Working for my people has been my dream since childhood. Having lived in refugee camps and gone through many hardships as a child in , I always believed I had a responsibility to help my country and my people that I could not disregard, especially given the prevailing situation there.
Armed violence is so intense that people have lost all traces of hope for an ordinary life, for a future. In the past few years, hundreds of thousands of my countrymen have fled in search of brighter prospects, and for those who have chosen to stay, there is an atmosphere of uncertainty and mistrust that has obscured their minds.
I have no real attachment to any faith but humanity
When I was a teenager, I left Afghanistan to study both my bachelor and master’s degrees abroad, determined to return to my country after graduation to fight a devastating social evil: entrenched corruption. That’s what I’m doing now. I love my job, my friends and my family, and I enjoy going to the countryside to meet local people.
But there is a huge divide between me and the people I call my own. For many years now, my opinions about religious beliefs have dragged me away from what society says I am bound to follow. Truth be told, in recent years whenever I have tried to bow my head in obeisance, I have inwardly felt a strange sense of doubt, which I no longer want to suppress. I have no real attachment to any faith but humanity. I wish to treat every human being as equal, irrespective of their religious preference. Sacrificing my married as well as social life for my job, I have come too far now to look back.
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Just because I was born a Muslim doesn’t mean I should remain confined in its clutches. I refuse to. Of late, even the mention of hardcore religious groups makes me feel agitated and anxious. I am no longer tempted by the outward calm of such religious communities. Rather, I feel increasingly concerned about the volcanic accumulation of outrage within the growing youth bulge in these societies.
I have arrived at the conclusion that religion secludes people from one another in a world that is getting smaller and more connected than ever. I no longer feel it is just to discriminate people based on their sexual orientation, religion or for wanting to eat during Ramadan. But the context in which I live and work is fortified by people who are ready to sacrifice their present and future to blind faith.
Whenever I go to the countryside to do community outreach work, I have to start the meeting with a recitation of the Qur’an, and during conversations I have to support my arguments with texts from religious scriptures. Deep down I feel guilty of deception. I have often wondered that if I gave a complete account of the insights and experience I have, would the community still need my interpretations of religious scriptures to persuade them that a piece of development work was worth doing? I’ve never shared these thoughts with my colleagues or the people we work with. I don’t think they’d understand.
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In a country I grew up in and for which I have deep convictions and where I want to help people, I feel like an outsider. While the urge is strong within me to reveal my true self, I cannot share my ideas about religion with anyone as it would come across as disrespectful to those I work with.
Ultimately, more development can be achieved in these communities if I keep my head down than if I antagonise the people I came to help.