Muslim Voices — Women Convert
0:00:06:>>ROSEMARY PENNINGTON: Welcome to Muslim Voices. I'm your host, Rosemary Pennington. In Islam, a person simply needs to recite the Shahada to become a Muslim. But as easy as that recitation can be, the decision to make it usually isn't. Faith is a complicated and personal matter for most people. Religion is often something that's passed down through families. If your parents were Jewish or Catholic or Presbyterian, then you're expected to follow in their footsteps. Deciding to leave that religious heritage can be difficult and can often sever family ties. Noblesville, Ind., native Sarah Thompson was lucky, though. While deciding to convert to Islam was a decision she came to slowly, when she finally did convert, her family was very supportive.
0:00:56:>>SARAH THOMPSON: I feel really blessed because my family reacted much better than other families I've heard about. My mom was just like, OK, great, you know? This is wonderful. What can I do? You know, and she bought - went out and bought me, like, 15 scarves. I mean, she was just, like, amazing. So my parents are divorced, so my dad and my stepdad I think took it the hardest. My dad really thought he was OK with it, but over time I think, as he realizes maybe other people find out or just how real it is - and same with my stepdad - I think that they have a little difficulty with it. But, I mean, for the most part, all my sisters and brothers were really accepting of it. My closest friends were - I definitely lost a lot of friends because of it. They think I'm crazy. But those were friends that weren't meant to be my friends, I guess. And those were friends that were peripheral friends. They weren't really good friends anyway. All my good friends, all my family, they've been supportive.
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0:01:52:>>SARAH THOMPSON: I've always been, like, a really strong feminist. So when I say they thought I was crazy, that's what they meant. Like, you know, they have a very limited idea of what Islam is and it is the woman in the Hijab and it is this woman in a veil that's being oppressed, and that's sort of the image. And I think I was actually at an art exhibit last week and a lot of us were talking about this. You know, Islam is a religion that doesn't want to be represented by symbols. And so what happens is that, you know, the media or whoever is trying to represent us picks something, and that's sort of become the woman in the veil, I guess. And for me, I always - I didn't feel oppressed, but I didn't necessarily feel liberated in Christianity or the life that I was living. And I definitely feel more liberated and more free in Islam. The way that some women are treated in other countries is very cultural, and it's definitely not Islamic. And, you know, in the Quran it says, you know, men have this right, women have this right, men have this right, women have this right - and it's the same rights. And so - that women should be able to be educated and be treated equally. It recognizes that there are differences between men and women and we may have different rules in certain situations, but I think that's something that's just misunderstood, you know, because culturally maybe people live in a very conservative society. And because Islam is a part of your day - I mean, it's a part of your life and ever since - it's very easy to get it confused with the culture that maybe it's a part of.
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0:03:16:>>SARAH THOMPSON: And I didn't necessarily have, like, a near drowning experience like Cat Stevens or Yusuf Islam. You know, I just sort of had - I was just tired of the way my life is going and I think what struck me the most was just sort of the peacefulness of it - the fact that it is a community religion, but it really is focused on you and sort of your relationship with God and you making your prayers every day and your intent being right every day and basically that only He knows what you've done. You know, on the outside it might look like you're doing something, but maybe it's not for Him or - you know, for other reasons, so only He knows. So it was definitely very peaceful to me - the religion and what people talked about and just the idea of making five prayers a day and sort of having this continuous spirituality in your life because of that.
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0:04:15:>>SARAH THOMPSON: It was more difficult in the beginning in the sense that I was very worried about what would happen. I was very worried about what my family would think or what people would think because it's not really a religion that thought of as being anywhere other than the Middle East. And it's so closely linked with terrorism - which is just, you know, ridiculous. So I was just, you know, worried. I was like, oh, I have these friends, I have these family members, what if my family turns against me or something? Because they are a little more conservative. And, you know, I had a really - some really good friends and they were just saying, you know, you just make prayers for these people. And, you know, if these - if your prayers are pure, then God will turn their heart towards you and, you know, if they aren't your friends anymore, than they weren't meant to be your friends. And it was just, like, basic things that you should know anyway, but at the time you kind of have to be talked out of your sadness. And that was, I think, life changing. And I think that's the biggest shift that I've made is that - in my mind is just being - rather than just saying I'm putting my faith in God, to actually do it. And so I would pray every day, every prayer that my - you know, God would turn their hearts towards me, and every day they turned more and more towards me. So in that sense it's been much easier.
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0:05:38:>>ROSEMARY PENNINGTON: Sarah Thompson talking about her experience converting to Islam.
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0:05:51:>>ROSEMARY PENNINGTON: This has been Muslim Voices, a production of Voices and Visions in partnership with WFIU Public Media from Indiana University. Support comes from the Social Science Research Council. Music was provided by Animus. You can subscribe to our Podcast in iTunes or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Join the discussion at our blog, muslimvoices.org.
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