This piece follows Aurelia’s publication of I Am An Ex-Muslim. I Fell In Love With a White Man.

I have spent so long hating every single one of you. I've hated you because of your willingness to let me go because I'm different, because I want to live my life with someone you disapprove of, because I don't believe in the same things you do. Every time you insisted that Islam is unconditionally forgiving and accepting, I despised you more—it's been neither forgiving or accepting of me. It’s taken me a painfully long period of time to get my head around the fact that you all love the idea of me, but aren’t willing to accept who I actually am.

Life with you was claustrophobic. I hated the fact that I couldn't wear what I wanted because it meant that I apparently had no respect for myself. I hated being told that I couldn't be with someone that I love deeply because he was a white non-Muslim. I hated being forced to partake in religious practice when I didn't believe in any of it. I hated being at family gatherings and listening to you all spew hatred and vitriol about people who were different to you. I hated your willingness to be so closed off to the country you live in, shutting it out completely. Mostly, I hated that you demanded equality but refused to behave with the same attitude towards other people. I hated that you preached love and acceptance but left none available for me. I hated the way you treat women as second class citizens; I no longer have a place left in my heart for your double standards.

I hope my cousins remember that we grew up fighting for our freedom together. You taught me how to spin intricate lies so I could escape for a few days and not get caught. We smoked and drank together, we spent hours coming up with plans so we could spend weekends in London meeting up with guys. I covered for you when you went away to see your boyfriend. I kept quiet when I saw you leaving a shisha bar, holding hands with an English girl. I helped you come up with a decent enough lie for you to go to Amsterdam with your friends. The same things that you'll leave me for, we've done together. At least I've been honest about who I am.

Recently, I’ve gotten tired of hating you. It’s worn me out. I thought it made things easier but eventually I realised that it made me just as bitter and hateful as you. And that's just not who I want to be. I don’t want to be consumed by hate, it’s not who I am. You all did a lot for me, and I will always be grateful for that. Especially my mum, who made sacrifices that only a mother can make for her child. It’s just that when it comes to loving me for who I am, none of you are willing to do so.

And that's okay. I'm loved properly now, and I will always love every single one of you. I'll always want the best for you, whilst doing the best for myself. I'll be here if you need anything. I'll look after the kids, I'll be there when you're sick, I'll answer the phone when you're sad. I hope one day your hate and confusion will give way to something softer, something less entangled with feelings of prejudice and hatred. I hope you'll come around—welcoming me back into your lives with full acceptance—but I won't wait for that moment. If it never happens, I won't let it hurt me. I'll just carry on building a beautiful life with my new family.

I hope one day you’ll realise that I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m finally happy and content with my life. Truly. I go to work, I come home and spend time with my fiancé and our family. I draw, I write, I go to concerts with my friends. My fiancé and I are planning an interrailing trip and, eventually, our wedding.

I don't cover my hair. I don't pray five times a day. I don't believe in Allah or any other God. I drink alcohol, I smoke, I wear dresses and skirts. None of that makes me a bad person, it just makes me different to you. It also makes me happy and, most importantly, free. I haven't brought shame to the family and I haven't dragged your name through the mud. I'm just living my life the way I intend to. I hope one day you’ll all want to be a part of it. However, I will always wish you the best if you don’t.