One of the hardest parts about leaving a religion is that it may cause your family to treat you like an outcast forever, whether it’s Jehovah’s Witness-style disfellowshipping or just excommunication in concept. A lot of ex-Muslims no longer have contact with their families for similar reasons (or out of safety concerns).
But a group called Shift the Script is trying to change that.
With two new billboards in the Arlington and Dallas-Fort Worth areas in Texas, they’re calling on Muslims and ex-Muslims to continue a conversation with each other even if that’s not currently happening.
(“Murtadd” is an Arabic word for apostate.)
That second billboard is right around the corner from the Grand Prairie Masjid, which means Muslims visiting the mosque are almost certain to see it. Both signs will be up for another eight weeks.
The group is also calling for and posting letters from one group to the other on its website. Here’s a quick sampling of letters:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I live in fear of your discovering that I no longer believe what you taught me. I still perform all my duties, I offer the Fajr every morning faithfully, but only as a way to keep you from suspecting. I wish I had the courage to tell you the truth. And maybe one day I will. But what will you say then? Will you still love me? Or will you cast me out? I can’t bear the thought of that. But I also can’t bear the lie I am living. Whatever happens know that I love you. #inthecloset
I don’t know if you’ll ever see this letter. I know you said you never wanted to speak to me again. I hope that isn’t true. I want you to know I miss you, I love you, and I’m ok. I don’t know if you know I had some death threats when I left Islam, and for a year or so I genuinely lived in fear. I am at peace now, with myself and with the world. Every day I think about you. If you get a chance, I’d love to hear your voice sometime. Maybe next eid al-fitr?
All the love I know how to offer,
I have been trying to find a way to contact you since you left. You have made yourself hard to find, and after what happened with your father, I understand why. If I could see you I would, I don’t care anymore what the consequences would be. Family is family and you are family, forever. I pray for you five times a day, I beg Allah you are safe, that you are well, that you are happy and that you are not living in fear. One day we will meet again, I promise. I promise.
They’re heartbreaking to read, but this is a genuine attempt to build bridges that have been destroyed by dogma. If the billboards lead to more conversations and perhaps more reunifications, more power to the group.