By William A Harrison
Firstly let me take you back to my childhood, every story has a beginning and my childhood is where my Trauma began.
I grew up in an abusive home with a stepfather who beat me up most of my childhood and a mother who was mentally abusive and on a rare occasion physical.
This showed and in primary school I was either always bullied or always somehow being a disruption to the class so I was sent to a special school called Pisces. This school was specifically for unwell primary school children with physical or mental illnesses.
It was a place of safety and there was only 6 of us to 4 members of staff. However, I still somehow managed to get myself beat up and bullied by one of the boys who went there.
It seems all through my life from when I was a child to now I manage to unintentionally bring violence towards myself, and because of that, most of my life I blamed my step dad’s beating on the fact that I must have brought it on myself.
When I was in year 4, Mrs Allonby was our teacher and we had a support teacher called Mrs Woodruff. Mrs
Woodruff was liked by everyone as she was a very common person not like all the other teachers and every one felt on the same par as her.
One day a group of lads in my class was saying Mrs Woodruff is a bitch, I didn’t know what the word meant and they all found it funny. I said it out loud and got in trouble for it but that’s not where that ends. The lads that were saying it then joined the rest of the class in shaming me for calling her a bitch and threatened violence towards me (even in year 4 at 10 years old or however old we all were).
I didn’t want to go out at break but one of the lads who I had grown up on the same street with Matthew Summers said come out, no one is angry any more and when I did I was jumped by a big group of them and that was when I was sent to Pisces.
That’s just one example of violence in my early childhood that I accidentally brought upon myself.
Continuing on, I had quite a troubled school life in my early years in high school — constantly getting bullied, beaten up and a victim at both home and school. I had no escape. I started self harming and was taken out of high school and placed in a mental health unit and then sent to a school called LEMS (Lancashire Education Medical Service) for the remainder of my school years.
This is where my story truly begins.
After taking so many beatings I could no longer cope with and also other abuse that still to this day I struggle to talk about to anyone other than a mental health nurse, I ran away from home.
I was 14 — nearly 15 — and every time the social services caught me they returned me home until enough was enough and I tried to kill myself.
I was in hospital for a few days and then discharged back home.
When I was going into LEMS I was broken and they could see that. They tried to support me as much as they could but knew all my troubles were at home and I wasn’t going to get better while I was still there.
There were weekly referrals to Social Services and they believed my parents until one day I had taken enough torment I grabbed everything I could carry and ran away for good and avoided the social services for a whole year.
I moved into a flat with a drug addict called Kyle.
On my first day there my iphone went missing and he said someone must have broke in and I’ve always been gullible so I believed him. Even when, over the next few weeks, the rest of my stuff went missing, I still couldn’t see or couldn’t accept that it was him.
I stopped going to LEMS and disengaged from all the services that were trying to help me, and used to survive (at the age of just 16) by going to takeaways near our flat and asking them for their left over donner meat.
The people in the takeaways always thought it was for “our dog.”
I also ended up doing petty shopliftings from places like Greggs, for sausage rolls or sandwiches — whatever was near the door when eventually there was a raid on the house by armed police and they arrested Kyle as he had been wanted on a warrant for a long time.
They told me Kyle would be going to prison and got me back in touch with social workers again.
That same day I was placed into a hostel called the Old Steam Mill. It was a horrible place! Dark, damp and intimidating and the people in it — aged from 16 to 70 — were so intimidating too.
Just like most of my childhood, I tried to befriend the people that intimidated me so that I was not an enemy to them and it seemed to work.
I got really close to a lad called Jordan. He gave me cigs and gave me the first spliff I had ever had in my life. I started enjoying letting him come into my room and eventually he invited me to come and chill with him and with some of his friends on the estate round the corner called Moor Lane.
I was doing what I could to fit in; smoking Canabbis and drinking cider and doing what teens did and then the time passed when we could no longer get into the hostel as there was a curfew. I walked around most of the night with Jordan and his friend, Alex, and then they told me to go and ask a man for the time.
Gullibly, I did it because all we had been doing is walking round all night. But when he pulled out his phone they ran from behind and robbed him in front of me and then I ran away with them, which made me look just as guilty as them.
I was 16, scared and couldn’t get back into my hostel. That is the only reason I stayed with them even after they mugged the man.
About an hour later we was all arrested. This was my first time in trouble and I complied with the police and the police told me to be fully honest in court and that I’ll get in trouble because of being guilty by association but not as much as them two will.
They got social services involved again and put me into a bed and breakfast in Blackburn. Again terrified, alone and in a town I didn’t know, I was a broken boy.
I befriended a lad called Chris. The one person in my life I’ve met who I’m still friends with to this day and who has never wronged me. He offered to let me move into his flat and I did and for a year we lived normally — always gaming, smoking weed and signing on to our benefits.
I didn’t have any goals but at that time it was the happiest I had been in my life.
I then met a girl called Frankie who was from Burnley and I got in a relationship with her and Chris got with her sister, Jaid.
It was a horrible relationship and I was even getting cheated on when I was doing my night job at a bar called the Burnley Miners but I accepted things could be worse and put up with it until eventually she left me for someone.
Chris at this point was still with Jaid and I was left alone again.
I was nearly 18 but social services got involved again. They put me into a hostel in Preston called Fox Street which was full of very nasty people. Most of them were heroin addicts and yet again I tried befriending people that I felt threatened by and one of them was a man called Mike.
He gained my trust and always used to come into my room or invite me into his until one day he came into my room to roll a spliff and then sexually assaulted me.
I looked at it as I had brought it upon myself. I didn’t report it to anyone and instead spiralled drastically on drink to the point I was drinking 2 bottles of vodka a day and eventually I was made homeless because they didn’t know what had happened they just saw a lad not paying his service charges, abusing drink and drugs and not engaging with any support.
So I was homeless again but this time properly.
I spent nights walking all night, nights sleeping in train stations, until I was there that regularly they started recognising and moving me. Then nights in the hospital going in with fake names and saying things like I had chest pains just so I would be kept in and examined, then they started recognising what I was doing and that was no longer an option.
I then somehow managed to get myself a job at a taxi office called Ace Ringway, I worked on the phones as an operator in the day time and in return I was paid £10 and got to stay in the taxi office until the morning so I had shelter food and fags each day, so I was sort of happy again.
Eventually this wasn’t an option any more either as it was only a temporary thing and before long I was back on the streets.
I went into a centre called The Foxton Centre and they put me into a hostel called foundations. But I was still on the downward spiral and before long I was threatened with losing my place there as well.
My only chance was if I went and stuck to a Princes Trust course they would let me stay. So I did and attended for the whole 12 weeks but 6 weeks into it I was caught smoking weed in my hostel room and was made homeless again. For the rest of the 6 weeks of the course I spent the days there and then was homeless (during) the nights. So it was my only respite — especially the constant cups of coffee and snacks.
A worker there — Helen Stanley — was brilliant.
She cared about me so much, brought me food on occasions and tried to get me onto the right path. She got me in touch with mental health teams, a GP, and other services and eventually, by the time my course finished, I found a hostel in Accrington called The Stables.
I spent a few months there but wasn’t engaging with their support and eventually was evicted from there as well. All of this was because I never once engaged with anywhere to get help. I just further spiralled.
It was then I met a homeless man from Blackburn called Andy who knew a hostel I could get into for 9 nights called Night Safe.
I got in there and then got hooked on a legal high called “spice”.
I started begging and shoplifting for it and before long I was well known by the police as a nuisance homeless man and a prolific petty shoplifter and eventually I was banned from the town center.
This forced me to look at life and stop doing the begging and shoplifting and look for a new way to make the money for my drug.
Meanwhile, still homeless, and spending my nights sleeping in a Morrisons car park because it was under ground, or a loading bay that had vents that blasted out warm air.
But there was a hierarchy between (among) the Blackburn homeless and I was at the bottom and a target to always rob and attack so I rarely went there.
Then, while I was homeless, I met my saving grace, the Angel sent down to save me from what could have been a short-lived life of heroin addiction or worse.
I met a girl called Ella, who I’ve now been together with for 7 years. It was a real fate meeting.
I asked her for a cigarette and that’s how I started talking to her. Then I plucked up the courage to ask her for her number even though I was homeless — and yet she still gave it me. I started seeing her a lot and before long we got in to a relationship and she occasionally tried to sneak me into her Dad’s house to shelter me from the streets for the occasional nights.
Eventually, her brothers started catching me so that wasn’t an option either and I needed a way out.
Converting to Islam
I started window cleaning and before long I was approached by a Muslim man called Imran who recognised I was homeless and started inviting me to do odd jobs for him and giving me quite decent bits of money — even putting me in hotels and things.
So I got to spend nights in hotels with Ella and this felt like luxury.
After 2 weeks of doing jobs for him, his family, neighbours and friends, he started speaking to me about Islam every time I saw him.
I am and always have been quite respectful to everybody when they’re respectful to me so I listened to all the things he had to say, and before long he said to me he can only continue to help me if I convert to Islam: “If you convert, I will get you a house, a job, a phone and some money into your pocket today.”
I seized the opportunity and me and Ella said our Shahadat and converted to Islam.
At first this was just me taking advantage so I could sort out my life. But after a few months of having to go to Mosques and Zikrs and other Islamic events and a few months of being ostracised from English and non muslim people and having my head filled with a lot of radical stuff I ended up believing in Islam.
After a year I was a “devout convert Muslim”.
I was wearing Jubbahs and other Islamic dress and never wore anything Western. I was walking round with daweez round my neck and judging anyone who wasn’t Muslim — even judging other Muslims thinking I was better than them because they was playing the plastic Muslim and I was devout.
I started arguing with people on Facebook even to the extent of glorifying the Lee Rigby Murder and threatening to do it to others.
I started arguing daily with EDL (English Defence League), Britain First and their supporters and before long I was getting visits from the police and anti terror police.
When I told my Muslim friend who was also my Imam, he told me to stop using my English name and to start using Yousaf for everything. He moved us to Rochdale and told us to keep our heads down and to not claim any benefits, and if we need anything to ask.
He put us in touch with another group in Rochdale and it was there my radicalisation continued.
From Almost a Monster to Now an Apostate
Before long Channel/Prevent (the police anti terror team) were involved again and knew where I lived and were visiting me daily. It was then that the group in Rochdale planned to take me to get a same-day passport and to go to Turkey with Ella for a holiday.
I was so naive and was going to (do it) but I mentioned it to Prevent who then made me aware of what I was heading into, woke me up and showed me what the people around me were like.
We was moved out of Rochdale back to Blackburn and we converted back to Catholicism.
When I did this I then became (an) Apostate, and was receiving death threats and other malicious communications from all the past people I had met.
Our pictures were circulating on WhatsApp groups and I really felt like I had a target on the back of my head.
For months I was tormented constantly with abuse and threats but eventually it started to die down. Then I started getting police visits and was getting accused of saying things on Facebook until I could prove they were fake profiles set up to look like me and to get me in to trouble.
Even accusations that I was a paedophile started being spread. Literally anything that could turn people against me was starting to be said and I felt like they were trying to take away my integrity so that if I ever spoke out no one would listen.
I started just accepting it as a daily norm until in September I was purposely ran over.
My face was split open, my jaw damaged, I had deglove injuries, soft tissue damage, and had to be in hospital for 5 days while awaiting surgery.
I had to be debrided, etc and since then I’ve not really got out much.
That is my life story.
There’s a lot more that’s happened to me. It’s just that I can’t put some stuff in a chronological order as my memory is bad, so left certain things out.
This is just to try and shed light on WHY I went down the path I did, and HOW the radical Muslim gangs twisted my mind to be against non Muslims.
I would have become a Martyr for Islam back then.
I would have committed such evil atrocities that the world would have seen the real Islam and I’m so glad I left before I did and before my name went down in history as a monster.
It’s far to easy for people to be manipulated and twisted to do things they don’t want to do or don’t truly believe in. But when they actually make you want to do it and believe in it then that is when things have gone too far.
This doesn’t just apply to Muslim gangs trying to radicalise people. This happens nationwide to lots of people like me for drug running, for sexual exploitation. For many nasty reasons people will exploit the vulnerable and I hope my life story can go even a tiny way to getting more support for people like myself before it gets to that stage!
I now live in fear and will live my whole life looking over my shoulder: (In Islam) The penalty for apostasy is death and I’ve had them threats and seen the threats on the WhatsApp groups.
I’ll never rest easy and I want to try and stop this from ever happening to anyone else.
I was at wits end because I was also fighting a notice to quit our accommodation which meant losing a place to live and being back on the streets again. The despair made me look for a way to vent and at first I went on Twitter as a way of causing self-harm.
I thought by opening up about my apostasy it would open me up to the threats again and that might be a way to get heard.
That is when MARIAS reached out to me.
(Ms) Toni (Bugle) who runs MARIAS was there to listen to me and still is whenever I need her.
MARIAS gave me the confidence to speak out because someone non-judgemental was finally listening.
MARIAS goes above and beyond to help and Toni does it out of pure kind heartedness — unlike so many who do it for a pretty penny.
After opening up to MARIAS it gave me a sense of confidence again and because of that I managed to get ourselves a new home which I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do before.
I would advise other converts who are struggling to leave islam to reach out to MARIAS for help and Contact services that can help because you will be out of your depth if you do it alone.
Once you have left and your outlook of Islam has changed then open up about your life as a Muslim and the things you learnt because it could prevent others from converting and running the risk of being radicalised.
It isn’t easy learning to trust when so many have caused you harm and hurt.
But there are people out there who are willing to help — even if its just listening and understanding.
Thank you for reading my experience.
Editor: This article is based on an edited transcription of conversations MARIAS had with William. Every effort has been made to faithfully preserve the language & meaning of the original words.