Warning: The following post contains an opinion held by a complete stranger that cannot be policed or silenced because it hurts your feelings
The Internet is a wonderful place. Thanks to the internet, we have access to a diverse group of amazing African writers, humanitarians, Nicholas Kristof’s facebook statuses, comedians, paradigm breakers (this is a valid occupation, don’t you dare dispute it), and Kanye West’s tweets. Ideas are exchanged, narratives challenged, and experiences shared. But there is unfortunately, a dark side to this public discourse medium, other Africans. Inspired by recent discourse on this blog regarding polemic African figures, my anxieties about the pressures of cultural and religious loyalties were activated. Cognitive dissonance became catch of the day, as I was caught between defending my political positions and navigating the various ways on how-to-not alienate my cultural and ethnic kin. This conflict is a reality for many Africans who espouse progressive ideals like ‘the gays shouldn’t be murdered’ and ‘how about we not take a saw to a female’s clitoris because God said so’.
These Africans (really anyone with a soul) are usually berated by the cultural and religious thought police for promoting ‘western’ ideals and essentially ‘selling out’. I don’t deny that I’m capable of both crimes, but I suspect my status as a grad student blogger would make the plausibility of ‘selling out’ worthy of further inquiry. These cultural Gestapo merely exist to hold others to essentialized/subjective, and out-of- touch accounts of what it means to be an ‘African’, ‘a Somali’, an ‘African women’ and quite frankly usually lead to a daunting exercise for those of us seeking to challenge the implications, the conclusions, and the methods of our individual intellectual/personal journeys (damn that was a long ass sentence). You know those people, first ones to tweet scripture, surahs, cliched proverbs in response to a political/social position you’ve posited that may challenge their sanctimonious ideals. As a famous Somali samosa seller in a market in Mogadishu once said, “L’enfer, c’est les Autres,” and this particular brand of Homo Sapien, I speak of, is a testament to that narrative-hell is indeed other people. These individuals often use culture and religion to mask their anxiety as marginalized people, and can make the process of unpackaging paradigms and ideologies, an exercise that leaves many in fear of being ostracized, ridiculed or reduced to labels- And at times, in fear for one’s personal safety. So how then, does one challenge and reprimand these miscreants?
I think I’ve devised a plan, but gotta be careful with how I write this, as I could potentially be writing ‘exhibit A’ in my trial for apostasy in Somalia one day, and must be careful to not leave any traces of my supposed religious abandonment in this how-to-manual on decreasing the frequency of unpleasant human interactions with the cultural/religious Polizei. Guys, the religious/cultural apologists will leave you alone if you pretend to be an atheist. I swear to God, Atheism works. Let me explain, rather than give a treatise on my sociological position on the demerits/merits of theism, I’ll instead say, ‘Hi, I was raised in a Muslim Household, and Bertrand Russell broke my spiritual soul’. In navigating and constructing my position on the nature of humans/the purpose of life, political/social leanings, and/or the existence of God, I’ve come to realize that questioning religion (more popularly known as ‘the improbable’) in many African social circles, is usually the easiest path to party of one dinner dates, twitter un-follows, solo movie nights, and snickering relatives. For a Somali woman like I, the mere thought of professing solidarity with anti-theistic positions is criminal in many circles, and by many circles I mean, people who rhyme with ‘uslims’.
One minute, you’re overwhelmed with family, friends, and a community that claims and reveres you for the wonderful work you do in challenging that idea of Somalis as the ‘locusts predicted in the book of Revelations’, and life is grand. The next, you’re the subject of conspiracy theories and irrational speculations regarding your recent political/social proclamations. Rumors like ‘ Why would she defend the gays? She’s definitely a Zionist and my favorite, ‘You know, now that I think about it, she doesn’t really look Somali, definitely couldn’t be one of us’ become normalized and those who dare to challenge some of the implications of cultural and religious dogma are branded ‘un-African’ and ostracized like Romania during an EU summit. What you once considered to be merely inclusive and progressive political positions are instead used to relegate you to the periphery of an already outlier religious and cultural community. Religious skeptics are easily two life points bellow women and one above homosexuals (the math ends up, don’t challenge me), rendering one’s life ‘FAIL, try again’.
But fret not; It’s not all doom and gloom, and I’ve discovered the perks that come with secular living after turning in your God card (I didn’t say I was atheist. Important point here incase someone should indict me). For those of us more socially challenged, abandoning religion is the easiest way to lose dogmatic and irrational friends and alienate annoying Africans. This is a good thing, guys. Other than the obvious benefits of not being held to a subjective rubric of strict ‘African-ness’, and intellectual freedom, skepticism can also offer something much more attractive…let me explain
For example, remember that meddling aunt whose always critiquing your above-the –recommended derrière size? Or that time she berated you for your inability to procure the affections of your twice removed cousin, secure his monogamy, and make babies? No? just me? Well, for all 3 of you who’ve had the pleasure; I can safely report that outing yourself as a godless vagrant will end her meddling phone calls, and your aunt will only be stuff of nightmares. Goes as follows
Aunt: You’re already 28, you’re womb is poisoned and soon only 70 yr old men will find you attractive.
Moi: But auntie, it’s hard finding a good Somali man who believes in evolution
It doesn’t stop there. It gets better folks- unannounced family members suddenly take on the role of absentee fathers, and disappear faster than most friends at the arrival of a dinner bill. No more uninvited houseguests, and matchmaking attempts by well-meaning relatives. No one wants anything to do with you now. You’re no longer under the protection of God, and very few will stand by your side as the Almighty could very well potentially strike your vagina down with a Thunderbolt. You sacrilegious hoe.
But wait, the perks don’t stop there. I remember I was recently on the receiving end of unsolicited and an unrequited sexual solicitation from an unsavory and an awfully boring man. This man was relentless. You know this type, the ones who post copious facebook pictures of *insert your African city’ and write nothing but esssentialist and nostalgic bullshit about your shared homeland, usually between random declarations of love for his mother and Quranic verses. Anyway, this little gremlin managed to evade all my attempts to respectfully reject his advances, and tenaciously continued to harass my Facebook inbox. That’s when I decided it was time to bring out the big guns, and end this farce. The thing is, Patient X was a devout Muslim, and often spoke of a near future where he would settle down in some outrageously devout Islamic yet to-be-recognized state that would be known as the Islamic Republic of South Somalia (I suggested Ikhwaan-Al-Haaywan and he promise to entertain my recommendation) to follow the Quran and Sunnah. This was my in. I had one shot at ending this amorous hostage situation, and I took it. I told Patient X that I was unsuited for theocratic living due to my unwavering love for Russian spirits, atheist writers, unrequited fellatios, and found life according to Islamic doctrine to be quite honestly, a tad bit much. Before I could finish my rejection, I was subjected to an onslaught of choice epithets that rhyme with ‘clut’ and ‘hitch’, and then he un-friended me. It seems there was a God after all, as he answered my secular prayers. I’m kidding. There’s no God (that’s not an admission of apostasy either).
And that’s when I decided to patent this genius, and use it as my go to mechanism for ridding oneself of unpleasant African company online and offline. This trick is particularly useful in reducing excessive facebook friends, annoying twitter followers, you’re too passive aggressive to delete and/or unfollow. We’ve all been there. Logged online, only to be bombarded with statuses and tweets like ‘God is good, keep him in your heart, and all will be great’, and my favourite ‘Ughh, just saw a bunch of men staring at a woman’s butt, so glad to be a Muslim woman!’, that left you wanting to Fisticuff babies quit earth and its wretched inhabitants. But wait, why not fight back, and bombard your fictitious facebook friends, social media buddies with proclamations of your own to the beat of something like ‘Ayan Hirsi Ali is great. She’s my favorite’ and gleefully watch that facebook buddies quit you like a retail job. It works like a charm. But I’ll warn you, it does get awfully lonely out there. Not that I would. I’m a woman of God.