SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Before I became a Muslim, I think I was just a normal teenager, I suppose.
I went out with friends, and I just did normal teenage stuff. I think I liked to go to concerts, I took the day out, ... I went to high school, I was really a very normal person.
It wasn’t until I got to university that I decided that I wanted to be Muslim.
When I was about 17, I started to question why I believed what I believed.
Did I believe what I did just because I have been raised to believe it, or because I thought it was true?
So I decided that I wanted to look into other religions. I actually had as my New Year’s resolution that I wanted to look into Judaism, and that sort of thing. I had no interest at all in becoming Muslim.
When I read about Islam itself, I realized it was actually very different to what I thought. It was actually very peaceful, very egalitarian, with strong emphasis on equal treatment of women, and a strong stance on social justice. I thought it was a very intellectual religion, yet it was also very spiritual, and that also appealed to me as well.
And so after a couple of years of actually looking into it and taking it seriously, when I was 19 I realized that this is actually something that I really believe in.
I don’t feel like I changed a lot. I’m still the same person. I still like the same sort of things.
My daily life hasn't changed at all. In other words, it changed quite flatly I think. The main difference would probably be that I pray five times a day. I perform the ritualistic prayer five times a day, so the first prayer is before sunrise and then they are scattered up throughout the day. So that’s changed. And I obviously wear a headscarf now which I didn’t do before I was Muslim.
In the other words, I don’t feel like I changed a lot. I’m still the same person. I still like the same sort of things. I still got the same friends I had before, and I have some new cool friends that I have made since becoming Muslim, some are Muslims and some aren't.
We live in a society where women are constantly objectified. How many times do we turn on the TV or drive past a billboard where a half-naked woman is being used to sell spaghetti or toothbrushes or carpets or whatever. By wearing the hijab, these women are saying I don’t want to be part of that and I want to be taken more for my mind than the size of my chest or how long my legs are or what kind of hair I have, or anything like that. God has chosen the women in this society to be the flag-bearers of Islam.
You know, my husband has a beard but people can’t necessarily tell that he is Muslim. He just seems to fit in with everybody else. But for me as soon as someone sees me, they know that I’m Muslim and so I’m like the flag-bearer or the ambassador for Islam, and I find it really interesting that God chose women for that role and not men.
I think there certainly are stereotypes of Muslims. People will assume that I'm oppressed or I do not speak English or assume that my husband is a terrorist, or whatever. If there is a negative stereotype of Muslims out there, then a lot of the blame for that is on the shoulders of Muslims. People aren't going to think the wrong things about us if Muslims aren't constantly doing the wrong thing or coming across negatively.
Muslims also need to have open minds and participate in open non-threatening dialogues, and welcome non-Muslims into their mosques and talk to them about their religion, because as long as there is sort of a closed mentality things are going to stay the way they are. Just a matter of talking to your neighbors or the guy who is next to you at work or the woman that you sit next to you on the bus, and just be normal and friendly and doing that sort of thing can really change stereotypes.— www.shafaqna.com/english/