CEMSG: Thank you for coming here to meet up with us, agreeing to talk and share your experience. So let me start by asking “What’s your story?”
SM: I was browsing through several FB pages especially those Ustaz and Ustazah, just to read their postings, to get a general idea about them. The latest news about them to be precise. I stumble several when people asked them about the Murtads… and immediately they will say “they have an issue. Emotional issue. Abuse issue.. mental issue” We are always perceived as people with issues, unsettled and unresolved issues. We got cheated by a Muslim Bf or Gf, that is why we are angry and seeking revenge. We prayed for something, and God did not answer our prayers, so we are angry with God. These are the kind of stories very popular with religious people when they are asked about the apostates.
CEMSG: Okay, then all those issues did not associate with your leaving Islam?
CEMSG: What then? As you mentioned earlier, you learn to recite the Quran from your mother, you prayed together with your parents and siblings. You attend religious classes at the surau. Your childhood is just like any other Muslim family, religion played a central role in the family.
SM: yes it did. My mother was a very strict woman. During Quran recitation class, she would call us one by one with a rotan beside her. She never cane us, but seeing the rotan there is enough to bring shivers down our spine. I remember I used to cry even before I sat there in front of her.
CEMSG: What happened? What made you move away?
SM: Nursing. My transformation happened while I was in Nursing school. It didn’t happen overnight. Not that I woke up one morning and suddenly said, I had it. I’m out. Or that I’ve read this book and it blows my mind off, that it convinced me that Islam is not for me. It didn’t happen that way. Just like any form of transformation, it was gradual. Over a period of time and then one day, after so much reflection I told myself “it’s not for me”. I can’t feel it anymore.
CEMSG: Do tell us what actually happened that caused this transformation.
SM: I remembered that first day in the school of nursing. As I entered the auditorium, my first day, suddenly all eyes looked at me. It was a frightening experience. I was the only girl or rather the only Malay girl in tudung in that auditorium I think. I was wearing the tudung when tudung was not in fashion. My mother told me, to take off the tudung. Said nobody will hire me if I wear the tudung, but I was stubborn.
CEMSG: Then what happened?
SM: I braved myself, and sat right in front.
CEMSG: What makes you choose Nursing?
SM: I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. In school, I joined the red cross. So, it’s a natural choice after my O levels, then this advertisement came out in the paper “Be a Nurse”. I responded.
CEMSG: Go on…
SM: I still went for my religious classes even when I’m in nursing. I fasted and prayed as expected of me.
CEMSG: What leads to this change in you. This transformation as you said earlier.
SM: Not sure. I think transformation happens in a gradual manner. You never know it. It just happened. You can feel the change.. suddenly all those things you used to do like fasting and praying lost its meaning. I stop going for religious classes because somehow they lost the sense of purpose in me. When you go for classes, you’re supposed to gain knowledge.. you should learn something, but these religious classes didn’t at all. They keep on repeating the same thing over and over again, nothing new. About hell and heaven. About the kafir, the nonbelievers. I don’t like the kind of emotion they are trying to invoke in me.
CEMSG: What kind of emotion?
SM: Hatred. Anger. This whole obsession with the Jews. I must hate them. I must not trust them. I don’t even know how a Jew looks like. I am not sure if I’ve ever met them, but I must not like them. To me, this is an irrational form of behavior.
CEMSG: What else? What happened in your nursing days that triggered it?
SM: I saw pain. I saw suffering and I saw neglect. These go beyond all racial and religious groups. I have this fascination with wounds. I love to do dressings. Over a period of time in my nursing days, I’ve seen and dress many wounds. I remember people better by their wounds, and as I see it, all wounds are the same. The severity might be different, but wounds are wounds. I saw death.. many of them. I remember this one particular girl. I was a trainee nurse and was posted in this subsidies ward. Toa Payoh Hospital. A Eurasian girl, with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and all her organs, were failing one by one. Bedridden and abandoned by her adopted parent. She was taken in by the convent. I became close to her. I felt her pain.. the abandonment and the loneliness. I used to spend time after my duty, by her side, reading [as she is going blind] and singing songs for her. That night, after duty, I did the same… went back to the hostel, came back the next morning saw her bed empty. Was told she passed away that night. It affected me a lot. I went back to my hostel that evening, spend a lot of time up in my room… till night, sitting in the dark trying to reflect on what has happened. I felt lost. I went back home the next day, attend the religious classes, as usual, listening to the ustazah suddenly she doesn’t sound pleasant to me anymore.
CEMSG: why is that so?
SM: She is more interested to talk about life after death. So I asked her.. I showed her this picture of Mother Teresa holding a dying lady. I asked her, what will happen to this lady? I know she has done something good for humanity [at that moment in time I saw her as somebody divine] Will she go to hell as well?
CEMSG : What did the Ustazah say?
SM: “Yes she will go to hell” she replied. “Why is that so?” I asked again.
“Because she is not a Muslim”
So no matter how good one can be… no matter how much one has done to humanity, as long as you’re not a Muslim, you will go to hell. She looked at me and nod. That got me thinking. I spent a lot of time after that in total darkness in my room, reflecting and searching within myself. I don’t like what I’m seeing.
CEMSG: and then?
SM: And so I withdrew from all the religious discourse. Even the nasyid songs I once loved, I’ve stopped listening to them. They don’t sound nice to me anymore. I focused all my energy into my work. Nursing replaces Islam as my religion.
CEMSG: How so?
SM: Easy, Islam stops being my central point. It’s nursing now. I came to a point that, whenever I put my uniform, this Malay – Muslim girl ceases to exist. She’s dead temporarily. A nobody. A person with no name, no religious or political affiliations, but in uniform upholding a set of belief systems and that is to serve humanity. It’s a good feeling. Once you’re in that state, you do not want to get out of it. So after a period of time, through the natural process, Islam died altogether within me. Dissolved within the inner space.
CEMSG: How do your parents and siblings react to this change?
SM: My mother saw it. My second brother asked me how come I stopped attending religious classes.
CEMSG: What did you tell him?
SM: By then, Nursing has become my religion. So I told him, I am attending religious classes at my hospital.
CEMSG: Your mother?
SM: I’ve spent more time in the hospital than at home. So when I’m at home spending time with her, she is happy. Whenever she brought up this religious issue, I talk about nursing. She got the message eventually. I know she loves me no matter what. I am still her daughter.