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7049Reverts: Choosing Islam - My Life as a Revert

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  • Zafar Khan
    Aug 25, 2006
      A growing number of American women find a safe haven
      by embracing an ancient faith
      Sandra Marquez, People, 9/4/06


      Angela Collins was among the millions of travelers
      inconvenienced a few weeks ago when British
      authorities announced the breakup of a conspiracy to
      destroy U.S.-bound airliners. The ban on passengers
      carrying liquids made her trip from South America
      "gross," to say the least. "You can't wash your face,
      you can't brush your teeth," she says. The incident
      also brought her more important concerns.

      At least two of those arrested in London were
      converted Muslims, like Collins herself. Yet their
      actions were so far removed from the religion she
      loves. "There are those converts who choose the
      extreme tract, which means they are angry about the
      way things are working in the world without Islamic
      law," she says. "It's the opposite of what drew me
      into Islam." What drew her in, says the 30-year-old
      school director with pale blue eyes, was a religion
      that made her feel cared for, something she felt she
      missed growing up as a latchkey child. The Council on
      American-Islamic Relations estimates that some 20,000
      Americans convert to Islam each year, with women
      outnumbering men approximately four to one. According
      to Georgetown professor Yvonne Haddad, coauthor of
      Muslim Women in America, some, like Collins, are
      inspired by the rules of the Koran, which they find
      empowering. Some are seeking a community that endorses
      a woman's more traditional role as homemaker. Others
      are purely on a spiritual quest. "I think Americans
      should see them as women who have found themselves,"
      says Haddad.

      A 1999 journey to India set Collins, then a film
      production assistant, on her path to Islam. She stayed
      with a Muslim family for 2½ weeks, drinking tea and
      talking. She converted after reading the Koran back
      home. "I was blown away," she recalls, partly because
      she believed the Koran's teachings filled a void that
      existed since her parents divorced when she was 5. "As
      I'm reading, I almost feel as if I am being parented."
      It did not go well at first. One relative told her she
      would go to hell. In 2003 she married a Kuwait-born
      Muslim, but their marriage was rocky. They are
      currently going through a divorce, and she had to
      obtain a restraining order. "He wasn't practicing the
      faith," she says. Her own faith never wavered,
      however; today the Mission Viejo, Calif., resident
      works as the director of Al Ridah Academy, a Muslim
      private school.

      Nicole Aeschleman, 25, an attorney in San Jose,
      Calif., converted to Islam in 2004 after emerging from
      a six-month partying spree getting drunk and dating
      men who weren't interested in relationships. "You just
      realize that you've done bad things to yourself," she
      says. "It was not a good time." To the rescue: Nabil
      Michraf, a soft-spoken Moroccan student she met during
      a summer law course in Strasbourg, France. They struck
      up a friendship, with Aeschleman, baptized an
      Episcopalian, sending e-mails and inquiring about his
      faith. "He never tried to convert me which was one of
      the reasons why I eventually did," she says.
      Aeschleman flew to Nice for a face-to-face meeting
      with her e-mail pal and the two fell in love on the
      beach. "I just realized he was the most amazing man,"
      she says. She put her expertise as a family-law lawyer
      to work in drafting her own marriage contract in
      consultation with Muslim legal scholars adding
      provisions that she can divorce Michraf should he ever
      try to forbid her from working, going to school,
      studying Islam or should he ever take additional
      wives, as permitted by the religion. The couple wed in
      March. . .

      Timna Valore-Schulze, 24, a receptionist from Bothell,
      Wash., wanted to become a nun as a young girl.
      Instead, after trying Episcopalian, Baptist,
      Pentecostal, Buddhist and Hindu congregations, she
      converted to Islam in 2001, deciding "it was the most
      feminist religion I had ever seen" because of its
      support for women's rights.

      Why Aren’t Muslim Women Converting to Christianity?
      Ahmer Muzammil
      April 25, 2006


      Majority of the Western media and the Pat Robertsons
      of the world will have you believe that Islam is the
      most backward religion in the world. They will make a
      case that Islam is oppressive to women; it preaches
      hate towards anyone and everyone. They will blow fire
      out of their mouths about how all practising Muslim
      men are nothing but wife beaters.

      I have a simple question: why is it that even after
      all this oppression we never hear of Muslim women
      whether they are living in Islamic countries or even
      in the west converting to Christianity or Judaism or
      Hinduism or any ‘ism’ for that matter? We will hear
      the Irshad Manjis and Asra Naumanis trying to
      "INNOVATE" in Islam by pleading to us how lesbianism
      and illegitimate children are fine and how this
      behavior should be encouraged in Islam. But even they
      will never say that another religion is the answer. On
      the other hand, despite open prejudice and harassment
      to some degree, Islam is spreading in Europe and
      America like wild-fire.

      According to an article in a famous right-wing
      magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, thousands of
      European and American men and women are converting
      (the word used should be reverting because we as
      Muslims believe that every human being is born in a
      state of submission to God, therefore revert instead
      of convert is a more appropriate term) to Islam every
      year. According to this article entitled "Why European
      Women Are Turning to Islam", the ratio of women
      converting to Islam is much higher than the men. The
      article states that the reason for this higher ratio
      is not what is widely perceived, that most women come
      within the fold of Islam because they marry a Muslim

      On this issue of women converting to Islam because of
      their Muslim husbands, professor at Birmingham
      University, Dr. Haifa Jawad says, "Although in the
      past this was one of the most prevalent reason for the
      women to convert, now it’s mostly on the basis of
      their own faith and understanding". Peter Ford the
      author of this article writes that according to
      researchers, the rationale for this mass conversion
      amongst women is the moral bankruptcy and the
      superficial nature of the society that surrounds them.
      I guess what he is saying is that Islam doesn’t put
      emphasis on the “HOTNESS” of a woman, but rather on
      her character. Because we don’t sometimes have a say
      in what we look like (nature dictates that for the
      most part) but we as normal human beings have total
      control of our behavior. Therefore we should be judged
      on what we have the power to alter.

      Karen Van-Newkirk, a Dutch researcher who has written
      extensively on the raison d`être for Dutch women’s
      inclination towards Islam, says that in Islam men and
      women both have specific rights and responsibilities.
      She further explains that the gender roles are well
      defined in Muslim societies and women are not
      considered merely a sex-toy. She goes on to say that
      Islam gives women uncanny respect in society,
      especially in the roles of mother, sister, daughter
      and wife. Even today in this age of materialism I am a
      personal witness to families back home, where women in
      their 80’s who are completely unlettered, are
      obviously not the bread-winners of the family, but yet
      they have the stature of the head of the household. My
      own grand-mother, while she was alive, made all the
      important decisions in our extended family. Her
      approval was needed in marriages of her
      grand-children; she had the final say in almost
      everything that happened in the households of her four
      sons. It was funny that I, as a four-year-old favorite
      of my grandmother, got away with anything and
      everything to the displeasure of my father, but he
      couldn’t do anything once my grandmother had laid the
      law (or lack thereof).

      In an earlier issue, Christian Science Monitor
      published an article by Christine Armario entitled
      "Hispanics Are Finding Answers in Islam". In this
      article Ms. Armario makes a case that the reason
      Hispanic women are turning to Islam is the simple fact
      that they see respect and security for their gender.
      According to this article, in United States alone
      there are about 40,000 reverted Muslims of Hispanic
      origin. Every year in the USA about 20,000 men and
      women revert back to Islam, out of which 6% are
      Hispanics. I am not making any of this up; this is a
      fact that was published in a rightwing magazine. It is
      however ironic though that after all the persecution
      and bad media and your Orielys and 700 clubs, Rush
      Limbaughs and Michael Savages, Islam is still thriving
      in the heart of America. Ouch! Spare a thought for the
      neo-cons. No wonder Dick Cheney keeps getting one
      heart attack after another.

      Here’s a million dollar question, though: Why are
      these western women with their freedom and mini skirts
      and open societies and whatever else that are the
      signs of a “Free woman” dumping all of that and
      running towards “The Big, Bad, Backward Islam”,
      obviously of their free will? (Unless the Bush
      administration is the Taliban in disguise.)

      On the flip side we see a culture transforming in
      front of our eyes in Pakistan. I am baffled when I see
      slow dancing couples in an EID program. Can it get any
      more disrespectful? If this is not a mockery of our
      religious events, I don’t know what is? Please spare
      me the lectures on how times are changing and Islam
      needs to change with time. Having an educational and
      open discussion about how we make our Islamic banking
      systems affective so we can be competitive in the
      economic world, or whether "Hijaab" includes the face
      covering or not, we should and must discuss these and
      many other issues openly and should accommodate common

      But if someone is going to plead the case of "Mixed
      Prayers" or how dancing whether classical or otherwise
      is somehow part and parcel of our religion and
      Pakistani culture then you’ll get an earful from me
      and believe you me I am the voice of the majority on
      these issues. It is quite astonishing that just
      because I am not comfortable watching a woman dance,
      somehow it makes me less cultured and civilized. I
      shouldn’t automatically become a "Taliban" just
      because I am not able to appreciate the vulgarity in
      fashion shows and "Cultural Shows". Of all the people,
      I would think that "Liberals" would be a little more
      open-minded about my "Backwardness".

      “There is something special about Islam!” It’s a
      cliché at this point among Muslims. If it’s so special
      then why do we see Muslims making a complete mockery
      of their religion? And why do the "Silent Majority"
      stand idly and let them dictate what our values and
      morals should be? If our true Islamic culture and
      values are so repugnant, how do you explain this
      massive conversion to Islam in societies where there
      is no compulsion on them? These societies have all the
      “Art” that one can want, and still there is hunger for
      that spirituality that only Islam can provide. It’s
      high time that we the majority of Pakistanis stopped
      being by-standers and let these “liberal bullies”
      shove their mental illness down our throats in the
      form of “Art”. We need to reclaim our media from these
      Indian wannabe’s.

      I have always told my western colleagues and
      counterparts not to judge my religion through my
      actions (although that’s a natural recourse, therefore
      it’s incumbent upon Muslims everywhere to live Islam
      rather than just talk Islam). If you want to know what
      Islam is about then go to the source, which is Quran
      and the life and teachings of our beloved Prophet
      (PBUH). I find it amazing and it’s a lesson for the
      haters of Islam as well as the supposed “Mullahs” that
      when asked by his companions who are the best amongst
      Muslims, my beloved prophet said “The one who is
      polite and loving towards his wife”. All the
      wife-beaters are duly warned!

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