by RASHA AL AQEEDI
…Alas, after the fall of the city, Manar, like every other female, has been forced to wear a full burqa. This outfit really does cramp one’s style. “Were we nude before? What was wrong with our clothes?”“Were we nude before? What was wrong with our clothes?” exclaims Manar, as her voice register shoots upward. “Nothing of our skin was exposed. Must we look like portable garbage bags for Allah to be content with us? How will I practice medicine? So that’s it? Everything I worked hard for and planned is gone?” She absolutely breaks my heart. This young, brilliant, and dedicated woman once so passionate about life is asking questions no one appears able to answer.
With Al-Husba (religious police) stationed at local markets to monitor women’s attire, the majority have submitted to the burqa, but some women have resisted and challenged ISIS militants with reason based on Islamic texts that the burqa is not mandatory. Dumbfounded and shocked, because they are to a man uneducated in genuine Islam, knowing only what their leaders have told them, several militants gave up the debate and left. The more hardcore ones refused any discussion. Whether they reject questioning the legitimacy of their religious laws or simply the idea of a woman standing up to them is hard to tell.
A new discourse has surfaced during the past six months in the conservative city of Mosul, one that should lead Islamists everywhere to some recalculation. In brief, it is this: Allah is not doing anything. A phrase considered to be the ultimate heresy in Islam is spreading widely in private discussions. ISIS religious fanatics are creating agnostics and atheists at an alarming rate.
Hasan (alias) is a thirty-something shop owner from Mosul’s East District. His plaint is becoming more typical:
I used to pray voluntarily without a gun pointed to my head. My prayers were sincere and heartfelt. Now, I wrap up my prayers as quick as possible, sometimes not even recalling what I recite. I’m occupied with my shop, which had already been looted once during a mass prayer. Instead of conforming to this ritual [of dropping everything and praying together], I could have performed my prayers in the shop. Any customer would see me, wait till I finished and perhaps buy something. Times are hard without wasting opportunities and as the call for prayer approaches I feel burdened by many grievances that are distancing me from Allah.
Scores of Mosul residents have abandoned going to mosques altogether and choose to pray at home to avoid ISIS. Hasan added: “There is a young man who lives around this area; an absolutely immoral perverted person so that I do not have enough bad words to describe with. He has joined ISIS and grown a long beard. Now he roams the market place fully armed. I see him and think, ‘if this lowlife represents Islam, then I no longer need this religion’—and then I quickly ask Allah for forgiveness.”
Ruaa, 35, told me she misses her “Christian neighbors as Christmas approaches. We used to visit them during their holidays. They were family and we were not able to offer them any help. I am ashamed of myself and my religion. I do not blame them if they hate Islam.” The most extreme statement came from Saad, a 29-year-old physician: “Our problem is with Allah. Every murderer, rapist, and thief speaks in His name and He does nothing. Do not tell me Allah exists. If He does, then He is content with what is happening. Either way I want nothing to do with Him.”
While atheism exists everywhere, what is rising in Mosul, and probably in Raqqa too, is a trend worth noting. When young people, once devoted Muslims, decide to stray from the Creator in anger, the future will bear the consequences. A young doctor told me he has become a heavy smoker and laughs about the extreme lengths he goes to just to get his hands on smoke after ISIS added cigarettes to its extended “taboo list.” He wrapped his amusing story with blasphemy: “If not only ISIS, but if Allah Himself comes down here to Mosul and tells me stop, I will still find a way to smoke.” This is a far cry from the man I used to know, who backed the Islamic Party in all national and local elections. ISIS is driving him crazy….