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American Baby: 9 Lessons from Converting to Islam

American Baby: 9 Lessons from Converting to Islam

1. It Gets Easier

The beginning is always the hardest.  You've found the truth, fulfillment, and a sense of peace you never imagined possible.  A handful of people can't wait to share Islam with their families, but for most of us, breaking the news to parents, grandparents, relatives, and sometimes kids, brings a sense of dread.

This sense of dread has been even more heightened since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Many people perceive being a Muslim as the antithesis of being an American, even though Islam teaches us to uphold religious freedom.  To most people Islamic practice embodies the opposite of American values and lifestyles.  Family members may be shocked or even mildly okay at first, but after it has sunk in, they may be angry, devastated, or cut themselves off from you.  You may never again experience the kind of emotional hurts that you will when you first tell your family that you've accepted Islam.  The reality is they are hurting too, and their hurts are justified in their minds, even if they aren't in yours.

In the beginning many family members will act their worst, making threats and saying hurtful things, but the more you stay calm and continue to be yourself despite your new faith, the more they will cool down and eventually realize they overreacted.  Some people may continue to cut you off, but even those hurts will heal as so many more people continue to love and accept you.  Hang in there, it does get better.

2. No matter how much you explain, they still may not get it

Sometimes we think that if we just explained to our family members what Islam is and why its right or why it doesn't oppress women and why it isn't about terrorism, our family members will suddenly have a light bulb moment and say “You know what, that does make perfect sense!  I'm not upset anymore!”  Don't be surprised if it seems to go through one ear and out the other.  The truth is they are hearing what you're saying and cataloging it, but they are too emotional to focus on it right now.

Over time you will begin to have thoughtful, rational conversations with family and friends, but it's not something that's going to happen right away in many cases.  Even if your family doesn't have a problem with Islam, or Muslims, they have a problem with you becoming one.  You were as American as apple pie; they watched you unwrap Christmas presents under the tree every year, and dreamed of your white wedding.  There is a sense of loss that they are trying to cope with.

Don't expect to rationalize with them much at first (unless they ask questions—and even then, don't expect too much) and don't be disheartened.

3. Goodness isn't just about religion

You will find that some of the best people you know are still people of other faiths, and by “best people” I mean people who are ethical, caring, and altruistic; people who are civil and well-mannered.  You will find that some Muslims act as third-world and corrupt as the dictators that preside over their homelands.

Do not assume that all Muslims will be exemplary human beings (and the organizations that many of them run are even worse).  Expect to be gravely disappointed in the way many mosques are run and how unkempt they are, in how rude and ill-mannered some of your brothers and sisters in faith are, and at how dysfunctional Islamic schools and their students seem to be.

Be ready to feel a pang of disappointment when you find Thanksgiving with your family was more pleasant than iftar at the masjid with your brothers and sisters in faith.  Don't, however, let this disenchant you from the dīn or become harsh with them.  As an American you have been privileged to grow up in a First World country and raised on its high standards.  No one chooses the family and country into which they were born.  Hone in on your strengths as an American and what positive things you can bring to the community, rather than letting it make you arrogant.

4. Be merciful

Converts are surrounded on all sides by frustrating experiences.  They have to deal with ignorance and intolerance from other faith based family and friends, and often have to deal with the same thing from the Muslim community.  Add a few bad relationships or failed love stories in and you have a recipe for some serious bitterness.

In extremely rare cases, you have American converts who are willing to kill other Americans in terrorist acts (wrongfully under the banner of the religion they claim to represent), as if they weren't previously of another faith themselves (and a potential victim for such crimes) not too long ago.  Many times we get blind-sided by our negative emotions: fear, disappointment, anger, resentment, etc.  We become intolerant of the shortcomings we see in others that we don't find in ourselves.  As converts we are in a unique position of having a blended identity that gives us different perspectives, but whatever shortcomings we see in others we should remember that we have our own as well.

The Prophet allallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam truly had no shortcomings, and his trademark in dealing with ignorance was mercy.  Instead of looking at others with distaste and judging them, we should feel sorry for them if they really have a problem and resolve to be good friends and a positive influences.  At no point should any person look at us, Muslim or not, and get the impression that we have our noses in the air.  We should focus on keeping a soft heart towards everyone, because the real enemies of Islam are few and far between (though they may get the most traction) and we should always maintain a soft heart towards our Muslim brothers and sisters.

5. Being a Muslim is awesome, becoming a minority is difficult

Welcome to a world you may have never experienced before, the world of “the other.” This is the place of those who don't hold an “entitlement” card by virtue of their birth, a world of strange looks and racial slurs.  This can be hard to grapple with initially since some of us were never raised to deal with it.  When you wear hijab you may notice that people aren't as friendly to you as they once were; you see the change in demeanor that is provoked by your religious identity.  It isn't fair, and being raised on American values that preach fairness and equality but never having really experienced racism yourself, you are in for a frustrating experience.

You will see the latent hypocrisy that exists in many aspects of our society, you will have a perfect image of our great nation shattered, you will experience double standards and security checks and anti-Muslim bigotry, but take heart in the fact that you will also experience the greatness of the human spirit and the American people.  You will see that for every negative experience you have, you will have many more positive ones.  You will meet people who go out of their way to compliment you on your hijab, people will politely ask you questions and make it a point to tell you how much they respect what you're doing. You will find that most people strive toward fairness, justice, and morality.  The bumps in the road are just going to make the smoother patches seem all the more smooth.  Don't focus on the negative or take it personally, just enjoy the positive.

6. Don't be a groupie

Never subscribe to any single imām, scholar, or organization as the ultimate authority and source of knowledge, and stay away from people who tell you to do so.  There are kooks and cults within the Muslim community, and your innocent, convert face makes you a perfect follower.  This isn't to say that most people are going to ask you to drink poisoned Kool-Aid at the next halaqah or join a terrorist cell at the mosque, but every Muslim follows some sort of “flavor” of Islam that they believe is right, and most haven't been exposed academically to other ideas and materials.

Even within conservative Islam, there are varying opinions on many subjects, and the best scholars and imams are those who acknowledge those differences respectfully.  Be wary of imams and scholars who are quick to put down others, who insult, and who promote their teachings and opinions as “correct” with a disdain for those who are “incorrect.”  What most people don't realize is that these types of people are everywhere, not just in the Salafi community.  They are ūfis, anafis, and Progressives too.  Every sect within Islam has its extremists.  Stay away from all of them.

Also, keep in mind that if you have a question you want answered, talk to a shaykh or imām who understands your particular scenario, preferably one who has a great deal of experience with American issues and converts.  Avoid “Shaykh Google” if you can.  A good rule of thumb is to seek religious advice or rulings only from someone who is very familiar with your society and circumstances.

7. You are the trophy Muslim (I know, it's annoying)

“How long have you been Muslim? How did you convert?” These are two questions you are going to hear for the rest of your life, so have the edited monologue ready.  Every time people ask you these questions, their eyes light up.  They want you to move them and give them their daily īmān-boost with your magical story, and suddenly you feel some pressure to perform.  You don't have to.

While I encourage you to be polite, understand that you aren't putting on a show to make others else feel good about themselves or Islam.  Keep it short and simple.  Other people will patronize you in the beginning when they hear you've been Muslim for a few years, and may ask you basic questions, assuming you know nothing.  They are well intentioned, but have a response ready, that is polite but also ends the conversation.  You don't have to stand there and smile and endure this time and again.  Be nice but brief, and know that you don't have to share any details of your life or conversion that you don't want to.

8. Be careful of whom you marry

There are plenty of examples of successful interracial and intercultural marriages, and most converts will marry someone who is not of the same ethnic background.  However, I will say this: you are more American than you probably realize, and even if a man or woman has been living in this country for decades, if they grew up in a Muslim country, you are going to have some major differences in terms of expectations, mannerisms, and how you think and process things.

While racism is completely prohibited in Islam, a person who marries a Muslim from another country will face challenges directly related race and/or culture. If you're a woman, you may be especially vulnerable to being put in a position where you are expected to sacrifice aspects of your identity, especially because you are the one coming from a non-Muslim background.  This is not to say that this is always the case, but it is a common problem that converts face when marrying, so it's something to keep in mind.

9. You're still American, and that's who you'll always be

American policies are at a low when it comes to how this country treats Muslims both at home and abroad, and unfortunately anti-Muslim bigotry is shockingly rampant.  Many Muslims around the world view America as an enemy, and if we're honest with ourselves, they have valid reasons to do so. President Obama's drone strikes in Pakistan, our country's blind support of Israel, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't done the American image any favors.  All of this anti-American sentiment can make an American Muslim feel guilty for being an American, but don't let it.

You are an American.  You are not a drone program or a war or a policy.  You are not anti-Muslim bigotry or Guantanamo Bay.  You are a person who was born in a country that has so much more positivity going for it than it does negativity, a country that has provided you with an experience that has made you into the person you are today: the person who chose Islam as their faith.  You may be outspoken, educated, independent, proactive, charismatic, caring, brave, and filled with dreams that you are determined to make come true for the better of the Muslim community and the world.  You didn't become all that the day you became a Muslim, you became all that the years you were raised as a can-do American.

Don't let anyone else tell you what it means to be a true American, or a real patriot.  Don't let anyone make you feel that as a Muslim you are less entitled to being the person you have been your entire life.  You have the unique opportunity to redefine American, so get out there and do it.

imam masjid

About Olivia

47 comments

  1. such a nicely put article. what you have explained is markedly true. its a bit sad that we muslims living in Pakistan and other muslim states who strictly follow the word of Allah face the same criticism and advert behaviours that you guys face in non muslim states.

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  2. Awesome article. And it is absolutely true that there are more positives than negatives. i was in US for a month with my wife in April and i travelled many cities. Some gestures were fantastic. Everyone welcome me with salam and respect. Especially i always dressed up with islamic dress and cap and my wife wear hijab, it was “no problem at all” being there. Alhamdulilah.

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  3. Such a master piece article, May Allah bless you for the effort.

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  4. good article but if i’m not asking too much, cud u make a small edit @

    5. Being a Muslim is awesome, being a minority s****

    i think it means something horrible and doesn’t befit to be used by believers! good article, though i’m not an american, it gave me an insight into how american reverts feel.

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  5. american muslim.

    Everything you said is true!!! Thank you!!!!

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  6. Well, becoming a Muslim in American has been incredibly hard. I became a revert almost a year ago and it just gets harder. My mom no longer speaks with me because I became Muslim. I can’t do salah at work as my coworkers barely tolerate me wearing a modified hijab. I work in a hostile environment were the boss bragged about converting a Muslim to her faith and in my last review she slipped in some bad check marks in my review without me seeing saying that I could not teach another person to do my job or be a charge person. I lost friends stating I was going to hell. The Muslims in this city are few and most speak poor English and I have little support. am barely hanging on.

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    • Diana, please keep strong! Allah is the only one who is always with you, supports you and hears your prayers. InshAllah you will be rewarded for your patience :-) Amin!

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    • Assalaamu ‘alaykum sister Diana,

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through so much difficulty. For many converts, these difficulties are part and parcel of accepting this religion. May Allah keep you strong in your faith, ameen. Remember that Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bear and that He tests those whom He loves most. Remember also that the Prophets who brought you your religion were tried with greater difficulties. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) was mocked and stoned and when his child died, his own uncle delighted in it and announced it to the whole city of Mecca. This does not mean that your difficulties are insignificant: I’m not sure how I would’ve handled them, but know them in perspective.

      Also know that it does get better. I know a convert sister whose father disowned her for becoming Muslim and when she was working long hours during Ramadan, he would make sure her mom only made food for two people so that when the sister came home, there was no food for her to break her fast with. She would end up fasting for several consecutive days. It’s been several years and she’s now married to a very good brother and her father recently bought her a brand new SUV. They’re on talking terms and things are much easier than they used to be. Parents usually turn around, as long as you maintain your dignity and manners.

      I’d also like to add to the advice listed above, insha’Allah you will benefit from it:

      1) If you need to talk to a convert, you can contact me at muslim1543 at gmail.

      2) To strengthen your faith, seek religious knowledge. There are many Western online institutions now (some free) that have courses for converts or just teach the essentials of Islam. Make sure they include personal interaction with scholars though and get in touch with the scholars there. Scholars raised in the US know how to deal with the issues that you’re facing and they can offer amazing advice. Latch on to them and you will find your life much easier. Seek knowledge and you will it will uplift you. If you need recommendations for where to learn these things, email me.

      3) Another benefit of learning more about Islam is that you will find valid opinions that will make your life easier. I found that when I first accepted Islam, I was very strict about things – more knowledge opened me up to different opinions (still within Orthodox Islam) that I could use in situations with my family that helped me manage difficult situations.

      4) One of the best advices I was given by a scholar was right after I became Muslim. I was applying to colleges and he encouraged me to apply to a university that has a strong Muslim community. I ended up going to one and it helped me strengthen my deen greatly. If you are able to get a different job where your religion would not be an issue, I encourage you to do it. If you are able to move to one of the cities with large and active Muslim populations (Austin TX, Bay Area CA, Boston MA, New York NY, Chicago IL, Toronto Canada etc), I also encourage you to do it. By your description, it sounds like you’re in the mid-West somewhere. At least move to Cali or to New England if you can- people there are far more tolerant of Islam. You don’t have to move permanently, just a year or two would be enough for you to grow enough in the deen to be able to handle these situations.

      5) Reach out to your local community. I know many struggling converts that don’t reach out for help and the community has no way of knowing they’re struggling. Many born Muslims have no idea what it’s like to accept Islam in America. Tell them about your difficulties, ask for help – I firmly believe you will find help. Do mind the advice of the article though – not Muslims are perfect, or even good people. But the great thing about our community is that we do have many, MANY amazing individuals that will change your life for the better.

      5) As for friends, remember than if your friends abandoned you because of Islam, without even trying to understand you, they weren’t real friends to begin with. If you are comfortable with it, try to make friends in the Muslim community, even if they are foreign. I have many friends who speak poor English, but they are amazing people and I have gained a lot from them. But whoever you make friends with, make sure that they take Islam seriously.

      6) Be good to your family. It is a difficult time for them and they are hurting. With good manners, you will seem them turn around insha’Allah.

      7) Once again, if you need to get in touch, please send me an email. Also reach out to American-raised Muslim scholars, preferably in your area. Make sure they are people known for wisdom and manners. Just don’t suffer alone.

      May Allah help you in your difficulties, maintain you in His deen, and show you the straight path throughout your life, ameen!

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    • @Diana, Assalamu alaikom. Sorry to hear that. I wish i could do something to help u. that must have been really hard. i could only make du’a for you. Keep holding on. May Allah make it easier for you.

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    • I would love to help you. I am not an american but I live in America.

      I salute your bravery.

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    • May Allah (SWT) make it easy on you and reward you for the hardship you face in His path.

      And the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life]. (93:4)

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    • Sister Diana,assalamo alykom,I did hear you ,I pray and ask Allah to support you,help you,strength you,I pray to find a lot of those who love you and you love them,make sure that the road is rough,full of bends ,but make sure that you will prevail by end of the day,because you are seeking the right way,seeking the reality ,the reality is NO GOD BUT ALLAH.the absolute power ,you ask him during your pray to fastening you on the right track .am very far from you but i feel that am very close to you,i feel that you are sitting next to me and am talking to you directly .

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    • Sister!
      MAY ALLAH TA’ALA HELP AND GUIDE YOU ALWAYS!
      MAY HE MAKE THINGS EASIER, COMFORTABLE AND JOYFUL IN YOUR LIFE! AAMEEN!
      Prayers of so many good people, both Muslims and non-muslims who think about other people are always with you!
      Stay blessed! :)

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  7. Jazaakillahu khairan. Very well put observations about interacting with ethnic Muslims from a purely-American upbringing. I’ve read many advice articles for new Muslims, but this focuses on the “American” part of our identity which is often overlooked even by ourselves.

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  8. Excellent post sister, I think understanding that Islam is perfect but Muslims are faaaaaaar from it is helpful to remember for all of us, not just converts. Otherwise, we get bitter about our own communities and self-righteously isolate ourselves from people who are just as imperfect as we are.

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  9. Excellent article :)

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  10. JazakiAllahu khyran for this well-written piece, ma sha Allah.

    My last year was spent in Western Canada, and I was pleasantly surprised at the growing number of converts, especially females, in the region. One of the great factors in having a strong convert sisters community seemed to be their strong bond and support system amongst themselves.

    I have to admit, as a Muslim by birth, I still cannot understand the deep challenges that converts face. I suggest that those who have been convert Muslims for a long time, and possess experience and wisdom, must look for new converts in their areas, and give them the unrelenting support and training that they need. In sha Allah, it will be a great sadaqatu jaariyah on their behalf.

    As for people like myself – Muslims by birth – we need to resolve a bigger issue. We have to develop patience and cultural sensitivities not only towards converts but also towards Muslims who are different from our own race/ethnicity.

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  11. why are you implying that all Muslims are from third world countries?

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    • i didnt, i said some.

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      • I am sure you have had bad experience with many Born-Muslims (Although everyone is born a Muslim). I know how many born “Muslims” behave. I have met enough reverts to realize that after hearing them.
        But I wouldn’t use “third” world term in the context you did. I am sure there will be people from “Third World” that would feel like you insulted them. What the heck is this third world? A world robbed off it’s natural resources by “Developed” world.

        I think, this discrimination explains the discrimination between Born and revert Muslims. One group thinks that it is “Superior”.

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  12. Good article. Well written

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  13. I am a little confused by the use of the term “act as third world”. Being from a third world country, I can’t help but be a little perplexed at your use of this term as something negative. It is a bit offensive to be honest. Something to perhaps work on in your own personal life and perception. Insha Allah.

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    • Agreed. We all have problems. You know what, I always think “third” world has something “developed” world is losing (or have been looting from “third” world) is nature. They are wealthy with nature. But victims of the “developed” world.
      May Allah give us eyes that look humans as humans irrespective of wealth or “progress”.

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  14. Asa Sis. Thank you for this thoughtful and well-written piece. I am also a convert. I gather that from reading this you are a White-American. I thoroughly identified with so much that you had to say. It made me appreciate the history of Islam among African Americans and how that history has eased the process for me. As for the phrase “anti-Muslim bigotry” I like the choice of words. Very carefully drawn because the phrase “islamophobia” has been perfectly useless in conveying the nature of what Muslims may experience or in stoking anything in the American public conscience. I also hope begin using “anti-Arab racism or bigotry” because this effectively conveys to the American public the ethical problem it poses in how we like to see ourselves as an open and plural society. Thanks for the piece.
    w/peace

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  15. Jazak Allahu khair for the article sister. I’m a “revert” but have long ago abandoned that label for a better one. I’m a Muslim…just a Muslim. There’s all kind of verts out there-bornverts too. People who have re-embraced Islam. I think for a long time we have had Arab Muslims, Turkish Muslims, Egyptian Muslims and now we have American Muslims-as we should alhamdulellah. American Muslims need to assimilate and this will take time. But we can help the process by dropping the revert title that only serves to seperate us from our own communities by setting us apart. We really are no different: we heard and we listened. Regardless of how one is introduced to Islam in this dunya it is true that not everyone will fully embrace this way of life. For those that do they may always run the risk of being ostrasized one various levels from society and family. Look at what has gone on in Turkey regarding the hijab. For all the American Muslims out there: we are growing in numbers alhamdulellah. Take the chip off your own shoulder and say alhamdulellah I’m a Muslim-just a Muslim. The companions of the Prophet heard and listened and became Muslims-not reverts. Feel out of place at the masjid? Listen: It’s the house of Allah not the house of (insert nationality here). We do have language barriers which are natural and you must accept it or learn Arabic inshallah which would be more beneficial to you. What American Muslims need to grasp (and I could write my own article on this one) is what is going to bring them a sense of their own Islamic identity is establishing their salat which includes fajr, reading Quran daily, learing their basic fiqh, the 40 hadith, names of Allah and going from there to learn even more inshallah. Some don’t get this and somehow believe that wrapping a thobe or jilbab around them is going to increase them in their Islam. But, Allah see’s only our hearts and it is our hearts that are conditioned towards Allah or away from Allah. This is the essense of our iman. No Muslim can escape this. When we bow our heads in humility to Allah he increases us but when we abandon our prayes we loose our connection. When the ties that bind are cut we become vulnerable to all these issues. The solution is always the same: Read. Practice. Run towards Allah. In closing I would urge: let’s remove the labels and get down to the essense of our faith. It’s not enough to believe we must practice! The clock is ticking and time in itself is a test for us. If we use the gift of our time wisely we will establish our Islamic identity stronger each day but if we use the time labeling ourselves and focusing on our problems we will not be successfull. There is no Muslim out there who is not being challenged in some way. It’s only the one’s who fully submit to Allah who remain steadfast.

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  16. Alhamdulillah, I enjoyed this article and I can relate to much of what was said. It’s been over 10 years since I converted and I still feel lonely in some communities. I’ve found that developing closer relationships with other converts really helps. These tend to be some of the strongest friendships I’ve ever developed. The problem is that in some communities, it’s hard to find them. May Allah keep us firm on this religion.

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  17. Alhamdulillah, jazakallahu khairun for all the positive feedback.

    My apologies to anyone I offended by saying “act as third world.” Some of the best Muslims i have known have been from third world countries and I did not mean to put them down. What I meant by “act as third world” was in reference to the systems of government that exist in third world countries or lack of justice for many people that, unfortunately, are often mirrored in how many of our masajid and organizations are run. While certainly the American government is corrupt and many organizations are here as well, I have not experienced the flagrancy about this corruption in those orbs/churches as I have in our Muslim organizations, as if this is corruption and lack of ethical standards is normal amongst the community.

    In my own past community this was obvious in the masjid board, which was pretty much unchanging, never voted on, and run by the same Uncles that financed the masjid 20 years ago even though as a non-profit org they were, by law, obligated to have regular elections, etc. This was something common knowledge in the community and people just sort of rolled over and took it and if someone said anything they were a “troublemaker.” I do not see the checks and balances in our organizations i have seen in other American orgs, Ill be honest. I do thingkthere is an attitude toward running our organizations and communities that is often imported from third world countries that is not good and does reflect the organizations and government and politics there, but also there are masha’Allah many people from all over the world striving to do well and are so I did not mean to paint everyone from overseas as such. My apologies if my comment was lost in translation, so to speak :)

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  18. Masha Allah very well balanced thinking in this article. I wish all of my convert brothers and sisters read this article for encouragement. PLUS, Muslims by birth like me should also read this very carefully in order to understand the needs/difficulties of our converted brothers/sisters.

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  19. This article is very insightful and I can relate with many points you describe. It takes me time to understand that not all muslims are good ambassadors of Islam. And if there’s fault, it’s only the flaw of people, not the religion. I’ve been in limbo or moments of doubt for seeing some (not all) muslims around me. They’re twisting verses and hadiths to support their wrongdoings i.e. misogynist, fanatical to ulema, and things I dare not to mention. It brought me to realizations too “so is this Islam? Teaching hatred and intolerance? Treating women like dirt?”……and I have to learn and re-learn Islam again from various sources to connect the puzzles these muslims are missing. I finally break out from them to save my imaan, they clearly cherrypicked verses and hadiths to suit their whims.

    Now my faith is stronger than ever. Insha Allah.

    @ You’re American ::: exactly. I know a US revert who fought an immigrant born-muslim and this muslim accused him bad stuff because he’s a former soldier (like, in 1980s), and because he’s American. And America had involved in bombing muslim countries. Basically this muslim spoke as if the revert also bombed and droned other muslims because of his nationality. So the revert replied back “so why do you live in this kuffar country instead your own homeland?” and they fought lol.

    @ Don’t be one-sided :::: totally agree. Some muslims here may beat me up for this lol, but I learned the hard way to not rely too much on one source or one ulema. It’s not a call to dismiss the scholars, but to really understand why they say what they say instead of totally follow with no-question asked. What are the daleels? The background? Suppose they use this verse and that verse, what are the Arabic and context of the verses they use? What do other scholars say? The objective is not to seek “easy way I can follow with my whims” but to seek the stronger and most balanced opinion.

    Again, jazakallah khair for sharing :)

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  20. what if a convert/revert muslim is a spy?

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  21. As a European agnostic, please let me chip in on the concept of not being understood by your family and peers: If you stand out, you’ll be looked upon with suspicion. Chosing a vegetarian life-style has cost me years of bad jokes and ridicule.
    My old aunt is a quintessential granny: if you met her , you would love her instantly. She happens to be a devout Christian: when talking about “those poor Muslims who kill in the name of God, if only they knew Jesus, they’d surely find peace……” she’s as sincere as every last one of you.
    Point being, religion ín itself doesnt make you a better person. But if religion enables you to be the best person you can be, so much the better. Salaam

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  22. Sister Diana.

    I am an American born male convert to Islam and I have studied with teachers from Pakistan that have led me on the path of Muslim only with no division in schools of thought.
    One suggestion( and this is my opinion after my studying the Haddith) is that if the hijib is creating unwanted attention, then there is no sin to you if you remove it. If you continue to dress modestly, then Allah knows your intention and understands your hardship.
    Keep your deen strong and remember this: Allah will test some more than others in this world to strengthen their piety towards Him. In your struggles will be great blessings in the end, but you must persevere and understand that you are being tested and this is indeed a great honor from Allah.
    The only difference that Allah sees in us is in terms of our piety. Rise above this world and pass this test and see what light will be shined upon you.

    May His blessings come to you sooner than later sister.

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    • Brother, I know what you mean.
      But with due respecting, I think in future you will have some people giving you attention just because you wear clothes when everyone around is naked.
      As long as you wear modest dress that follows Allah’s command you are OK. But problem(Or Solution I should say) is covering your hair is compulsory. If you cover it, you get attention of Islamophobes. Now guess what, Prophet was mocked, He was called mad man, He was stoned in the streets. When Angles waited for His complain about the people so they can destroy them, he made looked up and complained to Allah NOT about the people who stoned him BUT about Him failing in His mission. He apologized for His shortcomings(Which weren’t there in reality.). Prophet has struggled for this Deen to reach to us.

      The thing with Muslims is that they will always be strange and Islam will be always followed by the Strangers.
      Hadith says: “Islam initiated as something strange, and it will revert to its (old position) of being strange. So, glad tidings to the stranger!” [Muslim]

      I try to be as strange as possible. :)

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  23. Dear Sister Olivia,

    JazakAllah khair and thank you for this wonderful article. As a convert I have struggled with many of these challenges and I found this article very encouraging and enlightening. I’m glad you addressed your misuse of the term “third-world” and inshaAllah we can keep learning about each other so that we can respect each other! :)

    However, I have one other critique. While I can imagine that this stems from your experiences and those you know (and it certain reflects my experience), I think we have to be careful when speaking on behalf of converts. Many converts have entered into Islam and they are facing even more difficulties than before (poverty, unemployment, homelessness, etc) by not having a supportive community. One example is non-White American converts. Many have already experienced prejudice and knew too well the “minority” experience. In many Muslim communities, they are not seen as “trophies” and their minority status has only become worse. Many non-White converts are not embraced by Muslim communities and are often ignored. There is a significant amount of white privilege and racist attitudes within American society that is reflected in and perpetrated by Muslim communities, and this is something that needs to be addressed systematically inshaAllah. Related to this is the complicated issue of American identity. “Americans” who convert to Islam are not all the same, and may have different ways of identifying. Again the non-White converts may face a lot of troubles in this regard if they have been consistently abused by racism in American systems (government, employment, education etc) and may not be as comfortable subscribing to the ideals of “American” identity that they may not have experienced.

    InshaAllah my hope is that converts and people born into Muslim families of all backgrounds will not focus on cultural differences as a way to divide the ummah, but instead we can work together to understand each of our different challenges and to support each other as we grow in faith together.

    JazakAllah khair for your article and inshaAllah we can keep working to better the growing American ummah. :)

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  24. Islam is a religion that transcends the borders, race, color and even the skies, Angels from that world are Muslim. It is universal brotherhood, you can be on any planet yet the Islam and its message is same.

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  25. Great article mashallah.

    You made many amazing points. This article is helpful to show the mindset of a convert.

    However, in one section you point out the unfortunate effects of racism faced by converts and then towards the of the article you said “dont let anyone tell you how to be a true american or patriot”

    Isnt that the kind of thinking that divides us using nationalistic labels that will eventually promote racism?

    After all what do racism, tribalism and nationalism have in common?

    They all essentially say that one individual or group of people feels superior than another group based on something that they had no control over….like the color of their skin, or the country of their birth or what tribe they were born into.

    Its the same mindset that caused Satan to think he was better than Adam because of the substance that he was made of….Iblees said…and im paraphrasing….”I am better than he….he is made from dust while im made of fire”

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  26. Connecting with other Muslims especially other converts is a great way to develop a support system. Female reverts/converts please visit rcmcommunity.wordpress.com

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