From NYTimes: Woman opens up about her resurrection after years spent as one of the living dead
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The daughter of a Tunisian mother and an Algerian father, Ayari was raised in Normandy as a non-practicing Muslim. When she was 21, in a search for identity, Ayari was lured into a French Salafist sect tied to Saudi Arabia. Her new masters obliged her to don the head and neck to toe body-covering veil and tunic known as the jilbab, and sometimes she wore the niqab, which only leaves slits for eyes. She rapidly followed orders to quit university, enter an arranged marriage and immediately procreate with a hand-picked brother.
I was one of the living dead. Salafism anaesthetized me until I freed myself from its mental chains, Ayari told Women in the World in an interview in Paris.
I was taught that society was sheytan the devil and that music and dancing were evil. We Muslims were the victims of a Zionist-American conspiracy, and I had to bring up good little Salafists if I wanted to go to paradise. I was cut off from my old friends and family and programmed to stay at home, and bring up children who were to be indoctrinated with hate of the other against France and the French, the West, against Jews, against Christians, and all Muslims who didnt follow our rules.
During her period of radicalization and as she later searched for alternatives to Salafism, Ayari also frequented Frances Muslim Brotherhood movement. Today she is a prominent campaigner raising public awareness about various strands of Islamist fundamentalism and helping women who, like her, have escaped from violent relationships in separatist Muslim communities.
In the end Ayari said it was her years of education inside the secular French school system that supplied her with the critical faculties to rise up against her brainwashers. Inspired by the powerful reactions to her unveiling on Facebook after the Paris November 2015 terror attacks, showing her before photographs in her jilbab (leaving only the eyes to the chin visible) and after shots in carefree in light clothing minus any head-covering, she wrote an autobiography titled I Chose to be Free.
Her widely praised confessional autobiography, released last year, charts Ayaris difficult journey as an escapee from the draconian 7th century Sunni Salafi version of Islam, which demands women cover themselves to the point of being almost invisible, stoning for adultery, death penalty for homosexuals, and incitements to violence against miscreants, infidels and apostates.
Ayari set up an association to aid single mothers who like her find themselves repudiated forcibly divorced and in jeopardy without resources by their husbands when they finally leave what Ayari describes as parallel societies. Her activism and media campaigning have earned her multiple death threats and online abuse including from some fellow Muslims who call her a Muslim woman of North African heritage Islamophobic, racist and a traitor. Since the release of her book, her family has refused to even speak with her, she said.
Because my journey to the center of hell is the same as far too many women, imprisoned in their veils, victims of the perversity of religious sectarian organizations that are destroying them, I decided to create Liberatrices (Liberators) to fight against discrimination and radicalization and help women in difficulty, she said.
Now 40, Ayari says she was actively recruited into the most extreme form of Islamic religious practice in her late teens when she became friendly with a group of zealous Muslim sisters at university.
She quickly fell under their spell, started wearing the veil, then met their Salafi religious advisers. It was at their urging that she stopped going to university so she could marry an ultra-orthodox Muslim they set her up with from Tunisia when she was only 21.
Her spouse quickly demonstrated violent tendencies and she soon found herself confined mostly to her home, except when she did the supermarket shopping or attended Salafist gatherings, wearing a dark covered jilbab, to hear preachers and imams. She was forbidden to work and had to bear three young children in an atmosphere of constant verbal and physical abuse. The day after we married he changed. He even said I was a prisoner. He often became violent because I wasnt submissive enough I had to wear the jilbab and sometimes I wore the niqab.
During her decade of marriage, Ayari was based in Roanne, one of Frances most notorious hotbeds for Salafist proselytism and a leading exporter of ISIS jihadist terrorists including Rachid Kassim. The operative since killed in Western strikes in Syria and Iraq is believed to have remotely directed a series of last summers terrorist attacks in France, including the stabbing murder of a police officer couple outside Paris and the beheading of a Catholic priest in Normandy, as well as the failed explosion of gas canisters outside Notre Dame cathedral.
Over the 10 years she lived among some of Frances most radical Muslims, Ayari endured being punched in the stomach while pregnant, and savagely beaten for having prepared a defrosted dish of fish for an ifthar dinner after the fast during Ramadan. She repeatedly pleaded with her in-laws and local imams and Muslim groups to help her, but most told her to be patient despite the constant violence.
Discrimination also came from French law enforcement who shrugged off her attempts to make complaints against her brutal husband. After he took steps to move her family to Saudi Arabia, vowed to put her daughter in a full veil at 7 and threatened to strangle her for having bought a red-colored jilbab, she ran away with their three kids and went into hiding in northern France.
Repudiated by her former partner, Ayari found herself without money or legal status she had only a religious marriage and thus no civil marriage certificate, and her ex refused to provide child support. Judges awarded custody of her children to her jihadist-sympathizing husband for two years after she was hospitalized with depression, but Ayari eventually won the battle to be reunited with her children.
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