In conversations regarding the lack of representation of ex-Muslim voices, I’ve come across a lot of people willing to guess at and speak for ex-Muslims. When I ask that they let the actual ex-Muslim in the conversation (i.e. me) speak, I’m told that I don’t represent all ex-Muslims.
Well, yes. But frankly, at least I’m not a never-Muslim speaking completely out of my arse.
At the conclusion of last year’s SSA West Conference, some of us were called onto stage to talk about a person we were happy to have met as well as something we were taking home with us from the conference. I mentioned an ex-Muslim student I had met. I also mentioned how happy I was that there were more and more people like him popping up as competition for my speaking slots as an ex-Muslim.
Though the phrasing of the latter part of the statement was tailored to elicit laughter (and it did), I really did, and do, mean it. I don’t want for me or anyone to be considered the ex-Muslim. I want for the rich and varied tapestry of views, backgrounds, and experiences that I am privileged to witness every day with the EXMNA group to be something of which not only EXMNA members are aware. I want for everyone to know that we ex-Muslims are people. Not props for one argument or another, not tragic and pitiable caricatures, not tools of “taqiyyah” or “Zionism”, but fully-realized, multi-faceted human beings.
I’m very much in agreement with the statement that I don’t represent the views of all ex-Muslims. Indeed, I cannot. Just as I oppose the myth of the ex-Muslim monolith, I am not a fan of being positioned as some kind of mouthpiece for all apostates of Islam. I’m happy and proud to be among an ever-growing number of known, named, and out ex-Muslims. I’ll be even happier and prouder when more and more of our voices are represented, especially on matters that are about, for, and by us.
Until then, when I see someone trying to speak for us or over us, I will do my best to be heard and, if feasible, have others be heard. I will not allow people to guess at how we might feel and excuse it by pretending as if their voice is equal to mine on ex-Muslim matters. I will not stand by as never-Muslims position themselves as the mouthpiece for a group with a history of being silenced by both Muslims and non-Muslims.
I may not represent all ex-Muslims, but for now, at least I can represent a single ex-Muslim. When it comes to the representation of marginalized groups, one is far, far more than none.