Nik J. Gray is the Co-Founder of the Society of ExMuslims Australia. Here we talk about her life, views, and work.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, e.g., geography, culture, language, religion or lack thereof, education, and family structure and dynamics?
Nik J Gray, Co-Founder of SEMA: My family is a bit different from most Muslims as I am the child of a convert. My family are very religious Islamically and I grew up along the eastern coast of Australia as well as temporarily living in Somalia.
I didn’t have much of an education growing up as my family didn’t believe that an Australian/Western Education was acceptable instead was homeschooled from a religious perspective. I do not have much to do with my family as they can not accept my apostasy.
Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated?
Nik J Gray: I was not able to obtain my high school graduate until after I left home. I tried to study at university but due to the lack of support from government agencies, I was unable to continue to study and work.
After a few years, I obtained a few certificates in Business Management. Informally, I read anything and everything I can get my hands on.
Jacobsen: What are the central issues facing ex-Muslims in Australia?
Nik J Gray: A distinct lack of understanding and support from not just general population but government agencies. I left home in 2011 and many ExMuslims are still facing the same issues that affected me. We are constantly silenced when we try to speak up on any issue that may affect us as being islamophobic or racist.
Jacobsen: Are there some issues ex-Muslim women face that ex-Muslim men do not, and vice versa? What are they?
Nik J Gray: As an ExMuslim woman I definitely had issues adjusting to a world where men and women mixed. I was timid, shy and didn’t know how to do anything such as catch a bus, find a job or pay bills.
I think this is an issue that can affect perhaps ExMuslims of both genders however perhaps more women as we are often kept more isolated from the outside world versus our male counterparts.
As a woman I can not say much regarding the issues that exMuslim men face but they do have their own hurdles they must jump.
Jacobsen: What are important allies in the efforts to protect, provide asylum for, and give community to ex-Muslims in Australia?
Nik J Gray: Currently the only support ExMuslims in Australia seem to be recieving is from the Secular Party of Australia and Progressive Atheists. Beyond that most organisations seem to be silent, but that can also be a lack of awareness due to how secretive the ExMuslim community is in Australia.
Jacobsen: What writers and thinkers most accurately articulate the concerns of the ex-Muslim community?
Nik J Gray: I think that most ExMuslim activists on Twitter such as Yasmine Mohammed, Armin Navabi, and Ali Rizvi are all doing great work when it comes to the concerns of exMuslims.
Jacobsen: Moving into 2019, what the targeted objectives of “Society For ExMuslims Australia”?
Nik J Gray: Right now we are just aiming to be a face of ExMuslims in Australia with the hopes to be able to provide a network of support groups for ExMuslim Australia wide in the coming future.
Jacobsen: What are some of the heartwarming as well as tragic stories that you’ve encountered with ex-Muslims?
Nik J Gray: Every ExMuslim story I hear breaks my heart a little bit. It is a terrible thing that in the 21st century we have people fearing for their lives not just in Muslim countries.
For myself personally, the heartwarming stories I encounter are when people tell me that they finally feel free. Every ExMuslim story is a tragic tale that sometimes ends in joy, and sometimes in misery.
Jacobsen: How can people become involved through the donation of time, the addition of membership, links to professional and personal networks, giving monetarily, exposure in interviews or writing articles, and so on?
Nik J Gray: Society of ExMuslims Australia is still in its grassroots stage. We are all volunteers who are taking time out of lives to dedicate to the void that is missing in the ExMuslim community in Australia.
I have always said when asked what can other people do to support exMuslims and I respond with; Listen and Share our stories through whatever means you can.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?
Nik J Gray: I just hope that one day an organisation like SEMA won’t have to exist because people can leave Islam without fearing losing their family or even their lives.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time.
Nik J Gray: Thank you.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.