IAmA 21 yr old Muslim girl who wears the headscarf but has led a double-life kept hidden from my family for the last 3 years.
I am 21 years old and was bought up in a moderately religious Muslim family. My mother wears the burkha and is extremely religious. She is very spiritually connected to God and encourages the whole family to be more religious but she is not violent or forceful. My father is quite strict but he is more culturally inclined (Pakistani) than religiously.
I am the eldest child and have had to fight for pretty much every ounce of independence in my life that most Westerners would not have to worry about e.g. going to college, going to university. Once I started university, I was not allowed to live there. I had to endure a two hour commute (four hours altogether to travel there and then return on a GOOD traffic day) four days a week for three years.
No one at my university knows I am a Muslim. I remove my headscarf and change my clothes. I kept this up for three years and graduated with a first class honours degree in Medicine. At home, my parents have no idea that whilst at university; I have changed a lot. I've become more confident, better-read (obviously) and I have come to the conclusion that there is no God. When the holidays roll around, I do not see friends or go out. I'm not allowed to leave the house or even work outside of my small town (a 'suburb' of [BLANKBLANKBLANK] I guess you would call it in American terms!)
None of my friends (all are from university and live all over the country or outside the country) know my home address, home number or home situation. I've never once partied with them or done any of the normal student things because I have always made excuses. They have no idea. In their minds, I'm very well-read, very studious and hardworking and the last person on earth who would have a religious faith (mainly because I have become more and more hardline atheist over the last three years).
I'm planning on doing a PhD in [BLANKBLANKBLANK] but my family have no idea. They do not support me in my career ambitions and I am pretty sure their long-term view is that I will settle in my small town, allow myself to be coaxed into some marriage and work at the local Walmart. I plan to leave without telling them. I just had to share this somewhere.
Oh, and before any Muslims rebuke me or call me a disgrace - understand one thing. I made a consenting, informed choice to leave my religion. The fact of the matter is, my parents are Muslims and they use the name of Allah to keep me chained to them and to make me submit to their plans for my life. This is not what the religion preaches but this is how some people who mix up culture and religion go about these things and my parents are an example. They would never support me not wearing a hijab (head covering) or saying I don't believe in God. It's all or nothing for them. They also have never understood me or my educational aspirations or my career aspirations. I've grown up feeling incredibly isolated and alone and I do not blame Islam or Muslims for any of it. Religion is a card many people play in order to justify crap.
UPDATE 4: As people have been asking me to tell more stories, I made a blog - http://uncovered2011.wordpress.com I will probably update that daily. I find it a more organised and coherent way of talking about my story and issues. Reddit is a bit confusing and often very repetitive!