We reproduce below an interview of Yasmine Mohammed conducted by Madhu Kishwar for Manushi-India on November 12, 2021. The link to the full interview is:
At some point of time, Yasmine was forcibly married to a member of Al-Qaeda. In this interview she sheds light on why she denounced Islam and her journey since then, how she is able to live a free life today in Canada. Yasmine defines herself as a civil rights activist and strongly promotes women and LGBTQ community rights. My questions are in italics.
MK: Yasmine, even though the original title of this video was ,”Reasons for Islam’s Global Stranglehold and why Yasmine Left Islam”, we will start with your personal journey. It is very remarkable that you traveled that long and tough road at great risk to your life. So, let’s hear it in your own words.
YM: I was born and raised in Canada in a very fundamentalist Islamic household. When I was between five and six years old, my mom became the second wife to an Egyptian man, who was already married and had children. But in Islam, a man can have up to four wives. So my mom became his second wife. His first wife lived upstairs with their children. There were three of us and we lived downstairs. He was introduced into our lives, forcing us to pray five times a day, and memorize the Quran. We were not allowed to have non-Muslim friends, to ride our bicycles, or to swim. We were not allowed to do anything. Everything was forbidden, especially for girls.
And then we went to Islamic schools, and the hijab was put on me at nine years old. We lived a life secluded from the society around us. We almost lived in a mini Sharia land. We had nothing to do with the Canadian, Western, liberal democratic society. We were living in a completely separate bubble. And my mother wanted to marry me off to a man who was strong enough to control me, as I was a rebellious kid who always asked questions. So, when I was 19 years old, I was forced into a marriage to a man who was a member of Al-Qaeda, Essam Hafez Marzouk. He was violent, as you would imagine. My life after marriage was even worse than what it was with my mother and her second husband. When I married him, I had to start wearing a Niqab. The hijab covers everything except for your face, and hands. And Niqab covers your face, and even your hands. So I went from having a very restricted life, to being completely separated from the rest of the world. My ex-husband used to put paper on the windows so that even if the curtain would move, nobody would see inside our house even by accident. I was in complete darkness. And it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I found the courage to fight back, because I was determined not to let her have the same life that I had just lived.
MK: I’d like to ask a few questions about your mother here. Did she choose to be a second wife? Or was she also forcibly married? And what was her relationship like with your father? What’s her ethnic background? And how did this Al-Qaeda man land in Canada? In which city of Canada was this?
YM: It was Vancouver, Canada. My mom grew up in Egypt and she didn’t wear a hijab. She didn’t go to Islamic schools and she had a very secular upbringing. Around the 70s-80s, Islamization started to ramp up. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Hizb ut-Tahrir and all of those Islamist groups started to get stronger, with the money coming from Saudi Arabia, and they started spreading their propaganda. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian author, is one of the godfathers of the whole Islamist movement. And in his book, he expressed resentment towards the Western liberalism and democracy. He said it was against Allah and Islam. He had a very strong anti-West sentiment. All this coincided with my mother’s experience.
When my mother and father got married, they were two very secular, open minded people. They met in university. My mother chose him for herself and they moved to San Francisco. In the 60s, San Francisco had a free love culture and my mother was against it. She didn’t approve of the Western ways of living, but my father did. So my parents separated. At this point, I was two years old. My father continued living his secular life, whereas my mother became very religious.
She was a mother of three in Canada and was desperately looking for a community, and a place to go where she could feel comfortable and supported. So she went to the mosque. And that’s when everything started going downhill. When she went to the mosque, the Islamists started to turn her against the country, the infidels and the non-Muslims. And that’s when she started to wear a hijab and was fully devoted to the Islamic way of life. I was around five or six years old back then, so I didn’t really have a chance to choose what I wanted for myself, because I was so young. After adopting this new lifestyle, my mother felt like she needed to repent for all of her years of not being a good Muslim. In our perspective, a Jihadi, or a member of Al-Qaeda is a bad person and a terrorist. But for my mother, he’s a good man who is sacrificing in the way of Islam. So my mother married me off to a terrorist, because she felt that it was necessary to have somebody like that to keep me in line.
MK: What was your life like after your mother remarried?
YM: My stepfather was abusive in all ways. Infact, I don’t ever prefer to call him my ‘father’. When I spoke to my mother about it, she neglected me and refused to do anything about it. I’ve spoken to so many people from the Arab World, who’ve had similar stories, where their mothers act the same way. I was emotionally, physically and also sexually abused by this man but my own mother didn’t want to acknowledge it. It was important to her to stay married to this man because she didn’t want to go through another failed marriage. She felt that with three children, she didn’t have many choices. My biological father used to beat my mother, because it’s a very socially acceptable thing in the Arab world for men to beat their wives. But her second husband was not violent with her. So even if he used to beat her children, from her perspective, he was the better choice. And for her to acknowledge what he was doing to her daughter, the social cost would be too high. She was already embarrassed that her first marriage didn’t work out and in our culture a divorced woman is a shame. She didn’t want to have another divorce, so she ignored all of the abuse that was happening to me. When I was 12 years old, I shared everything with one of my teachers, who eventually also wrote the foreword for my book. He informed the Police, the Child Services and I went to the court system in Canada. And shockingly, the judge told me, “this is your culture”, and refused to get involved and offer any help. This was in 1988.
MK: In 1988, they were allowing Sharia to manifest itself so openly?
YM: From the judge’s perspective, he felt that he was being culturally sensitive. They have different rules for different women, depending on the ethnicity and where they come from. Some women are protected, but this doesn’t hold true for everybody. If you come from a different culture, they will respect the culture before you. I hear from indigenous women all the time that they’re also experiencing the same thing, where the government just turns a blind eye to any kind of abuse that’s happening in their communities, because they don’t want to get involved. They say it’s none of their business, it’s the culture.
MK: What baffles me is that the citizens are supposed to have a certain set of fundamental rights and that also includes protection from violence. They should openly declare that the constitutional rights don’t apply on Muslims, for example. I can understand that they have a guilty conscience, because the white supremacists committed a genocide in indigenous communities. They are guilty of putting them in reservations, ghettos, where they are living a sub-human life. To confront it is to confront how monstrous their own history and current politics is, vis a vis people who belong to another ethnicity, and who are indigenous.
YM: This mindset that the white man is always guilty and is always feeling shame is because of imperialism and colonialism. After the court case, it was a very difficult time with my mom. She blamed me for causing problems in her marriage as I was clearly hoping that her husband would go to prison for what he was doing to me. We had a very contentious relationship. She wanted to marry me off to a terrorist who would control me because she wanted me to stop pushing, and hoped that I would accept all of the abuse quietly. After I graduated from high school, I went on a holiday to Egypt with my family. When I woke up one morning, my family wasn’t there. They went back to Canada, and they left me in Egypt. It was my mom’s decision, because she was hoping that if I was living in a Muslim majority country, I would straighten out. While I was there for two years, I was being forced to marry my cousin. But I was able to get out of that arrangement and get back to Canada. By the time I was back in Canada, she was very frustrated with me. And that’s when I was forcefully married to a terrorist.
Needless to say, it was an extremely difficult time being married to him. I got pregnant very quickly and my daughter was born. One day I was holding my daughter in my arms, and he came up to me and said, “When are we going to take her to get cleaned?” And I didn’t understand what he meant. And then my mother suggested that my daughter was too young for it. And that’s when I understood what they were talking about. They were talking about FGM- Female genital mutilation. That’s when I decided to do everything in my power to get myself and my daughter out of that house, and prevent them from mutilating her. I knew that I had to get away from my ex-husband first, and then eventually from my mother.
A few years later, I took admission in The University of British Columbia where I took a course called History of religions, which focused on the three monotheistic religions. Even though the judge failed me, I was only able to escape and go to University because I managed to get student loans from the Canadian Government. And that enabled me to pay for housing, food, school, and to progress my life. When I was in University, 9/11 happened. I was forced both intellectually and emotionally to question my faith but I still didn’t have the courage to escape it. So I must tell you, that the number one reason for Islam’s global Stranglehold, is fear. Because Islam teaches you not to question and your critical thinking is discouraged, and infact punished. And if you try to denounce Islam, the punishment for that is execution. Even though by this time I wasn’t wearing a hijab, I was drinking alcohol, and I had a boyfriend, still the fear of hell and of Allah just lingered and was traumatizing.
The brainwashing that Muslims go through right from birth, is so deep. You are told horrifying stories as a child about how you’re going to burn in hell, or how you’re going to be punished in the grave if you disobey, waiting for the day of judgment. This really prevents you from even trying to think outside of the parameters that you’re allowed to think in because you’re too afraid to do that. We become so averse to questioning or even thinking about not believing in Islam anymore.
I stayed quiet for a very long time about my disbelief, because I didn’t want to be killed. My mother had already threatened to kill me, and I needed to keep myself and my daughter away from her. So I cut off all contact with my family, friends and community. I stayed like that for a very long time. One day, I watched a TV show here in America, where Sam Harris, Bill Maher, and Ben Affleck were having political discussions. And they were talking about how liberals fail to abide by liberal values when it comes to Muslims. They are very supportive of the LGBTQ community and of free thinkers. But when it comes to Muslims, the liberals refuse to talk about their issues. And when I listened to that discussion, it was the first time that I started to think about it for myself. Infact, one of the topics of their conversation was how people in Egypt believe that those who denounce Islam should be executed. So they were talking about me essentially, and about people from Egypt, who have denounced Islam. I felt like it was a very personal discussion and I could connect deeply to it. Up until then, I had never thought of fighting for myself, I had just ignored it. But now these men were on TV, fighting on my behalf. That’s when I decided to write my book, and to share my perspective. And that also led me into starting my organization, ‘Free Hearts, Free minds’, and going public. When I wrote and published the book, I had already divorced my ex-husband. And my daughter was three years old by then.
MK: Can you share more about how you escaped from the house, and entered the university, or how you managed to live a life all by yourself?
YM: My ex-husband had started talking about moving to Peshawar, and joining Al-Qaeda again because he wanted to die as a Jihadi. He didn’t want to die in the land of the infidels, in Canada. His goal was to finish whatever mission he came to Canada for, and then to go back to Peshawar. I needed to escape before that, because if we went to Peshawar, it would have been impossible. At this point, I only had a high school education. This was before social media, so I didn’t even have any connection with my friends. And the first thing an abuser does is he separates you from anybody who can support or protect you. So I was all by myself. I was only allowed to leave the house for doctor’s appointments, and prenatal visits once a month for my pregnancy. My ex-husband was physically abusive, so I didn’t have any strength to leave when I should have.
I later also discovered that I was pregnant again. I was scared about being a mother to two children, by myself, with no family support. That’s when I was about to give up. I thought I was destined to be a Jihadi wife. Then I found out that the baby didn’t have a heartbeat and my fear was soon replaced with guilt, because I thought I was the one who killed my child. That somehow, the baby knew it wasn’t wanted and so it didn’t survive. Whereas in reality, the baby didn’t survive, because my ex-husband was so physically abusive. He would kick me down the stairs even when I was pregnant.
When I went for the DNC surgery to remove the fetus, the nurse told me that they were going to put me under general anesthetic, and I would only feel better after 24 hours. I lied to my husband that I needed someone to help me take care of the baby for one week. Because I wanted to give myself some time, and I saw a window of opportunity. He asked me to go to my mother’s house, and I was sure that he would do that. I knew that leaving my mother’s house was easier than leaving my husband’s house. My mother worked as the head of the Islamic Studies Department at the Islamic school. One morning when she got up for work, I went to the yellow pages, and I found the name of a female lawyer who was close by. I went there with my daughter. I told the lawyer that I had limited time and I had to be home before my mother was back from work. I informed her that I needed full custody, a restraining order, and a divorce. The lawyer asked me not to worry and that she’ll get it all done for me. At that time, I could not let my mother know about my intentions because she wanted me to stay married to him. And it would be too much of a shame on the family if I were to get divorced.
In Islam there’s no easy way for a woman to divorce her husband, but it’s very easy for a man to divorce his wife. He just needs to say the word Talaq three times, and magically he’s divorced. So when there is a divorce, it is considered the woman’s fault as her husband discarded her. A few days after my visit to the lawyer, I heard my ex-husband screaming in front of my mother’s building in Arabic, “give me back my wife.” For him, I was his possession. And he was furious that his possession had the audacity to think that she could walk away. He was enraged. Now he’s a six foot four tall Egyptian, dark skinned man screaming in Arabic. So of course, nobody let him in the building. It was predominantly a Hong Kong, Chinese neighborhood.
MK: Did you get any support from your neighbors?
YM: It’s not really about support from your neighbors. It’s your own mind and fears that are holding you captive, you’re indoctrinated. For example, I didn’t want to upset my mother, because in Islam you are told that heaven is at the feet of your mother. And your mother is the one to decide if you’ll go to heaven or hell. So it was a very difficult time for me, because I was trying to reconcile between what I wanted and what my mother wanted. I wanted to be able to get what I want without upsetting her, and I was trying to find a balance. And it took me a long time to discover that there was no balance.
MK: I’m curious to know, how did you know about the rights that were available to you?
YM: I actually wasn’t. I watched TV and movies. So I knew these things existed, but I had no understanding of how they worked. For example, I heard the term restraining order on TV, I knew that women who don’t want their husbands to find them can appeal for a restraining order. But I didn’t understand that all a restraining order does is, it prevents the culprit from coming to the house. It doesn’t prevent them from coming to the victim. So if I went outside the house, he could still find me and attack me. So I never left the house because it was the only place where I was safe. Another thing I had no idea about was that there were women’s shelters that could have given me and my daughter a home, food and clothing. I also didn’t know about the food bank facility, where I could go and get food. That’s why I would only feed my daughter because I didn’t have enough money for both of us to eat. There were times when I couldn’t go to university because I didn’t have money for the bus fare. I didn’t know that the government could provide me with a bus pass. So there were so many things that the Government of Canada provides for single mothers who are escaping abusive relationships, but I didn’t know about any of them.
MK: Didn’t the lawyer inform you of your rights?
YM: It had to be a very quick visit to the lawyer’s because the appointment with her was at one o’clock in the afternoon, and my mom finished work at three o’clock. I had to go back to the house before my mother noticed that I was missing. It was a very, very stressful time. And this is why I was so worried whether the lawyer was even going to be able to do what I asked her for. But when my ex-husband came screaming to the building, I realized that he had been served with the papers, and that the lawyer had succeeded. She had already explained to me that either he could contest or could argue in the court. And if he didn’t do any of this within one year, automatically, I would have a divorce and my daughter’s full custody. That’s all I knew.
And at this point, the Canadian government was involved. CSIS, Canadian Security Intelligence Service and FBI, were now involved because he belonged to Al-Qaeda. They contacted me and showed me a picture of him behind the bars in Egypt. And they informed me that it was safe for me to leave the house because he was contained. And that’s when I escaped with my daughter and we started our life over again.
My mother was not happy about this decision at all. But there was nothing she could do about it. Islamically, a divorced woman has to wait for 4 months before she can remarry. And my mother was trying very hard to get me into a second marriage. But I refused. I tried for a long time to find a balance, so that my mother and I were both happy. And it was very difficult for me to finally admit that it was impossible. I had to choose my own happiness. I told my mom that she made her own choices, and lived the way she wanted to. And now it was my turn.
And to be perfectly honest, the way my mother would speak to me, humiliate me and hurt my feelings, she would do the same to my daughter too. So I needed to get my daughter away from her, and that vicious world.
MK: Firstly, how did the terrorist i.e. your ex-husband, land himself in an Egyptian jail? Did you then get access to the marital home once he left? How did you decide to join the university?
YM: Essam came into Canada, from Afghanistan, with a fake Saudi Arabian passport. So in Egypt, when they discover that somebody is a terrorist, the first thing they do is take their citizenship away. He didn’t have Egyptian citizenship anymore and he could not get an Egyptian passport, so he got a fake Saudi Arabian passport. This was during the Mujahideen time, and people knew what was happening in Afghanistan. So for an Egyptian man to be coming from Afghanistan with a fake Saudi Arabian passport, people could sense that something was wrong. But he entered Canada as a refugee, and he claimed that he was stateless. And that Egypt took his citizenship away so he was a political refugee.
At that point, he also had a lawyer to back him, who was paid for by Osama Bin Laden. This is all in public record. That’s how I know too. Infact, some journalists have made the assumption that he was in Canada for 9/11. And the place where I lived in Vancouver was strategically crucial to him, because it was easy to walk across the border to the states. In those days, you didn’t even need to show the driver’s license to cross between Canada and America. Also after he married me, he had become a refugee, and then a landed immigrant and a Canadian citizen. So when he got served with the divorce papers, he realized that I ruined it all for him and he couldn’t stay in Canada anymore. But he still wanted to die for Allah as a Mujahid. So he joined the fights that were in Bosnia at the time.
One day, the CIA were casing a hotel and they caught Essam. They discovered that he was part of Al-Qaeda. They sued (? prosecuted) him and sent him to Egypt where there was a huge court case against him. In one of the newspapers, they said it was the largest court case since the assassination of Anwar al- Sādāt because he was involved in a big ring of Egyptians terrorists. Later, when Mohamed Morsi became the president of Egypt for a short period of time, he started releasing political prisoners, which basically means the terrorists. And Essam Hafez Marzouk was one of the people that was released at that time. But he had a one track mind, he wanted to die for Allah. So as soon as they let him out of prison in Egypt, he went to Malaysia and got involved in terrorist activity there. He was caught again and was sent back to Egypt. So he’s in Egypt currently.
MK: I’ve heard about this death obsession being more important than life, the lure of Jannat, with Hoors, and being Allah’s favorite. But this is the first time I’m hearing a real life story. Because our Kashmiri terrorists are only too happy to try to get out of it. They don’t seem as obsessed with death. And it’s important to understand this mindset. Please explain to us the reasons for Islam’s global stranglehold, and why young men at the prime of their life are willing to do this? Firstly, he wanted Canadian citizenship, and you were the goose that laid golden eggs. Now, in that case, he should have pampered you, and then you may not have left him, am I right? Why is it that he was incapable, even in his own self interest, to treat you well?
YM: From his perspective, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Because Islamically men are told, “If you experience disobedience, or arrogance from your wife, beat her”. It is sanctioned in the religion, so he didn’t think that he was wrong. The relationship was like that of a slave and a master. That’s how I can best describe it. It was my job to cook and to clean, and to do things for him. He thought that FGM for our daughter was the right thing to do. He thought that going to Peshawar and being a Jihadi is the right thing to do. You see, from his perspective, this is being the best of humanity.
When he was around 14-15 years old, he was recruited into this world of terrorism and Jihad. At that time, he was without friends. He grew up poor, and later his father ended up getting a good job and good money, so they moved to a higher class neighborhood. Egypt is a very classist society. People recognized that he originally belonged to the lower class, and they didn’t embrace him. So he felt alone. And when these jihadi men came to recruit him, he was already ready for it. A young boy at that age is mentally immature, but physically mature. So he can hold a gun and he can fight and they can indoctrinate him easily because he’s so young and lonely. His family was not Islamist. His father was in fact an engineer and his mother, a housewife. They were normal, regular Egyptians. And he didn’t grow up with a pro terrorist mindset in his home. He was recruited as a terrorist by other Jihadis when he was a teenager, and then they took him to Afghanistan. In fact, he told his father he was going to America to study. But of course, he didn’t go to America, he went to Afghanistan.
These people don’t see terrorism as a crime or as genocide. They see it as goodness, pureness, and as the best of humanity. Different people become Jihadis for different reasons, but I can tell you that at that age, a boy is really looking for camaraderie, the male group support system. So whether it’s white supremacist gangs or drug gangs or whatever, it’s always boys at that age who get sucked in. They’re full of aggression, and they want to feel part of something. And Essam was just one of them. The terrorist recruiters hang around the colleges, universities and high schools in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And they identify the boys that are not fitting in, that they can recruit. And it’s not only in those countries. Maajid Nawaz, who is from the UK, told a similar story. That’s how he was recruited into Hizb ut-Tahrir from his college. So, if it’s a boy that’s doing well in school, and has a girlfriend and a good job, he’s not their target. They’re interested in the one who is somehow disillusioned with his life. So when Essam’s father would tell him, “stop this terrorism, come home, smarten up”. He would think his father was wrong.
MK: Bollywood films are full of stories about young men who take to Jihad, terrorism, and they will always present them as sentimental creatures who are very prone to crying. I’ve never in Bollywood seen a hardened Jihadi of the kind you’re describing. So they build an amazing victimhood narrative. This is fairly normal, as far as Jihadis go, is that your considered view?
YM: The one thing that unites all the Jihadis is the desire to please Allah. So whether it’s because of free and fair elections, or because they were wronged, or because they didn’t have friends, all of that is subordinate to the main reason that they all share. That their Allah demands it of them and tells them that the best are the ones who die in his name, fight to spread Islam, and kill the infidels who are insulting Islam. Other than that, they’re all going to have different reasons, experiences and backgrounds.
MK: Tell us how you got into University and how did you survive, because to denounce Islam is to invite death sentence.
YM: I applied to go to university and I joined as a mature student, because I was older. They are more lenient with the registration requirements for mature students. There is also something called student loans, so the Government loans you all the money that you need to get a house, food, transportation, tuition, etc. And then once you graduate, you have to pay it back bit by bit. As soon as I got student loans, I moved out of my mother’s house and we started our lives from that point. It was so difficult, because as a Muslim, everything is outlined and detailed for you and you are forbidden from disobeying. For example, to drink water, you cannot breathe into the glass. And you can only take three sips. While entering the bathroom you have to enter with your left foot, and you exit with your right foot, because apparently the devil lives in the bathroom.
MK: Have you studied the Quran? What’s your take on it?
YM: I also used to learn the Quran. Arabic is, in fact, my first language. I understood what I was reading and my mother was the head of the Islamic Studies Department. So it was very important to her that me, my brother and my sister, became good Islamic Studies students. Because it will reflect on her if we are not good students. We studied the life of Prophet Muhammad, and the Hadith. But even so, there are certain Hadith that they didn’t introduce us to and that I discovered later. I used to work in the Middle East for a while, and that’s when I learned that they sell camel urine in boxes. And then I learned that there is a Hadith that suggests that camel urine cures ailments. So, they used to cherry pick what to tell us and what to hide from us. There’s a hadith about how the Muslims need to kill all the Jews. And the Jews will hide behind the trees and the rocks. And the rocks will say, “Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come kill him.” And all of the trees will talk except for one kind of tree, which is a traitor. These Hadiths are the ones that I learned in the history of religions course that I took. And that really contributed to me just being shocked and to question everything.
But what made me openly denounce Islam was not only the university course, it was also 9/11. I was bombarded both intellectually and emotionally with so many questions about my faith. My family and community were celebrating 9/11 and it was really difficult for me to accept that I am part of a group that is happy about this atrocity. All my life I had been told that the infidels were evil, but I never believed that. So the glee that my family and community had over 9/11 was heartbreaking. It was very difficult for me to accept that I identified with the same group of people who would do this, and who would be excited and happy about this. So that answers the question about what was the thread that started to pull at the sweater of my disbelief, but from then it was many years of questioning before I finally expressed that I am not a Muslim.
One of the first things that I did was remove my hijab. I was still considering myself a Muslim, but I didn’t want to wear hijab anymore. And it got to the point where everybody in my life knew that I wasn’t wearing a hijab except for my mother. And I wanted her to know, because I was tired of pretending. And one day I went to pick her up without a hijab. She was furious and she told me that if I took off my hijab, then the next step was going to be for me to leave Islam and become an infidel. And she threatened to kill me if I even thought about it. Because otherwise she will be punished for eternity for raising a non-Muslim daughter. My mother was very sure of herself, and I did not take that as an empty threat. Because at this point, we had already seen a few honor killings in Canada. My mother told me that she’ll bury me in the backyard and lie to everyone that I went back to Egypt.
I wasn’t sure how to even decide that I’m not a Muslim anymore. It seemed impossible. It was like deciding that I’m not a woman anymore or an Arab anymore. Because Islam was instilled in every part of my existence and identity. Fortunately at that point in my life, I was financially stable enough to cut ties with my mother and my family entirely. And I changed my name and my daughter’s name and we moved out of the city to get away from anybody that was a threat to us. And at that point, I severed ties with everybody in my community, even my siblings. I haven’t had any connection with them since 2004. I have an uncle who talks to me though, my mother’s brother. He moved to New York when he was about 19-20 years old. So he is very open minded and is the only one that accepts me. He never admits that I’m not a Muslim anymore, but he’s in my life.
MK: Why did you retain an Islamic name?
YM: Yasmine is not an Islamic name. It just means ‘a flower’. I chose the last name Mohammed as a pseudonym when I became an author. Because I wanted people to recognize right away that I’m coming from an Islamic background. Because as soon as you criticize Islam, the first thing people say to you is that you are a racist, a bigot, a xenophobic. And if people see an Arabic name, or they see a Muslim name, then it prevents that from happening as much. It still happens though.
MK: In India, the Hindus keep themselves sane by connecting with the past, which was destroyed through 1200 years of very brutal Islamic invasions that included genocide, capturing women as sex slaves, etc. And we were one of the few to have survived total annihilation. And we stay sane on the strength of our emotional, generic, intellectual connection with that past when India was considered the greatest civilization, the most prosperous and very advanced in science and in all forms of knowledge. For us, that’s the moral emotional anchor. Do Egyptians also hold that heritage dear, or is it completely wiped out from their memories?
YM: It was completely wiped out from their memories. Egypt is called the Arab Republic of Egypt, which is interesting because it’s actually in North Africa. It’s not an Arab country. But Egyptians were trained to think of themselves as Arabs, and as part of the Muslim ummah and to have a disdain for Pre-Islamic Egypt, which was considered like a very negative time in history. However, today there is a resurgence of Egyptian people that are saying, “No I’m not Arab, I’m Egyptian”. They’re reclaiming their culture and trying to find an identity that they can hold on to, that has nothing to do with religion. They don’t want to have a religious identity anymore. I also went through that same trajectory, where I was feeling like what is my identity if I take away Islam? Who am I? It was comparatively easier for me because I was born and raised in Canada. So even though I never truly felt Canadian, I still had a cultural background to fall on. But if you’re am Egyptian or a Moroccan, you have to find your identity to replace the one that Islam gave you.
MK: You already described two reasons why Islam has this hegemonic hold. One you said is fear. And that it encompasses every moment of your life. Every physical movement you make, from the moment you get up to the moment you sleep and perhaps even your dreams. What are the additional factors that this irrational, illogical, and oppressive ideology still continues?
YM: Islam is just a very big cult. For example, here in Canada, if a Muslim person decides they want to buy a car, they go to the Muslim dealership where they can get a car for a reduced price. Whatever it is, the whole tribe protects and supports each other. The thing about this cult, and tight knit tribe, is it will only be successful if you convince everybody in that group that the outside people hate you. And that they want you dead. So that victimhood is very, very strong. Salman Rushdie has a really great quote where he talks about the way that they’re able to be the oppressors, but also convince you that they’re the ones being oppressed. It’s a trick. Muslims are tricked and indoctrinated into it. But what shocks me is how are the Non-Muslims, the so-called liberals in the Western world and in India and everywhere else, tricked into believing the same thing? They’re not indoctrinated from birth. There’s no excuse for them. So for me, when I think about myself as a Muslim, when I was indoctrinated into it, I can’t remember a moment when I even tried to question it. You shut down the parts of your brain that would dare to do any critical analysis. You’re constantly worried. Is my hijab on properly? Is my voice too loud? Am I walking too fast? Because there are so many rules.
And when your brain is consumed with all of this, you’re constantly scared. You just obey, obey and obey. And it’s difficult to describe the indoctrination but I understand it because I was in it. But it makes me angry when I see non-Muslim, open minded, liberal, educated people spewing the same thing. That’s when I get upset.
MK: What about your daughter? Is she happy to have been raised outside Islam by you?
YM: I have two daughters now. I remarried a white Man, a nonbeliever and he’s a wonderful man and we’ve been married for 15 years. And we have a 12 year old daughter, so we have two daughters now. My older daughter is turning 25. And my younger daughter is 13. The younger one has no idea about any of this. And the elder one has no memories of her father. She was introduced to the whole story and the truth when she read my book. My younger one hasn’t read my book yet because the topics in there are very dark. So I’m waiting till she’s older. But my older daughter was old enough to read it and it really made her feel in a way that she hadn’t before. She’s grateful for the fact that I was able to get out of that world for myself and then for her also. Her whole life I always told her that she saved my life. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be alive. Initially, she didn’t understand why I was telling her that she saved my life. I did it because I was trying to get her out. And so I was also able to save myself. She gave me not only the courage to get out, but the ability to survive afterwards, because that’s the hard part. Once you’ve escaped is when the hard work and depression begins. I didn’t have money to feed my daughter or to go to school or to pay my rent. I was too scared to share my situation with anybody and when I was going through this I was viciously lonely. And if I didn’t have my daughter that I was responsible for, I would not have survived. I would have committed suicide.
MK: What kind of equation do you have with the Canadian feminists? Do they understand you now?
YM: Not at all. The thing with liberal feminists is they predominantly think that the white man is bad and is the source of all evil. My complaint is that they never acknowledge the violence that comes from the brown, Arab or Muslim men. Because from their perspective, they are a minority group that must be protected and they speak only good things about them.
MK: You must have heard about the ‘dismantle Hindutva conference’, in the US where all these American universities get together and they write derogatory stuff about the Hindu civilization, about Sanatana Dharma. What is the reason for it? Is it the fear of Islam or the fact that pro Islamists enjoy a certain advantage in everything?
YM: It’s a combination of both. The Islamists and Jihadis work together towards the same goal. In the academic sphere and political sphere, the Islamists have made a huge headway in their propaganda campaigns. They have even managed to normalize antisemitism. Their choice is that the Muslims will be protected at all costs, and the enemies of Muslims will be their enemies too. So that includes Hindus and Jewish people. So that’s the Islamist propaganda which has the petrodollars behind it, which has been so successful in universities, politics, media, etc. Every now and then there are incidents like the stabbings in London, a truck ramming into people in France, killing of journalists, cartoonists and authors. So, those are the Jihadis who instill fear into people. And that’s why so many people do not criticize Islam, because they’re too horrified to speak against it. For example, there were gang rapes in the UK against British women. And their own government turned a blind eye. The politicians, the journalists, the law enforcement are too scared to protect the British girls, because they don’t want to speak up against the Pakistani Muslim men.
Also young girls in general are attracted to the bad and exotic kind of macho men. And by the time they realize it’s like a spider in a web, it’s too late. They’re already married and have children. And I cannot tell you how many letters I get from women who are falling in love with these Turkish, Pakistani men, and then suffering because of this decision. Sometimes these men wait until marriage before they show who they really are. A really good book that describes this perfectly is ‘American bride in Kabul’. It’s the real life story of a Jewish woman from New York who falls in love with an Afghani man when they’re in University together. And then she moves with him to Kabul and it’s not so exotic anymore.
I have a show called ‘Forgotten feminists’, where I talk to women about their experiences. And my second guest was a woman named Deb who fell in love with an Iraqi man, who seemed so exotic. And before she realized it, she was in a hijab. She had four children when he brought his second wife from the Philippines, and she had to cook and clean for him and his new wife. And she wasn’t even born a Muslim. So she allowed her freedoms to be taken away from her bit by bit, until she was so diminished that she was essentially a slave for this Iraqi man and his new wife. And luckily, she was able to get herself and her children out of this situation. The story plays itself like a broken record. This is even more common in countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, because the men have money. These women don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into before it’s too late.
MK: In India, we do see a few happy marriages between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman. That’s because they’re living in this culture, where all that you talked about is not accepted as normal. But people forget that for every one successful happy marriage, there are 1000s that end up as sex slaves, are bought and sold, treated as flesh and sometimes just done away with.
YM: If we try to warn them, then they call us Islamophobic.
MK: Do you get support from New Atheists or are they as unsupportive as the progressives?
YM: Unfortunately, a lot of the new atheists do consider everybody who speaks out in criticism of Islam to be Islamophobic bigots. Even the few big atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are hated for criticizing Islam the same way they would criticize Christianity, and they’re even considered racist for it. And it’s true that a lot of people are abandoning Islam. In countries like Iran, for example, Sharia is such a dominating tyrannical force that it’s making people run away from it. In my organization, the clients are predominantly coming from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Statistically Egypt is over 90% Muslims, but that’s not true. We don’t have the real statistics on how many people from these countries are leaving the religion, because they’re too scared to come out. So, I do have fears, but because I’m living in a free,western, secular country, I feel like it’s my responsibility to speak out for all of the people who cannot raise a voice. Planting the seeds of critical thinking is so valuable.
MK: In India, the rate at which conversions to Islam are taking place are very high, thanks to illegal migrants coming from Bangladesh, Rohingya Muslims from Burma, Afghanistan. Even in a free society, they don’t want to live like free human beings. They want to settle here and spread their propaganda wherever they go. What’s your take on Malala’s stand on Islam and patriotism. Do you consider her a feminist?
YM: I think that she contributed a lot to bring attention to the issue of girls’ education. So I appreciate what she did as far as that’s concerned, by bringing that conversation to the mainstream in a way that it wasn’t before. However, I disagree with her in the way that she never talks about the roots of this terrorism and this conflict. And it’s surprising to me that she’s so hesitant to talk about Islam. And I completely disagree with her on that.
MK: She’s one of the most cynical youngsters who has made good money, a big name but the success that came to her is almost out of proportion to what she did to deserve it. All she did was a social media post to say girls should be educated and she got shot in the head. Now that’s her only claim to fame. And then the Islamists adopted her and took her abroad and then trained her to be politically correct.
Changing the direction of the conversation a little, I’d like to highlight how Muslim women are seen pelting stones on the security forces who protect them from their own Jihadi brothers, and protect them during floods, and snowstorms. In India, policemen are petrified of entering a Muslim neighborhood to arrest a criminal. Because the women are so well trained to defend the terrorists and criminals, they immediately tear up their own clothes and accuse the cops of trying to rape them. The police doesn’t want to enter even if the terrorists are hiding there. Because women come in the way and they throw petrol bombs, rocks and use whatever weapons they can get. Why does this happen?
YM: It’s because of the allegiance to other Muslims and the hatred towards non-Muslims. So it doesn’t matter even if the Muslim man is beating her, he’s still a Muslim. And the non-Muslim is the enemy even if he tries to protect her.
MK: You explained the reason for Islam’s global stranglehold in that one sentence, the division of the world or humanity into Muslims versus Non-Muslims. Thank you, Yasmine. It was a pleasure talking to you!