I left Islam because of the reaction to 9/11 among Muslims. I read a lot about Muhammad, sharia, politics and current events for three years afterwards -- the increased knowledge reinforced my decision.
I started blogging in December of 2004 to share my experience and thoughts. Finally on September 11, 2005, I wrote about my apostasy.
Soon, I came to realize that my freedom was only temporary. You see, I am a citizen of Pakistan and my residence in Canada was based on a study permit. Eventually I would have to go back.
Could I say that Islam is the Greatest Thing EverTM; lie about my core beliefs; follow the religious rituals blindly without believing in them; praise Muhammad at every opportunity -- in essence, could I not rock the boat in Pakistan?
Yes, I could live as a slave but I didn't want to. In April 2006, I became a refugee claimant in Canada. I naively decided on a DIY approach. I filled out the forms, did the research and provided numerous supporting documents.
Then, in August 2006, I received a letter which asked for my attendance at the Immigration and Refugee Board, so that the time for the hearing could be set. (See this post for the details about that atrocious day.)
Right after I posted about my experience, many of my friends in the Blogosphere brought attention to my situation; numerous bloggers linked to my case; a donation button was set up; online supporters narrowed down legal help in my area; within a week I had made an appointment with a lawyer and in less than two months enough money was donated for the legal fees.
I removed the donation image but for many days afterwards folks still came over asking how they could help!
There were a few meetings with my lawyer in late 2006. He would ask me questions to get me ready for the hearing.
"Who do you fear in Pakistan?"
The Pakistani state and the public.
Because of the writings on my blog.
"But no-one knows who you are. You've used a pseudonym."
That assumes that I can go back and keep my beliefs to myself. Government forms (for example, the passport application) specifically ask for one's religion. And religion is woven in as a serious and integral part of society. Five prayers a day, fasting and worshiping Muhammad are part of normal life. When such matters come up, I will not lie.
"You can write your thoughts on the blog as Isaac Schrödinger and not worry about Islamic fundamentalists in real life."
So, you're saying that I continuously lie in my real life to get along.
"Sure, why not?"
My dad worked in Saudi Arabia for many decades. Every time he filled out application forms from Pakistan, he fibbed. He is an Ahmadi. Yet on every occasion, he refused to identify himself as one. There is no dignity in that.
And so on it went.
I had been sick in late December. My energy levels were close to zero on Christmas day. Fortunately by January 1, 2007 my physical strength had returned.
It was 4 a.m. on January 4. I had trouble sleeping. My brain was crunching horrible "What if?" scenarios. I told myself to not think about anything. After a few minutes, I was disturbed by the fact that I wasn't thinking about anything.
Somehow around 5 a.m. I did get to sleep. I woke up at 9 a.m. and started to get ready. I put on my suit, saw myself in the mirror and morbidly laughed. It looked like I was going to a funeral.
Along my route was a Church which had a big clock. 11 a.m. struck as I was passing by it. "Great, a soundtrack for my situation." The sounds did add an eerie touch. I looked up at the Church. "What beautiful weather! I can look up." I spent over ten years in Saudi Arabia where, because of the searing sunlight, I kept my head down.
Soon, I was in the hearing room in the heart of Toronto. The judge and I sat on the opposite sides of the room; in the middle-right was my lawyer; on my middle-left was a Refugee Protection Officer (RPO) and an RPO-in-training. The hearing started shortly after 1 p.m.
I stood up, raised my right hand, took an oath to tell the truth and said my full, real, name.
My lawyer started the questioning. We went over my history and how I came upon asking for protection in Canada.
The judge stopped us and asked, "What's a blog?"
I explained the whole concept. After a few minutes, it was time for the RPO to cross-examine me.
The judge, my lawyer, and the RPO all had copies of my applications and supporting documents. I was to answer questions without anything in front of me.
The RPO was establishing a timeline and so questions of a simple nature were initially asked. "When did you come to Canada?", "When was the last time you were in Pakistan?" and so on.
"I see here that you were asked to name your relatives and you didn't list your parents. Why is that?"
Uh-oh. I asked, "Where did I not list my parents?"
"Here in question four, it says list your relatives, in part iii. it asks for father and mother. Why didn't you list them?"
My mind started scolding me...how could I forget such a simple thing...we've just scratched the surface and already I am being perceived as an incompetent buffoon... but, wait, I had photocopied the blank application, filled out the copy, double-checked it and then completed the real form!
My lawyer had opened the same page. After asking permission, I looked at the form. "4. List your relatives, ... iii. Father, mother and any guardian if you are under 18 years of age."
"I am over 18," I replied. "So, why would I list my parents?"
"No-one has brought that point up," said the judge.
"It's confusingly worded," said my lawyer.
"Let's move on," said the judge.
"Yes, of course, let's," I thought.
The questioning by the RPO can be "energetic" but what followed made the RPO, in essence, a prosecutor.
I often tried to elaborate my answers by a few sentences to provide more complete and accurate responses. However, the RPO was interested in "Yes/No" or a few words. Period.
For example: The RPO asked, "Have you seen a "letter to the editor" that is anti-Islamic fundamentalism in a Pakistani newspaper online?"
"Rarely. The reason fo-"
"Again, you're not answering the question."
"Yes, I've read such letters."
"I think he should be allowed to elaborate," said my lawyer.
The judge agreed.
The RPO asked, "What do you mean by rarely?"
"Once in a blue moon."
I shouldn't have said that, I thought. I added, "Remember that anyone in the world can send a letter to the editor of the online Pakistani newspapers. The sender can use a fake name and/or city, and from what I've seen the writers are often living outside Pakistan."
The RPO, quite unexpectedly, wanted, what seemed to be, an off the record conference without my presence. My lawyer questioned why I had to leave. The RPO had to talk about a credibility issue. I was told to wait outside for a few minutes. My lawyer gave his consent.
I stood in the quiet hallway.
"Credibility issue?" That's what it all comes down to. One person will decide my fate in a few hours.
I looked back over the heavy years: Do I regret starting my blog? Would I take anything back? Hell no!
I thought about the occasion: A birthday like no other.
My lawyer opened the door and let me in.
The RPO started to ask me about a few posts that I had submitted. I went over a comment left by a luminary in Distilled Evil.
I am a Muslim who has seen the truth about the jewish lies, and has realized Qur'an and Sunnah provides a perfect testament against the nature of your people.
Suddenly, I'm Moses.
We also talked about "No Compulsion". The RPO was going over each part methodically. Eventually, the RPO asked, "What's LFG?"
What a great blog, I thought. "That is an acronym for a blog called Little Green Footballs."
Then, I ALMOST blurted out, "You don't know the terrible secret of LFG" to explain why I affectionately use that incorrect short form.
"It's one of the most popular blogs in the world," I only added.
The RPO also asked me about life in Pakistan. "Can't you live in some place in Pakistan where you can be safe?"
"Do you know the word "secular"?"
"Can't you live as a secular Muslim in Pakistan?"
"I agree with the first part, the secular part, but I don't agree with the second. I don't want to behave like, and live as, a non-practicing Muslim or a secular Muslim when I'm not a Muslim!"
That was by far my most animated and passionate response.
Then, it came time for the two sides to summarize their views. The RPO provided a mixed and lengthy conclusion. It wasn't completely negative nor positive.
My lawyer, however, provided a most concise and brilliant summary. He mentioned the recent history of Pakistan and Daniel Pearl.
He said that, "Why can't he ask for protection from the Pakistani government? How can he when the state itself criminalizes his views!? Look at Ordinance 295."
He went on to provide numerous examples from human rights reports.
"If he were to go back to Pakistan, then he would be in deep trouble."
There was some humor when once referring to me, my lawyer said, "Mr. Schro-," and then he corrected himself.
The judge asked for a few minutes to go over the evidence. The RPO asked for leave. The RPO-in-training left as well.
It was about 4:44 p.m. We had a 20-minute break at around 3:15 p.m. at which time I grabbed a bite. So, we had been in session for close to three and a half hours. The time had come.
The judge talked about the examples of persecution. The judge was very aware of the horrible conditions in Pakistan. Furthermore when talking about my views, the judge said, "I think these are your core beliefs -- what you say comes from the heart."
Then it hit me. The RPO, the in-effect prosecutor, had been a blessing in disguise. I had been brutally hammered for three hours and instead of falling apart, I held up.
"When deciding upon such cases, we have to look at a minimal level of danger and following the recent rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan, I think there is that danger for you."
"Accordingly, you are a Convention Refugee."
I closed and opened my eyes, "Thank you."
The superb lawyer and I exited the room and shook hands.
"Go and celebrate."
"It will be more of an online celebration," I said and then I thanked him.
There was a cool breeze, the hair got untidy, the tie was on my shoulder. My eyes tend to get watery in such circumstances. While crossing the road, I looked to my right and saw the CN Tower -- a solitary tear went down my right cheek.
"Oh, it's the wind."
Schrödinger's Army of Davids: Members of the Blogosphere, the folks who opened their wallets to help a total stranger, the netizens who tracked down legal help, my lawyer and finally the countless Westerners who wrote many words of support.
Special thanks to these blogs:
- Adam's Blog
- All Things Beautiful
- Captain's Quarters
- Chicago Boyz
- Discarded Lies
- Free Constitution
- Gateway Pundit
- Gulf Coast Pundit
- Gus Van Horn
- Infidel Bloggers Alliance
- The Jawa Report
- Mind Safari
- Night Studies
- Old Controller
- Old War Dogs
- Power and Control
- Protein Wisdom
- Right Truth
- Small Dead Animals
I have been granted something very precious and for this I'm grateful.