, because it’s not an issue in their culture. Nobody would gossip about them, so they didn’t care.

Ignorance in faith

In fact, this is Islam calls “al-jahl fi al-din” or “ignorance in faith” when people follow non-Islamic rules while calling themselves Islamic. To continue with the same casus: Islam condemns all sins committed by men and women. There is no difference in gender in Islam. In a lot of other cultures, there’s still a big gap however.

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Another example is smoking. Most Islamic scholars have labeled smoking as “haram”, or impermissible, because of the many health consequences. This means that Muslims should take a step back from cigarettes, regardless of their gender. In a lot of cultures though, there’s a difference between men who smoke (which is seen as normal) and women who smoke (which is unthinkable).

It’s important that we make a clear distinction between religion and culture. I acknowledge that it’s often very hard to make this distinction as some cultural norms are so embedded in our culture that we don’t even bother to think about its roots.

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But it can be dangerous, and this can be seen very clearly in ex-Muslim’s tweets that are trending now on Twitter.

Ex-Muslims bashing Islam on Twitter

The idea behind the hashtag #Exmuslimbecause is sharing horrible things they had to experience while they were still Muslim. But scrolling through their tweets makes it pretty obvious that hardly any tweet has anything to do with religion. On the contrary, the Islamic values aren’t related to them in any way. Islam would condemn these acts. The question is: would all muslims condemn these acts? Probably not, it depends on their cultural values and to which degree they stick to them.

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When, for example, your dad is saying that being raped by your husband is totally okay and in Islam you would be called a liar, you have to understand that on that very moment your dad was a liar and that he is in fact the one not understanding Islam.

So instead of bashing a religion with more than a billion followers, let’s reflect on Islam and culture. It’s good to point out these things but you have to do it in a correct way because otherwise you’re as ignorant as Muslims who are abusing their religion.

Written by Mayada Srouji

Mayada Srouji

Mayada Srouji is a 23-year-old student Gender and Diversity at the UGent and has a bachelor in Arabic and Islamic Sciences, with a minor in political and social sciences. She is interested in women rights, philosophy, literature and history.

  • Hodan Ibraahim

    I wonder if the person who wrote this article even read tweets other than those up there? In fact the matters brought up on #exmuslimbecause were critique towards islamic holy scriptures that include apostasy laws. Some muslims believe if one leaves islam, then that person should be killed and if not killed they should be ostracized from their family and left without inheritance. How convinient of the writer not to mention single word of that here.

    Also islam is a sexist religion: women inherit less, wives should be obedient to their husbands, women must cover themselves or else they will burn in hell and also muslim women cannot marry men who are not muslim. Sexisms is rapant in muslim cultures, not in spite , but because of literal islam and its teachings.

    • Amir Amin

      Sir or lady, (could not decipher man or women from the name, I am not very familiar and hence did not to assume) I read your comment and would like to mention that Islam is like any other religion, judism and Christianity have the same punishments that Islam has so to single out Islam seems islamaphobic for the reasons you mentioned, now lets go to wen inequality, the article very clearly states “don’t equate culture to religion” all you mentioned are cultural inequalities not religious. Women should not be interesting less (50/50) is the equation even more if there is a child in the marriage, religion does not state anything about killing a non believer or a person who leaves their religion. It clearly states that Islam should be imposed. That itself should be sufficient. I am also to disagree with you on the basis of women in power, right now there are more than 4 Muslim countries that have presidents/prime minister who are women and still no such thing in the US. It’s always easy to point fingers but please understand that religion and culture are way different and culture surpases religion by a long shot. I did not mean to offend you if this reply came out that way. I apologize. I am not a very devout Muslim but I know Islam teaches to live in peace with everything around you which all religion do.

  • Lievenm

    The True Scotsman defense. Never gets old.