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Muslim woman’s secret other life

Urwa’s* sin list includes all the things most 25-year-old’s do regularly. Picture: The FeedSource:SBS
Urwa’s* sin list includes all the things most 25-year-old’s do regularly. Picture: The FeedSource:SBS

URWA* used to love her religion and once believed her faith was unshakeable.

Born into a conservative Muslim family in Australia, she now lives a secret double life and no longer calls herself a believer.

The young woman is among a secret group of Australians turning their backs on conservative forms of Islam.

However, as her experience shows, leaving the life she has known for so long remains far from easy.

The 25-year-old's "sin list" of everything she's never done are things most Australians don't even think about like listening to music, dating and dancing.

"I want to take my hijab off," she tells The Feed's Patrick Abboud.

"It will be the biggest decision I've ever made in my life so far but I'm terrified I don't know what the consequences will be.

"I feel so trapped. I'm terrified of someone finding out I'm ex-Muslim, I feel like I'm carrying around a ticking time bomb."

She said the best case scenario if her friends and family found out about her true intentions would be that she's disowned.

"Worst case - I will be murdered," she said.

Abboud gained exclusive access inside a secret network of young ex-Muslims who are turning their back on Islam. He reveals what happens when people walk away.

Some are living double lives out of fear of reprisals. Others are working to support those thinking of leaving.

Abboud delves into the lives of those rebelling against extreme versions of Islam, which they say not only restricts their freedom but their choices.

The SBS journalist speaks to Awal*, 24, who is known as the gatekeeper of the ex-Muslim network, and Rashiti*, who left her religion following years of abuse at the hands of her father.

The secret group not only acts as a support network but it also serves as safe space.

Rashti, now 22, escaped to Australia to study two years ago and admits she feels safer here but suffers verbal abuse and threats for speaking out against her religion.

She tells The Feed how her experiences with Islam have been dark and there's no way she will ever go back.

"I'd rather die. I'd rather be dead," she said.

Abboud also speaks with Ahmad*, who is currently leading a double life.

For Ahmad, the secret network has been a lifesaver, especially because he is a gay man.

"For many, many years I felt like I was drowning in this religion," he said.

"I couldn't understand how Islam was teaching me to hate myself."

He also tells The Feed that people threaten violence and advocate killing people like him even here in Australia.

Abboud said he had heard whispers of a secret network of ex-Muslims living in Australia for years and wanted to understand why it was so difficult to leave the religion.

"So, when Awal contacted me I knew it was time to tell the story of this underground group of young Aussies turning their back on Islam," he said.

Sydney Imam and solicitor Sheikh Haisam Farache tells The Feed Islam in Australia is a broad religion.

He said the extreme conservatism that these young ex-Muslims have rejected is a narrow cultural, and not a religious, interpretation, of Islam which is not widely practised.

* Names have been changed for privacy purposes.

Becoming Ex-Muslim premieres on The Feed, 7.30pm Tuesday 19 September on SBS VICELAND. Encore screening 10.00pm Tuesday 19 September on SBS.

Topics:  editors picks life muslim secret woman

News Corp Australia


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