When My Religion Censors My Art

There has never been a part of my life in which my religion has not held some central role. It is the governing feature of my existence: It owns a pulpit throne in the very middle of my consciousness, the King of my decisions, the Queen of my temptations and desires, the angel and the devil of all my human actions. With the swiftness of an iron-heavy gavel, it crushes those fleeting impulses of my heart and tells me: No, or sometimes, Yes, or sometimes reminds me, You are human, you are human, you are so, so, so human.

And so when I make art and write my carefully crafted stories, I am censored by this King within my brain, telling that there are some things that I cannot say… some things are ugly to be exposed in literature, some things are blasphemous and immodest. Like when you see rape scenes in movies, or the murders of black men, or the abuse of children– yes, of course, these are realities for many people, but you must tread gently, for you have given these sentiments power. So if the scenes of rape that are not honest enough, you have reduced reality to entertainment rather than elevating to the level of art.

The moment a story is crafted, I believe there is some process of glorification happening. The moment something in captured in words, you have given a level of attention that nothing else has earned, and in that way, you have given it power. And so that King in my brain, that overawing dominant religious force inside of me tells me that I must be careful what I give power to… that there are things not worth saying. There are stories that are too dangerous and too ugly to be glorified in a form of art.

As someone with a particularly Muslim background and upbringing, most of my characters tend to reflect me in that way. And recently I’ve written short story where the main Muslim makes a quite blasphemous decision and it’s been torturing me for while now. The King in my brain has been pulling all sorts of levers and pushing buttons madly to make it all stop, but something inside of me has broken loose, and I have looked at thing that I’ve created, this art that I’ve made and given power to– And there is one conclusion that keeps thrumming in that painfully vigilant heart of mine: I believe that we must not always indulge that King. Sometimes art is not moral– sometimes it is only true. And perhaps the only good thing is not always goodness itself, but the world told in truth, fully and beautifully. That is enough.

Fareah Fysudeen

An English and Philosophy student trying to find her way in this big, big world. Aspiring writer, activist, showtune belter, ardent hater of tomatoes.

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