I’m a revert. I accepted Islam almost twenty years ago, standing in the front vestibule of the Islamic Center of Greater Kansas City, gently led through my saying of the Shahadah, my declaration of faith, by the Imaam, Adnan Bayazid, while a vacuum cleaner buzzed in the background. Since then I’ve never looked back, and Islam is firmly ingrained in my mind and my heart. I’m one of those “fundamentalist” Muslims. I dress in long loose clothes, I cover my hair, my husband sports a beard, and I try to keep to the discipline of the five daily prayers – not an easy thing for someone with ADD, let me tell you! I don’t eat pork or drink alcohol. I don’t go to bars, I don’t engage in one-night stands. I don’t smoke pot or shoot heroin into my veins or snort cocaine. If the cashier gives me too much change, I give it back. I raise my kids to say please and thank you. I laugh at cute kitten videos and enjoy cop dramas. I am a Muslim.
I know a lot of parents have questions when their kid chooses Islam (for purposes of our discussion I’m talking about adult kids). Sometimes families are torn completely apart, with the revert Muslim being disowned and totally cut off. It’s an emotional reaction born of ignorance. Now, hear me out. It’s born of ignorance because if you are mad when your son or daughter chooses Islam, it’s usually because you don’t like those Ay-rabs who attacked us on 9/11. Cause they were Moozlums. And they attacked us. So, anything that has to do with that faith has to be bad, right?
Wrong. To generalize and condemn all 1 billion + Muslims on the planet because of the actions of a few would be just as ignorant as hating all Germans because of Hitler. You know, Hitler? German guy, European, lived in two Christian countries, Germany and Austria? Well, that’s different, you say. He was a Socialist, a damned atheist, even into the occult! Yes, but he managed to get an entire country of Christians to stand behind him and make war on the rest of the world. What about them? What about those good Lutheran and Roman Catholic Germans who blitzkrieged their fellow Christians in Great Britain? Who overwhelmed their coreligionists in France? Well, shoot, you can’t compare the two! Apples and oranges! Hitler didn’t fight in the name of God. His war was political!
Tell that to six million Jews. Many people justified their oppression and genocide of the Jews of Europe on religious grounds. Hitler didn’t create that hate and that outlook, he just shaped it to his needs. And entire countries went along with him and brought down a war the like of which the world had never seen before.
Are you mad at me for pointing this out? For trying to get you to stop and think about your prejudices? Well, that’s okay. If being mad doesn’t stop you from thinking, I’m fine with that. But get past the mad and start THINKING.
Do you even know anything about Islam? Anything beyond what is put forth by the fine folks at CNN and Fox News? Probably not. Well, here’s Islam in a couple of paragraphs:
Muslims worship the same God as the Jews and Christians. The One God, who created and sustains the universe. We believe that God sent prophets to the many tribes of mankind throughout history to teach them about this oneness, called “tauheed” in Arabic. There may have been as many as 100,000 or more, but their histories are not preserved. Some we know of – the prophets of the Bible such as Abraham and Lot, David and Solomon, Isaac and Ishmael, Moses and Jesus, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them all. We accept them as prophets. And Islam teaches that you HAVE to believe Jesus was a prophet or else you’re not Muslim . We believe in the Virgin Birth. We believe he was not killed, but was taken up alive into the heavens and is the Messiah and will return. The difference we have with Pauline Christianity is that we don’t believe he is God or the Son of God. Heck, neither did most Christians up until the Council of Nicea, and even then it was a close-run thing.
Does any of that surprise you? Well, if you’ve been allowing yourself to be spoonfed the racist and Islamophobic pablum that TV is dishing out, I’m not surprised. Let me tell you a few other things Islam teaches.
Islam teaches first and foremost that we are to worship God with no partners, but right after that, in the same sentence, we are told to honor our parents. To never say a harsh word to them. To take care of them since they sacrificed for us when we were little. We are told that we should abstain from alcohol because, even though it’s a useful social lubricant, the damage it does outweighs the benefits. We are told that our bodies are a trust from God and we should not abuse that trust by doing drugs, or overeating. We are told that men are the protectors and maintainers of women and that if a woman makes her own money, or is independently wealthy, the money is HERS and she is not obliged to spend it on her own upkeep. That is about 1400 years in advance of “western” laws.
Oh, and about the whole hijab thing. I know you probably were really upset the first time your daughter came to you with that scrap of cloth on her head. Just think of it this way: Do you prefer the idea of your daughter, your sweetie, the apple of your eye, teetering on high heels, done up with makeup, wearing a short skirt and a tight top, walking down the street with the cable guy, the pizza delivery guy, the guy who downloads porn, the guy who cheats on his wife, and every other guy looking at her, or do you prefer your daughter to dress modestly so that those men, who, like most men, think about sex every twenty seconds or so, don’t have anything on which to build their fantasies? It’s just a bit of cloth; don’t obsess over it. The brain and personality of the woman underneath is still intact.
And if you don’t like the idea of your son growing a beard, well, would you rather he got a tattoo of Angelina Jolie on his chest? It’s not the end of the world!
So, take a deep breath, settle down, and maybe sit and TALK to your son or daughter to try to see why he or she felt compelled to become Muslim. Chances are, the answers will run something like this: “I never really understood the Trinity.”. “I always believed in God but couldn’t find proof that Jesus was God.” “I wanted to live a moral life.” “I believe that we need structure and guidance in our lives, and Islam offers that.” “I believe”. They believe. It boils down to that.
Is it such a bad thing that your kid believes in honoring parents? In not doing things that are bad for them, like drinking and drugging and clubbing? That they believe the relationship between men and women should be honorable? That there is something beyond this world that is worth striving for? Once you KNOW what Islam is, I think you won’t fear it so much. And you can maybe recognize the beauty of it. If you know. If you allow yourself to know. If you have the courage to take off the blinders of your preconceptions and learn. Maybe you won’t be pissed off at your kid anymore. And maybe you’ll realize that you want what he has. I’d like that. I’d like that very much.