Yasmine Mohammed headshot

“There is no us and them” – Yasmine Mohammed – Ex-Muslim Activist – New Sentientist Conversation

Watch our conversation here or listen here.

Yasmine (@YasMohammedxx & yasminemohammed.com) is a rights activist, advocating for the rights of women living within Islamic majority countries. Yasmine founded the charity Free Hearts Free Minds. Her book, Unveiled, recalls her experiences growing up in a fundamentalist Islamic household & her arranged marriage to a member of Al-Qaeda.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?” Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the YouTube video the audio is also on our Podcast – subscribe here on Apple​​​​ & here on all the other platforms​​​​​.

We discuss:

  • Growing up in a fundamentalist Muslim household in Canada, attending Islamic school, being dressed in hijab & niqab
  • Being forced into marriage with an Al Qaeda member (now in prison in Egypt), considered “strong enough to control me”
  • Questioning things from a young age
  • The isolation of some religious communities even in secular states
  • Having a daughter & that being a catalyst for change
  • Escaping from husband & family
  • Going to university & learning about religions. The intoxication of being allowed to question
  • “I’ve been wasting my whole life terrified of a figment of the imagination of some ancient man”
  • “You spend so much of your life ruled by a fairy tale”
    8:51 What’s real? Believing in Islam
  • “It’s embarrassing to admit I really did believe these things”
  • “You’re indoctrinated from birth… & punished for questioning”
  • “You believe or you burn in hell”
  • “Every aspect of your life is laid out… Questioning is challenging god himself. So you must submit”
  • The life of Mohammed. The Quran as the word of god
  • “You don’t think ‘is this a good thing to do?’ you think ‘is this the correct thing to do?'”
    16:00 What’s real? Leaving Islam
  • Taking off the hijab & being told “you need to be killed before you leave Islam” by her mother, “I will be punished for eternity for having a daughter who is an infidel”
  • How a Jehovah’s Witness mother might allow their child to die rather than allow a blood transfusion
  • Abraham’s willingness to kill his own son
  • “Honour killings” (murders)
  • Religious compliance as above “ordinary morality”
  • Studying religion, seeing 9/11 happen & being horrified
  • Seeing a BBC reporter find Bin-Laden documents mentioning Yas’ ex-husband’s firm
  • “I needed to get my daughter out of that world before she started to think that was OK”
  • Hints of fundamentalism in the atheist movement
  • Appearing in Jay Shapiro’s film “Islam & the future of tolerance” w/Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz
  • “Meditation saved my life”
  • Humility & open-mindedness at the heart of naturalism
    32:00 What matters?
  • Relativism, nihilism
  • “The long straight path – a tightrope over the burning fires of hell”
  • “The fear messes you up… it’s in your psyche”
  • “We only need one book” The reassuring simplicity of religious ethics
  • After leaving Islam “I had to build myself”
  • Infant circumcision/genital mutilation
  • Compassion in religion is genuine, but often conditional & constrained.
  • The weird feeling of extending compassion beyond the Muslim Ummah. “It expanded my heart & mind in a way that was really beautiful”
    48:44 Non-human sentients matter too
  • Islam says animals are made for humans. Humans aren’t seen as animals
  • 4-5 yr old daughter: “how many chickens did you kill?”
  • Going vegetarian as a family
  • The wonder of recognising a connection to all sentients
    54:42 The parallels between religion & animal consumption
  • My daughter is the sort of child I could have been if my brain hadn’t been stifled
  • Why many secular moral thinkers have a blindspot re: animal ethics
    01:01:55 The Future
  • Many in religious communities don’t believe, but can’t speak out
  • Death penalty for apostasy/homophobia
  • Helping people trapped in religious communities
  • Why culture/religion/tradition blocks “western” compassion for millions of oppressed people
  • Does “the west” really think they invented feminism & liberalism & humanism in the enlightenment?
  • How “the west” patronises by holding back from judging harmful ethics, buying in to “us & them” separation
  • “Why would any free woman want to cover themselves in black?”
  • Universal compassion rejects all tribalism (right/left, religious/secular)
  • Resisting radical Islam w/out allying w/the authoritarian Xtian right
  • “I’m incredibly optimistic” because I was deep in that darkness & was able to leave & watch my daughters flourish.

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at sentientism.info​​​​​​​​​​​​​. Join our “I’m a Sentientist wall” using this simple form​.

​Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. Our biggest so far is here on FaceBook​.

Thanks, Graham for the post-production! Follow him at @cgbessellieu.

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