Response to Heina Dadabhoy and Sadaf Ali

I read a May 25th, 2014 article by Mark Oppenheimer in the New York Times about two women named Heina Dadabhoy and Sadaf Ali. Both are ex-Muslims, and they have been receiving a lot of press attention recently.

First of all, let me say this: the amount of press that these “ex-Muslims” get is just ridiculous. They had a whole show done about them recently on HuffPost Live, and have had similar attention in Europe (many have been exposed as liars, such as Ergun Caner). If the media truly wants to be fair about this, we demand that converts to Islam get the same amount of attention. There are over 3 million Muslims in the US, 23% of whom are converts. That’s 690,000 people. 15% of the converts are ex-Atheists, which is 103,500 people (source). This is many orders of magnitude greater than these “ex-Muslims,” so for that reason we demand equal media attention for ex-atheist Muslims. Or ex-anything Muslims for that matter. Their stories are just as “painful” as Heina and Sadaf’s, they were just as stigmatized by friends and family, and had to face just as much adversity if not more.

Anyway, you can read the article about Heina and Sadaf here. I will quote parts of it, and write my thoughts/responses after the quotes.

“It was incredibly painful… The sense [my family] got was where [sic?] I was turning my back on them,” Ms. Dadabhoy said. Her parents accused her of thinking that she was better than her grandparents and other ancestors. “You think what you have is better than what we have? You think you’re like those white people,” Ms. Dadabhoy recalled them saying.

Subhanallah! This is incredible racism. Islam is NOT a race; there is NO contradiction between being white and Muslim. All Muslims should endeavor to build peaceful relations with everyone, and not antagonize others as being “those ___ people.”

The article then talks about an organization called “Ex-Muslims of North America,” and one of its co-founders, Sadaf Ali:

During childhood, she said, “I was always fairly defiant.” As she grew older, she struggled with depression, and she thought that praying more and reading the Quran would help. She became more religious and looked forward to a traditional life. “I thought my life was sort of set out for me: get married, have children,” Ms. Ali said. “I might go to school. I’ll have a very domestic life. That’s what my family did, what my forefathers did.”

This is what happens when un-Islamic cultures get mixed with Islam. Many cultures in Muslim lands force a “domestic life” upon women – cook, clean, take care of kids, etc. In fact, even mosques are generally closed to women, which is a direct contradiction of a statement of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Also, the Prophet ﷺ’s own wife (Khadijah) was the most successful businessperson in all of Arabia – so who said Muslim women should lead “domestic” lives? Anything but! Alas, cultures inherited from jahiliyyah often pretend to be Islamic and force these kinds of things upon unfortunate women.

But as a university student, her feelings began to change. “As I started to investigate the religion, I realized I was talking to myself,” Ms. Ali said. “Nobody was listening to me. I had just entered the University of Toronto, and critical thinking was a big part of my studies. I have an art history and writing background, and I realized every verse I had come across” — in the Quran — “was explicitly or implicitly sexist.”

“Nobody was listening to me!” The Muslim community needs to hang its head low for this one. Critical thinking IS an important part of the Islamic tradition, and many Islamic scholars and philosophers have written about the role of intellect. Indeed, there are dozens of verses in the Holy Qur’an which emphasize the role of critical thinking and reflection. See this article for more information on the subject.

As far as women’s rights are concerned: unfortunately, misogyny is rampant in the Muslim world today, but this is a result of cultures not Islam like I mentioned above. Islamic jurisprudence does not treat men and women exactly the same – because of natural, unchangeable differences between men and women (“And the male is not like the female,” 3.36). So we could say that Islamic jurisprudence views men and women as “equal but not the same” – i.e., equal before God, but not exactly the same in every aspect of worldly life.

Islamic legal philosophers emphasize that it is considered injustice to treat two things which are not the same, as being exactly the same. It is an injustice to both. For a long but thorough presentation of further material, with details from Islamic texts, see this lecture. Or for a shorter intro to the topic, see this interview.

“So in 2009, I realized there probably is no God,” she said. “What is so wrong in having a boyfriend, or having premarital sex? What is wrong with wanting to eat and drink water before the sun goes down during Ramadan? What is so wrong with that? I couldn’t handle the cognitive dissonance anymore.”

Wait a second – there’s PROBABLY no God? I thought atheists were so sure there wasn’t! I can see the doubts creeping in; she’ll be taking her shahadah again soon In Sha Allah :).

As far as the “what’s so wrong with ____” reasoning goes, here is my attempt to answer it: Everything, every place, every website, every situation has rules and regulations. Naturally, life does too. If we don’t follow these rules then there are consequences, just like there are in other aspects of life. This is why it’s a huge fallacy to leave Islam because you, for example, want to have sex with your boyfriend. It’s not rational at all; it’s purely emotional. It’s like jumping off the roof of a building because you didn’t like the rule that says “no running.”

When Ms. Dadabhoy ‘came out’ to her parents, “it didn’t go so well,” she said. “They reacted the way they knew how, which was to freak out. They had never heard of anybody leaving Islam. We were raised with the idea you can’t leave, that nobody can leave. Leaving Islam was something somebody incredibly deranged would do. Or if forced at sword point or gunpoint…” For a time, Ms. Dadabhoy’s parents took her to imams, hoping to talk her out of her apostasy. “And they would just give me tautological beliefs,” she recalled. “‘You are blessed to be born with Islam.’ And I would say, ‘But if I had been born a Christian, you’d be saying the same thing, but for Christianity.’ Once I spent four hours talking with this imam, and his conclusion was, ‘Just have faith because you should have faith.'”

This is utterly shameful. I’d really like to talk to this Imam or the woman’s parents, since it seems like they don’t know much about the rational foundations about Islam. For a very in-depth analysis, I’d see this audio: In all seriousness, if Mr. and Mrs. Dadabhoy or the Imam are reading this: please contact me either in the comments or on Twitter. I’ll give you my email, and God willing I can help you better handle the situation.

As far as proof is concerned: EVERY religion, every ideology, every belief system must present proof and evidence for it being true, and should not be accepted only on blind faith or by accident of birth. Consider the following quotes from the Qur’an:

  • “And whoever invokes besides Allah another deity, he has no proof thereof.” [23.117]
  • “Or have they taken gods besides Him? Say, ‘Produce your proof.’” [21.24]
  • “O mankind, there has come to you a conclusive proof from your Lord.” [4.174]
  • And there are many more which I can provide if you are interested.

God Himself points out proof for His existence in the Qur’an. Thinking, reflecting, using reason, pondering, and above all being sincere in trying to reach conclusions will lead us there.

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” [3.190]

Jazakumullah Khairan, Thank you for visiting my blog.

وصل اللهم على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه وسلم

Assalamu alaikum,


PS – If you liked the article, please share. Also, let me know your thoughts/questions in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “Response to Heina Dadabhoy and Sadaf Ali

  1. I knew Heina at college (University of California- Irvine).

    I do agree that she has (in public and in her personal life) gone to some very big extremes when it comes to religion, sex, drugs, viewpoints on marriage/civil unions, political rights, etc. For a lot of people, including myself, it was hard to be her friend and eventually me and others could not, simply because these things were so extreme and she was outspoken about her beliefs.

    If it helps, know that she does these things not to rebel against a community, get back at her family, or hurt others (as some people do). Rather, she is simply trying to express herself and her ideas, no matter how unbounded they are.

    You could always debate with her; but, she is a little too sharp (whether that means in intelligence or personality) for me to be able to keep up with.


    1. Thanks for your comment.

      Did you see how she responded to this blog post on Twitter? She went totally berserk and was sending me a tweet every 20 seconds… my Twitter skills aren’t even close to being good enough to reply. You can go on my feed, go to “with replies,” and scroll down to June 4 to read the conversation (if it can be called that) – and note the timestamps on her tweets. I don’t tweet that much so it shouldn’t take that long to find it if you want to.

      It’s cool that you knew her in college. Was she always like this, or did she become like this at some point? People change a lot in college, I guess.

      I started at the University at Buffalo (UB) last fall and I noticed a lot of the professors try really hard to get their students away from religion. One biology professor tore apart (figuratively) the Book of Genesis in the first week, and my history professor, when covering Islam, talked about nothing but why he believed it wasn’t true. A lot of students believe their (the atheist professors’) rhetoric and become atheists, and others hold on to their religion albeit with a significant amount of cognitive dissonance. Still, I have never heard of somebody believing in it as *passionately* as Heina seems to.

      But people don’t stop changing after college either… a lot of Muslim guys are hot-headed fundamentalists during college/youth years, but then they settle down later and become more tolerant. Age and experience will probably create a little more nuance in her beliefs, hopefully. But the media attention, as well as the huge amount of support she is receiving from the atheist community, certainly aren’t helping here.


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