As a blogger, I write words and publish them online.
Sometimes it is a mildly humorous piece, sometimes it is an angry rant. Sometimes I churn out 1500 word essays where I explore some boring subject in annoying detail.
When I write, my objective is sometimes to persuade the reader. Other times it is to amuse and entertain them. And all too often, I’m talking to no one in particular and just vomiting words into cyberspace, perhaps because I happened to be feeling unusually emotional or distraught over something that evening.
In every case, however, my relationship with my readers is based on a certain level of respect and trust. When someone willingly chooses to regularly take the time out of their day to read stuff I put up here, I understand they have a certain unstated expectation of me. When someone tells me they enjoy my writing, I sincerely believe that the plain honesty I try to preserve in my writing has resonated with the reader.
Many of my readers have extended this rapport further by reaching out to me on social networks and in real life. Sometimes they confide in me – a total stranger – about their deeply personal struggles and desperation, stories of religious and sexual persecution that they often have not shared with their own family. It is deeply satisfying to me as a writer, that I am able to come across as a trustworthy interlocutor, just on the merits of my words alone.
I feel even those who strongly, vehemently disagree with my numerous opinions would agree nevertheless that the thoughts I express here are entirely heartfelt and sincere. In fact, I have been told as much.
I have stated previously on this blog that I am not particularly religious – I do not pray five times a day. I do not grow a beard or wear religion on my sleeve, nor do I offer unsolicited religious advice to random people I meet in order to ‘guide them’. I do not listen to religious programs on the local radio. I only read as much on religion as I do on other subjects. I find I am more fascinated in the history of religion than in the tedium of memorizing various tafsir and hadiths. This is not a celebratory declaration of some hedonistic lifestyle, but merely a statement of fact.
Some find spiritual contentment in the majesty of creation within a tiny book of verses, I find it elsewhere. I do fast in Ramadan of my own free will. I do like to contribute to charities, and I do intend to some day make that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca. I am perhaps less observant of religion than some Maldivians, but certainly more than many others.
In my day to day life, I meet with both hijabis, and men and women in normal attire – and I honestly do not treat anyone with any particular malice or prejudice, and I seem to be able to do this effortlessly.
I happen to know some very devout people – some who even wear the niqab – that I respect tremendously, simply because they are excellent people. Many others, whose religious convictions I never bothered to find out, are extremely kind-hearted and I love and respect them equally. And yes, I also happen to know both devout and non-devout people who happen to be appalling cunts.
I tend to judge people strongly by their actions and behaviour, not by their professed faith.
But apparently, the world doesn’t always work that way.
Being a writer, I am able to convey my thoughts reasonably well in written words. I am, however, not very inclined to engage in verbal conversation – especially with unfamiliar people – in real life, and certainly not on such personal subjects as religion and faith.
But Malé is an incredibly small place and the grapevine is startlingly active. Unfortunately for me, perhaps, there are idiots who read something harmless on my blog that they profoundly disagree with, and by the time they finish conveying that simple thought to their friends, it would appear that I have all but pissed on the prophet and ripped up the Qur’an and shat on the Ka’aba in some alarmingly violent fit of raging Islamophobia.
I have often had perfect strangers proclaim to me – sometimes on twitter, sometimes in long personal messages on facebook, or comments left on various news websites, that I am some kind of raving, violent Islamophobe who has been writing hateful articles against the Prophet. I usually respond by asking them to kindly link me to one of these imaginary articles – and to this day, not once has this challenge been taken up.
If only I had a million dollars to offer.
Sure I have written articles in the full knowledge that it will provoke some people, but it is important to understand that these are people who are easily provoked by the mere existence of a worldview that doesn’t conform rigidly to their narrow beliefs. Some of my words are deliberately chosen to jolt some people out of their cocooned existence of safe, non-controversial, boot-licking sentences. But none of it ever portrays Islam or its Prophet negatively.
The reason I haven’t written negatively of the Prophet is simply because, regardless of my opinion of organized religion, I don’t really have many negative things to say about the Prophet, who I happen to consider an eminent, liberal social reformist of his age who would almost definitely be appalled by the ghastly ass-hattery carried out in his name today.
It is also true that I call for freedom of religion and minority rights in the Maldives. But hey, so did God and the prophet. So I’m in good company here.
There is a level of impenetrable discomfort when dealing with people who, though they don’t actively follow my blog and have never read a single thing I’ve ever written, have nonetheless heard from various sources that I am engaged in some kind of tasteless, sacrilegious literary crimes online.
One particularly painful experience was, when a few years ago, a once good friend of mine – who happens to be a niqabi, and with whom I had many wonderful, insightful conversations on religion and faith – abruptly ended our friendship with a curt online MSN message. I am sure she is still a gentle, kind person, but the chasm of misinformed mistrust between us is so wide and so deep, it seems pointless to try to cross it.
I imagine that this is probably what it feels like to be accused of being a pedophile. The subject is often too awkward to be brought up in person, but nevertheless, the suspicion and discomfort is palpable and quite detrimental to building or maintaining relationships.
Not that I try too hard.
I have my own issues with people who jump to conclusions without adequate reasons. My default instinct is to not engage with people who seem to find my presence uncomfortable – after all, their prejudices are not my responsibility to clear. This is, again, a choice I make. I have no desire to be cowed into wearing my religion on my sleeve to find acceptance or to ‘fit in’. I can’t adequately convey quite how nauseating the ‘LOOK EVERYONE! I’M A MUSLIM! LOOK WHAT AN EXCELLENT MUSLIM I AM! LOLOLOL! MY AQEEDA IS BIGGER THAN YOUR AQEEDA!’ kind of talk sounds to me. It is downright revolting. It smacks of self-righteousness and unspeakable arrogance, and I’d rather not deal with people than engage in that kind of dick measuring contest.
I am entirely satisfied that when it comes to matters of faith and belief, I’m not answerable to any human on this planet. And for whatever sins I have, I am adamant that the judge of it shall not be strangers on the internet, nor vaguely familiar acquaintances, nor some bullshit salafist NGOs, and least of all the Maldivian government. And while they may revel in this delusion, I have no intention of acceding to this demand.
In the meantime, I am grateful for the wonderful strangers and close friends who have read these pages, and chosen not to ascribe to it malice where none exists. Thank you for being reasonable humans. <3
Also, this was an extremely personal post and one that I might regret when I wake up tomorrow with a massive hangover. I kid. I kid. In return, I promise more entertaining, light-hearted posts in the coming days.
But yeah, this needed to be said.
tl;dr:- Everybody’s talking all this stuff about me, why don’t they just let me live? I don’t need permission, make my own decisions
That’s my prerogative..
Fuck. I could have avoided typing out this entire post and just have linked to this Britney Spears video instead. Welp! Sorry!