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August 14, 2017 - 2:08pm

Muslim turned atheist settles in Batavia while seeking asylum in United States

posted by Maria Pericozzi in batavia, news, Zerin Firoze, religion, notify.

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Zerin Firoze grew up in Bangladesh in a secular family with a well-educated father, where 90 percent of the people in the country are Muslims.

She wanted to be like any other kid and use YouTube to listen to music, watch tutorials and study for school. But in 2013, YouTube was banned in her home country after an anti-Islam video was posted.

Firoze said something special happened to her that day. Shortly after it was banned, she watched an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslim” after some of her Muslim friends were sharing the video, asking for everyone to report it.

“After having a few conversations back and forth, I went back and read the Qur’an again,” Firoze said. “I used an adult mind this time and I was shocked. Something happened to me that day.”

Her new attitude toward Islam and problems at home set her on a path that brought her to Batavia for college and she hopes will eventually lead to Harvard Medical School.

Firoze was a high school student who started questioning Islam on social media.

“I sat up straight and thought, ‘What is happening in my country?’ ” Firoze said. “2013 was a turning point in my life. I understood that everything I learned about religions is false and man-made.”

She said she knew it was dangerous to question Islam on social media, but she did not stop. Overnight, she lost her Muslim friends.

“I did not know that my own Muslim friends and family that I have grown up with would try to kill me or harm me, just because I chose to question Islam,” Firoze said. “There are several passages in the Qur’an that instruct Muslims to kill non-Muslims. I didn’t want to kill Christians or non-Muslims because I have loving non-Muslim friends and they’re amazing.”

It's been a year since Firoze came to the United States and settled in Batavia.

She has applied for asylum in the United States because she would be killed by Islamic extremists or jailed by the government for speaking out against Islamic extremism.

“I would love to go back to my home country, but I would be killed,” Firoze said. “I don’t think it will change in the next 10 years. It will not get better. It will get worse.”

After speaking out, Firoze received death threats from multiple terrorist groups in Bangladesh. Her name was on a death-threat list from one of the terrorist groups.

“My country is supposed to be a secular country,” Firoze said. “It’s still secular in the Constitution, but a majority of the people happen to be Muslims.”

Firoze said they don’t understand free speech or secular values.

 “You cannot call a country secular, then have a state religion,” Firoze said. “It makes no sense.”

When Firoze’s father found out she received death threats from terrorist groups, he told her to get out.

 “I fought with my parents a lot and I could no longer take the abuse at home,” Firoze said. “I got in touch with more secular friends from Western countries. I started documenting my miserable condition.”

Firoze received a head injury from her father, which gave her a speech impediment. She told her friends she was forced to drop out of school and was locked in her room. She was not allowed to go out or do anything.

“My mom and dad said they could not keep an outspoken atheist at my house,” Firoze said. “My dad threw me out many times for me wanting an education.”

Her dad was highly educated, so Firoze never understood why her dad denied her education.

“I expected a lot more from my family,” Firoze said. 

After her condition continued to get worse, her friends in the United Kingdom set up a GoFundMe to try to rescue Firoze from Bangladesh, after she began receiving daily threats from Islamist terror groups.

“At the time, it became too dangerous for me to stay in Bangladesh,” Firoze said. “I had started receiving rape threats and death threats just for saying something on my own Facebook page.”

It took Firoze almost two years to obtain her five-year visa to the United States, after being denied by the United Kingdom and Sweden for her single marital status, lack of ties to her home country and lack of funding.

Once in America, Firoze began to adjust to the American life. For the first time, she used public transportation by herself, wearing a short skirt.

In Bangladesh, Firoze said women could not take the bus or train alone because they would be harassed, kidnapped and raped. Women are also expected to follow conservative Islamic dress codes, wearing a burka and veil.

“My mom and my aunt started taunting me to be more modest,” Firoze said. “All my high school friends started wearing burka and hijab. I was expected to dress like them and be like them to fit in. I never cared about fitting in.”

The malls in Bangladesh stopped selling jeans, skirts and Western outfits. Firoze was told she should wear the hijab, but she said she finds the concept degrading and insulting.

“So many of my friends and girls in my country are burned and beaten to death, for not wearing the head scarf,” Firoze said. “The hijab is a symbol of oppression.”

One of her best friends in high school was forced into an arranged marriage, which is common in Bangladesh. According to UNICEF, 66 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, and one-third of girls are married before the age of 15. The legal minimum age for marriage is 21 for boys and 18 for girls.

“I raised questions about her marriage,” Firoze said. “I said let her study. Allow her to complete her high school at least. I was the only one brave enough to stand up for her.”

At that point, Firoze was struggling to complete her own education. She was told that because she was a girl, she did not need to study.

“That gave me the courage to speak against Islam, to speak against child marriage, to speak against terrible things happening in my country,” Firoze said. “In 2013, two famous atheists were killed in my country; my country was becoming more Islamic.”

One of her online Bengali atheist friends survived an attack with long-lasting neck injuries after being known an atheist blogger, while another atheist did not.

“In my home country, you can get jailed just for saying something on your Facebook page,” Firoze said. “Ordinary people like you and me have said something on their Facebook page about the government or Islam and they got jailed for it -- or for sharing a cartoon or meme.”

Firoze said there are more important issues that should be dealt with.

“People in my country don’t have access to healthcare or food,” Firoze said. “People are living in the streets. There are so many bigger issues in my country, and the government is after YouTube and Facebook.”

Terrorism has something to do with Islam, Firoze said.

“I have seen this with my own eyes,” Firoze said. “My classmates, friends, they became more radical. They became extremists after going to the mosque regularly. I have seen this in my own family and community.”

Firoze attended a secular school from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., would have lunch at home, then have Islamic classes from 4 until 6 p.m. She said her mom sent her to Islamic classes to “receive her moral values.”

“I started disliking Islamic school from a young age,” Firoze said. “It was horrible.”

While atheists in Bangladesh have used pseudo names, Firoze has not.

“I am different,” Firoze said. “I have used my real name and my real face. I have spoken against Islamic extreme groups for the last three years with my real name and picture on social media.”

Firoze hopes to be a U.S. citizen in the near future and to attend Harvard Medical School to be a doctor. She started a Skeptics and Secular Humanists Club at college and hopes to spread secularism in the world.

“We must criticize and reform Islam,” Firoze said. “We must protect the rights of Muslims, especially under the Trump Administration. Books and ideas do not have rights. Humans have rights. We must fight Islamic extremism from a place of moral strength and unity, instead of using far-right xenophobia, racism, and bigotry.”

Firoze would like to start a secular club in Batavia if she finds enough like-minded secular or agnostic, atheist people in Batavia. If you would like to collaborate with Firoze, contact her via Facebook.

If you would like to support her efforts, click here.

Candace Bower
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I am glad she was able to escape islam and their anti women feelings. Rather than forming an atheist club, please give Christianity a try. I invite you to the Presbyterian Chuch in leroy on Sunday's at 10 pm. secularism discounts the power of prayer and the strength of Faith

John Roach
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Good story

alvin tufts
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Candace that is like asking her if she would like to be in another abusive relationship.

Scott Chismar
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Wow. What a story. I am not sure that I have seen anything like this on TheBatavian before. It makes me question the motives for publishing. Clearly, the article could not be more anti-Muslim, which is downright shameful. Maybe a future article will be on someone that converted to become a Muslim and is now happy? Maybe, but I doubt that to be the case. I wish this woman all the success in the world and hope she goes on to Harvard and becomes a Doctor. I do highly doubt that TheBatavian has helped her cause much. As many of us mourn the tragedy in Charlottesville, I am thinking the Trump/Collins loving people in the area will not be so welcoming. A Muslim turned Atheist in the GLOW area is not likely to have the welcome mat thrown her way. And even scarier, those that do throw out that mat will be folks like Candace who may mean well, but just will never get it. Good luck to you Zerin. The Trump/Collins agenda and those that support it will not be kind to you. Sadly, you are surrounded by the majority that think their way.

Kyle Slocum
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Scott, you need to get out and actually talk with your neighbors. Your perception of how we feel and what we believe appears to be what you have been told to believe by your betters in NYC and the other anthills. Your neighbors welcome immigrants. Legal immigrants who follow our laws and seek a better life under our constitution.

Your neighbors are not the evil racists you have been instructed to believe them to be. Your neighbors are not your enemy. Go outside. Talk to people with an open mind. Avoid knee-jerk reactions and Insta-Offended tm Triggering reactions that you have been conditioned to have. It's the only way that you can actually grasp what is happening around you.

Do you really think that the narratives that you are being fed make any sense in the actual world you live in? Have you really just given up on figuring this out and surrendered your agency to whoever makes the most noise?

Who are you going to believe: The narratives of people who want to dictate what you are allowed to think or your lying eyes?

Kyle Slocum
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As to Charlottesville, racist and fascist idiots legally got a permit to demonstrate. Other racist and fascist idiots decided to show up and counter demonstrate with weapons in hand. Really. The national press and democrats, but I repeat myself, ignored the latter and tried to blame the former on their political opponents.

Watch the actual videos. It was not what you think it was. It was racists and fascists kicking the heck out of each other and I have only one question: Why is the national media and the democrat establishment supporting one of the sides? Nobody I know is.

Maybe I have a better quality of associates than the national media and democrat establishment. That's my working theory.

Ed Hartgrove
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"According to UNICEF, 66 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, and one-third of girls are married before the age of 15. The legal minimum age for marriage is 21 for boys and 18 for girls."

So, in Bangladesh, 66% of the girls are married illegally?

Candace Bower
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Wow..such hatred. Has she ever experienced the love of Christ? I am a feminist so I resent your simplistic views , Alvin and Scott. My brother and best friend were murdered and the strength of my faith got me through those tragedies. I am not a republican nor conservative.. I doubt that athiests ever feel this feeling of faith and love. Sorry you are so full of hate

Candace Bower
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Wow..such hatred. Has she ever experienced the love of Christ? I am a feminist so I resent your simplistic views , Alvin and Scott. My brother and best friend were murdered and the strength of my faith got me through those tragedies. I am not a republican nor conservative.. I doubt that athiests ever feel this feeling of faith and love. Sorry you are so full of hate

Zerin M Firoze
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Scott Chismar How is this article anti-Muslim? Seriously, learn to differentiate between "ideas" and "people". Just because atheist criticize Christianity, Islam and other religions it does not mean we are anti-religious people. Being anti-Islam and anti-Muslim is not the same thing. I have explicitly stated that we must criticize and reform Islam just like Christianity had enlightenment and reformation and we must also protect the rights of the Muslim minority. I get criticism from both the left and right. The far left would call me racist, Islamophobe for trying to criticize my birth religion and the far right would consider me a closet Muslim for opposing Trump and far-right lunacy. Stop conflating ideas with people. Religions like Islam and Christianity are not above criticisms.

Zerin M Firoze
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Scott Chismar Lastly, The Batavian had NO motive or interest behind publishing this piece. I have just joined The Batavian recently and I was invited to share my interesting story with fellow Batavians. The incident that took place at Charlotte is very unfortunate and took place just before my article was published. This article is NOT anti-Muslim. This article is anti-irrational ideas. All organized religions are man made and irrational. Period.

Zerin M Firoze
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Candace Thank you for the invitation. Yes, I have studied Christianity when I was in high school. It is equally nonsensical. I have read Torah, Old Testament, and New Testament, Quran, and Gita. Both Christians and Muslims are silly for being creationists. Sorry, I am not joining another harmful, evil cult. I also do not believe in prayers. Faith by definition is believing in things without evidence. Yes, I heard anecdotal stories from both Christians and Muslims. How faith and god gave them strength to overcome a crisis. I am not impressed by anecdotal evidence. The gods described in the scriptures do not even exist. The creation story and virgin birth story is a fable plagiarized from ancient religions. God is just a figment of your imagination. When you are praying you are just talking to yourself. Prayer is the just placebo effect at work.

I am a scientifically literate and educated person. I embrace science, reason, rationality, secular values, and humanism over anti-women, homophobic, bigoted, anti-science, violent organized religions. Lastly, atheism is not a religion. An atheist group would promote rationality and secular values and would fight organized religion and pseudoscience. Both church and mosque have opposed Evolution, science, gay marriage, abortion, women rights etc and I find it immoral to associate myself with any organized cult.

Scott Chismar
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Zerin, you only have proved my point. This original article will be read by the bulk of the Batavian's readership as "Great, that poor girl escaped Islam". Now that you have further expressed some very rational viewpoints on religion, the folks like Candace will certainly sing a different tune to you. Instead of welcoming you to her Church, she will just think that you are another one that just can't understand the world because you happen to disagree with her.
I have no idea how you ended up in Batavia but it is an interesting choice for you. There are some amazing people in Town who I consider dear friends. Sadly, there are many more like Kyle in the area that proudly support the Trump/Collins agenda. Take a poll of folks when out and about and listen to what people are saying. I can guarantee you that most, like Kyle, will somehow actually think the counter protesters in Charlottesville are somehow at fault. Like the silliness of Trumps words, there is somehow talk of blame of fault being on "both sides" in Charlottesville. There is a wrong side of standing up against racism and hatred of the proud KKK and Nazi thugs that converged on Charlottesville to preach hatred? This crew shares much of the same agenda of Trump/Collins. Trump started the entire Birther nonsense regarding Obama and residents of GLOW bought into it. Many STILL believe this. Flip on talk radio, or Fox News and just listen to what is being said. Look at the election results in the GLOW area. The voters overwhelmingly select the Trump/Collins agenda, and on a Local level there is Hawley who just issues press releases and blames Democrats for anything that someone may not like.
I would like to reiterate that I wish you well in Harvard and on your ambitions to be a Doctor. But I think in order to really understand the GLOW area you need to know what is here. We are surrounded by an Institutional System of Racism here in the country and it is nowhere more evident than in GLOW. You sound very bright and it will not take you long to see this. It may get confusing at times when the same people that are demanding that a wall be built to keep the immigrants out of the country are the one taking advantage of these same people to work their farms here in GLOW. Then there are folks like Candace, who claim to be a Feminist and says I am full of hate and it is sad that I can not feel love because of not knowing Christ. Oh my, well I am a true Feminist and as I volunteer my time to help support women maintain a safe, available right to choose, I am confronted by those who yell hate and religious chants while wrapped in their rosary beads. Candace, I know love and understand that people of all faiths and beliefs can experience it. Sadly, by your own admission, people must subscribe to your way of thinking to really know love. Lastly, Kyle, I would like you to know that I can guarantee that I have experienced more of this great country than you ever have nor will. And ironically, my next door neighbor happens to be Muslim, and my best friend of 50 years is as well. Back in the old days, the uniform required a sheet for a hood. Kudos to TheBatavian for posting real names. We now know that Kyle Slocum thinks that the peaceful protesters in Charlottesville are somehow responsible for the tragedy. Get used to this mentality Zerin because you will need to understand it and deal with it to survive.

Kyle Slocum
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Scott, watch the videos. Actually go and look at the videos. If you want to claim any of those idiots as yours, go ahead. Then look at the other Anti-Fa and BLM riot videos from the last year or more that are out there. As I wrote before "It was racists and fascists kicking the heck out of each other". If you want to declare solidarity with any of them, go ahead.

Charlottesville was an Identity Politics Forum and everybody came to make a presentation. That is what happens when you can only see the world through the prism of your identity group. It requires the afflicted to hate anyone unlike them or who disagrees with them. You must dehumanize the other in order to justify your "specialness" and "enlightened" status. It goes a long way to explain your hatred of your neighbors. It's prejudice and it's ugly and evil just like any other variety.

Whatever you think of me and whatever pejoratives you feel you need to ascribe to me to make you feel better about yourself, have at it. But they have no meaning. I will continue to live my life and deal with the people that I meet as individual human beings, they are my peers. They are no better and no worse than me except by their actions.

Candace Bower
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Zerin . I am sorry you feel that God is a figment of my amagination and prayers don't work. You are 200 percent wrong and I have witnessed it first hand. Because of your youth and lack of experience in life , I will only say that I hope you change your mind before you become a doctor. Scientific studies have proven that prayers do work.

To the 2 goofballs who want to argue about Trump...no comment

Jason Crater
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I don't have an opinion either way but I'd be interested in reading about scientific studies that prove the power of prayer.

Links?

Kyle Slocum
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Candace, only one of the goofballs mentioned Trump. That is not what this is about.

Scott Chismar
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Thanks Candace, you have proven my point. I rest my case.

Julie Morales
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Scott, I agree with you completely.

Jim Urtel Jr
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I would like to see the scientific facts that prayer works as well!

Michael Bishop
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Add me to the list of those wanting to see the scientific facts too, from a reputable source.

Candace Bower
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Here are just a few..
U.S. journal of Gerontology. Tested 4000 patients . Athiests had an increase of dying over a 6 year periods than believers
SanFrancisco General Hospital. 393 cardiac patients. Half were prayed for, half not . Those prayed for had
Fewer complications, less pneumonia, needed less drugs and went home earlier
Journal of Public Health...u of Texas. 2006. Those who went to church, live longer
Duke University Dr Koenig. 1500 patients 60 percent had better physical and emotional health
Scientific AMERICAN Dr Friese and Dr Wanke. Published same results from Experiential Social Psycholgy.
Southern Medical Journal....similar results
Many more..

Tim Miller
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Candace - please supply links to the studies you are referencing... should be interesting reading.

If the links are sites that are pro-prayer, I hope they have links to the actual studies and how they were performed.

Candace Bower
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Access these links via Google via "studies which prove prayers are effective" There are many more studies which I did not cite. There are many books which discuss it too. Visit Barnes and Noble. The sites I provided you are scientific sites. Such as Scientific AMERICAN and other Journals of Medicine. My training is a Masters in Counseling.

Tim Miller
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Candace - extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Please provide links. You're making the wild claims - you supply the links. Making extraordinary claims and saying "you can look it up" (or in this case - "Google it") is not a valid answer.

Please supply direct links to legitimate sites. Don't bother with sites associated with Ken Hamm ("people and dinosaurs existed together!"), Pat Robertson ("land masses moving didn't cause the earthquake in Haiti - it was their bizarre religious practices of 150 years ago") or that Graham scion. Charlatans of their ilk are not trustworthy sources.

Candace Bower
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Sorry I have not cited any religious articles, as a social scientist, I used hard evidence. There is not time nor space to list them here and , with your underlying pessimism, it would not do any good. These are not extraordinary clams . Almost every church has a prayer chains for a reason. My brothers life was saved by power of prayer according to his Dr. I am not an evangelist or a creationist so just spare me your sarcasm.

Jim Urtel Jr
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ll I can tell you is I go to dialysis 3 times a week for the last 5 years and I have seen a lot of suffering by a lot of people and many are no longer here! Even a 34 year old nurse who was dedicated to helping her patients was here one day and dead within a year of cancer. Where was Jesus for all of these people? Sorry but I think he was on vacation!

Tim Miller
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Candace - you've not cited ANY articles. You've simply declared "there's proof!" and told us to go find it. This has become a waste of time, and I'm done with it.

-----(Silly attempt to lighten up the mood of this chain)-----
So Jesus and Moses are up in heaven, and as they are two guys with time on their hands they are out in a row boat fishing, chatting about the old days.

Moses gets quiet, then asks Jesus "J - do you think we still have it? Can we still do the stuff we used to do?"

Jesus responds "well - I guess there's only one way to find out!"

So Moses stands up and spreads his arms. Sure enough, the lake's waters split, just like they did way back when for him.

After the waters return, Jesus says "my turn" and steps out of the boat. KERPLUNK! He goes right under. Sputtering, he climbs back into the boat, quite exasperated. "I have to try that again." Step. Splash!

Jesus climbs into the boat again, wondering to Moses "what is going on?"

Moses takes one look and declares to Jesus "no wonder you can't walk on water any more! Look at those holes in your feet!"

(rimshot, please)

Julie Morales
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Here, I’ll help:

http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/prayer-health-faith-medicine/2015...

The entire article makes repeated unsubstantiated claims while asserting, “There’s a lot of evidence out there,” without providing any.

Tim Miller
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Thank you, Julie.... I saw "newmax" and felt my blood pressure rising, but then read the rest of your post and had a good chuckle.

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