muslims in africa

After moving hundreds of miles away from home for college, I was looking forward to taking a vacation with my family the summer after my first year. My freshman year of college had been especially hard, both from being far from my family and all the stress that typically comes with starting college.
My decision to pursue postsecondary education in New York came with the price of leaving my family behind. It was emotional and tumultuous. I, like many first-generation students from an immigrant background, struggled to reconcile two frequently opposing forces: family membership and educational mobility. So when my mother invited me to go on a vacation to Kenya to visit our family I thought this would be a good chance to spend some time together, reunite with family we hadn’t seen for a while and have fun. Little did I know that my mother had other plans in store for me.
I hail from an extremely conservative Muslim background, but over the past years, I had recognized that I didn’t consider myself Muslim anymore. Not only did I have to hide from my family that I was an ex-Muslim, but also that I was gay.
We are Somali by ethnicity, but my family fled to Kenya before I was born. We immigrated to the United States when I was young, but not all of our family was able to come to the United States. This wouldn’t be my first time going back to Kenya, so I was looking forward to seeing family and spending some time there.
We arrived in Kenya in late May 2017. The first night we arrived, my mother told me this would not be a summer vacation. She told me that I would not be returning back to the United States at the end of the summer as planned. She asked me to withdraw from college so that I could be placed under the control of a group of sheikhs whose goal would be to make me Muslim and straight again. Somehow my family had found out my secret and had prepared this elaborate ruse to get me to Kenya.
Similar to the philosophies of gay conversion therapy in the United States, there are those within the Muslim community who will utilize abusive tactics to try and “take the gay out of me.” Even though my mother “asked” me to go, I knew that this wasn’t really a choice. A few sheikhs were at my hotel that night. They briefly spoke to me about how being gay and atheist is unequivocally against my Islamic upbringing and African heritage. I knew that when they came to take me away the following morning, I would be forced to go.
I was quite aware of the horrors of these gay and religious conversion camps. The leaders operate the conversion camp around grim parts of Somalia and Kenya. They subject the captives to severe beatings, shackling, food deprivation, and other cruel practices. Women and girls are forced into marriages, have FGM performed on them and are barred from accessing education.
I had to get out immediately. I was without access to money or even my passport, so I needed assistance. To buy myself some time, I told my mother that I would be willing to go along with her plans. I told them I was going for a walk, and then I reached out to members of Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA).
I was put in touch with Muhammad Syed, the president of EXMNA, who instantly reached out to the United States Embassy in Kenya to see if they could help me escape. I was told that if I could take a cab to the Embassy, they could shelter me and help me figure out how I could get back to the United States.
In the middle of the night, when everyone was asleep, I stole my passport, escaped from the hotel and made it safely to the Embassy. It was literally the scariest moment of my entire life. One mistake and everything would be over.
Thankfully, the Consul General welcomed me into his home until we could figure out what to do. The next problem was that I had no place to go and no money to get back to the United States. I couldn’t go back home because that’s where my family lives. The Consul General reached out to various folks to see if they would be willing to host me until I get things figured out. Luckily, they were able to find a place for me. EXMNA was generous enough to pay for my airfare back to the United States.
Once back on U.S. soil I felt a measure of relief. Both the FBI and local police are keeping an eye on me and, while I have begun to feel physically safe, emotionally the nightmare still isn’t over. At 19, I now have no family. Even family who had nothing to do with this scheme aren’t talking to me.
Their rejection and treatment of me have left me beyond devastated. It has left me seriously questioning who I am and whether I deserve to be treated this way. The loss of their love and support, both financial and emotional, won’t be easy to get over.
While I’m lucky to have close friends who have offered their love and support, it does absolutely nothing for the hole my family ripped into my heart. I know what they did to me was horrible and wrong, but they are still my family and reconciling with them will take time.
While I’m working through all of this on a personal level, I know that I want to do everything I can to prevent this from happening to others like me. I have been meeting with the State Department and others to discuss what can be done to stop this barbaric practice, which is all too prevalent
Gay conversion therapy in and of itself is exceedingly abhorrent. It is still used in the United States and while it can’t alter someone’s sexual orientation, it certainly scars them for life. Suicide rates are extremely high for people who are forced into these conversion camps. However, these sorts of camps operate in complete secrecy in parts of Africa. The fact that homosexuality is still illegal in most of Africa makes these conversion camps even crueler.
Unlike conversion therapy in the United States, the ones in East Africa (and other Muslims dominated regions) aren’t commonly reported on or talked about. We don’t have exact numbers of how many young people are forced to go to these camps, but we know the numbers are growing. Many of the people held captive have similar stories to myself. Their family immigrated to the United States, and their family brought them back to Somalia or Kenya to force them into these re-education camps.
I am lucky enough to be over eighteen, a U.S. citizen, and have a large support network, so it made it easier for me to get out of this horrible situation. Not everyone’s that lucky. That is why I’m sharing my story. I’m sharing it with you all so you could know that this shit still happens. I’m sharing it so that the U.S. and other governments can do what they can to protect the vulnerable youth of Muslim backgrounds whose parents abuse them in the name of religion and culture.
I don’t know if I will ever be able to have a relationship with my family, but I am thankful that I am alive. For now, I am taking it one day at a time.
Thanks for reading.
—  universe01

Ellen DeGeneres presented this Muslim refugee with a check for her student debt

  • On Friday’s episode of The Ellen Show, DeGeneres read a letter from Muslim refugee Ekhlas Ahmed, who shared her story of coming to the U.S. unable to learn English and eventually learning the language by watching DeGeneres’ daytime show and transcribing everything she said.

  • DeGeneres brought a tearful Ahmed, who is now a graduate student, activist and high school English teacher, onto the stage to speak with her after reading the letter Ahmed wrote to her. Read more. (2/18/17, 1:53 PM)

Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, worked as an analyst-programmer for the Quebec government. “He  had two young children who waited in vain for their father to return home,”

Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, was originally from Morocco and emigrated to Quebec City to attend  Laval University. He was known as a backbone for newly arrived Muslims. “He was almost like the president of the community. He helped and guided all the people who arrived here – students, families,” said a member of his Moroccan community group.

Khaled Belkacemi, 60, was from Algeria. He received a master’s in chemical engineer from Université de Sherbrooke and was a professor at Laval University.

Boubaker Thabti, 44, was a pharmacy worker from Tunisia who lived only 5 minutes away from the mosque. He had two children, ages 3 and 10.

Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, and Ibrahima Barry, 39, were friends and civil-servants from Guinea that lived in the same apartment building, but were not related despite sharing the same last name. Ibrahima Barry worked for the health insurance board and had four young children, and Mamadou was an IT worker who left behind two sons.

I want every news org to put this fact front and center when writing about the shooting.


Malcolm X and Maya Angelou in Ghana, 1964.

Malcolm X on his last visit to Accra had announced a desire to create a foundation he called the Organization of Afro-American Unity. His proposal included taking the plight of the African-Americans to the United Nations and asking the world council to intercede on the part of beleaguered blacks. The idea was so stimulating to the community of African-American residents that I persuaded myself I should return to the States to help establish the organization. 

We all read Malcolm’s last letter to me.

Dear Maya,

I was shocked and surprised when your letter arrived but I was also pleased because I only had to wait two months for this one whereas previously I had to wait almost a year. You see I haven’t lost my wit. (smile)

Your analysis of our people’s tendency to talk over the head of the masses in a language that is too far above and beyond them is certainly true. You can communicate because you have plenty of (soul) and you always keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground.

I am enclosing some articles that will give you somewhat of an idea of my daily experiences here and you will then be better able to understand why it sometimes takes me a long time to write. I was most pleased to learn that you might be hitting in this direction this year. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful woman. You know that I will always do my utmost to be helpful to you in any way possible so don’t hesitate.

Your brother Malcolm 

(Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s memoir A Song Flung Up To Heaven)

إن أهل الجنة إذا دخلوا الجنة
و لم يجدوا أصحابهم
الذين كانوا معهم على خير في الدنيا
فإنهم يسائلون عنهم رب العزة ، ويقولون:

When people enter Paradise and don’t see their friends who were with them in this world, they will ask Allah:

” يارب لنا إخوان كانوا يصلون معنا و يصومون معنا لم نراهم.“

“Oh Lord, we do not see our brothers with whom we used to pray and fast with.”

فيقول الله جل و علا:

So Allah will say:

“اذهبوا للنار و أخرجوا من كان في قلبه مثقال ذرة من إيمان.”

“Go to the fire and take them out even if they had an atom of faith in their hearts.”

و قال الحسن البصري - رحمه الله -
[ استكثروا من الأصدقاء المؤمنين فإن لهم شفاعة يوم القيامة.]

Hasan Al Basri (R.A) said:

“Increase in making friends who are believers as they will intercede for you on the Day of Judgement.”

الصديق الوفي هو من يمشي بك إلى الجنة.

A loyal friend is he who walks with you to Paradise.

قال ابن الجوزي رحمه الله:

Ibn Al Jowzi (R.A) said:

“إن لم تجدوني في الجنة بينكم فاسألوا عني فقولوا:
يا ربنا عبدك فلان كان يذكرنا بك!!!”

“If you do not find me amongst you in Paradise, then ask for me and say: Oh our Lord, so and so servant of yours used to remind us about you.”

وأنا أسألكم إن لم تجدوني بينكم في الجنة
فاسألوا عني.. لعلي ذكرتكم بالله ولو لمرة واحدة.

Therefore I ask you, if you don’t find me amongst you in Paradise, then ask for me. Even if I’ve mentioned Allah to you only once.




احذروا من كسر القلوب!

Beware of breaking hearts.

ربما تكسر قلباً يحبه الله.

Perhaps you may break a heart that God loves.