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Don’t Let Her Leave Islam!

 

“She is a Muslim now.” “Don’t let her leave Islam.” “Would you??”

Missing something in their lives – a great one indeed – so many people revert to Islam? But, what happens after that? The truth is many of them leave it?

So, why do so many of them leave Islam? Why do these many formerly lost hearts let go of the solace they have found?

Based on a true story, the video below tells the bitter facts …

httpv://youtu.be/vlvHjbbKX-4

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Conversion to Islam Fills a Religious Void

By Marina Bolotnikova

Pittsburgh's Muslim Movement

Converting to Islam is almost like a coming home feeling. It gave me a great sense of tranquility and peace, and helped stabilizing my life.

Converts come from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, and most say Islam agreed with them on a deep, intuitive level.

Philip and Sherry Snow grew up Catholic in predominantly Christian towns on opposite sides of the country. Today, Philip and Sherry go by Ibrahim and Safiye, live on the North Side with their four children, and are devout adherents to Islam.

When Sherry met Philip, a convert to Islam, online in 1996, she had been questioning her Catholic faith but had no interest in learning about his religion.

“I went through the whole gamut of stereotypes that I had heard about Muslims,” she said. But as she learned about Islam from Philip, she realized not just that her preconceptions about the religion were wrong, but also that Islam filled the gaps she perceived in Christianity.

Mr. Snow, who works as an arborist, and Ms. Snow, a graphic designer, are two of a large and diverse community of Muslim converts in Pittsburgh. This week, the Holy Islamic Month of Ramadan will draw close, calling for increased piety from Muslims around the world.

Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan. For many converts, successful completion of the obligation to fast during Ramadan is one of the most tangible changes in their transition to Islam.

“I officially converted when I completed Ramadan correctly,” said Julie Webb, outreach coordinator at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

Though it is difficult to track precise rates of conversion to Islam, about 20 percent of American Muslims are converts. Converts come from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, and most report that Islam agreed with them on a deep, intuitive level.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that Islam was nothing that I thought it was. As I started learning more, I realized Islam appealed more to what I already believe about God,” Ms. Snow said.

“Being raised Catholic, they teach about the Trinity, and the Trinity never resonated with me. It never made sense. When I found out Muslims believe that God is just one, this made more sense to me.”

After three years learning about Islam from Mr. Snow, reading the Qur’an and learning about other belief systems, Ms. Snow knew that Islam was the one that agreed with her understanding of the world.

She recited the Shahadah (a declaration of belief in the oneness of God –Allah- and acceptance of the Prophet Muhammad as His Messenger) on Halloween 1999. For non-Muslims, public profession of the Shahadah signals one’s conversion to the faith, and many take an Islamic name at the time of their conversion. Ms. Snow used the name Safiye along with her given name.

After her conversion, Ms. Snow flew from New Jersey to California to meet him for the first time. Within a week, they were married.

Mr. Snow, who converted to Islam six years before his wife, had been learning about the faith for more than a decade from Muslim friends and Qur’an study. The first time he learned about Islamic beliefs, from a Libyan friend, the religion immediately resonated with him.

“We were driving through Utah at around 1 in the morning, and when I asked him what was the dominant faith in Libya, he started talking about Islam. It was that night that my heart embraced Islam. I was so thrilled at what he was telling me. I let out a laugh of release. I laughed out of comfort and joy at what he described to me,” he said.

Like his wife, Mr. Snow found in Islam answers to questions that Christianity could not provide to him. “Whenever I asked questions (about Christianity), I noticed there was an agitation, a frustration. Oftentimes they would get angry at me for posing a question. Muslims were never irritated by questions,” he said.

Pittsburgh’s Muslim Movement

Historically, Pittsburgh has been no stranger to Islamic conversion. In the 1930s, Muslim converts established the First Muslim Mosque of Pittsburgh, one of the first mosques in the United States to be founded by converts.

“Pittsburgh has a great history of conversion to Islam,” said Patrick Bowen, who specializes in Islam in the United States at the University of Denver. “African-American Sunni mosques mushroomed in the middle of the 20th century, and Pittsburgh was the main center. The largest concentration (of Muslim converts) was in the Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio region.”

The majority of American Muslim converts are African-American. Today, the First Muslim Mosque of Pittsburgh is one of many mosques in the Pittsburgh area that serve predominantly African-American converts, said Salaah Brooks, who has served as the mosque’s imam, or religious leader, since 1999. The mosque adheres to Salafism, an orthodox strain of Islam.

“I was 14 or 15 when I converted. I felt a spiritual void, and I began learning as much as I could about God. … After speaking with Muslims, it became clear to me that it was the void I was trying to fill,” Imam Brooks said.

“We believe that every person is born with an innate knowledge that Allah is their creator. Hence, He has exclusive right to be worshipped Alone. So converting to Islam is almost like a coming home feeling. … It gave me a great sense of tranquility and peace and helped stabilize my life,” he said.

Imam Brooks’ family was supportive of his transition to Islam, mostly due to the positive effects his faith had on his life. Eventually, his mother converted, too.

“Islam is not a strange faith in the African-American community,” said Imam Brooks. “A person who converts often has an uncle, a cousin or someone in their family who has converted.”

“Islam has a very strong social justice message that many African-American converts are attracted to.”

Other converts have chosen to attend mosques that serve primarily immigrant and non-convert communities, including the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, the largest mosque in the region.

“The international component of Muslims in Pittsburgh is unmatched,” said Ms. Webb. Many larger cities have Muslim communities large enough for particular ethnic groups to form their own mosques, Ms. Webb said, but Pittsburgh is just small enough that mosques like ICP draw people from a wide spectrum of nationalities. And because Islam is one of the largest and most diverse religions in the world, integration has proven both rewarding and confusing for new converts.

“Because there are so many different cultures in Islam, there are so many beautiful rituals that come out of them, you have to be confident enough to ask the imam if it’s something you really have to do. It takes time to navigate through all the different cultures. … A convert needs to understand what it means to be involved with an international community of believers,” Ms. Webb said. “You have to have an anthropological heart.”

Converts have strived not just to integrate with native-born Muslims, but also to gain acceptance from friends, family and strangers.

“I noticed when I became Muslim, my friends started a kind of distancing themselves from me,” Ms. Snow said. “I was sad and figured if they were uncomfortable with that, they didn’t really know me. When I put on the head scarf to show my devotion, other people revealed their true selves.

“When 9/11 happened, it was scary for a little while. People were reacting explosively. One time when I was driving two guys pulled over next to me and made an exploding sound in my window. I had to modify my dress so that I just wore a hoodie and it was not obvious that I was a Muslim woman on the road,” she said.

“I went into an interview with one employer who at the end said, ‘Will you wear that thing on your head every day?’ But honestly, I do not want to work for those kinds of people. I was glad I had my scarf on. He obviously was not judging me on my ability,” she said.

But asked whether the events of 9/11 and the prejudices of others affected their devotion, converts said emphatically that they did not. “I did not see the geopolitical concern in any way having to do with my faith. It’s disturbing to all Muslims I know to hear of the acts done in the name of Islam,” Ms. Webb said.

“I haven’t found anything to waver my faith once I realized what Islam had,” Ms. Snow said. “It’s not that I’m not learning about what other people believe, but I’ve never found anything stronger.”

“There is plenty of times I don’t feel like an outstanding Muslim. I feel I probably don’t worship as much as I could, am not as patient as I could be,” she said. “Islam is perfect but Muslims are not.”

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Source: post-gazette.com.

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How Becoming a Muslim Is an Ongoing Process

conversion

After all, as a convert, I now carry the burden of raising an educated, observant young Muslim man without the same reassuring sense of community my parents enjoyed.

“Noni, Mami has a prayer shirt, and I have a prayer hat. Don’t you have one?” That’s how my mother discovered I had converted to Islam. I had been praying the five daily prayers for three months, and my four-year-old finally found a way to communicate my new habit. Certainly not my planned reveal, but it was fitting that he, an innocent child, had shared the news, perhaps softening the blow.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder if my son would tell his father – a discussion I have been envisaging in my mind since my conversion. As a Muslim woman divorced from a Christian man and preparing to marry an Arab Muslim, I have opened quite the “can of worms”. It seems somewhat cowardly, but I shied away from flatly telling my family that I had embraced Islam.

I delayed the inevitable conversation, determined to find just the right grouping of words to explain my conversion, and although I mentally wrote and rewrote the script endlessly, they never appeared. I spent so much time coming up with ways to justify my acceptance of Islam and to condense a one-year journey into a half-hour conversation that I forgot the most logical and likely of questions. My mother looked at me and simply asked, “Why do you not want to be a Christian anymore?” It’s a fair question, and for all my preparation, I had no satisfactory answer in that moment.

What came out was incoherent babble that completely dodged the question, “Well, it’s actually more of a prayer dress … “ It didn’t exactly clear up the issue, but I felt some comfort in knowing that I had explained something; a totally irrelevant something, but still something.

My reveal to my family is probably not too different from those of the 23 percent of American Muslims who are converts (Pew Research Center, 2007). It is a coming out of sorts to explain to our families the conversion experience. There is an awkward limbo for many people who leave Christianity (or any faith, for that matter) and enter into Islam; the period between leaving one’s familiar, childhood religion and sitting down to make the official Testimony of Faith, the Shahadah, can be exhausting and riddled with anxiety. Each person faces her own idiosyncratic difficulties as each religion and sect deals with conversion differently.

I lost everyone around me. Upon conversion, I immediately became a loner in a world full of communities, a puzzle piece that didn’t fit. I imagine most converts are stung by this same frightening loneliness; it is born, not out of a dissatisfaction with our new faith, but from a realization that our lifelong social and spiritual networks have thinned out, and we have yet to become fully integrated into the local Muslim community. Add to this the fact that some of us are single parents, and the anxiety doubles. After all, as a convert, I now carry the burden of raising an educated, observant young Muslim man without the same reassuring sense of community my parents enjoyed.

After so much deep reflection on whether or not to embrace Islam, I felt relieved that the most difficult part of the journey lay behind me. Little did I know that dealing with the reactions of family and friends to my conversion would be just as, if not more, draining and conflicting than coming to terms with my spiritual evolution myself!

After a bitter, traumatic divorce, I, perhaps naively, felt I finally had good news to share. But I was alone in my excitement; no one else interpreted it this way. In their minds, my acceptance of Islam represented a misguided reaction against God for the dissolution of my marriage that I had rejected Christianity out of anger and rebelliousness, and now was on a path to hell.

I quickly realized that although I had embraced Islam after much soul searching, my work was not done. I would now find myself defending my decision at every turn, and potentially placing a barrier between myself and the people I needed most. How had all this boiled down to talking about a prayer shirt? I would like my family to accept my decision. I need my son’s father to at least tolerate it. Neither of these might happen, but these are the unique set of challenges I have been dealt as a Muslim convert.

Yesterday, my son proudly brought his prayer hat to show my mother. She laughed as he modeled it for her. She may not understand why I chose Islam, but, in a serendipitous way, it is a four-year-old who can bypass the hurt and the fears and teach my parents that Islam is not about hate; it is about worship of One God. That is my solace.

I’m happy to have it, because there are plenty of reminders that I am now a foreigner in the community to which I once belonged. Just today I scrolled through Facebook photos of my former church; it’s a curious experience to become an outsider.

After the less than grand reveal, I agonized, how will I politely and gently explain to my mother that I do not want her to tell my son that Jesus lives in his heart? Will I allow him to continue to attend church with his grandparents? My decision came after reading a portion in the Quran: “(But those firm in knowledge say) ‘Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower’”. (Aal `Imran 3:8)

So, the environment still plays a part in educating my son, and his father will continue to teach him about his own customs and religious doctrine. At some point, my son will decide for himself.

In such cases the mother will equip her son to be a thinker, to allow Allah to guide his heart and always search for the clear signs He has left for our benefit. For now, I’ll wear my prayer shirt, bow in worship and trust the rest will come as Allah has already written.

_________________________

Source: patheos.com.

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I Was Looking for a Better Life and I Found Islam

sky_nature_purity

I was looking for something better for me and for my kids

How did a daughter of a drug cartel find Islam? How was the beginning; how did she get started searching for a meaning in her life?

What did she find? How did Islam change her life? What have it made of her? How does she live now as a Muslim?

Here’s here story in her own words…

Where did your journey to Islam begin?

My journey to Islam started when a couple of friends of mine wanted to take me to mosque. I was hanging up with Muslim friends, and Alhamdulillah I met I sister who is very dear and near to me. It was here who took me to the masjid.

But me wanting to go to the masjid came from looking for something better for my kids, because my life was very disorganized. I came from a household where my mother was a drug addict, and my father was in the Colombian cartel. He got thirty years in jail. My mother died from a heroin overdose.

So, my lifestyle was similar to them as I was going down that path. I didn’t want to leave my kids the way my mother left us. So the more I reflected on that the more it pushed me to look for something different. One of Muslim friends told me then that being Muslim is about believing in One God, and that was appeasing to me; worshipping only One God, there’s no statues. And I got curious. That’s how it started.

How did your family react to your change?

My family didn’t react in a positive way to me being Muslim. It was me saying La ilaha illa Allah (There’s no god but Allah) that bothered them. Because they are catholic to the sense that …

Watch the new Muslim sister answer these questions presenting her amazing journey into Islam:

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Why Do So Many US Latinos Choose Islam?

By Tim Padgett

Latino Muslims

In religious terms, Latinos, like Gonzalez, say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does.

Just as the U.S. Latino population is on the rise, Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority, so is the number of Latino Muslims. And it’s not just a result of Arab Latin Americans emigrating to the United States.

According to organizations like WhyIslam.org, Latinos are one of the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community. About six percent of U.S. Muslims are now Latino, and as many as a fifth of new converts to Islam nationwide are Latino.

The American Muslim Association of North America (A.M.A.N.A.), based in North Miami, says heavily Hispanic South Florida in particular is home to a rising number of Latino Muslims.

Not that conversion to Islam is easy in Latino society, as Marina Gonzalez knows. A Nicaraguan-American nurse in Miami, Gonzalez converted five years ago and wears the hijab, the Muslim women’s head garb. At first her family stopped talking to her.

“They (were) calling me Talibana,” Gonzalez recalls. “My mother, she didn’t like to go (out) with me because I wear the hijab.”

But now her mother “understands. When I go to my parents’ house they turn off the TV when I have to pray. I’m so happy.”

Najib Sowma’s first name was Dario before he converted six years ago. Today he’s a leading member of the Al-Ihsaan mosque in South Miami-Dade. But his Cuban mother was initially shocked.

“Now her views have changed,” says Sowma.

“Prior to me being Muslim to who I am now, she sees a big difference in my character.”

Spain’s Islam

If it’s a surprise that many Latinos are moving from a predominantly Roman Catholic culture to an originally Arab faith, perhaps it shouldn’t be. For one thing, like African-Americans in the 1960s, Latinos are discovering their own historical and cultural ties to Islam and the Arab world. And that starts with what most defines Latinos: Spanish.

“Our language is nurtured by more than 4,000 words that come from Arabic,” says Wilfredo Ruiz, a Puerto Rican-born Muslim who converted a decade ago and is a lawyer for the South Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

“Every word in Spanish that starts with ‘al,’ for example, like alcalde, alcantarilla, almohada.”

That’s because Arab Muslims ruled Spain for some 800 years during the Middle Ages, and made the Iberian Peninsula one of the most advanced civilizations of its time. A millennium later, Ruiz says that past is an inescapable part of the Hispanic DNA.

“What most Latinos who have embraced Islam find most amazing is their cultural affinity to the Muslim culture,” says Ruiz.

“It’s like rediscovering your past. That area of our past has been hidden from us.”

Ruiz points out that both Latinos and Arabs highly value the extended family and traditions like offering hospitality to strangers. In religious terms, Latinos, like Gonzalez, say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does. They also feel more structure than they see in the evangelical churches so many Latinos join today.

“The connection I have with God now is better than before,” says Gonzalez.

Yet many take comfort in the overlap between Catholicism and Islam. Muslims, for example, venerate the Virgin Mary as well as Jesus, at least as a prophet.

“At the beginning when I was reading the Qur’an I said, “Oh, (Muslims) believe in the hereafter, in angels,’” says Liliana Parodi, a Peruvian-American surgical technician in Miami who converted 24 years ago.

“You know, it’s not so much difference.”

Women Converts

More Latina women convert to Islam than Latino men do. Islam is admittedly questioned for its segregation of women. But Latinas like Parodi say it’s hypocritical for a male-dominated Catholic Church – which forbids women priests, birth control and divorce – and an ultra-macho Latino society, whose Spanish-language television networks still portray women as spitfire sexpots, to criticize their new faith in that regard.

“I tell them, ‘Look at yourself,’” says Parodi. “The sad part is (when they) see women as objects.”

A decade ago, the nation’s image of a Latino Muslim was unfortunately Jose Padilla, the so-called “Dirty Bomber” who was convicted for aiding terrorists. But for Ruiz, who was also a Navy chaplain, much has changed since then, and Latinos are less fearful now of converting.

“They soon come to learn that (Muslims) abhor violence,” Ruiz says.

“We have the same aspirations for social justice as a Christian or a Jew does.”

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Source: wlrn.org

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Blake Ferguson Converts to Islam

NRL Bad Boy Blake Ferguson prays at Zetland Mosque

“He’s got the colour back in his face. He wants to be a better person but he’ll still have his faults, like we all do.” (Mundine)

NRL Bad Boy Blake Ferguson Converts to Islam En Route to a New Life

Professional and once unsettled rugby player, Blake Ferguson, has apparently found the road.

After a life full of thorns, setbacks and anxiety, troubled rugby league star has found his road to rehabilitation, true salvation, peace and tranquility via Islam.

At Zetland Mosque, Sydney, on Friday the National Rugby League (NRL) bad boy have taken the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith), hoping it will help him put his career and whole life back on track.

He converted to Islam by the help of his fellow Muslim boxer Anthony Mundine.

The State of Origin star was photographed praying beside Mundine, who also helped rugby league superstar Sonny Bill Williams convert to the Muslim religion five years ago when Williams was going through a difficult period in his life.

For all his showmanship and madness, Mundine is a deeply religious person who genuinely cares for Ferguson and wants to help him realize his enormous potential in the NRL.

Ferguson declined to comment on Friday saying: “It’s private. I can’t talk about it, I’m sorry.”

Ferguson has previously made many failed attempts to give up alcohol – which is prohibited for a Muslim to drink.

Mundine revealed that the sacked and now unemployed Canberra Raiders star had been asking him about converting for almost six weeks.

“He’s thought about it and it’s a commitment he wants to make,” Mundine said. “But it’s up to Blake to speak about it when he’s ready.

“He’s just looking forward to changing his direction in life. At the moment he’s in good space – no drinking, no drugs, no parties.

“He’s got the colour back in his face. He wants to be a better person but he’ll still have his faults, like we all do.”

A New Start

Blake Ferguson and Anthony Mundine (on the right) praying at a Sydney mosque.

After a life full of thorns, setbacks and anxiety, troubled rugby league star has found his road to rehabilitation, true salvation.

Ferguson’s rugby league career has been in limbo for several months after he was dumped by the Raiders over a number of off-field incidents.

Another prominent Islamic sportsperson, boxer Billy Dib, congratulated Ferguson on Twitter on Saturday, writing on: “Proud of you my brother, so happy to see you taking the right steps to resurrect your footy career.”

Ferguson replied: “Thanks brother.. very hapoy with where im heading.. hooe your well.”

Dib then tweeted “all is well my bro, getting ready for the big fight inshallah.” to which Ferguson responded with “yeah my brother goodluck inshallah”.

Ferguson has had a troubled year in the NRL and is currently facing charges over the alleged indecent assault of a woman at a Cronulla nightspot. That matter is still before the courts.

Many of Ferguson’s misdemeanors have been alcohol-related, which makes his religious conversion such a significant step.

The Roosters’ Kiwi superstar Sonny Bill Williams, another close friend of Mundine’s, has said his Muslim faith has made him a better footballer. Ferguson will be hoping for a similar result.

Ferguson worked as a laborer after leaving Canberra but still hopes to return to the NRL. He was supposed to have had his first professional fight on the undercard for Mundine’s aborted fight against Mosley on October 23. He will enter the ring as one of the curtain-raisers for the fight night at All Phones Arena on November 27.

The player, who was once earning $400,000-a-year, is living at Mundine’s Hurstville home with the boxer and his mum.

He is now a $1 million-a-year superstar in NRL and rugby union.

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Source: The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald

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Latino Americans Are Eagerly Absorbing Islam

Latino Americans_Texas

“Islam brings about a clear sense of asking for forgiveness or repentance directly to God, without having an intermediary.”

Growing up was rough for Jaime Fletcher in Houston. He moved from Colombia to Texas when he was 8. In high school, kids splintered off into ethnic gangs. One day, he says an African-American gang leader attacked him.

“And so I just fought back, and because I beat him, beat up the gang leader, by default, they thought it was another gang. And I was the leader,” Fletcher recalls.

Fletcher says being in a gang became a matter of survival. He saw friends get shot and thrown in jail.  He says when he got a little older, he got caught up chasing women, driving fast cars and drinking too much.

“One night that I was with a friend of mine who I’d grown up with, after leaving a club and drinking, we were sitting outside of his house. He looked at the liquor that he had in his hands and he said, ‘I can’t believe I’m still doing this.’

“And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘I can’t believe I’m still doing this after having gone to Makkah.’ And I asked him, ‘What is Makkah?’ And he said, ‘It’s where the House of God is.’

“And that was strange for me. He said, ‘Islam is the true religion of God.’ And I said, ‘Well everybody says their religion is the truth.’”

Like most Latinos, Fletcher was raised in a Catholic family, but he says his parents also encouraged him to find his own truth. After briefly studying Christianity, Judaism, Taoism and Buddhism, Fletcher came to believe Islam was, in fact, the true religion of God.

Between Islam and Christianity

He converted and now goes by the name Mujahid Fletcher. He says Islam incorporated the family values he liked from Catholicism, while getting rid of one big disadvantage: confession to a priest.

“Islam brings about a clear sense of asking for forgiveness or repentance directly to God, without having an intermediary,” Fletcher says.

That holds great appeal for many Muslim converts, says Katherine Ewing, a professor of religion at Columbia University.

“There are frustrations with the structure of the Catholic Church, the hierarchy. A number (of Catholics) say that they’re kind of bored with the mass, that it doesn’t seem related to their everyday needs,” she adds.

Ewing says Islam and Protestantism are addressing those voids for many Latino Catholics.

Upward Trend

It’s difficult to estimate how many Latinos in the US have converted to Islam. Ewing puts the figure somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000. Still modest numbers, but Ewing says there’s a clear upward trend.

Latinos aren’t simply being pushed away by the Catholic Church, many Latinos have been pulled toward Islam, especially since September 11th, says Ewing. She says after the hijackings – and the immediate backlash against Muslims – Muslims began to reach out to outside communities to explain who they were. And many non-Muslims grew more curious about Islam.

“Maybe they saw it (Islam) as this terrorist organization and wanted to find out more about why Muslims would become terrorists,” says Ewing.

“They started to do Internet research, or to read the Qur’an to find out if it really advocated violence. And many, as they did that, actually saw Islam as a peaceful religion, as something that had more familiarity than they expected. They also found some of the beauty of the tradition as they explored further.”

Maryam Masjid, Texas

Maryam Masjid community in Sugar Land, Texas

That’s what Mujahid Fletcher found, and he wanted other Latinos to find this too. Problem though: Islamic texts aren’t easily accessible in Spanish. So, Fletcher began doing translations and making audio recordings of the verses.

Eagerness to Learn

Fletcher now runs a company called Islam in Spanish. He and his father, who also converted to Islam, have recorded more than 500 CDs and 200 cable access TV shows about Islam.

“The end goal with Islam in Spanish is to educate Latinos about Islam worldwide,” he says.

I visited Fletcher at the Maryam Islamic Center, his mosque in Sugar Land, an affluent suburb of Houston. The large mosque looked like something you’d find in the Middle East or Turkey – an attractive building with high, arched entrances, pillars and two minarets. There are reminders you’re in Texas though: Young boys were playing basketball on a court in front near the parking lot.

There were about 100 people at the evening prayer the night I went. Fletcher counted himself as the only Latino. Fletcher says Latino Muslims are spread out in small pockets in big cities like Houston.

I also met Daniel Abdullah Hernandez, an imam at a mosque about 30 minutes away in the city of Pearland. Hernandez, a Puerto Rican-American who was raised Catholic, was also a gang member. He says he got drunk a lot and spent a lot of times at clubs. He says Islam helped turn him into a responsible husband and father.

“In the beginning, people think it’s a phase. My mother, after two years of seeing my transformation, she became a Muslim,” Hernandez says. His father and brother converted as well.

Together, the family visited Egypt to study Islam, a trip that cleared up any doubts they had about becoming Latino Muslims.

“Me and my family were feeling that we were going to be lonely during the holidays,” he says. “And that first year, we’re sitting with other Hispanics breaking bread and eating, and we were all amazed.”

For most Latinos though, Catholicism is more than just a religion, it can be about cultural identity. Even non-devout Latinos can have Virgin of Guadalupe altars set up in their homes. So while Islam, or other religions, may be replacing the Catholic religion for some Latinos, replacing the cultural connection to the Catholic Church, could be much harder.

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Source: pri.org

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From a Christian to a Houston Imam: Yahya Graff

From a Christian to not just a Muslim, but also a prominent imam and teacher in Huston, Texas, Yahya John Graff’s journey to Islam is an extraordinary and moving one.

Exposed to all kinds of Christian practices, dominations, walks, churches and schools, such seemingly religious upbringing, for John, was nowhere near truly religious.

More interestingly, his childhood dream was to be am orchestra musician. He studied to be a vocal music teacher and conductor. During his student internship and on a ski trip in Colorado the shift happened.

How did the shift towards Islam start? How was his first contact with Muslims? How did Islam enter his life?

How did he feel about the religion before meeting it in person? How did learning about Islam change his views and whole life?

Now a Muslim, how does he see misconceptions about Islam, anti-Islam rhetoric and alleged enmity between Islam and the West and between Islam and civilization?

From where did his journey begin, how and why?

In this episode of ‘Path to Guidance’ watch Imam Yahya John Graff give answers to all these questions as he thoroughly describes his journey to the truth; Islam…

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Taken by Islamic Principles Indian Actress Converts to Islam

She liked the principles of Islam and hence, took the decision to join the world's fastest growing religion.

She liked the principles of Islam and hence, took the decision to join the world’s fastest growing religion.

To be a Muslim, well-known young Indian actress Monica bade adieu to her film career, leaving behind the glamorous and the bright lights of fame, Times of India reported.

“I have not convert for the reason of love or money, am not such a person. I like Islamic principles. This is why I have converted to Islam,” she said after reverting to Islam.

“Hereafter I won’t act in the film, it gives some pain but I don’t change my mind,” the young actress added.

According to Indian media, Monica’s decision was announced during a news conference in which she released photos showing her wearing traditional modest costume and a hijab. She has also changed her name to MG Rahima

At the press conference Monica added that she liked the principles of Islam and hence, took the decision to join the world’s fastest growing religion.

The Azhagi actress started her career as a child artist in Tamil cinema and has acted in more than 50 films.

She is also the popular face in other South Indian film industries like Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.

Monica, who had won Tamil Nadu State Award as a best child actor for her performance in Vijaykanth starrer En Aasai Machan, is known for few of the Tamil movies like Azhagi, Imsai Arasan 23m Pulakesi and Silandhi.

Monica is not the first Indian celebrity to revert to Islam this year. After musicians AR Rahman and Yuvan Shankar Raja, Monika is the latest to join the bandwagon of those who converted to Islam is.

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Source: Ummid.com

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New Muslims Reflections

American New Muslims and the Challenges of Conversion

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 40% of Muslims in the U.S. were not raised with the faith, but joined it as adults.

Though Will Caldwell was born, raised and college educated in Georgia, he is uncomfortable praying there.

He has felt that way since a clear summer evening in 2007 at a nondescript gas station off a nondescript interstate somewhere between Savannah and Macon. He was on his way home to Saint Simons Island from Emory University, where he had just finished his junior year. Caldwell had pulled his red Mini Cooper into the rest stop because the sun was starting to set and, since he had converted to Islam one year earlier, this meant that it was time to pray.

In the empty field next to the gas station, he found a discrete corner, laid out his mat and began to recite the verses of the Qur’an, first standing, then bent forward, then on his knees with his head to the ground. He noticed two people looking at him, secretively peering out from behind their truck.

Uneasy, he rushed through the ritual, folded up his mat and got back in the car to leave. As he pulled away, he could see in his rear view mirror a cop car pulling into the parking lot. The people who had been staring were flagging down the police officer and pointing at Caldwell. He drove on at an intentionally moderate pace, and the cop did not follow, but he has not risked praying publicly in the South since.

Caldwell is soft spoken. He pauses thoughtfully before talking and sometimes between sentences. He wears a plaid button down shirt, slacks and small, round wire-framed glasses. His wide-set green eyes gaze out earnestly from his creamy white face. One quickly gets the sense that he is a kind and spiritual person. Perhaps this is his fatal flaw.

Political Percept

After growing up in the Episcopal Church, Caldwell rediscovered his spirituality in Islam and decided to convert. Now, less than a hundred miles from where he was raised, onlookers see Caldwell’s prayer as a potential threat. Why might this be?

“The political context we are in is so charged with anti-Muslim rhetoric that it’s almost impossible, I would say, for that conversion not to have some kind of political ramifications even if the convert in no way intends it,” says Brannon Ingram, a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University, who specializes in Islam and Sufism.

In July of 2013, Fox News correspondent Lauren Green interviewed religion scholar Reza Aslan about “Zealot“, a book he just had written about Jesus Christ. She repeatedly questioned his credentials and asked him to explain how a Muslim could write about Christianity. In 2013, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press study found that 45 percent of Americans believe that Muslims face ”a lot“ of discrimination.

Negative sentiments about Muslims most often link to an association of Islam with radicalism and terrorism. A 2007 document by the New York Police Department entitled ”Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” says, ”Jihadist ideology is the driver that motivates young men and women, born or living in the West, to carry out an ‘autonomous jihad’ via acts of terrorism against their host countries.”

Because of these beliefs, the police instated surveillance over New York City’s mosques and Muslim communities using informants, neighborhood mapping, photos and video footage. When the American Civil Liberties Union caught wind of this policy in June of 2013, they sued the NYPD.

The Impacts

Muslim converts have received extensive media attention. Katherine Russell, the widow of one of the notorious Boston Marathon bombers, began practicing Islam after meeting her husband. Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the “White Widow“ after her husband’s 2005 suicide bombing in London public transit, is among the suspects implicated in the Nairobi mall massacre in September 2013.

She, too, is Muslim convert. Nicholas Brody, a main character of the popular television show “Homeland”, becomes a Muslim while he is imprisoned by Al-Qaeda in Damascus, Syria. Once back in the United States, he collaborates with his captors to plot and execute terror attacks.

Karen Danielson, Director of Outreach at the Chicago chapter of Muslim American Society, says that any event that brings Islam into the public consciousness – for negative or positive reasons – generates interest. ”After 9/11, for example, there was a large influx of converts. Sometimes people come forward hostile, but then even they end up converting because of what they discover,” she says.

“They investigated, they read the Qur’an, and it answered a lot of questions that they had before.”

Danielson herself found Islam in 1983 when she was a young adult. She has worked in community building for Muslims ever since and has interacted with hundreds of converts and support groups.

Despite their powers of attraction, these terror-infused portrayals are very problematic for converts, says Iqbal Akhtar, a professor of Islamic Studies at Florida International University. New Muslims are forced to view themselves as outsiders in their own culture and are not given the opportunity to reconcile the different parts of their identities.

“Even if in day-to-day interactions you can pass for being American or not being differentiated, you live in a society where the media is constantly defining the Muslim as an ‘other’”, says Akhtar. ”All these things fit into how you define yourself.”

Why We Choose Islam?

Converts to any faith seem increasingly abnormal as the United States gravitates farther away from religion. According to a Pew Research study, the number of Americans who do not affiliate with a religion has gone up by 5 percent in the past five years, from 15.3 percent in 2007 to 19.6 percent in 2012.

Yet the number of Muslims in the United States is increasing. In the seven years that followed the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Muslim American population grew from 1,104,000 to 1,349,000, according to the 2012 census. And in a study of that same time frame, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 40 percent of Muslims in the United States were not raised with the faith, but joined it as adults.

This anomalous increase in religious practice may be because conversion to Islam is quick and very simple.

“It really just requires reciting a formula called the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith) in front of a number of witnesses,” says Ingram. He translates the verse to mean, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger.”

And that’s it. There’s no training, no test. You just recite the creed. Ingram attributes the successful global spread of Islam to the ease of this process.

To be continued…                                                                                                                                     

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Source: Ummid.com.

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