The term Yasmine Mohammed uses most often to describe the way she was raised is “evil.”

Mohammed was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, but she comes from a politically important family in Egypt. Her grandfather’s uncle was the first president of that country, and for a time her family was, she writes in her new book Unveiled, “filthy rich and powerful.”

While they lived under strict laws and taboos about what both women and men could wear, say, and do, life for her parents' generation was far more liberal. In her parents’ wedding photos, she writes, her mom was dressed like a “Bond girl.” She wore a knee-length dress and her hair was swept up in a beehive. There was dancing and music at the celebration, and women and men mixed together, all things that became taboo in Egypt after the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Western sentiment in the 1980s.

Mohammed’s parents relocated to San Francisco and then Vancouver, and it was there, as her marriage was falling apart, that her mother became deeply religious. Feeling alienated, alone, and in need of community, she joined her local mosque and quickly transformed from a “Bond girl” into the vision of a pious Muslim woman—albeit one who treated her children terribly.

Soon after Mohammed was born, her parents divorced and her father moved across the country and started a new family. He had little contact with Mohammed and her siblings, but like many secular Muslims, her dad didn’t enforce Islamic rule in his new home. He actually married a Catholic. Not so with Mohammed’s mom: Desperate, Mohammed writes, to attach herself to a man, her mother became the second wife of an Egyptian immigrant who controlled every aspect of the family’s lives. They moved into a squalid basement apartment where their new step-father (a term Mohammed still refuses to use) lived upstairs with his other wife and three children from a prior marriage. He regularly beat and molested Mohammed. (The marriage was legal under Islamic law, but not recognized by Canadian law.)

Mohammed recalls in the book how her stepfather beat the bottoms of her feet so it wouldn’t leave marks, and how he forced her to wear the hijab any time she left her house. At one point, a teacher tried to intervene but her siblings and mother denied any abuse was happening, and so it continued.

Yasmine blames Islam for this upbringing, a religion that teaches that women are the property of men—if not their fathers and husbands than their own sons. And like her mom before her, this was Yasmine Mohammed’s path, too: She was forced into marrying a stranger at age 20, a man named Essam Marzouk, who was later revealed to be a member of Al Qaeda.

Mohammed hoped that her life under Marzouk would be better than it had been in her step-father’s basement, but he too beat her and forced her to wear the niqab, a garment she told me is like “a personal sensory deprivation chamber. It restricts every sense: smell, touch, hearing. You don’t interact with the world, the world doesn’t interact with you. You walk unseen among them, like a ghost.”

Marzouk was abusive. He berated Mohammed for opening the curtains of their 17th-floor apartment, lest someone looking up and see her unveiled, and he beat for her singing the ABCs when looking something up in the phone book. This was no better than her life as a child, but soon, she had a baby to worry about too. At age 21, she became pregnant.

After her first baby—a girl—was born, Mohammed realized her life would never change until she walked away from her husband. So she did. She found a lawyer willing to help her pro bono and filed for divorce. Her husband threatened to cut her so badly that “no man would ever want her,” but soon after, he disappeared. She found out later that the husband went to Azerbaijan and was one of 14 Muslims taken by the CIA in pre-9/11 “extraordinary rendition.” He was extradited to Egypt, where he was convicted of abetting terrorists and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

After leaving her husband, Islam’s hold on Yasmine gradually lessened: She stopped wearing the niqab, which she writes, made her feel “as vulnerable and self-conscious as if I were topless.” She stopped worrying about everything haram (the list is long) and she got her own apartment, enrolled in college, got a car, raised her daughter. She started taking classes in religion, and she writes, “For the first time, I was allowed to look at Islam with a critical eye, and I discovered that the Quran was no different from any other ancient philosophy. With references to the Earth being as flat as a carpet to the value of drinking camel urine to cure ailments, Islam was full of absurdities. It was obvious that it was written by men who knew no different.” She came to the conclusion that not only was Islam made up by man; all religion was, too. It was all just a fiction, as unreal as any superstition or fairy tale. “What a relief to finally be able to breathe fresh guilt-free air!” she writes.

There were setbacks, to be sure. Mohammed was forced at one point to move back in with her mom, a woman nearly as abusive as her husband had been, and far more manipulative. Though traumatized, she gradually escaped her mother’s iron fist as well: After she took off her hijab for the last time, her mother said she was dead to her and they haven’t seen each other in nearly 15 years. Mohammed was broke, a single mother, and living without the bonds that had been there for her entire life, but, for the first time, she was free.

Today, Yasmine Mohammed is an atheist. She’s a professor, married to a non-Muslim man, and she works as an advocate for women living under Islam across the world. As part of this work, three years ago, she started a blog called Confessions of an Ex-Muslim, which she kept anonymous for the first year before coming out, because, she says, “I needed to speak for those who were not able to. I can show my face. They can’t.”

She details all this in her new book, but the fundamental message of the text is more political: She argues that by ignoring, or excusing, what is happening in Muslim societies over fears of appearing “Islamophobic,” liberals in the West are contributing to the oppression of women all over the planet. It’s right there in the subtitle, Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam.

“This book was written for Western liberals,” Mohammed told me, “my friends, fellow liberals who do not understand what celebrating Islam is doing.” She references companies like Nike, which showcased a model in a hijab for the first time in 2017, an ad campaign that was celebrated by many in the feminist media (including newly feminist outlet Teen Vogue, which called the campaign as “amazing as the female athletes who inspired it”).

Mohammed doesn’t buy it. She says women who celebrate the hijab are either Westerners who don’t understand the history or Muslims who’ve been brainwashed to believe that showing their hair in public will condemn them to Hell.

“It’s celebrating fundamentalism,” Mohammed says, “while women in Muslim-majority countries are actually dying to take it off.”

This criticism of Islam has proved controversial: Amazon has refused to run ads for the e-book, saying in an email, “It is Amazon’s policy not to advertise content in which our audiences may see a controversial topic, person, or event.”

Mohammed isn’t sure exactly what was so controversial about her book—the ad that was rejected was just an image of the cover—and she’s continually disappointed that other women who leave fundamentalist religions are celebrated while ex-Muslims like her are generally ignored. She compares the reception of her work to that of Megan Phelps-Roper, who recently published a book called Unfollow about leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, and her family. Phelps-Roper had been all over the media—from Fresh Air to Good Morning America—and is generally viewed as both a survivor and a hero.

“I like Megan,” Mohammed said, “but the response to our stories could not be more different. And what’s the difference? The only thing I can think of is the color of our skin.”

Mohammed called the defense of Islam by Western liberals “a misguided attempt to curb anti-Muslim bigotry. We’re taught to never criticize other cultures and other religions,” she continued. “We can only criticize Western cultures and Western religions, but what we are doing is condemning others to this 1400-year-old ideology.”

As for what Mohammed would like to see from the West, particularly from the same liberals who are happy to criticize fundamentalist ideology when it comes from Christianity or Judaism or the Westboro Baptist Chuch, it’s pretty simple: Don’t forgive or ignore oppression out of fear of being perceived as racist or Islamophobic.

“Some Muslims are liberal and some Muslims hate gay people and believe in cutting off their daughters’ clitorises,” she says. “Instead of thinking of us as one blanket group, don’t support cruel and inhumane beliefs, no matter who they come from.”