Coming Out

I remember myself as young as 6 years old, going to the mosque to pray, standing, kneeling, and eventually putting my forehead to the ground. I was supposed to be talking to God. I opened my eyes and I saw nothing but the beautiful Persian rug on which I was praying. I closed them and I saw nothing but darkness. I tried to listen for anything, but there was nothing but silence. I slowly turned my head, sneaking a peek at the adults praying next to me, and trying to find out what was going on. I saw them rubbing their foreheads against the rug just like me, and whispering some prayers to something distant I couldn’t see. I turned my head back and closed my eyes forcefully, trying to focus, trying to find it, but again, there was silence.

I kept going to the mosques. I became zealously religious and wanted to fight for a god I couldn’t find. I kept trying, to no end. Then, I woke up to the horrors of religion. I saw how my Muslim faith was the agony of many. How it oppressed women, Christians, Jews, gays, and even myself. I tried to refuse it, but I was refused. I was rejected by my own family. I was jailed and tortured by my government and eventually forced to escape my homeland for my life.

I tried again as an adult. I went to churches, synagogues, alters, forests, and many other places. I sang hymns and recited prayers. I looked but I saw nothing. I listened but I heard silence. Sometimes I thought I heard something, I turned my head, but there was nothing. I recited the Lord’s prayer, the Shmaa, waiting for something, but there was nothing. In April 2018 I went to Jerusalem on StandWithUs trip. They to the Western Wall. I stood there marveling at its beauty and looking at thousands of believers mumbling words I understood yet I couldn’t comprehend. I decided to try again. I went to the wall, touched it, and cried. “Please God, if you are there, let me know now because I need you!” And again, I was met with the brutal and cruel heavenly silence. I walked away angry and resentful. I decided to once and for all give up. I didn’t just give up but I became a staunch atheist. I decided there was nothing. I made fun of faith. I ridiculed my believing friends, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and all. I listened to Hitchens masterfully crafting his words to be spears and swords in the side of that being which I never felt. I got high on the words of Sam Harris calming me and assuring me, I’m right, there is nothing but nothingness.

Here I’m, 30 years old, and moving on with my life. And as I expected, it wasn’t the end of the world. Nothing happened! My life just went on and no god interfered, except for now. I was sitting in my couch in my living room and listening to music as normal, then I thought I felt something. I thought I heard something. I had that weird feeling I wasn’t alone, that I was being watched. I stood up and looked around, and there was nothing. But it was still there. I felt it in everything around me, something I can’t describe. I was overwhelmed! What is it?! Is this you, God? I don’t know! I sat on my carpet on the floor and looked around and everything looked normal, yet felt different. I decided to kneel like I used to do as a child. I placed my forehead on my carpet and shut my eyes, then there it was, staring right into me. Something faceless, yet with a thousand face.s Something silent, yet with endless voices. Nameless, yet with all the names. I got scared! I opened my eyes and I saw the patterns of the prayer rug I prayed on with I was six. My mind knew that was impossible as my apartment now has plain carpet, but that it is what I saw. I even felt my innocent mystified six-year-old self looking around in curiosity not understanding what was happening. My heart started to go up and my breathing was out of control. I got scared! I shut my eyes, and here it was again, staring right into me. I opened them and I see the prayer rug. I shut them and I see it. And back and forth and back in forth. And at that moment I realized, there is nowhere to escape. There is nowhere to go. There is no hiding and there is no running, and all that was left is just for me to accept and to give in.

How did it become that in the American world, God is the most uncomfortable conversation you can have with anyone. Believing in God is like a dirty secret that you keep for yourself so you are not judged or brutally ridiculed. “God is just another fairytale!” became the ethos of our culture and or civilization. Or better yet, “God is dead!” But today, I come out. Today I come out to all my friends, my family, my readers, and to myself. Today I say, I believe! I believe in God!

About the Author
Hussein Aboubakr was born in 1989 to an Arab Muslim family in Cairo, Egypt. Hussein studied Jewish and Middle Eastern history and Hebrew literature at the Faculty of Arts and Oriental Studies Department at Cairo University. Persecuted by state police for his research at the Israeli Academic Center of Cairo, Hussein participated in the Egyptian revolution until he was forced to depart Egypt as a political refugee. He now lives in the United States. He is a member of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa an organization based in San Francisco.
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