A former international student who renounced Islam has revealed she still receives death threats for leaving the religion and says hundreds of other women are living in fear.
Zara Kay, who moved to Melbourne in 2012 to continue studying information technology, renounced her Muslim faith after realising the religion she was raised with was, in her opinion, anti-women and anti-gay.
The 26-year-old founder of the Faithless Hijabi support group said there were hundreds of ex-Muslims in Australia, who live in fear of being killed.
An ex-Muslim woman living in Australia has described the hijab as a symbol of oppression and slammed political correctness for stifling discussion about Islam
‘Apostasy is punishable by death in 13 countries. It’s either Islam or death,’ she told her Instagram followers on Sunday.
She has stepped up her campaign to support people like herself, after Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was granted asylum in Canada, after fleeing to Thailand fearing her family would murder her for leaving Islam.
Ms Kay began wearing the hijab when she was a nine-year-old girl growing up in Tanzania, in east Africa, as a Shia Muslim.
She removed the religious garment as 18-year-old student at Monash University Malaysia, near Kuala Lumpur, after seeing Muslim women for the first time who didn’t wear headscarves.
‘The first time I took off my headscarf and posted a photo, I was abused,’ she told Daily Mail Australia on Monday.
Ms Kay has posted messages about being an ex-Muslim after Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (pictured) was granted asylum in Canada after renouncing Islam
‘I was told I was a sl**. I was called names for just not wearing the headscarf.
‘It was just my hair and I was told that if I get raped, it’s my fault because I don’t wear a headscarf.’
Her journey towards renouncing Islam continued in Melbourne, where she continued studying for a Bacheolor of Information Technology at Monash University.
The former international student, who last year became an Australian citizen, is now an outspoken critic of Islam and Sharia law, as described in the Quran.
‘To me, hijab is a form of patriarchy and oppression. And that doesn’t mean that every woman I see and I look at her wearing hijab is oppressed, it just means the covering itself is a symbol of oppression,’ she said.
‘It’s clearly mentioned about wife beating in the book. It is a sin for a wife to say no to a husband when asked to have sex unless she’s got her period.
‘Sharia law talks about how women need to be covered and there are some many laws, they don’t fit in this day and age.’
Last year, in western Sydney, Sunni fundamentalist preacher Nassim Abdi, from the Saudi-funded Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association said it was a sin for women to refuse to have sex with their husband.
Zara Kay (pictured), who moved to Melbourne in 2012 to continue studying IT, renounced her Muslim faith after realising the religion she was raised with was anti-women and anti-gay
Ms Kay left Islam after non-Muslims pointed out the religion was incompatible with modern values.
‘I rejected a lot of Islamic values such as hating gay people or forced hijabs,’ she said.
Fundamentalist Muslims also regard apostasy, or leaving Islam, as a sin deserving of death.
Daily Mail Australia in 2017 filmed Uthman Badar, the Australian spokesman for Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, declaring ex-Muslims deserved to be killed.
Some Islamic countries, like Pakistan, also have the death penalty for criticising Islam.
The 26-year-old founder of the Faithless Hijabi support group said there were hundreds of ex-Muslims in Australia, who lived in fear of being killed
As an ex-Muslim living in Sydney, Ms Kay gets death threats from Muslims on social media who regard apostasy, or renouncing Islam, as a sin worthy of death.
‘Ex-Muslims are scared to talk about it,’ she said.
‘A lot of the politicians haven’t even addressed our rights.
‘They’re scared of offending people.’
Ms Kay slammed the term Islamophobia, arguing it was used to silence people like her who had renounced Islam.
‘It puts us in a box where we’re like, “Why can we not share our experiences?”,’ she said.
‘If you’re going to shut us up, free speech should never be limited, especially when it comes to minorities and their rights.
‘We’re letting Islam have too much control over what we can and can’t say.’
She argued political correctness had overshadowed discussion about ex-Muslims receiving death threats.
‘There are things people can deal with in a mature way, having conversations and if that results in somebody’s feelings being hurt well guess what? I get death threats,’ she said.
Ms Kay slammed the term Islamophobia, arguing it was used to silence people like her who had renounced Islam
‘My life is at risk. I get cyber bullied and you’re talking about religious feelings.’
When she first renounced Islam, her school friends blocked her on social media and declared she deserved to be killed.
‘I had my childhood friends, my high school and my primary friends who said that I should be killed for having views that didn’t align with their views,’ she said.
‘It was definitely a shock. It took a mental strain.
‘It’s not even the physical threat, it’s the emotional abuse and the mental abuse.’
Unlike most ex-Muslims she has encountered, Ms Kay remains in contact with her family, and has support from a minority of Muslim friends who accept she is now an atheist.