I want to say, “No, I don’t come to Jumu’ah[1] because I’m an atheist.”

Hello. I’ve been following this website almost since it was created, and I think it’s very successful work. I hesitated writing here – I didn’t write because the topic was headscarves. I wanted to send a message, saying that there might be men who are suffering from similar issues, but I didn’t want to cross the line since it is about women’s issues. Later, I saw your announcement for the Open Corner and thought that I could write, but I didn’t as again I didn’t see any letters from men. Now I decided to write. Let me start with why I decided to write now…

It is Friday today and I’m at the workplace. My coworkers will go to Jumu’ah in a few minutes, I will go with them as well and I’m an atheist since high school. I’ve been working as an engineer in a public institution for seven years. I graduated, couldn’t find a job for a long time, and chose to work in a public institution rather than staying unemployed. In my first days at work, my “Hello” would be responded with an “As-salamu aleykum[2]” by my boss. Not only by my boss, by my coworkers as well. I didn’t really care at the beginning since I was new there, but as time passed, those who went to Jumu’ah started saying things like, “You’re not going to miss this week too, will you?” In time, this turned into a half-joke and half-threat: “There are others for the job, at least it will be someone devout.”

I never told that I’m an atheist, I just wanted to remain quiet, look like someone who is simply not devout. I gave in to my boss, who would pat on my shoulder during the Jumu’ah time and say, “Let’s go, no man remains at his job at this time.” I didn’t want to lose this job which barely saved me from my bad financial situation. When we mandatorily gathered together in lunch or business meetings, jokes about me being single would be made. How my house is dirty, how I don’t have a wife to clean it, how I long for home-cooked food…

          These may seem like friendly talk but every time, I feel very deeply that a way of living is imposed upon me and my way of living remains quiet against this. I’m so sick of feeling this invisible pressure every day. Sometimes I suddenly leave when we’re chatting and go to my desk because I worry that one day, I will get too smothered, say everything that comes to my mind, and be fired. I’m not doing well psychologically. I read the letters of women here – my problems may seem insignificant next to theirs. I’m not subjected to physical violence from my family, I’m not subjected to their financial threats. I’m not being forced into marriage. But I feel like I’m experiencing the same societal pressure. The “advantage” of being a man is that it is less severe.

I want to say, “No, I don’t come to Jumu’ah because I’m an atheist.” Moreover, I don’t want to be invited to Jumu’ah. I don’t want their views on women to be imposed on me, as if that’s the way it should be. I want to say to their faces, “You see women as an inferior human species that are maids and cooks. I can’t accept this. I’m not considering marriage; I live as a single man. I consume alcohol.” But I’m afraid of losing my job and the fear of not being able to find another is overwhelming me so much that I don’t have the courage to do this. I’m tired of listening to the Jumu’ah sermon with my boss. I’m tired of the morning salat[3] messages in the WhatsApp group. I’m tired of saying “As-salamu aleykum,” as if one can’t say “Hello.”

[1] In Islam, Jumu’ah (“Friday” in Arabic), is the holiest day of the week in which special congregational prayers are offered in the afternoon.

[2] A greeting in Arabic that means “Peace be upon you.” It is a religious salutation among Muslims when greeting.

[3] Prayers, that are performed five times a day.

Translator: Leto

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