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.
- 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.
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.