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Believers Make Mistakes, But…

 

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Muslims overthrow their discomfort and anxieties as a result of their mistakes by turning to Allah and acting according to the moral values of the Qur’an.

No one wants  to make a mistake and do himself or others  mischief. However, making mistakes is an important part of our trial in the life of this world. Allah created our trial in the life of this world in this way. Anyone can make a mistake but what is important is that he repents after his mistake and strive not to repeat this mistake.

Allah reveals in the verses of the Qur’an that human beings are weak creatures who can forget and be mistaken. A person can make a mistake when he does not think something through, ignores something, does not take the necessary precautions, is overwhelmed by his weak points, forgets or is mistaken. This is very natural.

However the important thing is how the person reacts after this, rather than the mistake itself. However big the mistake is, as soon as the person decides to resign himself and begins to show the attitude hoped to please Allah, that mistake disappears, by Allah’s leave. Almighty Allah reveals as such in Surat Aal `Imran:

Those who, when they act indecently or wrong themselves, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their bad actions (and who can forgive bad actions except Allah?) and do not knowingly persist in what they were doing. (Aal ‘Imran 3:135)

Allah Creates Everything We Do

Everything a person lives throughout his or her life, everything they do, every situation they face, all of them are created by Allah with all of the pros and cons. In the verses it is revealed that not even a single leaf falls without the knowledge of Allah:

And with Him are the keys of the Invisible. None but He knows them. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, naught of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a clear record. (Al-An`am 6:59)

It is also revealed “Everything they did is in the Books. Everything is recorded, big or small.” (Al-Qamar 54:52-53)

This means that the person makes that mistake because Allah wills him to do so; it is in his destiny to make that mistake. When he acts according to the Qur’an, something good will happen after that mistake.

For example, a person may break a vase when walking by it because he is not careful enough or does not look ahead. Or he can bump into a dinner plate prepared with great effort and knock it off a table. He may cause the people waiting for him to delay their jobs because he fell asleep.

Now in all these there is a variety of reasons created by Allah. Allah is the One Who breaks that object. Maybe that object would have caused a conflict between its owners or broken in a dangerous way that would harm someone. Maybe Allah will make a much more beautiful one to be purchased instead.

In the same way, Allah is the One Who makes the food spill on the floor. Maybe there is an bad ingredient inside that food and it would have made someone ill. Maybe that food would have prevented that person from eating something healthier.

Also Allah is the One Who does not wake a person who is late for a job because he fell asleep because maybe his friends waiting for him need to be late as well. Maybe this will protect them from some danger or maybe bring the means to carry out a more important job.

If one does not realize these facts, when he makes a mistake he would panic and feel anxiety and sorrow. He would feet unease and dismay. His sadness would increase even because of the effect of this situation on other people and his troubles increase day by day.

However, it is not in line with the moral values of the Qur’an to feel sad, dismay and troubled because of a mistake, which took place in his destiny by Allah’s will.

Muslims overthrow their discomfort and anxieties as a result of their mistakes again by turning to Allah and acting according to the moral values of the Qur’an. They do not fall into depression like people who do not live by the morality of religion. They do not feel sadness, sorrow or hopelessness by evaluating their mistakes with an emotional state of mind. They only experience a very deep and strong sense of regret.

However this is not an evil kind of regret; it is a Muslim kind of regret because this feeling of regret helps them hold onto the Qur’an even more strongly. They pray to Allah even more deeply. Their religious enthusiasm, determination to live by the moral values of the Qur’an, submission to Allah, faith in the hereafter and fear of Allah increase tremendously.

They take very sincere decisions to become better in every way and become more enthusiastic and energetic by striving more in this way. They know that even if they could take the time back, they would still make the same mistakes. When they criticize themselves and feel regret for their actions, they do not forget that all things have occurred according to destiny. Therefore they do not “live in a sense of guilt” as irreligious people do:

Everything they did is in the Books. Everything is recorded, big or small. (Al-Qamar 54:52-53)

It is impossible to claim that a person will never make any mistakes throughout his life and is complete and flawless because human beings are created as weak creatures who can make mistakes. Our Almighty Lord is the One Who is forgiving and accepts repentance.

Therefore, a believer needs to take lessons from the mistakes he made knowingly or  unknowingly or because he followed his inner self. What he needs to do is to regret it and follow the truth and submit to our Lord and strive not to repeat that mistake. Of course he needs to be very careful about not making any mistakes and commit any further sins and protecting the boundaries of our Lord.

But even if he makes a mistake it is a very good quality of faith to ask for forgiveness from Allah. The names of Allah as “The Acceptor of Repentance” (At-Tawwab), “The All-Forgiving” (Al-Ghaffar), “The All-Merciful” (Ar-Rahman) are manifested on the believers who regret their mistakes, ask for forgiveness and turn to Allah.

Believers Take Lessons from Their Mistakes

As a result of their faith and fear of Allah, mistakes help believers become more clean morally. Maybe they make a mistake on one thing, but they remember that mistake all their lives and avoid making a similar mistake by taking lessons from it.

However, Allah created human beings especially in a character so that they can use their conscience, feel regret and repent, turn to Him and ask for His forgiveness and take decisions not to repeat that mistake.

A person must do all he can not to make a mistake; and strive to act in a very moral way by using his mind, will and conscience to the end. But when there is a mistake, he needs to act in the way as described in the Qur’an.

If that mistake has helped the person to better understand his weakness in the face of Allah’s infinite power and his need for Allah, then this shows that person’s sincere faith and fear of Allah. If he regrets  his mistake and fears to be held responsible in the Day of Judgment, and if he submits to Allah’s mercy and forgiveness, then he is abiding by the moral values of the Qur’an by Allah’s leave.

Such a person prays sincerely so Allah accepts his repentance and forgives him. He promises to Allah with a true heart not to repeat that mistake. In one verse, our Lord heralds that He will accept the repentance of his sincere servants:

But if anyone makes repentance after his wrongdoing and puts things right, Allah will turn towards him. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Al-Ma’idah 5:39)

The Qur’an is the only measure for believers, so their approach to a person who makes a mistake is always in line with the moral values of the Qur’an.

A believer knows that every person is a human being who is weak and who can make a mistake easily. He does not forget that Allah is the One Who creates everything – by Allah’s leave – and he can distinguish a sincere mistake from a deliberate one. When a person is sincere, his love or respect would not change because of a single mistake – by Allah’s leave.

_________________________

Source: harunyahya.

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New Muslims Reflections

Experience Lessons from Converting to Islam

prayer beads, Islam

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.

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 for example, even though Islam teaches us to uphold religious freedom. To most people, Islamic practice embodies the opposite of American or Western 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 it is 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 Is Not 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 (meal to break the fast) at the masjid with your brothers and sisters in faith. Don’t, however, let this disenchant you from the deen or become harsh with them. You may 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 a citizen 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.

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 (peace be upon him) 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.

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 is not fair, and being raised on certain 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 people of your country. You will see that for every negative experience you have, you will have many more positive ones.

On the other hand, 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 imam, 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.

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 Ṣufis, Ḥanafis, 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 sheikh or imam who understands your particular scenario, preferably one who has a great deal of experience with domestic issues and converts. In such cases avoid 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

“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. (I know, it’s annoying.) They want you to move them and give them their daily iman-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 devoted citizen 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 to 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- Stick to Your Nationality

Some Western 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 You are not a drone program or a war or a policy. You are not anti-Muslim or anti-Western bigotry. 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 or British for example.

Don’t let anyone else tell you what it means to be a true 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 your citizenship, so get out there and do it.

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Source: muslimmatters

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

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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Conversion Stories New Muslims

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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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Brother Paul: It Takes Time to Learn What Islam Is about

Brother Paul

I didn’t realize what Islam was, and even confused it with the turbans from other religion.

My name is Paul, which is my given name, but my Muslim name is Farouq. I grew up in the city before I moved up to Austin. I went to a normal high school with a normal youth and normal people.

The first time I heard about Islam, or more correctly about Muslims, was from 9/11. I didn’t know what that meant, and I didn’t know it was related to Islam.  So I decided to conduct a research on it. I didn’t realize what Islam was, and even confused it with the turbans from other religion. It all mingled and seemed the same to me.

I was searching for the truth through different avenues, looking for what was right and what was wrong, what is the meaning of the wobbly wars around the world, why religion usually is at the base of wars, etc.

And I was trying to find the truth; the true cause of these wars. And then brother Martin said have a look at this Qur’an; there’s a lot of truth in it. And the why I was trying to find the truth was to disprove what was presented to me; to try to say ‘No, this is actually wrong’. I couldn’t do that with the Qur’an. I couldn’t find anything wrong in it. And Martin said: ‘look, there’s actually a lot of depth in this. He says, as I was in the Hebrew industrial metropolitan, ‘look deeper into it, there’s a meaning in that miracle.’

I took Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) in the mosque and shake hand with the imam at time. And I remember there were about four hundred people in the mosque. It was a very humbling moment.

At the time there was someone of the brothers behind me was crying. And I said, like a kid: ‘Well, why are you crying? It is a good thing that I’m converting to Islam.’ It was until too later that I could’ve fully understood what Islam is about. And to understand why they were crying helped me see that one-way myth.

Family Reactions

At first when I was waking up for Fajr Prayer I feared my mad could hear the recitation of the Qur’an, and I kept saying ‘keep quite.’ He didn’t know at that time.

My dad was in the Vietnam War. He was very western and almost racist. So, for me to tell him I was Muslim I was just scared. So, I needed to prepare myself for it. I was leaving my dad’s house at that time.

It was for about two months until I told him. I embraced Islam in December and I wasn’t assure than about telling him I was a Muslim. Now, …

Watch brother Paul telling his conversion story here…

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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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Islam Fastest-Growing Religion in Ireland

By: Maggie Armstrong

Islam Fastest-Growing Religion in Ireland

It is estimated that up to 500 Irish people convert to Islam every year.

Islam is Ireland’s fastest-growing religion, with the number of Muslims recorded in the 2011 Census – 48,130 – expected to reach 100,000 by 2020. In a country where only 34pc of approximately 3.8 million Catholics attend Mass, many people are drifting away from religion. But a small number are finding that Islamic beliefs and practices, which allow for a peaceful and community-oriented life, fit their spiritual needs.

Growing Community

It is estimated that up to 500 Irish people convert to Islam every year. There is no official register and no baptism – to convert you simply have to recite the Testimony of Faith (Shahadah) in front of two Muslim witnesses.

While more women convert than men, and most conversions are for marriage, people can have very personal reasons for converting – or reverting as it is known in the Islamic faith, in which it is believed that everyone was born Muslim.

Ireland has a thriving Muslim community. Building begins next year on what is set to be the biggest Islamic cultural center in the country, in Clongriffin on Dublin’s northside. There are mosques and dedicated primary schools in each of our cities. And unlike the situation in France, there is no policy against Muslim girls wearing the hijab (veil) to school.

Support for converts is offered by the Muslim Sisters of Eire, an organization run by Irish Muslim women, and at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Dublin, where theologian Dr. Ali Salem teaches a course for new Muslims.

“When people revert, they can be very enthusiastic,” says Dr Salem. “We teach a moderate understanding of Islam, and we also teach them (converts) how to change their lives gradually.”

Aishah (formerly Liza) Caulfield (36, crèche worker)

I come from Irishtown in Dublin 4, born and bred Irish. I became interested in Islam around 12 years ago.

My lifestyle wasn’t typically Irish on the social level. I wasn’t going to nightclubs and I wasn’t into drinking. I always wondered if there was a group of people out there who had a quieter lifestyle, a faith that matched how I lived my life.

I was missing a piece of the puzzle, and I was always searching. I already fitted this religion – I just needed to find it.

Through research I kept coming across Islam. I wasn’t very outward about it at the beginning. When 9/11 happened I thought, “Right, maybe not now, but I’ll continue looking”. I took the Testimony of Faith (the Shahadah), three years ago and got married last year to a Muslim from Mauritius.

My dad said, “It’s about time”, when I took the Shahadah. My family bought me hijabs and my dad was like, “I’ll get you one of those Qur’ans.” He was very hands-on. He’s a staunch Catholic, goes to confession every month and Mass every Sunday. He’d be praying morning and night.

I’m definitely happier. Islam is a quieter, more peaceful way of life. There’s a great sense of unity – our prayer times change day-to-day as the sun rises and sets. Everybody who’s Muslim, a quarter of the inhabitants of the world, is facing Mecca and praying at the same time. That is a very powerful and sacred feeling, putting your face to the floor and submitting to God.

The one big change is wearing the hijab. I wear it because it’s a sign of my devotion to God. It shows humility with my husband and with the male members of my family. For me my beauty is my hair and my body, and that’s not for everyone.

I also wear it because one part of my faith is to discuss Islam with non-Muslims. If I’m in the supermarket and someone hears my Ringsend accent, they’ll ask, “Oh, how long are you here, love?” And I’ll reply, “Actually, I’m Irish”. It’s a way of sharing your faith with people, of saying: “Don’t be afraid of us – we’re all human, we all come and go the one way.”

I always dressed modestly. I was never comfortable with showing the figure off. We’re living in a society where people feel threatened because I choose to not show my body, whereas you have girls as young as 11 or 12 who take it to the extreme.

You should be valued for your soul and your personality, not because of how much of your body you show – that’s private, and that’s my beauty.

People often look at Muslim women and think we must feel oppressed. I, for example, when got married, I was given a dowry (mahr) which is a right of the woman in Islam.

You’re going to hear negative stuff in the media – “Oh, the poor Afghan women” and that – but I often say to people: “Please, don’t confuse culture with the faith itself.”

Bridget Darby (68, retired hotel manager)

I was born in Trim into a Catholic family. In the 1950s you were brought up in the fear of God and told, “You’ll be punished, you’ll go to hell”. It was the culture and you did what you were told.

When I was 18 I went to England to study nursing. I met an Englishman in the Royal Air Force. I was at a very vulnerable time and I fell in love with him and we got engaged. He wasn’t a Catholic, so he and I had to have some religious instruction.

One day I showed up by myself and the priest asked me, “Have you got your dress?” He went from the dress to say, “Have you got new underwear?” I tried to answer as best I could, cringing on the edge of the seat. I got out of that office immediately, shaking.

I made myself a promise: that after we married I wouldn’t walk into a Catholic church again, and I never did. We got married, had a child and were stationed in Cyprus and Australia. We got divorced after about 15 years, and in 1985 I went to America. I still had no religion, but I was a good person – I believed in God.

In 2006, I went to Cairo for a vacation. That’s where I was formally introduced to Islam. I had leased an apartment and the owner asked if I would like to visit her ranch outside the city. She picked me up – her husband was driving. She’d asked me to cover appropriately because her farm workers hadn’t seen a Western woman before.

I got in this car, scrunched into the back, and she asked me if I believed in God. “Yes, I do,” I said. Then she asked, “Do you believe in one God?” I said I did. She got really excited and started babbling in Arabic to her husband. She had me reciting, “Mohammad is the prophet and there is only one God”, by the time I got to her house. She was wonderful.

She explained to me about the five pillars (obligations) in Islam. She walked me around her farm and showed me the area where she prayed five times a day.

I walked over to the river and was bathing my feet in the Nile. I can’t describe the feeling, to see the peaceful, respectful way they went about their lives. I had this idea that it was a terrible religion, but by the end of the day I was so taken by it – and I don’t do things on the spur of the moment.

All the years that I’d not been recognizing any religion, trying to survive by myself, I used to feel that someone was guiding me. I realized when I accepted Islam that God was with me anyway.

I’ve been back in Ireland a short time and I haven’t gone around waving a banner that I’m a Muslim. I know that people are afraid of the religion. You don’t see peace, you see violence. The media tells you that al-Qaeda bombed America and brought down the towers, so you tend to stereotype.

A lot of the restrictions are cultural – some are not Islamic. I now have a purpose. I have a belief, I have faith, I have new friends. It’s a sense of security to believe in God. I pray five times a day, but sometimes I miss it. I have the Qur’an by my bed. Islam is very much in your heart. You don’t have to stand on the street and wave the Qur’an. What I have is beautiful for me.

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The article is taken from  Irish Independent with slight editorial modifications. 

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My Path to Islam: It’s about Sincerity & Persistence

nature flowers

Religion is the only one stable you can have in life. So whenever you have any hardships and difficulty in life you should go to your God.

I converted to Islam in October 2007. I was raised a Catholic. I used to teach Catholicism, and I was not so much reactive in the church.

I started to have questions about life I went to the church for my answers and I was met with a lot of resistance. I decided to take my time in knowing about different religions. I started studying Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism , Jainism and, eventually, Islam.

My life has been very different after converting to Islam. It has been one of the most beautiful things that can ever happen to me but it has also brought its share of hardships. My family since I’ve accepted Islam doesn’t speak with me.

As a result, they have taken my daughter from me. I have suffered a lot, I’ve lost my job, I can’t attend school anymore because I’m not able to afford it financially though I was one of the top students in my school.

In life nothing is stable. You can have money, you can have family, you can have anything and all can go in the blink of an eye. But religion is the only one stable you can have. So whenever you have any hardships and difficulty in life you should go to your God.

And going to the church and being told ‘that’s the way it is’, ‘because God said so’, and ‘you shouldn’t question that’, was not acceptable for me.

If I need answers where am I going to find them then?

Being Catholic you believe that there’s the trinity in it (the religion), that Jesus is son of God and he is God, etc. It’s when you can take your mind out of it and look at it, it doesn’t make sense. But it is hard – when for so many years you have this as your faith; this is what you defend and what you’re dedicated to, to take this step back and kind of be open-minded about it.

For me, it took time. I started it for a long time, I had a lot of misconceptions about what Islam was. I even hated Muslims.

I thought all Muslims should die, and in my mind that anyone who is Muslim was they shouldn’t exist; why are they here? They should go back to their countries. You know I had the common American idea of what Islam and Muslims are. But that was my own ignorance following the media.

At this point I read often…

What happened to the sister? Why the change of Heart?

Learn more about what questions the sister had and what answers she have found and how? What did Islam gave here, and how have it contributed to all aspects of her life?

Watch the sister telling her touching and inspiring story her…

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Happiness Like I Never Felt before: Former French Rapper Diam’s

French rapper Diam’s talks about her conversion to Islam

“I discovered a religion of wisdom, of nonviolence, of peace, of sharing, of kindness; the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Salomon and of all the prophets.”

Four years after she converted to Islam, French Rapper Diam’s explains why she decided to take this amazing step that changed her life. In an interview with the French channel TF1, she explains that Islam has brought a lot of meaning to her life.

“I became a normal woman. When I wake up every morning, I know that I have to improve myself,” she said.

“When you carry God’s love in your heart, you are fulfilled.”

She went on to say that she was not built for stardom, clarifying that the life of stars made her miserable. “I tried very hard to have fun in the parties, but, I was not built for that. I believed in the dream of becoming a star, but it was just an illusion,” she said.

Connection with God

The turning point of her life was when she was with her Muslim friend Sousou. When Soussou went to do her prayer, Diam’s asked her if she could pray with her.

“When I prayed with her and I prostrated, I felt being connected with God,” she explains.

When she went on a trip to Mauritius, she took the Qur’an with her in order to read it: “It was a revelation, I was intimately convinced that God exists,” she explained.

“The more I was reading, the more convinced I became.”

Concerning her decision to wear the veil, she explained how it all came step by step. She was not ready to wear I at the beginning, but when she learnt more about Islam, she grew convinced that she needed to wear the hijab.

Hostile Reaction

When the press and her entourage discovered that she converted to Islam, she explained, as she was filmed coming out from a mosque, the press lashed out at her.

Some went as far as accusing her of becoming a danger for all her young fans. She deplored the confusion that the media created about the story of her conversion to Islam.

“I lost my team, because nobody trusted me. When a young girl converts, people say that either she is indoctrinated or her husband forced her to do it, as if I did not have my intellectual independence as if people knew that I was a woman with a weak personality or no character,” she added.

Her veil stirred controversy, especially that she had never explained what led her to change her path. She highlighted the intolerance of the French society and how it is far from being benevolent towards her when she decided to convert to Islam and how she went through tough moments after her decision.

Answering the question if it was complicated to live in France while being a veiled woman, she explained that although France remains a country that promotes freedom, people are not that kind towards her: “France remains the country of freedom since I can still wear my veil, but people’s prejudice and nastiness, make one tired,” she said.

She deplored the fact the French press and the public opinion accused her of becoming a ‘danger for the youth’.

“Is this danger, to advocate peace and be a nice person, and have a family life?”, she wondered.

“I wonder if I people would have said the same to me had I ended up like Amy Winehouse,” she added.

Religion of Peace

She criticized the people who defame Islam without having any knowledge about it and the amalgam between Islam and extremism:

“There are some people who are ignorant and they should refrain from talking. When we talk about something, we have to know what we are talking about,” she said.

Regarding the accusation of extremism leveled at Islam in Western countries, she emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace.

“That is not what I discovered. I discovered a religion of wisdom, of nonviolence, of peace, of sharing, of kindness. It is the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Salomon and of all the prophets. Why do people make it look like that? Under no circumstances can we find it normal that innocent people are killed in terrorist attacks.”

“I am very happy to the point that I have happiness in my heart that nobody can take away, neither through taking pictures nor attacking me, I have faith,” she concluded.

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Source: Morocco World News

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Ireland’s Muslims and the Quest for the Truth

By: Maggie Armstrong

Islam in Ireland

It was a search of something; a search for knowledge and a search for the way. It’s Islam that brought me here.

Philip Flood (60, community worker with drug addicts)

I’m from Ringsend in Dublin, and I’m a Muslim 12 years now. I was a Buddhist for five years before I started to learn about Islam. I had been on a 12-step programme for addictions – alcohol and drugs. I was single at that time and I was never well enough to have a family. I worked part-time on the docks.

The 11th step on the programme was to search “through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with God“, and I started to look at all the different religions through that. I got a higher power into me there.

Most people go back to the religion they were brought up in, but I was never happy with that. I never felt right with the Catholic teachings. My mother and my father were Catholics. I made my ‘First Holy Communion’, Confirmation, went to Mass, was an altar boy. I had and have good friends, priests and nuns. But I didn’t believe, especially with Jesus on the cross. I never felt it was right. I believed in Jesus okay, but not in the cross.

I went for a walk one Friday evening on Sandymount Strand and I met a Muslim couple there, from Libya. I was with the Buddhists at the time and I was telling them about Buddha and his teachings, and they started telling me about Islam. They brought me home to their flat, and we were discussing the different things.

I used to visit them, have a cup of tea and that. They brought me to the mosque. A few weeks before that I had bought a Qur’an in a Pakistani shop in the city centre where I used to buy food, and I could understand the Qur’an more when I was discussing it with them.

When I heard the adhan (the call to prayer) I think my soul connected with that. There was something very spiritual about it, and there were no statues in the mosque.

When I came into Islam I started to study the life of `Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him). I found that made more sense than the Catholic teachings. `Isa was just a prophet; he wasn’t God.

My Life as a Muslim

My family was just happy. They saw the change in me. I married a Muslim woman and have two young children. Part of the Islamic life is to get married and to have children. I went to Morocco on a holiday and I met my wife. About a year after that we got married and she came here. Our two kids are Mohammad and Isa (after the baby Jesus).

I pray five times a day, so that keeps me spiritually well. I visit the mosque as often as I can on Friday for prayer. God has made it easy for me – I don’t have to work on a Friday. I have a television station at home, the Arabic station, and I watch Mecca and Medina, the two holy places in Islam. I get a lot of peace from watching that.

I listen to the Qur’an on a daily basis, even just a small piece, and I read a bit of Islamic literature. I learned a lot of meditation methods with the Buddhists, so I do that quite a bit. It’s the way I live now, and I have the responsibilities of being a husband and a father. I live as best I can on a spiritual basis.

Rasheed (formerly Olegs) Tucs (33, sterile processing technician)

I’m from Latvia. I converted to Islam in 2010. My generation was raised to a certain extent in the Soviet Union. It was a system with its own ideology, in which religion was marginalized. People were discouraged from taking part in any kind of religious services. We were raised in a very rational environment.

In 2006, I met a woman who I fell in love with and I proposed to her. She told me that she had a condition as she was Catholic. She said, “The only way I’m going to marry is in church”. And I said, “I love you, I will do it for you”. It was a bit complicated to become a Catholic, but it gave me a new perspective on the world. My world had been very materialistic, very scientifically oriented.

We got married and the love story continued. But my wife became quite seriously sick with malaria. I started to pray, not like a Catholic because I didn’t care much – it was just a perspective, not a faith. I started to ask someone, something, to make her live and to make us go on. Thank God, she got well. This was the first time I really prayed.

We were going on holidays to Latin America and we had to change flights in Istanbul. On the plane, I got a severe eye infection, conjunctivitis. In two hours I couldn’t see anything. In the middle of a flight, it’s a bit scary.

We had to disembark in Istanbul and go to the doctor. I woke up in the early morning and heard something nice, which was the call to prayer. My antibiotics had worked, my eyes were clear. Then you start thinking, ‘What is it?’ I did a bit of research into all the religions, because I had a whole new perspective for seeing things. During this time, Islam was the message which seemed to me without conflict.

My wife is still Catholic and I’m a Muslim – it doesn’t disturb us. She prays her way and I pray my way. But our prayers, they go to the same place.

Duplin Mosque

Dublin Mosque, Ireland

You have to conform to certain standards. In Islam, it’s said that the only purpose of humans is to worship God. At first you may think that worshipping God is praying five times a day. But actually, worshipping doesn’t mean only praying – it means being a good custodian of the planet. Recycling, buying local or fair-trade food is a way of worship because you are doing the right thing.

A very sensitive issue would be the prohibition of alcohol and all the mind-altering substances. In Islam, it’s said that God has given us a mind and an ability to think and an ability to make a decision, so if we deliberately impair that, we are denying the gift. I used to drink. Eventually, this wish to have a drink or a cigarette, it wore off.

I consider this time as being in search of something; a search for knowledge and a search for the way. It’s Islam that brought me here. I was an embryologist in IVF clinics in Nairobi, and the work was not compatible with the religion, so we had to look for something else.

In Ireland, there are a number of local mosques and cultural centres. In Latvia, there is only one mosque for the whole country. People are good here. Ireland is very friendly to outsiders. In Latvia, people from other societies are still looked at with great suspicion.

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Source: independent.ie.

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