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Stop Using the Muslim Convert Stereotype
I, and many other Muslim Reverts are apart of this stigma and this stereotype among Muslims and non-Muslims. We are disliked by Muslims and Non-Muslims. We struggle fitting in with our families, old friends, and our now new Muslim brothers and sisters. I did not want to write this article but I feel I have to. Someone needs to stick up for our convert brothers and sister.
I did not want to write this article, but I feel that I have to. I feel compelled to stick up for my convert brothers and sisters; and I am specifically addressing this advice to non-converts. In other words, those of you who grew up in Muslim households: Listen up!
This is for you:
First, I assure you I’m not using generalizations. Instead, I am specifically speaking out about what I have personally experienced or what others have told me that they have personally faced. (Before I begin, let me assure you that I understand the theological symbolism behind using the word convert & revert for those who actively choose Islam. I call myself a convert for my own personal reasons & I don’t need to be “schooled” on vocabulary choice”).
So, let us talk about it. Let us talk about the stigma. Let us talk about the Muslim Revert Stereotype.
Do Not Generalize Muslim Converts
Every individual who learns of Islam & chooses to follow the Straight Path is unique. Each one of us is an individual. The fact that I felt the need to inform you that I understand the difference between the words convert & revert, is a perfect example. All of us have a unique journey to share. If you stereotype us, you’ll never know what it is. You might find that it enriches your own faith.
We Need your Help and Guidance NOT your forcefulness:
Do Not be the Haram Police!
Please don’t be so forceful & aggressive. It is not necessary to tell new converts everything that is haram (forbidden) the first day they convert. After all it is known from Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The deen is ease. Whoever makes the deen too hard for himself will be overpowered, so direct yourselves to what is right, follow a middle course, accept the good news of the reward for right action, and seek help [to reach your goal by being constant in worshipping] in the morning, evening and some of the night.” (Hadith no. 39)
Our deen (faith) is meant to make our lives ones of ease. Things like hijab will come later. In sha Allah. If not, that is personal choice. Begin by helping converts with something small like salat (praying). Nothing hurts me more, than knowing that it took me two full years after converting for someone to teach me how to pray correctly. There have been other converts that I know that are in the same boat as me. I tried learning from YouTube and Google, but I couldn’t memorize, & fully understand anything. I did not know how many repetitions (rakka) I should pray for each prayer for example.
Instead of acting like the Haram Police, please quietly & persistently ask converts if they need anything. Give them your cell number or Messenger, so they have a way to inquire when questions arise. Let them tell you what they need, or want to learn. And show them the continual gift of hospitality. Invite them to the daily prayers if you attend, & ride together. Invite them for a meal or a walk. Many have just lost a good number of family/friends by choosing to follow Allah SWT. So it can be a quite lonely time.
NO I did not convert for a Man:
I truly hate this question the most!!! “Did you convert for a man”? No!
Further this is not anyone’s business anyway. BUT I, like many other converts that I know, have not converted because I fell in love with a Muslim. However, even if someone did convert to Islam because they came to know a Muslim through class, work, etc. & learned of Islam from them; watched their righteous behavior, grew to learn of both the faith & the person; developed loving feelings, & did indeed end up converting – why should it bother you? What a fantastic gift they have been given. Personally, I fell in love with Islam. I converted because in my heart I felt Allah was telling me to do so. I didn’t marry someone and convert for him. I converted for myself. When people probe me on that, it makes me feel like they think less of me, or that I am stupid. I sought out Islam on my own.
Many Muslims and non-Muslims assume I converted because my parents are separated. They are very much together!
I have No Support from Family:
I know all too well, that the time of the major religious holidays with which I grew up, are very hard for me. On the dates of the Christian ones, I wish I could be celebrating with my family, in the warmth of togetherness. And sadly too on the Muslim holidays, I have had no one with which to celebrate them. Fasting isn’t the same when you are alone. For 4.5 years, prior to moving here to where I currently reside, I was unable to celebrate even one Muslim holiday, or merely go to a mosque. There was no mosque and there were no other Muslims. I had no one. I was isolated. My family of origin does not want a Muslim daughter. It is heartbreaking. I have not had a non-hate filled conversation with my dad in over a year. Many new Muslims deal with this, not just me. Again I ask those who’ve always lived in the faith, to please support and love new Muslims (preferably longer than the day they take Shahada – I realize you may think that’s funny; but it happens more often than not). Many born Muslims have a strong family presence, can you go out of your comfort zone & include us in your lives? Imagine being in our shoes, no family during Ramadan or either Eid (Muslim holidays).
No, I am not fluent in Arabic but I am trying:
Please do not treat me badly because I cannot speak Arabic fluently.
I can only read it because I took an Arabic class in college. Many other converts do not know any Arabic, and they are tired of being isolated or ignored because of this. Many family born Muslims do not speak Arabic with ease either, but they find less criticism. Clearly since converts did not have an Islamic education as a child, there is no reason to chastise them for having limited or no understanding of Arabic.
PLEASE do not assume that a convert knows less about Islam than you (even if they aren’t fluent in Arabic.)
Countless times I’ve witnessed a Convert being more knowledgeable about Islam than those who were raised Muslims. Why? Because they studied it and learned the facts for themselves.
Do Not Ignore My Assalmu Alaikum
At the mosque or in public, I or or fellow Muslims give the greeting “Assalmu Alaikum” and we often get (what I feel is a stuck up look) And people rarely reply. I am most certainly worthy of a “Wa likum Assalam”. Our beloved Prophet PBUH was clear that manners were of utmost importance. He himself said to strive to say it first as that is the most righteous, but to ignore the greeting of another? How quickly must the angel on your left shoulder be writing. Why not respond to me with loving peace instead? I’m certain the angel on your right shoulder is happy to be busy.
Treat All African American Born Muslims / Converts Equally
There should be NO RACISM in Islam. Do not discriminate against a person of color. This goes out to all Muslims. I highly believe black Muslim converts have it the worst. We live in such a racist world. We as a ummah (all Muslim brothers and sisters) need to treat Black Muslim brothers and sisters like our Prophet Mohammed PBUH would. Prophet Mohammed PBUH, would stand with the oppressed, and I am sure he would be marching with Black Lives Matter. He would treat them equally, if not actually lifting them up higher, praising them for all the prejudice & trials they’ve endured. We need to respect Black Muslims and love them equally as any other Muslim. African-American Muslims, like Malcom X and Muhammad Ali, are among the few of many African-American Muslims that paved the way for Muslims in America. Islam is not a religion of racism. Islam is a religion of inclusion, love, and peace. Tragically, Muslims forget about that. Everyone needs to do a better job with how they treat our Black brothers and sisters.
In Conclusion – I am Here to stay:
Some life-long Muslims get it into their heads that many Muslims who’ve converted are going to change their minds & walk away from Islam. They rationalize this prejudice by saying it was done only in response to romantic love, or it is merely a phase. Indeed, my Christian family thinks I am going through a phase, (especially after I put on hijab). They & my fellow sisters & brothers in Islam are deluded. Alhamdulillah, I became a Muslim for God. Again Alhamdulilah (Thanks be to God)! I am staying for myself but mostly for God. I love Islam and I am very proud to be Muslim. May Allah SWT always guide & keep me on the Straight Path.
Therefore, please stop reducing converts to Stereotypes. Please reach out in love. If you find you are unable to reach out to us in love in support, then I believe you need to focus more on yourself & your faith. Perhaps you’ll find your heart renewed and become able to share peace & love; not just with other Muslims, but all people.