Ethiopia – Then & Now

This is an interesting time to live in. The world’s eyes are focused on the USA’s debate over which two future leaders would be the lesser of two evils, while in my home country of South Africa protests calling for free tertiary education have erupted, seeing the destruction of property, loss of life and the shutting down of many university campuses. The #FeesMustFall campaign, as it has come to be known, is a controversial topic that I would like to share my opinions on, but not today; today, I am going to focus on a fellow African country whose struggles have gone largely unnoticed by the rest of the world: Ethiopia. This is meant to inform, firstly, and also to awaken within the reader’s mind – especially the South African reader – the possibility that South Africa might have a similar destination in mind.

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#FeesMustFall

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Durban, South Africa

 

The Facts

Ethiopia’s government has declared a state of emergency. This in response to protests that have erupted throughout the country with horrendous violence. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has said that the state of emergency has been declared because of the “enormous” damage to property. For those who do not know, my university – Stellenbosch University (SU) – has deployed heavily armed men from several private security companies all over campus, stating that management wishes to prevent further destruction of property.  Continue reading

The Muslim Atheist

So I haven’t blogged in a while. That’s because I am currently on holiday from university and, while I would have much rather preferred to stay in residence, I am forced to vacate and am now at home for the next 6 weeks – which sucks, obviously. Not only is there no Internet at home (which makes it really difficult to upload new blog posts), but my family are all Muslim and it is now currently the holy month of Ramadaan, where all Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. Now, you may ask, if you’re an Atheist, why should this bother you? You don’t share their beliefs, so you have no need to let this affect you, do you? Well, yes. Yes I do.

You see, my family do not know that I am an Atheist. They know that I’m gay – but they refuse to acknowledge it, so I might as well be in the closet for that as well – but they are completely oblivious to the fact that I no longer believe in their or any other god. So I am forced to observe their rituals and to pretend as if I am a good Muslim young man. This may seem like nothing more than a slight bother, but I assure you, it can be quite an oppressive environment.

It would be completely different if they knew I was an Atheist and expected me to respect their beliefs – which I would do, because they are my family. But now I am expected to participate in and revere their beliefs, traditions and rituals as if they were my own, and – I cannot emphasise this enough – in the traditional Islam that my parents subscribe to, you are not allowed to ask questions. Maybe to anyone else, this may not be such a big issue, but, to me, this is stripping me of one of my innate qualities, one of the things that make me me.

There are stupid traditions that not only my family but almost all of the Cape Malay Muslims follow, such as not playing music while the Athaan (the Islamic call to prayer) is being sounded five times a day, or even just greeting in the traditional Arabic instead of English, and immediately looking down on anyone who doesn’t do the same. For instance, my mom handed me something the other day and I said, “Thank you,” and her eyes widened and she replied with, “Why are you saying that? Say shukran,” and I completely refused to use the Arabic word for “thank you” when the English one worked well enough. It made no sense, and when I pointed this out to her, she completely lost it. She told me something that I had heard all my life, and that I will continue to hear for the next six fucking weeks: that I must not allow university to strip me of my faith, and that Allah knows what is best, and we must follow his benevolent guidance. What infuriates me more than the fact that someone – I don’t care if they’re my mom or a stranger – felt the need to tell me what is right and never to ask any questions about it, was that I couldn’t respond to that statement. Once a Muslim invokes Allah’s name and says something about how all-knowing He is, another Muslim cannot argue with that. You can not say, “Yeah, but what if…” no. Nothing of the sort.

So, because my parents and family believe that I am Muslim, I have to shut my mouth when she or anyone else tells me that I shouldn’t question – that I shouldn’t think – about what I’m doing, saying or eating because Allah knows best. At moments like these all I want to do is scream, “NO HE FUCKING DOESN’T!

It must be clear by this point that I am upset. There were things that happened to me about two years ago that were horrible, that I will never ever forget, and they were almost directly caused by the unquestionable, autocratic regime that Islam has on my life. The joy that I feel in Stellenbosch, in Wilgenhof, away from home, is unimaginable. Wilgenhof is not the best of places, and there are imperfections, but when I’m there, I can be myself – unapologetically. I can question, I can think, I can say what’s on my mind, and I can step on fucking toes – but guess what? It’s okay! It’s okay to speak about something controversial, or to criticise someone’s deeply held beliefs, because if you really hold them that firmly and deeply, then one angry teenager shouldn’t be enough to destroy them.

And that’s not even my intention; I don’t want everyone around me to renounce their faith, to become Atheist. I don’t want to tell anyone what to think. All I want is for people to respect my democratic right to disagree, as I respect their democratic right to practice their religion.

What bothers me is that those whose rights I respect do not hold mine in the same esteem. They force me to believe what they believe, to act as they do and think like they do. If I don’t… Well, let’s not get into that.

My blog posts will be much shorter and less frequent now than they were before.The Student Life posts will be on hold while I’m on vacation and I’ll resume them when I’m at Wilgenhof again. I have another blog post planned for sometime soon regarding the feminist movement in the Middle East. Watch this space.

Cheers.

 

Why Is Religion So Concerned About What We Do In The Bedroom?

As not only an ex-Muslim Atheist living in a predominantly believing environment (Muslim at home; Christian at university), but also a homosexual, I know first hand about what religion has to say about my activities in the bedroom. Why does religion have any say in our sexual activities, though? Surely sex and sexuality – and the manner in which you choose to enjoy it – are between the parties actually involved in the act, not some third party with an inflated opinion of itself? Let’s look at the two major religions and their views on sex and sexuality, and whether there is any justification in giving them the authority to dictate to us what is moral and what isn’t.  Continue reading

“Islam is the religion of peace.”

No doubt you’ve heard this before. As an ex-Muslim with a Muslim-only family, I have heard it repeated over and over that Islam is the best religion; Islam is a way of life; Islam is the religion of peace. Let’s take a deeper look at this, why don’t we?  Continue reading

The Student Life – part 5: The Cultural Shock

I can’t count how many times I had been told by my family and friends before coming to university that I was going to have to undergo an enormous transition as I adjust to living with people of so many different backgrounds and beliefs. They were right, but they were also wrong. Let me explain.  Continue reading

My Top Ten Metal Albums

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Metal is much more than a genre of music; it’s a mechanism for coping with life, and all the bullshit that goes with it. What follows next is a list of my favourite metal albums of all time. Keep in mind that this is my list, and hence is not a universal truth. The purpose of this post isn’t to force others to like the same music I do, but merely to share with the world the wonders of metal. Feel free to disagree. If there are any bands or albums you feel should have been included on this list, send me an email. Let’s get this started.  Continue reading

The Student Life – part 4: Finding My Niche

Everyone has that one weird habit, hobby or interest that they don’t really want anyone to know about. Maybe it’s something innocent, like your 3000-card Yu-Gi-Oh collection that you told everyone you threw out but still have hidden in your cupboard; or it could be something more taboo, like the weird kind of porn you don’t want anyone to know you watch. Whatever it may be, we all have an aspect of ourselves that we keep veiled from the general public for fear of judgement or ridicule. This is the story of how I decided to share something with the guys in Wilgenhof that I had never shared before. Continue reading

The Student Life – part 3: Coming Out

I don’t know if you’ve ever had to tell someone a secret. And I don’t mean a “Ramsay-Bolton-is-actually-my-favourite-character” kind of secret; I mean a “I-killed-your-dog-and-ate-its-corpse” kind of secret. Whether you have or you haven’t, imagine telling that secret not to one or two friends, but to 70 other guys you’ve known for barely a week.

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It’s so hard… to follow instructions.

Continue reading

“What do you think happens to us after we die?”

 

Disclaimer: This is not meant to offend anyone. Seeing as we live in the Age of Butthurt, I’m sorry if anyone is offended. Also, grow up; wanting to live in a democracy without ever being offended is a Utopian fantasy.

I love when this question is posed to me. Not in an asshole kind of manner, where I try and explain in an arrogant manner why I am right and why you are wrong, but I really love this question because it forces me to stop and ponder: “What do I think happens to me after I die?

First things first

Before I actually answer the question, I feel like I need to first clarify my belief system. So, I’m an Atheist. I haven’t always been one, though I can see why I ended up as one. Continue reading