Tag Archives: convert

If Islam is Hate, Why Are People Still Converting?

It’s an odd thing: Thousands, upon thousands of people around the world – around 20,000 every year in America alone, are choosing to become Muslims.

Muslims. You know, those people who’ve murdered scores of civilians – brutally and mercilessly?

Not only are alleged Muslims behind atrocities like 9/11 and the massacre in Paris, they claim their violence is inspired and sanctioned by Islam itself – don’t they?

The word Terrorism has come to be directly – instinctively – associated with Islam. Think about that word: Terror. What kind of people would desire to terrorize others? What kind of monsters slaughter indiscriminately men, women, and children-Children – the epitome of innocence?

Well, if you believe what you hear and see, in far too many media and “news” outlets, the answer would appear to be: the Muslim kind.

This begs the question: “What kind of people would convert to a religion that promotes carnage and chaos like this?” Naturally, one might imagine these converts must be people with sociopathic tendencies – self-hating psychopaths perhaps.

But that’s just not the case.

Who Converts to Islam?

From youthful, pre-pubescent teens, to sage elderly grandfathers and grandmothers such as Georgette Lepaulle of Belgium who converted at the age of 91 – Islam seems to be attracting all kinds of people – the vast, overwhelming majority of whom definitely don’t fit the description of terrorist.

Johannah Segarich, now a retired college Music professor, asked herself this question in the midst of the confusion after the 9/11 attacks: “What kind of religion is this that could inspire people to do this?”

Johannah had studied other religions, but hadn’t thought to learn about Islam. She decided to buy a copy of the Quran, wondering if her notions of Islam as a male-controlled and now apparently violent religion, would be confirmed.

She read the first chapter, “In the name of God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful…. All Praise is due to God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. … You alone We worship, You alone we ask for help, Show us the straight way, the way of those who have earned your favor…” She finished the Quran a few weeks later, and then started reading it again. About half way through, barely 10 weeks after 9/11, “I came to the realization,” she said, “that I had a decision to make.”

She decided to convert to Islam.

A travel bug took Angela Collins Telles, a quintessential California girl, to Egypt and Syria. She made friends abroad, and found most people to be generous and kind. When anti-Muslim rhetoric flared after 9/11, She felt a need to do something.

“I saw my country demonizing these people as terrorists and oppressors of women, and I couldn’t think of anything further from the truth,” she said, “and I felt a need to stand-up and defend them. But then I realized that I couldn’t argue without knowledge.”

Realizing she had no basis upon which to defend the people she felt were being wrongly demonized, she began studying Islam. Regarding her findings she said: “The concept of God was the most beautiful thing, and that concept fit with what I believe,” She converted only a few months after 9/11. (Source)

For Caleb Carter, becoming a Muslim took years. Sept. 11, 2001, was a turning point — specifically his teacher’s hostile response to Islam that day.

“I was a junior in high school at the time, taking a class called Nonwestern World Studies,” said Carter, “For him, it was purely, ‘This is what Islam teaches. We shouldn’t be surprised.’ He played the whole ‘Islam equals terrorism card.’”

But Carter wasn’t buying his teacher’s opinions, nor was he “educated enough to judge it either way.” Studying Islam and other world religions became his mission, and he converted to Islam in 2006. (Source)

Davi Barker, a writer and artist from California, also converted in 2006. Barker lived in Saudi Arabia and the Maldives for a few years as a child and knew “Muslims in Muslim countries,” so he didn’t believe that the religion was to blame for the terrorist attacks. He said he “saw the propaganda campaign going on” against Islam, something that continues to this day.

Canadian Micheal Atwood, was raised to be a practicing Christian. He first heard about Islam on the anniversary of 9/11. He was not intrigued to learn about it right away, but he later found out that Muslims believe in Jesus while on a class trip to a museum.

In 7th grade he overheard his Muslim friends talking about the Quran, and decided he wanted a better understanding of the Bible. What he found when he began researching its authenticity and history, left him un-impressed.

Atwood became curious about the Quran and began reading its translation online. He said, “I couldn’t stop reading the Quran. It was beautiful.” He learned about the practices of Islam and felt Muslims follow Jesus even more than he had learned to as a Christian. Half way through 7th grade, he converted to Islam at only 12 years old. (Source)

The internet is chock full of the stories of people, young and old, from every corner of the Earth, and how they decided to convert to Islam. From high-power, successful business men and women, to bartenders; from the highly confident and blissfully happy, to the ones who felt lost, lonely or depressed; from the party guys and girls who just wanted to have fun, to studious intellectuals – Islam appears to attract people from every walk of life.

Indeed the Quran confirms that it is in fact a message for all mankind: {This (Quran) is direction and guidance for the whole world.} (Quran 38:87)

Why are conversions increasing with terrorist activity?

I encourage every reader to read and listen to the stories of the people who made this choice. 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities did not influence people to learn about Islam, because they like violence. Rather, they fall into several categories:

  1. Some of those whose conversion began with knowledge of a terrorist crime wanted to better understand how areligion could possibly be that evil. It’s an outrageous claim that isn’t easily swallowed by everyone. These people needed to find out for themselves. What they found not only defied their original suspicion; it spoke to them in the most beautiful way.
  2. Others, like me, wanted to expose Islam for the hoax we thought it really was – until we realized it wasn’t. Conversion for my kind is often difficult, because it requires the admission of having been utterly incorrect, and often becoming the person who would have previously been the butt of your own jokes.
  3. Then you have the ones who knew Muslims already. They knew they weren’t the bloodthirsty, deranged caricatures they appeared to be on TV. These people felt a strong sense of injustice and wrongful portrayal, slander of the innocent. In order to make their point though, they realized they needed to have knowledge for their stance to be credible.
  4. For other people, the apparent chaos and strife in our world makes them begin thinking about life, God and inevitably, religion. Their searching eventually leads them to Islam. Had it not been for the unfortunate and misguided crimes committed in the name of Islam, many people would have never thought at all about Islam.

I’ve noticed in my extensive research of Muslim converts, that just about every single one of them did extensive research which included reading the Quran, most often the entire Quran, sometimes several times over before coming to a decision. The people who convert to Islam, rather than exhibiting and increase in anger or bloodthirstiness, express that they have become kinder, gentler, more patient and caring people.

Being a Muslim in these times where Islam is so grossly misunderstood is not necessarily easy. We are wrongfully stereotyped and feared. But, the benefits each and every one of us has gained – God – an understanding of the true purpose of life and death, guidance – dwarf any of the challenges we face.

Originally Published at AboutIslam.net: http://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/understanding-islam/islam-hate-people-still-converting/

 

Advertisements

For My Dad. My Quiet Hero

I have three sisters. My house was usually overflowing with girlish giggles, chit chat about hair, shoes and even sensitive topics that would make any man writhe in his seat. Our girlfriends would often come to visit, adding to the weight on the feminine side of the scale in our home.

But my father, although often quiet and reserved, didn’t fade into the shadows. His example and support shaped each one of our lives. From the honest integrity with which he ran his business, to his passion for cars, he provided an independent, brave example that was unwilling to compromise on ethics to get ahead.

Some of my fondest memories are the exciting swap meets I enjoyed with him as a child, and watching him restore regal, but dated cars to their original glory in our garage on weekends. I grew to love all the smells of oil and polish, grease, and metal. I loved when he would take me with him on an errand, like a trip to a special parts supplier far away, or to job sites for his business.

In Highschool I wound up the only girl in car care class, where I learned how to change the oil and brakes on my ’87 Monte Carlo. I was proud to hear its small block 305 engine rumbling as I drove it into the high school shop. My Dad’s influence is clear in many of my own passions and aspirations.

He taught me about how to handle turns on a race track and I think of him everytime I take curves on the parkways (even in my minivan). But more than love of cars, hard work and getting dirty, he provided numerous other examples and a special kind of support. My Dad never pushed me to go in any particular direction. Instead he listened, and payed attention to what mattered to me. What I was passionate about. What made me happy. Then, with his quiet demeanor he stepped in to make it happen. He never announced his favors, or reminded me about them. They were always just there. Just right.

Like many fathers, my Dad worked hard (and still does!) for his family. Successfully running his own business, the stress of which I recognize more keenly now. Even with the ups and downs and uncertainty of that difficult endeavor, we were his primary concern, before himself.

He invested so much in my family – in me.

I’m sure when I announced my decision, that I had become Muslim, it couldn’t have been easy for him. But he put my happiness first. He affirmed that I could believe whatever I wanted to.

The stage following my decision to enter Islam was tough for me and my family at times. When I moved back to my parent’s house after a year or so developing as a Muslim away from home, there was inevitably some tension.

I knew my mom felt uncomfortable about me covering my head. It must have been hard, seeing her daughter looking so unlike the girl she had raised.

I was torn between not hurting my mom and wearing a piece of cloth – an identity that had become beloved to me. So, When I would go off to work in the morning, I’d wear the hood on my jacket from the house to the car. Once in my car I would awkwardly struggle to fix my hijab in the rearview mirror. Upon returning home, I would remove my scarf and replace it with my hood once again.

I thought no one knew.

But, my Dad was so aware. He always seemed to somehow know what was going on. One day he approached me and informed me, he had seen what I had been doing.

“You don’t have to do that.” He gently told me.

He assured me I didn’t have to hide my hijab. I saw the compassion in his eyes.

Though all my family has gradually become somewhat more comfortable with my Muslim identity and my choice  to cover more of my body, my Dad has perhaps shown the most support. Warning me when a Man is coming over or at the door and making sure I am dressed before he allows them in.

When he met my then to-be husband, he asked “How are you going to take care of my daughter?”

He held my hand at my marriage. kneeling on the floor in a mosque, he facilitated yet another happiness for me.

That is real love. The kind of love to ponder – that boggles the mind and fills the heart.

I pray I will grow to be a better daughter, to express that same kind of love to my father. To give back a little, even a fraction of what he’s provided me. To make him know that he’s my hero.

dadwedding

My Dad and I, on my wedding day

Following Noah

I love to talk about Islam. It’s the most important thing in my life. It makes me happy, brings me peace, gets me excited.

Sometimes I just wish I could sit and share my favorite thing with a family member; my Mom, Dad, Sister, Grandpa, Aunt, anybody… and just have a nice deep, open discussion.

It’s hard sometimes you know, loving something your loved ones seem allergic to.

Something about which at least one has said, “this is our last conversation about this”.

But, that’s my situation.

I don’t feel comfortable talking about the thing I love most with the people I love. 😦

I always have enjoyed a challenge. I also enjoy discussion.

You can talk to me about many things I may not agree with and I will either present my point and listen to yours, or ask questions to gain a better understanding. (I can’t promise I won’t get impassioned)

I don’t mind if someone comes to me and tells me I’m on the wrong path and is willing to explain why. I’m open to that and I try to listen.

It seems people are willing to say “I disagree” but not to elaborate. Not to discuss.

The end of many an attempt is, “We have to agree to disagree.”

But, I don’t understand why we have to worry about whether or not we agree… If they don’t agree with me that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me. What’s wrong with learning? Understanding? Seeing things from one another’s perspective?

I do not get personally offended when people come to me and explain why they worship Jesus, or why they are atheist. I find other people’s beliefs and thought processes interesting.

But it seems, when it comes to Islam, it is as if the topic itself causes barriers to be set in place and people’s hair to raise on end.

My belief is that this reaction is linked with their lack of knowledge about Islam, yet the reaction forbids knowledge from being attained.

See the problem?

Although I love a discussion and I don’t mind being challenged, I know others do not. I don’t really like to bother people, so…

On the one hand, I feel like suppressing every word.

Hiding my thoughts and feelings.

On the other hand, I feel like I should keep trying, keep talking and not remain silent.

The prophet described in the Quran who comes to mind, is Noah.

Noah was telling his people about God for ages – and boy, did they ever dislike listening to him!

They hated Noah and his message from the Creator so much, they used to cover up their ears and turn away from him. They got so fed up, they threatened to stone him to death!

They really ridiculed him when he was building a ship in the middle of the desert. He was a laughing stock and his followers were very few.

Even his son abandoned him.

But Noah was persistent, because his care for his people surpassed his care for his own self, in the respect that, rather than protecting himself from their hatred and ridicule, he persisted in giving them the message that could benefit them.

He didn’t give up in the face of so many obstacles and his goal wasn’t to fit in and just make the people happy with him. His goal was to please only his Creator, by trying to help his people understand.

I think about Noah and then I look at myself and I see that I’m so weak.

I have something that I know could benefit my family, even if only they were to gain a better understanding based on knowledge,

but I don’t talk about it, because they will get annoyed with me.

Perhaps I am more fearful of displeasing them than I am my Lord?

American Girl to American Muslim: Before and After

I was always a carefree American girl.

I have always lived a comfortable life, had a loving family…

My parents gave me a nice combination of support and independence. I always knew they’d be there for me, yet they let me explore, push my boundaries and even make mistakes.

I have three amazing, good natured sisters; lived in comfortable homes on perfect streets. I was given every opportunity.

I was always fortunate.

Choosing Islam has only improved the quality of my life.

So my before was great and my after is even better!

I’m now happier, more satisfied and grounded than I was and more than I believe I could have ever been without Islam.

I chose Islam and it enriched my life. It gave me answers and solutions. Remedies, skills and preparedness. It has given me clarity, purpose, discipline and goodness.

I’ve learned how to be a better human being, to have patience, to be a good wife and mother; to be a better daughter and neighbor.

Islam has even confirmed and solidified much of what I was raised upon. In fact, there were lessons and values I was taught as a child such as:

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”

– Mom (and Bambi)

which I didn’t exactly follow…

but I earnestly try to now; because of Islam.

The prophet Muhammad said,

“Whoever believes in God and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent.”   (Bukhari, Muslim)

So that is what I strive to do.

Being kind to others and not being selfish are values most people appreciate, teach and try to embody; but when I look back on instances of my past, I realize that before Islam, I was sorely lacking.

One example of this which I can’t get out of my mind, occured during my early college years.  I was impatient with my grandmother who had come to see my school one day.

I was very athletic and fast and always in a rush. She however, needed time to climb the stairs and it was hard for her, but I didn’t stop to lovingly help her – I rushed on, rolling my eyes, annoyed at her pace.

That will forever be a regret I will carry.

I know that if the same scenario were to happen today, nothing would be more important to me than showing kindness and compassion for my elderly grandmother. That is because of the deep understanding I now have, knowing the weight of our deeds and that God is pleased with kindness and mercy.

The Quran and the prophet Muhammad emphasize kindness to parents and the elderly:

“Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.” (Quran 17: 23-24)

This applies to grandparents as well.

The Prophet said,

“He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honor the elderly.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

This story of my grandmother is just one example of how Islam can change a person for the better, as it did with me. The areas in life where you can improve, it gives you the tools to improve them.

More importantly, it gives you the will and desire to change.

It gives deep seated motivation to be the best you can be, not only in how you deal with people, animals and the environment – but preceding that and superseding that in importance, is the motivation to give God His right over us and to truly live to serve and please Him and Him alone.

To do that, we need to know what His rights are; what is pleasing and displeasing to Him. In Islam, we believe He gave humanity that guidance, a recipe for our success.

We fear His displeasure and hope for His reward and acceptance. Our love for Him should guide our every action.

This gives us an eternal source of inspiration.

Another beautiful thing about this, is that there is always someone who will appreciate the good you do, even the good you intend to do. So you never have to boast about it, or be dissapointed if no one recognizes your efforts.

In Islam, we are taught that God is closer to us than our own jugular vein; that He knows our thoughts and that which is in our hearts. He is appreciative of every effort and every good intention. He does not let any good go to waste.

When we fail and turn to Him, He always hears us, knows our sorrow, our regret.

We are taught in the Quran that God is the most Merciful, The Most Forgiving, The Most Loving, The All-Knowing, All-Mighty and Extremely Fair, the Most Just.

So there is no despair, no grief, for the one who understands God and has certainty about who He is.

What this also means, is that success and satisfaction are not limited to people who have had easy lives, who grew up in luxury and love.

Anyone from anywhere and with any history can achieve and excel.

I presented my story so that you can know I am not climbing out of difficulty to Islam, I lived in ease and comfort my whole life. Yet, Islam improved my life and made it that much better and more rich. But whatever a person’s background, Islam promises peace, support and a kind of contentedness you can’t find anywhere else.

I’m not perfect and I never will be, but now that I have Islam, I know the path to take, to be the best me I can be.  🙂

Is That an Arab?

Last night, while walking from my car to a shopping center, I passed by a vehicle with its windows open.

I heard someone say loudly,

“What’s that? Is that an ARAB?”

Who… me?

Sorry, “Muslim” and “Arab” are not synonymous.

Actually Muslims are found all over the world. From China, Russia, and Indonesia to many parts of Africa and Europe, to both North and South America.

Muhammad, the prophet who was given the Quran was a descendent of the prophet Ishmael who was the son of Abraham – he was an Arab.

Jesus and many of the prophets we know of, were from what we now call the Middle East as well… And nobody seems to think all Christians are Semitic or Middle Eastern… Go figure!

The Quran makes it very clear that it is a message for mankind:

This (Quran) is but a reminder for all people. (38:87)

Muhammad is addressed in the Quran: And We (God) have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind as a bringer of good tidings and a warner. But most of the people do not know. (Quran 34:28)

That’s why people from all over have accepted it as their life’s guidance.

I learned about Islam independent of any people. I didn’t know any Muslims.

For me, it was clearly a universal message.

It not only speaks to individuals regardless of their background but it is also timeless. I didn’t get the feeling that it was irrelevant or outdated.

Aspects of the quran describe our modern world and it provides comforting advice that is perfectly on point.

So for me and many other Americans like me, it was a natural choice.

And when we chose to be Muslims, we didn’t change our ethnicity, or race, or nationality, or culture. Just like the first Indonesians who embraced Islam, or the first Bosnians.

In America, the Muslims are the most diverse faith group. When I go to a mosque I sit amongst people of many shades and diverse backgrounds.

Islam, in practice, eliminates racism and nationalism. It teaches us to focus on our humanity and to rejoice in our differences.

To get to know one another.

So one doesn’t need to be Arab to be Muslim, and no one should assume that every Muslim they see is an immigrant either!

I’ll leave you with the following verse:

O humankind! Surely We have created you from a single (pair of) male and female, and made you into nations and families so that you may know one another (and so build mutuality and co-operative relationships, not so that you may take pride in your differences of race or social rank, and breed enmities). Surely the noblest, most honorable of you in God’s sight is the one best in piety, righteousness, and reverence for God. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Quran 49:13)

20140112-100516.jpg

Welcome!

I am your American Muslim neighbor. Welcome to my blog! Visit me here any time you like, to learn more about Islam and the most diverse religious group in the USA- the Muslims! I’m just your average American, here to promote peace and understanding in a time rife with fear and mistrust. Get to know the truth about what is possibly the most misunderstood way of life today.

20131223-215637.jpg