Stephanie converted to Islam at the age of 19. Her non-practicing Catholic family generally supported her decision, and by 21 she was married to a Muslim man hailing from Libya.
Together they immersed themselves in Islamic teachings, gradually increasing their observation of Islamic obligations and becoming more involved in the local Muslim community.
Through the years, Stephanie continued to broaden her Islamic knowledge, delving more deeply into the Quran and the Hadith. However, her studies led her down an unanticipated path –as she learned more about her faith, questions and doubts arose. Finding answers led to more studying and she soon found herself increasingly unable to reconcile what she understood to be morality and reason with the teachings of Islam.
As Stephanie started questioning and voicing her doubts, her husband became increasingly hesitant at the idea of raising their two daughters in a Canadian/North American environment, with a mildly practising mother (who was by then a closeted disbeliever). Preferring not to voice his opinions, he eventually found a way to convince her to accompany him with her daughters for a short visit to his family, and in 2009 they left Canada for Libya.
This brief trip, however, was meant to be an extended one. Stephanie’s husband admitted to having never meant for his daughters to return to Canada. Stephanie was unhappy and strongly disagreed with the way they were raising their daughters in Libya, but found that under Libyan society and law, she had little control over their upbringing. Taking advantage of the general chaos caused by the uprisings, Stephanie took her two daughters and attempted to leave Libya by plane. Her husband found her before she could board, and after her failed attempt, was no longer allowed to spend any unsupervised time with her children. Libya was now a prison.
Distraught and alone, Stephanie fell into depression. In late 2011, her husband urged her to visit her family in Canada. He claimed her mental state was apparent to all and negatively impacting their children. A visit to Canada would raise her spirits, and when she returned, her happiness would be healthier for her girls. After a few months of discussions on the topic, she agreed somewhat reluctantly, knowing he was correct that her state of mind was having an effect on her girls.
However, as soon as she was safely out of Libya, her husband unveiled his new plan to her: he would not allow her to return to their daughters unless she relinquished her custodial rights entirely. She refused, knowing that if he had full custody her daughters would never have a chance to return to Canada, and he chose to illegally retain their two daughters in Libya.
Today, Stephanie lives with her father, working and struggling to cope with the loss of her children. She joined Ex-Muslims of North America for support and sharing the difficulties of being an Ex-Muslim.
Conversions to Islam appear to be rising – as do the number of people who leave the religion altogether. In an ever-shifting landscape of faith – what are the forces pulling people in, and which drive them out? Stephanie and Muhammad will discuss how social aspects of Islam fulfill necessary human needs and desires while […]