In The Beginning

Hello ya’ll,

I know it’s been a few days since I posted anything but my weekend was hectic. Thankfully everything has calmed down and I finally have a moment to relax and blog.

Within the past two months, a young man I know converted to Islam. He has asked me why I left Islam, and I’ve been pretty frank with him. At the same time I don’t browbeat him for converting or pressure him to leave.  I remember the way some people came at me when I converted and how counterproductive their approach was. My Grandma always told me:”Baby there ain’t no sense like bought sense!” So I never insult converts,or question their sanity or intellect in choosing Islam. In time I believe people can draw their own conclusion about it anyway, as most converts end up apostatizing.

However when I look at my buddy, I can’t help but see some of myself in him. I think about my first few months in Islam and how blindly optimistic I was. I truly swallowed all of the dawaganda.

In the beginning I truly thought that conservative Islam could have a positive effect on the world.

In the beginning I thought that all the accusations of hatred towards non-Muslims was simply “Islamophobia”.

In the beginning I thought that it was Islam that respected and liberated women while “the West” degraded them(Yes I know, what the fuck was I smoking!)

In the beginning I thought that Islam respected the “people of the Book” and that I could consider them as my brothers and sisters in faith.

As I began to interact with the Ummah,however, I soon began to see how wrong my assumptions were. I also had to face the unpleasant reality that much of the criticism of Islam was based on reality.  The criticism wasn’t the product of the fevered imagination of right-wing fanatics as I had tried to tell myself.

 There was the casual and blatant anti-Semitic comments that people would share with me. Now since I’m a Black woman some may wonder why I would be so bothered by anti-Semitism. It’s quite simple: I find anti-Semitism, along with other forms of hatred, to be completely unacceptable. But the casual way that I heard some Muslims express it completely shocked me. I was raised in a very PC environment. Prior to converting I had never actually had a conversation with someone that denied the Holocaust,blamed 9/11 on a “Zionist conspiracy” and accepted The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as truth. Twice I had Muslims tell me this, and I was so utterly amazed that I could not respond. I really had no idea how to reason with someone so delusional.

Next was the hostility towards non-Muslims, even the “people of the Book”. Not only was Christianity and its followers mocked, but some Muslims would spread complete lies about them. I can remember having a discussion with fellow converts about the holiday season and how we were to cope, having non-Muslim family. I was floored to hear Muslims spreading disinformation about Christmas and how Christians celebrate it. A sister-a convert at that-confidently informed our group that it was absolutely haram for us to spend time with our Christian familes during the holidays, as Christmas was just about getting drunk and being promiscuous! Now as a human being and as a convert I took issue with my family, friends and all of the world’s 2 billion plus Christians being stereotyped this way. So I respectfully asked the sister not to:

  1. Spread lies about our Christian brothers and sisters
  2. Stereotype another faith and keep in mind that as Muslims we get very upset when we are unfairlystereotyped

For this statement, this sister attacked ME. “Why are you defending them anyway? Wallahi, I am just speaking the truth about them! And please don’t call them your brothers and sisters; they are unbelievers! ” At that point I shook my head and gave up. Oddly enough,  it seemed to be converts-white,female and former Christian ones at that-who seemed to display the most hostility towards Christians! I can’t recall ever hearing a born Muslim speak of Christians in such a disparaging manner.

Finally we come to the issue of Islam “liberating” women. Now let me clear before I go on: I am only speaking for myself and my own experience here! I am quite aware that this is not the plight of every Muslim woman. I can only speak from what I went through. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way let’s proceed. It’s amusing to me how I was told that Islam would “liberate” me as a woman. However as a Muslim wife I felt anything but free. It was the closest I’ve ever come to slavery in my life. Prior to converting and marrying,I never had someone tell me I could only talk on the phone for ten minutes at a time. I never had to get someone’s approval to wear  one-inch heels. I never had to ask someone’s permission to work. I never had to stay at home with barely enough money to live on because a man didn’t want me to work. I was never told to shut up or risk losing Jannah. Once I married my husband had absolute control over me. I had less respect and autonomy as a grown woman and wife than I’d had in my Grandma’s home as a teenager!

In the beginning you’re on the new convert high. You’re full of zeal and you think this is really what it’s about. But eventually youu come back to earth and realize what you’ve gotten yourself into. To all new converts to Islam: enjoy your euphoria while it lasts.Take my word for it, you are in for a rude awakening!

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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