By Ahmed, Sudan
My name is Ahmed, I was born into a Muslim family originally from Sudan. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia then moved to Sudan for University. I studied medicine and currently work as a doctor, and I have remained in Sudan ever since. In Saudi Arabia, people born to Non-Saudi parents do not have the same rights as Saudis so we couldn’t attend university there due to the astronomical fees which Saudis don’t have to pay since education is free for Saudi citizens.
Saudi Arabia was a very strict and conservative nation, life was not easy, I faced so many difficulties. I endured racism and I was bullied during school. Being African was not easy, it was hell going to school. It was impossible to enjoy my adolescence. There were no recreational activities, you could not have a girlfriend or go out with female friends.
In Saudi Arabia you can’t be different, you have to go by the rules, you have to follow one religion only: Islam. You can’t question the faith, you can’t criticize any Islamic scholar, even if there is something credible against him. It is a life of intimidation and fear. I started having doubts about so many things, so many things did not make sense to me. I needed answers but I did not know how to get them if I asked I would be labeled as a secular or be called all these names. The rule was to follow Islam and never question it.
Growing up I remember situations that at a young age made me ask so many questions. One memory I recall was when our Religion teacher warned us about listening to music, the punishment of which would be God pouring molten lead into the ears of those who did. It is part of a verse in the hadith in which the prophet discusses things with his friends (sahaba). That scared me every time I listened to music, I used to feel terror about what this loving and caring God may do to me just for listening to music. I also remember that drawing was forbidden, we weren’t allowed to draw humans and animals, if we did we had to draw them faceless or draw a line across their neck. The teachers did anything to spread their narrative. One teacher told us that Christians and Jews are filthy and unhygienic and if you stayed in a room with them you will be disgusted by their smell.
At the time I never had the guts to question or express my discontent with these teachings, I don’t recall discussing them with family. It was a Salafist ideology and my family wasn’t from a Salafist background, so music and drawing were not an issue in our household Till this day there are people who still think that God will punish them for listening to Mozart or Beethoven.
There are so many more instances that made me pull away. I renounced Islam in the middle of high school and I became an atheist. I was not internet savvy, in the beginning, I did not realize how much information existed on the Internet. Then I started watching Richard Dawkins and several other notable atheists, such as Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens. I could now listen to debates and dialogues about atheism. It was a new beginning.
My family doesn’t know that I am an atheist, my father would kick me out of the house. He will disown me and so will my family. They will no longer consider me a part of them.
In university, I was not very popular because of my thoughts and my criticism of religious scholars. They used to label me a secular which is not a popular word in Sudan. People see my anti-Islamist posts on Facebook or Whatsapp, and when I try to question an Islamic principle they shun and ridicule me. I wish discussions about religion and criticizing religion was possible. It was not possible in Saudi Arabia and it’s not possible here.