By Guest contributor Sarah Hunak- The rise of the single white female muslim documented in a mainstream broadsheet newspaper was a bit of a surprise and at first glance a refreshing change to the usual drivel written about Muslims in the British media.
The article in the Independent Newspaper “Women & Islam: The rise and rise of the convert” started off with some shocking statistics. All praise be to Allah most high that women in their thousands are converting to Islam. The article did, however, seem to try and sway the reader to thinking that most of these Single White Females (SWF’s) converted because they were marrying a muslim man, forced into it, jumping on the bandwagon, just doing it because their friends were. These are the kinds of rebuttals that I presume were being thought by non-muslims reading the article, no doubt the author’s attempt to rationalise such high numbers.
In fact, my own parents made similar assumptions when I started to recently wear the hijab. “oh so you’ve got a Pakistani boyfriend have you?”, “just because your friends are all wearing it, doesn’t mean you have to as well”.
“The sad thing is, whilst being too busy looking for excuses as to why we SWFs are turning to Islam, they’re missing the very reasons why this religion with its outward appearance of being strict and regimented, is attracting converts in their thousands!”
Faith is a funny thing to those who don’t have it. The ‘case studies’ interviewed at the end of the article didn’t do much to answer this question either. They ran along similar lines of – I’m doing it for hubby.
More important than the statistics was the highlighting of issues faced by recent reverts, a pertinent point amongst us newbies. Whilst I’m tempted again to think of the ulterior motives of the author for highlighting yet another flaw to converts and Islam, it is a valid point that the Islamic community can be very insular. Never mind the muslims not mixing with the non-muslims, it’s the Pakistanis not mixing with the Somalis and the Bengalis not mixing with the Arabs and each cultural group keeping themselves so much to themselves that there is no way that the born muslims would even think of mixing with the new muslims!
I found this too at the start. It’s hard to break into these already well established groups as a newbie. There’s a lot of furore around a person wanting to become a muslim. People can’t be helpful enough to notch up another shahada on their record! But it’s the aftermath that’s the issue. I’ve heard awful stories about new muslims being disowned by their families. Friends no longer want to know you because you’re ‘boring’ now, and Eid can be a VERY lonely time indeed. We want sisterhood. We want classes that run from the VERY basics, not ones that start aimed at people with a good decade or two of knowledge behind them. Books are great, but there’s no one to ask the silly questions to about where my feet should be in prayer or how on earth you pronounce this word correctly!
Born muslims can be a bit intimidating to ask, we feel like our questions are dumb, and that every other muslim in the whole world knows it, and we don’t want to look stupid. Yes, it’s something we should be trying to beat, but we all got that little bit of pride that will stop us from asking some of the silly basic questions and it can be very off putting, and there’s the danger of not asking, not getting an answer, getting frustrating, and then giving up, which is a trap that we all need to strive to not letting our new brothers and sisters in faith fall into. This was something that unfortunately I can relate too clearly with.
Having ‘officially’ reverted almost 9 years ago, I can honestly say that I did nothing really about it due to lack of support and fear of looking daft for too many years. Alhamdullilah since moving to Manchester, I have found a brilliant support group for new muslims. I can’t emphasise the importance of having that encouragement around you as a new muslim. We meet once a week and we can ask all the silly questions we want from the correct way to perform ghusl to what to wear under our abayas! We’re all in the same boat and no one feels stupid. To the sisters who run this group, my heartfelt thanks. I pray Allah (swt) will reward them a million times over for the amazing work they do for us. I hope this goes some way to inspire other people to set up similar groups around the country for fellow reverts.
Imagine all the reverts, like me, who will be making dua for you, imagine how many shahadas might be taken in your presence, imagine the blessings upon your meetings, and the continued blessings gained from the knowledge you pass on insha’Allah.
As more and more reverts turn to Islam and more and more ‘mixed’ marriages take place (it’s sunnah ya know! Tell your Pak parents to think of the fair-skinned grandkids if you must!), I pray for a time where cultural and geographic barriers no longer exist, and we are united as one Muslim ummah. Ameen.
Sarah Hunak is 26, single white female living in Manchester. Reverted 9 years ago, wavered, came back, and now proud to call myself a Muslim