Saturday, 15 Dec 2018

The story of a American man who fled from his family in Kenya after being gay and an atheist


Mahad Olad Mahad Olad -  Mahad Olad was in a hotel room in Nairobi - Kenya while looking at his mother. She holds two articles from a student newspaper in New York.

In the first article, Mahad, 19 yo, says that he is an atheist. In the next article, he confessed that he was gay.

His mother - a Somali Muslim - can not tolerate it. His mother will send him to a group of shaykh (tribal leaders). His mother thinks that Shaykh Somalia would reform him. Restoring him to the community. And made him a devout Muslim.

Mahad has read about gay conversions in Africa. But he was happy being gay. He was happy to be a former Muslim.

He nodded, smiled, and told to his mother that he would do what she said.

Then, after his mother left the room, Mahad made a phone call. From the hotel room, he called an Ex-MNA member in Minneapolis, the American city where he grew up. The group contacted the US embassy in Nairobi.

The embassy is on United Nations Avenue in Gigiri, a large neighborhood house and a blue pool. Hotel Mahad is only 10 miles away from Eastleigh, a Somali area known as Little Mogadishu.

Embassy staff don't travel there.

MNA-MNA spoke to their Somali members, who spoke with their contacts at Eastleigh. Taxis are late at night arranged. Now, Mahad had to slip away without being seen.

Mahad was in Kenya with his mother, brother, sister and two nephews. His passport was in his mother's room. He crept in, picked it up while she slept, and went downstairs.

Nervously, Mahad went outside. He found a taxi, goes in, and leaves his mother.

At the embassy, ??he shows his passport to the Kenyan guard, and goes inside. Finally, he was in the American territory.

A US adviser awaits him. He interviewed Mahad and let him live in his home, in a gated complex. When they came out, an armed guard came with them.

Four days after reaching the embassy, ??Mahad left Kenya with tickets that paid by Ex-MNA. After three flights, he arrived in Ithaca, New York, the city where he goes to college.

It was May 31, 2017. He had never seen - or talked to - his family ever since.

Mahad knew when he started to leave Islam. The explosions, and the shouts, and the terrors, are hard to forget.

He was born in Kenya in 1997, after Somali parents escaped from civil war. In 2001, the family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

When he was 13 or 14 yo, they returned to Kenya for about a year. Mahad enjoyed it. He went to a madrasah - an Islamic school - and did not question his religion.

And then, in September 2012, the grenade was thrown.

"It happened just a few meters from me," he said. "They attack a church, I really have to sacrifice myself for my life."

The Islamists threw an explosion to Sunday school. One child was killed; three serious injuries. That night, Mahad heard a Muslim cleric preach from a pulpit."

"He said the attack was justified," Mahad said. "He is basically a Wahhabi Salafi preacher [an ultra-conservative form of Islam]. It wasn't uncommon for him to say these things."

"That's when I realized this is the form of promoted faith, this is the goal of Islam. And if all these theories about Islam being inherently connected to violence are true, then I don't think I can consider myself a Muslim."

When his family returned to Minnesota, Mahad read widely. He learns from online or takes a library book, and reads the books in secret.

"What reinforces my unbelief is reading the atheist literature, showing myself to secularism," he said.



"I would read Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, such people, so I started to get a vocabulary for what I feel."

As quoted from the BBC, discovering Ex-Muslims of North America - who, at the time, existed only on Reddit, an online forum - was also influential.

"That's when I realized there was a community of people who had this problem too, and they went by the name of a former Muslim," he said. "I do not even think about that term, I do not know it exists."

Around the same time, Mahad realized he was gay.

"I think one of the reasons I started questioning religion was because I felt I could not reconcile the two, I do not believe there is a place for me, as a gay person, to be Muslim."

Mahad's father was a religious teacher at a madrasah; His mother works for a nonprofit organization. Mahad is a teenager split between two cultures.

"Being openly gay, openly atheist, against my culture and my religious background," he said. "It's not something that parents and family members can accept."

Mahad is the second youngest of seven children. He is not close to his sibling. But he's open in school.

In his spare time, Mahad was a student activist: American Civil Liberties Union. When he left high school, his mother wanted him to go to college nearby. Instead, he chose Ithaca College, 1,000 miles east of New York state.

"They are not trying to stop me - they just do not want me to leave," he said. "They say 'If you have to go, you have to go.' So I went. "

After his first year in Ithaca, his mother said that she visited Kenya, and asked if he wanted to come. He would be back, he said, on August 30th.

"I did not plan that summer - no interns, no jobs, nothing," he said.

"I might as well go back to Kenya, I was there when I was 13 years old, I was really nostalgic, I was like, 'I want to visit this place again'."

Mahad thought it was a day off. He even had time to plan a tour of East Africa - Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, probably Somalia.

And then, the day after they landed, his mother came to his hotel room. He brought two articles from his student newspaper.

Mrs. Mahad can not even read the article: she does not speak English. Somebody in the Somali community who went to school in Minnesota showed it to her, and translated it.

Mahad is now in his second year of political science and history. He hopes to work for a nonprofit when he graduates; perhaps a lawyer.

"Even when I walked outside on campus, I felt physically unsafe," he said.

"I feel someone will come and attack me"

Then why did he choose to speak?

"I hope to start a dialogue," he said.

"These things are not exclusive to Somalis - they happen in different cultures - Muslim families who feel their children are demonstrating their perverse behavior.

"I want to vote to the noiseless This happens a lot - but people do not talk."







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