Saturday, June 30, 2007

U.S. Hispanics Embracing Islam


By Amy Green The Christian Science Monitor October 5, 2006

With her hijab and dark complexion, Catherine García doesn’t look like an Orlando native or a Disney tourist. When people ask where she’s from, often they are surprised that it’s not the Middle East but Colombia. That’s because García, a bookstore clerk who immigrated to the U.S. seven years ago, is Hispanic and Muslim. On this balmy afternoon at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, she is at her mosque dressed in long sleeves and a long skirt in keeping with the Islamic belief in modesty. “When I was in my country, I never fit in the society. Here in Islam, I feel like I fit with everything they believe,” she says. García is one of a growing number of Hispanics across the U.S. who have found common ground in a faith and culture bearing surprising similarities to their own heritage. From professionals to students to homemakers, they are drawn to the Muslim faith through marriage, curiosity and a shared interest in issues such as immigration.
The population of Hispanic Muslims has increased 30 percent to some 200,000 since 1999, estimates Ali Khan, national director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago. Many attribute the trend to a growing interest in Islam since the 2001 terrorist attacks and also to a collision between two burgeoning minority groups. They note that Muslims ruled Spain centuries ago, leaving an imprint on Spanish food, music, and language. “Many Hispanics … who are becoming Muslim, would say they are embracing their heritage, a heritage that was denied to them in a sense,” says Ihsan Bagby, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky. The trend has spawned Hispanic Islamic organizations such as the Latino American Dawah Organization, established in 1997 by converts in New York City. Today the organization is nationwide. The growth in the Hispanic Muslim population is especially prevalent in New York, Florida, California and Texas, where Hispanic communities are largest. In Orlando, the area’s largest mosque, which serves some 700 worshippers each week, is located in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood. A few years ago, it was rare to hear Spanish spoken at the mosque, says Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. Today, there is a growing demand for books in Spanish, including the Koran, and requests for appearances on Spanish-language radio stations, Musri says. The mosque offers a Spanish-language education program in Islam for women on Saturdays. “I could easily see in the next few years a mosque that will have Spanish services and a Hispanic imam who will be leading the service,” Musri says. The two groups tend to be family-oriented, religious and politically conservative, Bagby says. Many who convert are second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans. The two groups also share an interest in social issues such as immigration, poverty and health care. Earlier this year, Muslims joined Hispanics in marches nationwide protesting immigration-reform proposals they felt were unfair. In South Central Los Angeles, a group of Muslim UCLA students a decade ago established a medical clinic in this underserved area. Today, the nonreligious University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic treats some 16,000 patients, mostly Hispanic, who see it as a safe place to seek care without fear for their illegal status, says Mansur Khan, vice chairman of the board and one of the founders. Although the clinic doesn’t seek Muslim converts, Dr. Khan sees Hispanics taking an interest in his faith because it focuses on family, he says. One volunteer nurse founded a Latino Islamic organization in the area. Another Hispanic woman told Khan she felt drawn to the faith because of the head covering Muslim women wear. It reminded her of the Virgin Mary. The trend is a sign that Islam is becoming more Americanized and more indigenous to the country, Bagby says. As Republican positions on issues such as immigration push Muslim Hispanics and blacks in a less conservative direction, Islam could move in the same direction. Muslim Hispanic and black involvement in American politics could demonstrate to Muslims worldwide the virtues of democracy, eventually softening fundamentalists. Bagby believes the Osama bin Ladens of the world are a small minority, and most fundamentalists are moving toward engagement with the West. “The more Hispanics and other Americans (who) become Muslim, the stronger and wider the bridge between the Muslim community and the general larger American community,” Bagby says. “Their words and approach have some weight because they are a source of pride for Muslims throughout the world.” García left Colombia to study international business in the U.S. Always religious, she considered becoming a nun when she was younger. But her Catholic faith raised questions for her. She wondered about eating pork when the Bible forbids it and about praying to Mary and the saints and not directly to God. In the U.S., she befriended Muslims and eventually converted to Islam. Her family in Colombia was supportive. Today, she says her prayers in English, Spanish and Arabic, and she eats halal food in keeping with Islamic beliefs. “It’s the best thing that happened to me,” says García in soft, broken English. “I never expected to have so many blessings and be in peace like I am now.”

Jermaine Jackson's (Michael's brother) ... path to Islam ..>

From: al-Mujallah.

It was way back in 1989 when I, along with my sister, conducted a tour to some of the countries of Middle East. During our stay in Bahrain, we were accorded warm welcome. There I happened to meet some children and had a light chitchat with them. I put certain questions to them and they flung at me their innocent queries. During the course of this interaction, they inquired about my religion. I told them, "I am a Christian." I asked them, as to what was their religion? A wave of serenity took over them. They replied in one voice ? Islam. Their enthusiastic answer really shook me from within. Then they started telling me about Islam. They were giving me information, much in piece with their age. The pitch of their voice would reveal that they were highly proud of Islam. This is how I paced toward Islam.A very short interaction with a group of children ultimately led me to have long discourses about Islam with Muslim scholars. A great ripple had taken place in my thought. I made failing attempt to console myself that nothing had happened but I could not conceal this fact any longer from myself that at heart I had converted to Islam. This I disclosed first to my family friend, Qunber Ali. The same Qunber Ali managed to take me to Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia. Till that time, I did not know much about Islam. From there, in the company of a Saudi family, I proceeded for Mecca for the performance of "Umrah". There I made public for the first time that I had become Muslim.Having embraced Islam, I felt as if I were born again. I found in Islam the answers to those queries which I had failed to find in Christianity. Particularly, it was only Islam that provided satisfactory answer to the question relating to the birth of Christ. For the first time I was convinced about the religion itself. I pray my family members might appreciate these facts. My family is the follower of that cult of Christianity, which is known as AVENDANCE of JEHOVA (Jehova's Witness). According to its creeds, only 144,000 men would finally qualify to enter into paradise. ?How comes, It remained always a perplexing creed for me. I was surprised to know that Bible was compiled by so many men, particularly about a volume scripted by King James. I wondered if a man compiles a directory and then ascribes it to God, but he does not fully comply with these directions. During my stay in Saudi Arabia I have had the opportunity to buy a cassette released by the erstwhile British pop-singer and the present Muslim preacher, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens). I learnt a lot from this as well.When I returned to USA, American media orchestrated heinous propaganda against Islam and the Muslims. The gossips were let loose on me which really disturbed my peace of mind. The Hollywood was hell-bent upon maligning the Muslims. They were being projected as terrorists. There are many things where there is consensus between Christianity and Islam, and Quran presents Holy Christ as a virtuous Prophet. Then, I wondered, why Christian America levels baseless allegations against Muslims?This made me gloomy. I made up my mind that I would do my best to dispel the wrong image of Muslims, portrayed by the American media. I had not the slightest idea that American media would not digest the news of my accepting Islam and raise such a great hue and cry. It was virtually acting against all its tall and much-publicized claims about the freedom of expression and the freedom of conscience. So the hypocrisy of American society came to surface and lay uncovered before me. Islam unknotted many complications for me. As a matter of fact, I came to think of myself as a complete human being, in the literal sense of the word. After becoming Muslim, I felt a tremendous change in me. I discarded all thing prohibited in Islam. This made things difficult for my family too. In short, the Jackson family tumbled altogether. Threatening letters poured in, which further intensified the worries of my family.Well, they would tell me that I had nurtured the animosity of American society and culture, by entering into the laps of Islam, you have deprived yourself of the right to live with others. WE would make life unbearable for you in America so on, so forth. But I confess that my family is broadminded. We have held all religions in esteem. Our parents have trained and groomed us in that way. Therefore, I may say that the Jackson family enjoys friendly relation with people belonging to almost all religions. This is the result of that training that I am being tolerated by them so far.On my way back to America, I brought a number of books from Saudi Arabia. Michael Jackson asked me himself for some of these books for study. Before this, his opinion was influenced by the propaganda of American media against Islam and the Muslims. He was not inimical towards Islam, but he was not favorably disposed towards Muslims either. But after reading these books, he would keep mum and not say anything against Muslims. I think perhaps this is the impact of the study of Islam that he diverted his business interests towards Muslim traders. Now, he has equal shares with the Saudi billionaire prince Waleed bin Talal, in his multi-national company.I testify this fact, at least there is nothing in my knowledge that Michael Jackson ever said anything derogatory against Muslims. His songs, too, give message of love for others. We have learnt from our parents to love others. Only those who have their own ax to grind hurl allegations on him. When there can be a nasty uproar against me when I became Muslim, why can it not be so against Michael Jackson. But, so far, media has not subjected him to scathing criticism, although he is threatened for his getting somewhat closer to Islam. But who knows what would it look like when Michael Jackson embraces Islam.When I returned to America, my mother had already heard the news of my conversion to Islam. My mother is a religious and civilized woman. When I reached home, she put forth only one question, "you have taken this decision all of a sudden, or is it the outcome of some deep and long thinking behind it?" "I have decided after a lot of thinking about it," I replied, let me say we are known as a religious family. Whatever we possess, is due to the blessing of God. Then why we should not be grateful to Him? This is why we actively participate in the charity institutions. We dispatched medicines to the poor African countries through special aircraft. During Bosnian war, our aircraft were engaged in supplying aids to the affectees. We are sensitive to such things because we have witnessed abject poverty. We used to live in a house which was hardly a few square meters capacious.Like other members of my family, my sudden conversion to Islam was a great surprise for my sister Janet jackson. In the beginning, she was worried. She has stashed into her head only one thing that Muslims are polygamous, they do have as much as four wives. When I explained this permission granted by Islam with reference to the state of the present American society, she was satisfied. This is fact that promiscuity and infidelity is very common in the western society. In spite of the fact that they are married, western men enjoy extramarital relations with a number of women. This has caused devastating moral decay in that society. Islam safeguards the social fabric from this destruction.As per Islamic teachings, if a man is emotionally attracted towards a woman, he should honorably give this relation a legal shape otherwise he must be contented with only one wife. On the other hand, Islam has laid down so much conditions for second marriage that I do not think that an ordinary Muslim can afford to meet these conditions financially. There is hardly one percent Muslims in the Islamic world who have more than one wife. To my view, the women in an Islamic society is just like a well-protected flower which is safe from the stray penetrating looks of the viewers. Whereas western society is devoid of the vision to appreciate this wisdom and philosophy.For the larger interest of humanity, Islamic society presents the safest place on this planet. For instance, take the example of women. American women are clad in their out-fit in such a manner that gives temptation to the male for harassment. But this is unthinkable in an Islamic society. Besides, the prevalent sins and vices have disfigured the moral fabric of western society. I believe if there is any place left where the humanity is still visible, it can not be anywhere else than in an Islamic society. Time would come when the world would be obliged to accept this reality.American media is suffering from self-contradictions. Take the example of Hollywood. The status of an artist is measured here keeping in view the model of his car, the standard of this restaurant that he visits, etc. This is the media that raises someone from the dust to the skies. They do not consider the artist as a human being. But I have met so many artists in the Middle East. They have no misplaced arrogance in them.Just look at the CNN, they do that much exaggeration about some news that it appears that nothing else has happened except that event in the world. The news of fire in the forests of Florida was given such a wide coverage as it gave the impression that the whole globe has caught fire. In fact, it was a small area, which was affected by that fire.I was in Africa, when the bomb-blast took place in Oklahoma City. The Media, without any proof, started hinting at the involvement of Muslims in that blast. Later on the Saboteur turned out to be a CHRISTIAN!!! We may term this attitude of American media as its willful ignorance.Many persons have impressed me. But the fact is that first I turn to the Holy Quran, therefore I do not run a risk of getting strayed on the way. However, there are many Islamic scholars that one can be duly proud of. God willing, I plan to go to Saudi Arabia with my family to perform, ?Umrah?.I have seven sons and two daughter who, like me, are fully Islamic-oriented. My wife is still studying Islam. She insists on going over to Saudi Arabia. I trust InshaAllah, she would sooner join Islam. May God Almighty give us the courage and perseverance to remain on this true religion, Islam. (Ameen)

Islam converts speak on how they found religion


By By Karen Schwartz,

LSA sophomore Mike "Abdulah" Dann said he converted to Islam four years ago. (DAVID TUMAN/Daily)

LSA sophomore Michael Dann was raised as a Christian, going to church and Sunday school in Amherst, Mass., as was his family's tradition. But four years ago, he decided he was destined for a different path. Dann converted to Islam, which he said has changed his life.
Dann said he went from being involved in "the drug culture" and party scene in junior high school to looking for something more in life - thanks to the example set by his tennis coach, a black Muslim man from New Jersey.
"Through my contact with him, and especially through tennis, I got to see there was something more serious about life, something more serious than gratifying your immediate desires," he said, adding that his coach did not often talk about Islam explicitly but rather led by example.
"It was just through his approach to life and his character, being around him - I was attracted to something I knew he had, something that was motivating his life," Dann said. "He gave me different books to read, not mostly about Islam except for the Quran, but those books served more to wake me up to that there's more to life than partying and fun, and that God should be in my life."
Dann, who also goes by Abdullah, which means "servant of God," helped organize a panel held last night in Hutchins Hall as part of Islam Awareness Week. The panel featured testimonies from three people who converted to Islam, who told an audience of 50 their stories and answered questions about their experiences with the religion.
"It's important because it's a chance to speak for ourselves, for Muslims to present Islam as they understand it and not as other people understand it," Dann said. He added that the event was a chance for people to learn about the process of becoming Muslim and the diverse experiences that bring people to Islam.
"Ultimately all we can do is present Islam as we've experienced it and understand it," he said. "What other people do with it will be different according to who they are and what they want. I'm looking at it more from our angle, that we have a responsibility to express ourselves."
Law School student Felix Chang said he attended the event out of curiosity and was very impressed with the testimonies he heard.
"I think they were really honest and open about the decisions they had to make, something very personal to them that they shared, and I appreciated that," he said. "I think their stories are really interfaith, that their stories of conversion can pretty much be applied to any belief system, so it has universal appeal."
Muslim Students Association President Omar Khalil said the panel drew positive response last year, and that people commented that they enjoyed seeing how panelists were introduced to Islam and what aspects of Islam affected them the most.
"We had a lot of feedback last year saying perhaps that was people's favorite event of the week, so we felt it was something we should continue," said Khalil, a Rackham student.
He said the event also showcases the diversity within Islam and gives campus and community members a more familiar angle from which to approach understanding Islam.
"First of all, what we wanted to show is that Islam isn't just a foreign religion (and that Muslims are) not just from the Middle East or Pakistan or from Indonesia," he said. "We wanted to show that there are people like the students on this campus who are born American, raised American, and yet they felt this for them was the religion they chose for themselves."
Dann remembers being 14 years old and having a short discussion about Islam with his coach, but it was not until later that he said he realized the impact the discussion had on him and the process he had embarked upon.
"I didn't realize it at the time, but suddenly it had an attraction to me. When I met a Muslim I would ask him what he believed and if he had anything I could read. The seed was already there," he said.
His conversion was a gradual process, Dann said, but it didn't entirely negate his previous beliefs.
"Becoming a Muslim to me wasn't disbelieving in Jesus or leaving everything from Christianity behind. It was about believing in what I considered to be a more accurate version of God's message."
He added that Islam has changed his life and his interactions with his family for the better.
"Without Islam I don't know where I would be today. My motivation for succeeding academically and succeeding professionally - all that stems from Islam, and I don't think it'd be there if it weren't for Islam."

Analysis: 'Sicko' numbers mostly accurate; more context needed


By A. Chris GajilanCNN

(CNN) -- Michael Moore's "Sicko," which opened nationwide Friday, is filled with horror stories of people who are deprived of medical service because they can't afford it or haven't been able to navigate the murky waters of managed care in the United States.

A couple featured in Michael Moore's "Sicko" leave a London hospital with their newborn.

It compares American health care with the universal coverage systems in Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Cuba.
Moore covers a lot of ground. Our team investigated some of the claims put forth in his film. We found that his numbers were mostly right, but his arguments could use a little more context. As we dug deep to uncover the numbers, we found surprisingly few inaccuracies in the film. In fact, most pundits or health-care experts we spoke to spent more time on errors of omission rather than disputing the actual claims in the film.
Whether it's dollars spent, group coverage or Medicaid income cutoffs, health care goes hand in hand with numbers. Moore opens his film by giving these statistics, "Fifty million uninsured Americans ... 18,000 people die because they are uninsured."
For the most part, that's true. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 43.6 million, or about 15 percent of Americans, were uninsured in 2006. For the past five years, the overall count has fluctuated between 41 million and 44 million people. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 people do die each year mainly because they are less likely to receive screening and preventive care for chronic diseases.
Moore says that the U.S. spends more of its gross domestic product on health care than any other country.
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Again, that's true. The United States spends more than 15 percent of its GDP on health care -- no other nation even comes close to that number. France spends about 11 percent, and Canadians spend 10 percent.
Like Moore, we also found that more money does not equal better care. Both the French and Canadian systems rank in the Top 10 of the world's best health-care systems, according to the World Health Organization. The United States comes in at No. 37. The rankings are based on general health of the population, access, patient satisfaction and how the care's paid for.
So, if Americans are paying so much and they're not getting as good or as much care, where is all the money going? "Overhead for most private health insurance plans range between 10 percent to 30 percent," says Deloitte health-care analyst Paul Keckley. Overhead includes profit and administrative costs.
"Compare that to Medicare, which only has an overhead rate of 1 percent. Medicare is an extremely efficient health-care delivery system," says Mark Meaney, a health-care ethicist for the National Institute for Patient Rights.
Moore spends about half his film detailing the wonders and the benefits of the government-funded universal health-care systems in Canada, France, Cuba and the United Kingdom. He shows calm, content people in waiting rooms and people getting care in hospitals hassle free. People laugh and smile as he asks about billing departments and cost of stay.
Not surprisingly, it's not that simple. In most other countries, there are quotas and planned waiting times. Everyone does have access to basic levels of care. That care plan is formulated by teams of government physicians and officials who determine what's to be included in the universal basic coverage and how a specific condition is treated. If you want treatment outside of that standard plan, then you have to pay for it yourself.
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"In most developed health systems in the world, 15 percent to 20 percent of the population buys medical services outside of the system of care run by the government. They do it through supplemental insurance, or they buy services out of pocket," Keckley says.
The people who pay more tend to be in the upper income or have special, more complicated conditions.
Moore focuses on the private insurance companies and makes no mention of the U.S. government-funded health-care systems such as Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the Veterans Affairs health-care systems. About 50 percent of all health-care dollars spent in the United States flows through these government systems.
"Sicko" also ignores a handful of good things about the American system. Believe it or not, the United States does rank highest in the patient satisfaction category. Americans do have shorter wait times than everyone but Germans when it comes to nonemergency elective surgery such as hip replacements, cataract removal or knee repair.
That's no surprise given the number of U.S. specialists. In U.S. medical schools, students training to become primary-care physicians have dwindled to 10 percent. The overwhelming majority choose far more profitable specialties in the medical field. In other countries, more than one out of three aspiring doctors chooses primary care in part because there's less of an income gap with specialists. In those nations, becoming a specialist means making 30 percent more than a primary-care physician. In the United States, the gap is around 300 percent, according to Keckley.
As Americans continue to spend $2 trillion a year on health care, everyone agrees on one point: Things need to change, and it will take more than a movie to figure out how to get there. E-mail to a friend
A. Chris Gajilan is a senior producer with CNN Medical News. Intern Emily Breidbart contributed to this report.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Story Of Jamilah Kolocotronis.


Conversion Date
Previous Religion

On My Way to Becoming a Lutheran Minister I sat in my night class, in my first semester at the community college, daydreaming as usual. I thought about my future and wondered where it would take me. Suddenly I had a revelation. I wanted to become a minister. I wanted to devote my life to spreading God’s Word.Two years later, in 1976, I transferred to a state university two hundred miles away from home. Still pursuing my dream, I immediately contacted the pastor of the local Lutheran church and told him I wanted to help in whatever way I could. For my first assignment, he sent me as his representative to a welcoming picnic for new international students. At that picnic, I met my first Muslim.I learned that Abdul-Mun'im came from Thailand. He had a nice smile, and he was polite. As we talked, he often mentioned God.That seemed very strange to me. I had always been told that anyone who was not a Christian would go to hell. I wondered how someone who believed in God, and had good manners, could be condemned to eternal punishment. I felt sorry for Abdul-Mun'im. So I set out to convert him.I invited him to attend church with me. He came, but he brought his copy of the Qur’an. I was so embarrassed. After the service, he told me a little about Islam and the Qur’an. I had never heard those words before. I had heard the word “Muslim,” but only in a negative sense. During the 60s, many whites across America believed that Black Muslims planned to overthrow white American society.Over the next two years I stayed in contact with Abdul-Mun'im, and a few other Muslim men, through my involvement with the International Club. I continued in my crusade to convert them, and remained steadfast in pursuing my goal of becoming a minister.In the 1970s, many churches refused to ordain women. I received a letter from one seminary informing me, in no uncertain terms, that women were “not allowed to speak in church.” It’s in the Bible, in one of the epistles of St. Paul. I wondered if the passage had been revealed by God, or simply reflected the personal bias of Paul.Anyway, times were changing. I found a Lutheran seminary which accepted me. After graduating from the university, I packed up and headed to Chicago to begin my training for the ministry.I had some very positive experiences in Chicago. I got along well with my two roommates, and made other friends. I studied Latin with a Polish priest who couldn’t hide his excitement when he learned that the newly-selected pope was Polish. I listened to lectures by scholars at the nearby University of Chicago, and even landed a job dusting the apartment of one old professor. I heard Handel’s Messiah performed in an old cathedral by a professional choir. I soaked up the atmosphere of life on the Southside of Chicago.But my studies were disappointing. One professor told us that while Christian scholars had determined that the Bible was not infallible, we should not tell our parishioners this. When I asked questions, I was told to “simply believe.” Then there was the seminary social life–parties, drinking. I packed up and left Chicago after one semester, extremely disillusioned.My parents, though disappointed, welcomed me back into their home. I decided to spend some time searching.I knew that Muslims did not believe in original sin. I had a baby sister, born a few days before I received my undergraduate degree, and I watched her. I tried to see the sin in her. But I couldn’t, because it wasn’t there.While trying to decide my next course of action, I signed on with a temp agency and took secretarial jobs. Some of my assignments were in downtown St. Louis, a long bus ride away from my parents’ suburban home. I used my commute time for reading.One day I walked into a bookstore and bought a paperback translation of the Qur’an. I had a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion, and a semester of seminary training, so surely I possessed the skills I needed to expose the errors in the Qur’an. Then I would be able to persuade my poor Muslim friends how very wrong they were.I read, looking for mistakes and inconsistencies, and found none. I became impressed when I came to Surat Al-An`am 6, verse 73. [He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in truth. On that day when He says, Be, it is.]When I was a little girl, attending Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, I learned about how God created the world. “God said, ‘Let there be light’,” the Bible says. “And there was, and it was good.” Be, and it is. I started to wonder if Allah was the same God I had always worshiped.I paid closer attention after reading that verse. For the first time, I wanted to know more about Islam.I decided to return to my old university to study for my master’s degree in Philosophy and Religion. I began attending some of the Friday prayers, just to observe. I also continued to go to church and eat ham and cheese sandwiches. I wasn’t ready to become a Muslim. But I felt adrift. I needed answers.I searched in earnest. My Muslim friends at the university clarified some issues, such as how Jesus could have been born of a virgin and not be divine. I wrote a paper for my one of my classes in which I explored the concept of “logos”. In the Bible, the Gospel of John, it says, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This verse is often used to support the divinity of Jesus. So I explored the concept, tracing it back to ancient Greece and the writings of Plato. I studied the evolution of the doctrine of the Trinity, researching the various Christian opinions on this issue before it was codified at the Council of Nicaea in 325. I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. I had many questions, and I needed to know.I studied other religions also. I read the Bhagavad Gita, examined the life and teachings of Buddha and talked about peace with Baha’is. I needed to find the truth.By the summer of 1980, I had come to appreciate many of the teachings of Islam. But some things still bothered me. One of the greatest was the need to make ablutions before prayer. God should be accessible at all times, I thought. Why did Muslims feel the need to perform a special cleansing ritual? I couldn’t see the logic in it.On the night I accepted the necessity of wudu', I was ready to accept Islam. I walked over to the small mosque near the university, on the night of the nineteenth of Ramadan, and told the men there about my discovery. One of them, Adel, gave me shahadah.It took a few days, but I started to feel at peace. I had been searching for so long. I felt as if I had been treading water, and I finally found land.But my struggles weren’t over. For one thing, I had no idea about hijab. The three men who were present at my shahadah were from Jordan, Egypt and Thailand, and they told me nothing about it. In those days, most of the women in their countries didn’t cover. On the day before `Eid I traveled with them to a larger town, and they took me to the apartment of a Sudanese woman. Soon after my arrival, she handed me a robe and a scarf and told me to put them on. I was stunned. She was very nice, though, so I did as she said.When we returned to our small town, I took off the robe and scarf. That was not for me. It was hot—this was in August—and I felt strange. And, besides, I didn’t want one of my professors to know that I was a Muslim. I knew he would be displeased.My next challenge was trying to figure out how to tell my parents. Three weeks after my conversion, I wrote them a letter. I tried to explain my struggle and years of searching. They were shocked. They hoped I was just going through a phase. They worried that I had joined a cult. They didn’t understand. But they never turned their back on me.A few months after my conversion, I began to wear the scarf. First, I wore it to keep my ears warm on winter mornings in northern Missouri. Then one day, after being treated rudely by one of the men on campus, I decided to wear it full-time. My professor wasn’t happy, but he didn’t say too much.Seven or eight months after my shahadah, I met another student who was interested in Islam. She already knew something about it, and wanted to learn more. We talked and talked. One night she told me she was ready. I gave her shahadah.All during this time, I kept in contact with Abdul-Mun’im. He was one of the three present when I made shahadah, and he helped me adjust to my new faith. A month after my conversion he left to pursue his doctorate in Indiana, but we continued to write. When I told him about Sr. Aisha’s conversion, he invited both of us to travel with him and his friends up to Ann Arbor. A brother and sister with a large family hosted Aisha and me. Community members gave us Islamic clothes and books. We felt very welcome.In the spring, Abdul-Mun’im invited me to apply to his university. I was accepted, and they offered me a doctoral fellowship. In the summer, Aisha and Fauzia, a Pakistani sister, helped me move to Indiana. They stayed there with me during Ramadan. At the end of Ramadan, Aisha and Fauzia moved back to Missouri. Abdul-Mun’im asked me to marry him.We have been married for twenty-four years. We have six sons and, in sha' Allah, we will soon have our first grandchild. During most of our years together we have worked to establish and strengthen Islamic education.Even though I have been a Muslim for twenty-six years now, I still feel new. My Arabic lessons stopped after my first son was born, and even though our youngest is now ten I have not returned to them. I have continued my studies in Islam, but I never feel I know enough.I do know that I will always be an American. My early years had a huge impact on my life, and America will always be my country. I did try, for the first twenty years, to blend in with the immigrant culture, but I realized that I was denying who I really was. I can’t turn my back on my first twenty-three years.One aspect of my conversion which my family still finds puzzling is my willingness to renounce, as they see it, the feminism of my youth. It is true that I no longer seek to become a religious leader. But, in Islam, I have found a fuller expression of what it means to be a woman. I do get irritated when brothers from other countries try to impose their cultural beliefs, suppressing women and not allowing us to be heard. When that happens, I only need to turn to the Qur’an or remember the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Even though some Muslims degrade women, Islam elevates us.I am still learning, and still struggling to be closer to my Creator. And I am still working to integrate my American self with my Muslim self. Life is a journey, and I’m still on the road.

Dr. Yahya A.R. Lehmann

Dr. Yahya A R. Lehmann
Doctor of Theology
(Former Roman Catholic Priest Germany)

ALLAHU AKBAR, there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.
I hear this call to worship the one God alone for the first time in my life from the minaret of the Al-Aqsa Mosque standing in the ancient temple square of Jerusalem. I had arrived in this city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, for the Easter pilgrimage, as a research fellow for special studies in the then recently discovered and deciphered Dead Sea Scrolls. I had spent most of the night hours after the Christian Good Friday celebrations praying and meditating in the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, and had witnessed the busy bickering of priests and clergymen of differing Christian Church-denominations about precedence into the sombre grave-chamber of Christ and about entrance-fees there payable by their respective flocks.
Surprising Encounter
After passing the gloomy Wailing Wall, old darkened stones, last relics of the former Herodean Temple, dear to the Jews during the long centuries of their dispersion under alien suppression, I slowly climbed up to the Holy Temple-Rock and its sacred precincts just before dawn. There I could observe groups of Palestinian Arabs freely responding to this early Adzan-call for morning worship, and I soon heard the solemn Arabic prayer-recitations of this devout congregation. The surprising encounter with this praying community of the greatest monotheistic world religion surrendering themselves to the one God and Creator in faithful worship was a deeply stirring experience.
A Deep Spiritual Experience.
Of a sudden the morning-sun rose over the Mount of Olives casting a radiant glow of brightness over the magnificent golden Dome of the Rock. It struck a new chord in my heart; it was like a symbol of new light and insight ahead, and of still undiscovered realms of religious truth and spiritual experience. The deep impression of this moment has never since left me; it did encourage me during the difficult research-task for my doctorate thesis on the Essenic influences in early Christianity and the canonical New Testamental Writings; it guided me throughout my later work as priest and educationist here in Malaysia.
Allah the Greatest
Allahu Akbar, God alone is the greatest, even greater than the triune deity as professed by Christian dogma, in which I had been raised from childhood and which in later years of ecclesiastical studies I have been specially trained to proclaim, as a priestly member of a Roman Catholic Missionary Order.
A New Religious Message
The public declaration of the monotheistic faith of Islam from the minaret above the Jerusalem Temple sounded to me like a new religious message of great challenging force. Several years of post-graduate studies in the field of Comparative Religion and special research of the Essenic Movement during the time of Jesus and its impact on the development of early Christianity, have led me convincingly into the radiant light and truth of Islam, bringing me closer to the original message of Jesus, the godsent man and prophet of Nazareth who called his followers back onto the right religious way of the Jewish prophets and patriarchs of old, like Abraham, surrendering themselves to the one and only God, Allah, Creator of all, and striving to establish in word and action real human brotherhood among their people.
The Living Islamic Truth
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been sent later by my religious superiors to Malaysia, where I could study and experience more thoroughly the all-comprehensive living truth of Islam as revealed to the last and greatest of Allah's messengers, the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)
By officially embracing Islam as the best fulfillment of the genuine Christian faith in the original Good Message (Gospel) of Jesus, foretelling Allah's last universal Revelation through His greatest Messenger Muhammad in the divine Word of the Holy Quran, I had to repay my heavy spiritual debt to the many Muslim friends of mine in this country, who encouraged me by their word and example to choose for myself the Islamic Truth as the most positive directive force to a fuller individual life in submission to Allah's guidance as well as towards the unification of mankind in fraternal fellowship and peace.

Colonel Donald S. Rockwell, Poet and Critic, USA


The simplicity of Islam, the powerful appeal and the compelling atmosphere of its mosques, the earnestness of its faithful adherents, the confidence inspiring realization of the millions throughout the world who answer the five daily calls to prayer - these factors attracted me from the first. But after I had determined to become a follower of Islam, I found many deeper reasons for confirming my decision. The mellow concept of life - the fruit of the Prophet’s combined course of action and contemplation - the wise counsel, the admonitions to charity and mercy, the broad humanitarianism, the pioneer declaration of woman’s property rights - these and other factors of the teachings of the man of Mecca were to me among the most obvious evidence of a practical religion so tersely and so aptly epitomized in the cryptic words of Muhammad, “Trust in God and tie your camel.” He gave us a religious system of normal action, not blind faith in the protection of an unseen force in spite of our own neglect, but confidence that if we do all things rightly and to the best of our ability, we may trust in what comes as the Will of God.
The broadminded tolerance of Islam for other religions recommends it to all lovers of liberty. Muhammad admonished his followers to treat well the believers in the Old and New Testaments; Abraham, Moses and Jesus are acknowledged as co-prophets of the One God. Surely this is generous and far in advance of the attitude of other religions.
The total freedom from idolatry ... is a sign of the salubrious strength and purity of the Muslim faith.
The original teachings of the Prophet of God have not been engulfed in the maze of changes and additions of doctrinarians. The Quran remains as it came to the corrupt polytheistic people of Muhammad’s time, changeless as the holy heart of Islam itself.
Moderation and temperance in all things, the keynotes of Islam, won my unqualified approbation. The health of his people was cherished by the Prophet, who enjoined them to observe strict cleanliness and specified fasts and to subordinate carnal appetites ... when I stood in the inspiring mosques of Istanbul, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Algiers, Tangier, Fez and other cities, I was conscious of a powerful reaction [to] the potent uplift of Islam’s simple appeal to the sense of higher things, unaided by elaborate trappings, ornamentations, figures, pictures, music and ceremonial ritual. The mosque is a place of quiet contemplation and self-effacement in the greater reality of the One God.
The democracy of Islam has always appealed to me. Potentate and pauper have the same rights on the floor of the mosque, on their [foreheads] in humble worship. There are no rented pews nor special reserved seats.
The Muslim accepts no man as a mediator between himself and his God. He goes direct to the invisible source of creation and life, God, without reliance on saving formula of repentance of sins and belief in the power of a teacher to afford him salvation.
The universal brotherhood of Islam, regardless of race, politics, color or country, has been brought home to me most keenly many times in my life and this is another feature which drew me towards the Faith.

The Unique Qur’an


1) Revealed in Arabic - The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic. Arabic is still a living language spoken by more than 200 million people around the world.
Most of the other languages of scriptures like Aramaic, Greek, Sanskrit, etc are either dead, hardly used as a tongue or pushed to some corner of university studies. Arabic has survived in the same form miraculously for more than 1400 years. A language undergoes dramatic changes every 400 years. For e.g English during Shakespearean times was completely different from the way it is spoken today. That was just 300 years back, but Arabic has survived for a much longer period.

2) Free from Inconsistencies – The Qur’an is the only religious scripture in the world that is completely free from both external and internal Inconsistency.
All the religious scriptures whose followers claim to be revealed from God suffer from inconsistencies and contradictions.

3) Compatible with Modern Science – The Qur’an is the only religious scripture in the world that is completely compatible with modern established scientific facts.
Most of the scientific facts mentioned in the Qur’an, which was revealed more than 1400 years have been discovered by man only in the past 100 years.

4) Prophecies – All prophecies that are mentioned in the Qur’an have come to pass as exactly described in the Qur’an.

5) Memorization – Atleast a million people around the world have memorized The Qur’an cover to cover in its original language, most of whose native tongue is not even Arabic.
There is no scripture in this world that can make such a claim. Most people who have memorized a few chapters in their holy scripture do so in a language that is not the Original language of the scripture.

6) One Version – The Qur’an has been preserved in its original complete form since it was completely revealed without even a full stop moving from its place.
This is a unique miraculous feature of the Qur’an, made more amazing by the fact that God in the Qur’an promises to guard it from corruption and even after 1400 years it is exactly preserved as the way it was before. Most other scriptures have been altered over time.

7) Revelation – The Qur’an’s revelation history has been recorded and preserved more or less accurately by historians.
The history contains the time of revelation, place of revelation and the situation during which the chapters were revealed and other such data. Most of the scriptures that claim to be revealed don’t have the recorded history of how and when the scripture and its chapters were revealed. The followers of such scriptures blindly claim it to be from God only on faith.

8) Chronology – The ordering of the chapters in the Qur'an do not correspond to the chronology of the revelations as received by the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) i.e. the first chapter in the Qur'an is not the first revelation that the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) received and this is further proof (for people of intellect) of the fact that the Qur'an is not written by man.

Chahida Zanabi (Formerly Elisabeth)


I have always believed in God, since I was very small. My family was not religious, but for a period my mother prayed for us children, by the bedside every night. Since then I have seen Gods existence as a fact of life, and for me the question was how to live according to Gods will so that I could be admitted into Paradise.
When I was about 12 years old, I started to study the Bible, to seek guidance. But I was dissapointed, I could not sence Gods nearness in these words attributed to him. The more I read about the Christianity, the more confused I felt. My concept of a religion did not support important teachings of the Church. God was in my eyes someone raised above all, I could not accept the idea of God having to let his 'son' die for humans to be saved. God, who says "be", and it is, whatever He would please? Seartenly He could forgive the humans whithout such arrangements? Jesus could be no more than a wise man with guidance and knowledge from God, for God does not take a human shape. And why are all humans born sinful because of what Eve did? What is the meaning of the trinity? How can one say the Bible is Gods word, when it is clearly written by humans?
When I was seventeen, I moved away from home to attend a Christian school. I thought perhaps staying with Christians would help me understand the religion better. And I did enjoy their company very much, the non-alcoholic parties, their concern for each other and their tolerance. I told them of my doubts, and they told me that it was a part of the wonderful mystery which I just had to accept. They said it was all a matter of faith, I just had to keep believing Jesus gave his life for me, and I would be saved. But i found it illogical and unjust. What about all the righteous believers around the world who never heard of the crusifiction, would their faith and work be in vain? Would God deny MY faith and deeds, in spite of the fact that I believed in him with all my heart? This could not be the Truth!
A year later I was married with a Muslim by origin. Religiously I was at a point of zero, my only knowledge was that I believed in God, I knew nothing else. Some of my husbands friends had Norwegian wifes who had converted, and I was provoked by the thought of a Western woman embracing Islam. We discussed religion until early morning hours, but I remained sceptic towards Islam. So they challenged me: Why wouldn't I join them in the mosc to learn some Arabic and find out more? I wanted to learn Arabic, and I had never been in a mosc, so I came. It became an emotional and very surprising experience!
I remember watching myself in the mirror in the mosc, wearing the hidjab, and it felt so right. I remember watching the muslims pray, and I wishedso much I could join them in their prostrating for God. I had an overwhelming feeling of submission to God. I did not know how to pray, and I cried inside of not being able to do so. I bought the English translation of the Qur'an, and when I read it, I could sence Gods voice, the words hit my heart.
Though, everyone warned me from embracing Islam. I knew too that this was just too emotional, and I needed more knowledge, so I spent the next seven months reading and studying Islam. But only to find out that Islam matched my concept of a religion and my concept of God.
Then, in May-1988, I went for a holiday in Greece. It was a perfect holiday, a lot of sunbathing, swimming, good food and drink, lots of nice people, and so on. I enjoyed it all, at least the first week. But then I became more and more annoyed with the same things. It seemed meaningless and empty. Why did one have to drink to have fun, something must is missing in peoples lives! Why did not the men respect me, though I was married and probably they were too? I found myself by the swimming pool when I made the decision. This was enough! I wanted to go home to embrace Islam! I started to pray three weeks after, and I have never regreted since.
Today I am happy to be reminded again of the favour and mercy God has given me.
Wa alaikum salaam!
Chahida (Elisabeth Zanabi)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Nuh Brecheen


Though my search for religion gained momentum as I grew older, even in junior high I was searching for spirituality. My parents were decidedly against organized religious institutions, mainly for their misogynistic reputations and patriarchal leadership structures. Left with few answers, I wondered why I existed, and my mother's humanitarian answers (like Òyou're here to pay taxes, then die") did little to comfort me. By the time I was in my early teens, I had begun a quest to find answers. My parents weren't terribly thrilled, but they allowed me to accompany some of my friends to church.
Embarking on a spiritual quest while so young did not manifest from some unusual religous deepness on my part. There was another factor at work. The absence of a spiritual outlet did affect me more and more as I grew older. I probably could have gotten through the rough spots, except for the bitter loneliness. My father had left the family when I was only a baby. My mother buried herself in a career by the time I was ten and a few years later, my step-father followed.
We moved about four times before I was in high school, which repeatedly displaced me from my friends. I had only cordial friendships and limited family interaction throughout my early teenage years. There was never really anyone there for me, thus, I had always had a strong attraction to a higher power. God would always be there. He wouldn't leave me, as everything else had.
For a while a sense of semi-permanence came with high school. I was able to attain a few good friends whose support replaced the void I once looked to God to fill. I thought I'd learned how to shut off the part of me that screamed for answers and peace. The truth was, I learned to ignore it, but its volume was steadily growing.
My earliest real exposure to Islam was in high school when my friend, Omar, would repeatedly excuse himself to pray. I'd been raised in a very tolerant household. I didn't know much about Muslims, but I vaguely began to wonder what was so important that it diverted Omar every few hours; no matter how much fun we were having, it could wait. However, at that time, I was too comfortable with my lifestyle to truly care.
I still remember the day that things really began with crystal accuracy. I was talking and joking with Omar and some other friends, when 0mar mentioned that he was thirsty. I, obnoxiously, gave him directions to the nearest water fountain. However despite his thirst, he did not drink. Omar was fasting Ramadan. By the middle of Ramadan, I wanted to know more about Islam. Alhamdulillah, Omar's mother turned out to be a religious teacher, so I could not have asked for a better family to cultivate Islam in. She taught me about Islam, the pillars, the articles of faith, and then she gave me a Qur'an which I began to read.
When I did, the dam broke. Years of ignored cries from my heart poured out through floodgates that I didn't even know still existed. I felt my soul rip at me, and demand that it would go unheard no more. I felt lost. Yet, I finally found my way. Everything within me honed in on the reality that I was not alone in this vast, cold universe. God is there. He is everywhere. And if I never did anything else in my pathetic life, I had to find him.
But Islam? Even without the parental indoctrination against religion, I had barriers of social ostracization to deal with. Not eating was one thing, but being openly Muslim was another. I didn't particularly want to be Muslim. My liberal upbringing led me to some deeply disturbing problems with Islam. I found some of the laws dealing with women particularly difficult to accept. I wanted to escape from Islam, so I began to try.
I spent nine months seeking another religion to fill the void. However, the ethnocentricity of Judaism strongly put me off, and the anthropomorphism base of Christian doctrines was unacceptable to my rational side, strongly derived from my parents.
In the realm of this world, however, the Christian church seemed to offer the solace I desired. They had a level of fraternity which goes beyond the surface hugs and smiles of so many Muslims, and which seemed more sincere. Despite my eventual conversion to Islam, I never forgot the way Christians treated me. My heart is saddened by an enormous group of the Muslim ummah, wherein once past the paper thin veneer of unity, become so cold and insensitive. Muslims are so busy pretending to care about each other that they've long forgotten that they really should.
I grappled with many conflicting issues for months; drawn inexorably towards Islam, but at the same time, repulsed by it. My upbringing simply could not cope with Islam, although my love for my ethereal experiences would not let me forget. I clung to Christianity. Convinced of the presence of an Islamic equivalent within the boundaries of societal acceptance, I continued to go from church to church searching for a religion. All were compared to Islam as a litmus test for success; none even came close. The memory of the spiritual bliss I received from fasting, and reading the Qur'an sang to me in a hypnotic lilt became increasingly difficult to ignore.
Nine months went by from that fateful Ramadan, yet still I balked. Watching Spike Lee's Malcolm X revitalized my interest, but not quite enough to take my shahaddah. At first after seeing the movie, I was willing to deal with Islam for all its perceived Òfaults". As time went by, I reverted into a spiritual impasse. I was once again torn between what I felt to be the truth above all and what I wanted to believe; what I'd been trained in all of my life. Yet, at that point, I actually began to move towards Christianity again. Until one night I had a dream.
I was in an airport church alone. Errie organ music filled the room, the whole room was overrun with ivy, and I remember that the moment had a surreal, heavy quality. There was no crucifix, but rather a stained glass image of Jesus on the cross. I vividly remembered how I felt. I was confused, filled with the feeling of truth battling desire. I stood staring at him, enchanted. I wanted him to give me answers. Then his eyes, closed until this moment, opened slowly and fell upon me. I remember not being surprised, but greatly fearful. ÒI am so disappointed in you," he said. ÒYou do not define me. I am not whatever you want me to be." Then a beam of white light flooded into the room from behind the window, shattered the stained glass and blowing it out towards me. In that instant I woke up.
Most Muslims who convert describe a time before their shahadda when they knew that they would convert. I had run out of excuses, and I knew, I knew, I was going to convert, it was just a matter of when. I took a list of questions to Omar's mom as more of a perfunctory gesture than of any sort of doubt on my part, and after two nights she had answered them all to my satisfaction.
There was an awkward pause. I was afraid, mostly because of the rigorous prayer of which Muslims must partake, to take the final step. If Omar's mother had not asked me if I was ready to take shahaddah I don't think I'd have volunteered. Allahu Ôalim (Allah knows).
But she did ask. Omar thought she was being pushy. I thought she was being pushy as well, but I realized at that moment, that I'd never wanted anything so badly in my life. And with my head spinning, more and more rapidly, I asked her what to say. Ashhadu alla ilaha ill Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammad ur-Rasul Allah. And then I was Muslim. No angels sang hymns for me; no beam of light hit me, but I was filled with an enormous sense of peace and hope. However, it seemed somewhat anti-climatic -- it was the one moment in all my life that I had ever desired to live over.
My journey toward Islam was over, and I realized that I had arrived on a battlefield. My coming conflict with my parents would last for four years, and my experiences as a new Muslim would open my eyes up to a world of conflict and strife.
Nuh Brecheen is a first year Near Eastern Studies major.

Latino Women Finding a Place in Islam

‘I am doing this for God,’ one convert says

By Carmen Sesin

Reporter NBC News

On a hot summer day, Stefani Perada left work for the day in West New York, N.J., and stepped outside in her long jilbab, the flowing clothes worn by many Muslim women.Meanwhile, other Latinas in the mostly Hispanic neighborhood were taking advantage of the warm day, walking around in shorts and midriff-exposing halter tops.Perada, 19, who converted to Islam just over a year ago, is still trying to become acclimated to certain customs, such as the jilbab and the hijab, which covers her head and hair."Mostly it's because of how your friends and family are going to look at you," she said. "They look at you like, ‘Why is she wearing that, it’s so hot.’”But, she said, “I am doing this for God, and one day I will be rewarded for what I am doing.”And there's an immediate benefit: She's not harassed as much by men when she walks down the street.“You know how guys [say], ‘Hey Mami, come over here?’ I used to always hate that. I would cross the street just to get away. Now you still get some guys that are still curious, but it’s much less,” she explained.“They are going to look at me for me, and not for my body.”Growing number of converts?Perada is not alone as a Hispanic women converting to Islam.The exact number of Latino Muslims is difficult to determine, because the U.S. Census Bureau does not collect information about religion. However, according to estimates conducted by national Islamic organizations such as the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) there are approximately 40,000 Latino Muslims in the United States.Likewise, it is difficult to break-down the number of Latino converts to Islam into male versus female. But, according to anecdotal evidence and a survey conducted by the Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO), whose mission is to promote Islam within the Latino community in the United States, the number of Latinos converting to Islam tilts slightly in favor of women — with 60 percent women to 40 percent men.Juan Galvan, the head of LADO in Texas and the co-author of a report "Latino Muslims: The Changing Face of Islam in America," explained that those numbers are unscientific, but based on the results of a voluntary survey that has been conducted on the LADO website since 2001.“From observation and experience those numbers are correct,” Galvan said. “From my personal experience, there are definitely more Latina Muslims than Latino men.” Galvan explained said that there “just seem to be more” Latina Muslims at the various events he attends through his work with LADO.At the Islamic Education Center of North Hudson, 300 of the people who attend the mosque are converts, and 80 percent are Latino converts. In addition, out of the Latino converts, 60 percent are women, according to Nylka Vargas, who works at the mosque with the Educational Outreach Program.Overall growthPeter Awn, an Islamic studies professor at Columbia University, says there is no doubt that the number of Latinos converting to Islam is growing.Louis Cristillo, an anthropologist who focuses on Islamic education at Columbia University, points out there are several indicators that reflect the growing trend of Latinos converting to Islam.For example, there are a number of regional and national organizations that cater to Latino Muslims, and there are even support groups that can be found on-line specifically for Latino converts — in particular, as well the LADO organization at fact, last weekend, Latino Muslims in this country celebrated the third annual Hispanic Muslim Day with different activities throughout the day.For women, particular challengesConverting to Islam can be shocking for families who are largely Catholic and harbor stereotypes of Muslims, specifically concerning women.Perada says her mother, who is Colombian, accepted her decision to convert because she never really pushed her into Catholicism. However, her father, who is of Italian origin, has had a tough time dealing with it.“Sometimes he says things about the way I dress,” said Perada. “He’ll say, ‘Why do you have to dress that way. I’m Christian. I don’t walk around with a cross in my hand.'“He always complains to my mom about it, but with me he just keeps it to himself. But I know for him it is very hard,” Perada added.Vargas, 30, from the Islamic Education Center, is of Ecuadorian and Peruvian descent. She says her family is already accustomed to the idea of her being Muslim, since it has already been ten years since she converted. But she recalls the days in which her family was dealing with the initial shock of her new faith.“When I started being more visible, that’s when things started getting weird. My sisters couldn’t understand why I would cover myself. They thought I was being oppressed or brainwashed,” said Vargas.She admits it was difficult at first to adjust to certain customs, such as wearing the hijab or a headscarf and having to pray five times a day.“First it felt kind of weird to be covered, but after a while it [the headscarf] becomes your hair. I refer to my hijab as my hair.”‘A return to traditional values’Like other ethnic groups, Latinos convert for a variety of reasons.Some, says Cristillo, grew up in inner-city areas ravaged by poverty, drugs and prostitution, and were attracted in part by the fact that some Islamic communities were very active in cleaning up the neighborhoods.Vargas, meanwhile, says she questioned many things about the Catholic faith in which she was raised and felt an emptiness in Christianity.Galvan, from LADO, pointed out that many people come to Islam through people that they know, "friends, co-workers, classmates, boyfriends or husbands.”Professor Awn said that many Latinas find there is a greater sense of economic and social stability in Islam and that it also represents “a return to traditional values.”In that regard, Awn does not think Islam is any more patriarchal than other traditional religions, but recognized that “the younger generation is looking for a more progressive form of Islam."And Perada does not feel that her adherence to the Muslim faith restricts her freedoms as a woman.“If I get married, I know I am going to work, but I am going to be there for my kids, too,” said Perada, dismissing any notions that Islam would prevent her from living the life of any other modern woman.Carmen Sesin is an assignment editor on the NBC News Foreign Desk.Source:© 2005

Women who have Embraced Islam: Sara


Women who have Embraced Islam: Sara

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim a salaam alaikum wa ramatullah wa barakatu

I was asked to write a story of how I came to Islam. Unlike many converts, it didn't come to me directly. I took a six year spiritual "journey" of sorts before realizing that Islam is the true religion.

My first exposure to Islam was as a child, during the Iranian revolution. I was frightened and intrigued by what I thought Islam was, by the black clad women I saw on television. In 1991, during the Gulf War, our school decided to teach the students about Islam and the Muslim, because some people thought it was a Christian-Muslim war.
Coincidentally, a boy in my class was from Pakistan, and I think it was near the month of Ramadan. I would ask him questions about Islam, and the Muslims, and he answered me, and then directed me to the Qur'an. I bought the Dawood book from Penguin, but found it hard to follow.

But I did read other books about Islam, and thought it sounded good. The belief in the Oneness of God matched mine, since I'd never believed in the Trinity. And reading that Jesus was a prophet (pbuh) instead of the Savior was like having a light bulb turned on, "THAT'S IT!" I liked that Islam is about me and God, without the priesthood, the intercession, the fancy ceremony. I have always known that Islam was more than the media myths and stereotypes...
Trying to learn what lay beyond them proves to be a daunting task in this country. Sometimes I became busy with other things, college, family life... and although I never forgot about Islam, I didn't study as much as I had earlier. A few months ago, I decided to do a website on "other" religions in the USA, and Islam was one of the religions I decided to include. I went online to find good links of Islamic info... and never got around to doing anything else.

My faith was reborn, and I realized that what I wanted was to be a Muslim before I died, and to raise my child in the truth of the Islamic faith. I made some connections, got in touch with a sister in my area, and took shahada in Sept. 1997 Allah (swt) and Islam are constantly in my mind.

Everyday I read more and more of my Qur'an, and learn more and more about my religion. Before, I did things for myself or for no particular reason at all. Now, I remember that everything I do, is to Serve God, and that the reason I am able to do it is the will of Allah. (swt) My love for Allah (swt) and my fellow Muslims and others in general has increased a thousand fold. The love of Allah (swt) can't be measured... The love of Allah (swt) that you have as a Muslim is so immense and beautiful, that I wish I could share it with all mankind. Thank you.

Women who have Embraced Islam: Akifah Baxter


Women who have Embraced Islam: Akifah Baxter

I have always been aware of the existence of God. I have always felt that He was there. Sometimes that feeling was distant, and often times I ignored it. But I could never deny this knowledge. Because of this, throughout my life, I have been searching for the truth of His Plan.
I have attented many churches. I listened, I prayed, I talked to people from all different faiths. But it seemed that there was always something that didn't feel right, it felt confusing, like there was something missing. I've heard many people in the past say to me, "Well, I believe in God, but I don't belong to any religion. They all seem wrong to me." This was my feeling exactly, however, I didn't want to just let it go at that and just accept it. I knew that if God exists then He wouldn't just leave us with no direction, or even a warped version of the truth. There had to be a plan, a "true religion." I just had to find it.

The various Christian churches is where I concentrated my search, simply because that is what I grew up with, and there seemed to be some truths in some of their teachings. However, there were so many different views, so many conflicting teachings on basic things like how to pray, who to pray to or through, who was going to be "saved", and who wasn't, and what a person had to do to get "saved." It seemed so convoluted. I felt I was near giving up. I had just come from yet another church whose views on God, and the purpose of our existence, left me so completely frustrated because I knew what they were teaching wasn't true.

One day, I had wandered in the bookstore and I went over to the religious section. As I stood there gazing over the vast array of mostly Christian books, a thought occured to me to see if they had anything on Islam. I knew virtually nothing about Islam, and when I picked up the first book it was solely out of curiosity. But I became excited with what I was reading. One of the first things that struck me was the statement 'There is no god but Allah,' He has no associates, and all prayers and worship are directed to Him alone. This seemed so simple, so powerful, so direct, and made so much sense. So from there I started reading everything I could about Islam.
Everything I read made so much sense to me. It was as if suddenly all the pieces of this puzzle were fitting perfectly, and a clear picture was emerging. I was so excited my heart would race any time I read anything about Islam. Then, when I read the Qur'an, I felt like I was truly blessed to be able to read this. I knew that this had come directly from Allah through His Messenger (SAW). This was it, the truth. I felt like all along I had been a Muslim but I just didn't know it until now. Now as I start my life as a Muslim, I have a sense of peace and security knowing that what I am learning is the pure truth and will take me closer to Allah. May Allah keep guiding me. Ameen.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Michael Moore’s Cure for What Ails Us

From: Newsweek


There's no room for second opinions in this controversial documentarian's film about American health care, but 'Sicko' never fails to make you think.

June 22, 2007 - Whatever you think of Michael Moore—and who doesn't have an opinion?—the man has an impeccable sense of timing. His newest polemic, "Sicko," takes aim at our disastrous health-care system at a moment in the national debate when even the die-hardest boosters of free enterprise acknowledge that major changes have to be made, if not the free universal health care that most Western countries offer, and that we resist.
The "we," as Moore takes pains to show us, are the drug companies, the hospital industry, the bought-and-paid-for politicians and the health-insurance companies, the latter being the true focus of this alternately hilarious and heartbreaking screed. This time around, Moore spares us the spectacle of himself storming the offices of his villains, his camera ever ready to capture their clench-jawed embarrassment. He's more concerned with the victims—not the 50 million uninsured, but the much vaster numbers who have private health insurance, and suffer for it. We see their harrowing personal stories: the couple who have to sell their home to pay their medical bills; the woman who had to be rushed to a hospital in an ambulance who is then told—with a logic worthy of Kafka or Groucho Marx—that she can't be reimbursed for the ride because it wasn't pre-approved; the woman who lost her husband to cancer because her insurer deemed the surgery he needed as "experimental." And on and on, in one pungent vignette after another.
Moore traces the origins of this mess back to a 1971 meeting—astonishingly caught on tape—in Richard Nixon's White House, at which the president expressed his approval of Edgar Kaiser's proposal to maximize profit by offering less care. Driving home the modus operandi of the insurance industry is the angry, guilt-ridden congressional testimony of a former Humana Corp. medical director, who lays out "the dirty work of managed care," which rewards its employees for saving the company money, not for helping its patients.
Is "Sicko" one-sided? You bet. The globe-trotting Moore compares our broken system with the free health care offered by Canada, France, England and—in what has already become his most controversial flourish—Cuba, where he takes a group of 9/11 rescue workers for help they can't get at home. Because he paints in broad, simple strokes, his overly rapturous depictions of these systems are bound to raise skeptical eyebrows. (It's not hard to find horror stories in any country.) And even though you can easily imagine the Cuban's licking their chops at the PR opportunity Moore affords them, who could not be moved by the tribute the Havana firefighters pay to the American rescue workers who have come to their land for treatment?
The opponents of free health care love to raise the ominous specter of "socialized medicine." Why, Moore asks, in a very funny montage that turns a Soviet musical propaganda movie on its head, do we readily accept free schools, libraries, police officers and firemen but blanch at the idea of free medical service? Adopting his faux-naif, aw-shucks persona (still effective, if getting harder and harder to swallow) Moore, just as he did in "Roger and Me," asks us to contemplate the dark side of the profit system. And the thesis that ran through "Fahrenheit 9/11"—that the powers that be use fear and intimidation to keep us docile and compliant—informs every frame of his movie. The difference between France and the United States, one observer provocatively suggests, is that in France the government is afraid of the people and here, the people are afraid of the government.
It will be fascinating to watch Moore's enemies have a go at "Sicko." Certainly he leaves himself open to criticism. To make his point that the French don't have to be overtaxed to pay for their government-paid health service, he shows us the comfortable lifestyle of one happy French bourgeois couple. This does not exactly qualify as a rigorous argument. But if Moore can be irritating, he's also indispensable. I think this time around a lot of people who don't cotton to the filmmaker's politics are going to find themselves lining up on his side. The simplicity of "Sicko's" argument is also its power. It asks us, as Americans, a few basic but haunting questions: Who are we? What have we become? The follow-up question is left unstated: What are we going to do about it? Let's hope "Sicko" helps us come up with the right answer.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why true Muslims are the Best for Leaders to Govern.

By: Maged Taman

When you go to many Muslim countries now you find a lot of Muslims but no Islam. I met one day a British woman who became a Muslim. Listen to this, when I asked her how she became Muslim. She said "I lived in one Arab country and I was wondering why Muslim conditions are inferior. I red the Quran and I ended up to be a Muslim.Why good Muslims are the best to govern:

1- People who fear God all times do not need much laws. Their kindness and honesty will make their interactions just and smooth.

2- No injustice from them to other minorities.

3- No social problems of alcoholism, drug addiction, dysfunctional families, gangs and violence.

4- They will comply well with the system of government since many are the same as the morality of their religion: keeping clean streets, avoiding noise, taking care of the poor beside the government, do their work with sincerity....

5- Islam is against upraise except in significant oppression and injustice.

6- Democracy in Islam allows the mainstream moderates to flourish.

7- They will not impose their laws on other communities.

8- Morality is infectious, so they likely to spread morality to other communities.

Simply politicians will not have much headache with this community. In fact coexistence with Muslims should be quite attractive.

Humanism: The New World Religion

By: Maged Taman

Over long decades people have suffered much from communism, socialism, immoral capitalism, fascism, nationalism and religious wars.

Humanism should be our new world religion. It does not abolish any religion or mix religions. It simply means we can all have the freedom to worship, choose any religion or no religion. We can still be Americans, Egyptians, British.... Humanism simply states that we should not be fanatic about nationality, religion or ethnicity.

Humanism means that we humanize people. We remind them we all have much in common and few differences. Our desires and aspirations are the same. Selfishness and greed are very inhumane. We should come together to create the international system that fulfill the aspirations of each family in the earth.

We have to create the system of moral capitalism where large corporations can make money, even a lot of money and meanwhile contribute to the welfare of humanity. We need an international system that prevents wars before they happen, atrocities before they are committed and diseases before they become epidemics.

To create this system we have to be as much inclusive and transparent in our relations to others. Few politicians acting smart in closed doors is the worst for international affairs.

This does not preclude the dialogue between religions. It is better done by very open-minded people who are expert on comparative religions or by unbiased search. There is no monopoly for the truth we all should seek the truth.

I should feel happy if my Christian neighbor is feeding his children a good meal and he is not struggling to survive. Humanism is the primary world religion and the heart of most religions. That is why I want to see it become the world new religion.

Why feminists Should Embrace Islam

By: Maged Taman

The west loves to present Islam as an oppressing regime to women. There is too much of misinformation. Muslims also are contributing to that. The Saudi hypocrites regime where some of the rich men enjoy the sexual revolution in the west and oppress women in their homes is an example. The Taliban oppressive regime that failed to create a regime that promote virtue and maintain women freedom is also to be blamed.

Western women particularly feminists should embrace Islam for the following reasons:

1- When Islam came to the Arab tribes women were buried alive as newborn, were looked as an embarrassment and had very low value in community. Islam liberated and elevated women. The one after Muhammad (PBUH) death known one of the best to teach Muslims their religion and narrate Hadith (Sayings other than Quran) was his wife Asha. The pleasure of his life was his daughter Fatima.

2- In Islam women can progress anywhere. She can attain any education and hold any position. She has her own money and decide who she marries to.

3- Polygamy is the exception and not the norm. The messenger polygamy that started at age of 51 is one of the greatest tests to him and me. He married some old women to be their supporter or even to please their family. No man would like to take this burden. He taught men how to deal with women and make all of them love him.

4- Islam separates women in places of education and work to protect women. Sexual desire is strong particularly for men and ends in a lot of legal problems in America including sexual abuse and broken marriages. Islam believes that prevention is better than cure.

5- Islam believes in virtue all time. However It acknowledges human weakness that is why it stresses on prevention. For sinners there is compassion. They can repent and adopt the mechanisms they need to take to prevent further sinning.

6- Illegitimate pregnancies are very rare in true Islamic country. It is very destructive to the western countries. The countries have to take care of single non-supported mothers with a lot of financial and social problems. Children who we are failed to be raised properly many times can be a burden on the country particularly the legal system.

7- Sexually transmitted diseases, worst is AID's and infertility costs the country a lot on paying for health care and social services. No doubt they are more rare in Muslim countries.

8- Women should be looked as the other half and not in competition with man. If a man can afford to have his wife to stay at home he is encouraged in Islam to do that for the good of families and countries. But it is a very personal decision.Thus woman value in Islamic community is even higher than man. The messenger mentioned in two sayings "heaven is under the feet of mothers" and " when a man asked the messenger who is the best to be one's companion the messenger told him: your mother, the man: who next, the messenger: your mother, the man: then who next, the messenger: your mother, the man: who next, the messenger: your father".

Alcohol And Gambling: Socio-Economic Disasters.

By: Maged Taman

2:219 They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider- يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَآ أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ كَذَلِكَ يُبيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

5:90 O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper. يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالأَنصَابُ وَالأَزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

5:91 Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain? إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاء فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلاَةِ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّنتَهُونَ

It is clear from the verses above how Islam forbids Alcohol and gambling. I will mention below how they come to be socio-economic disasters:

1- Poverty: it is true there is some economic gain in alcohol and gambling. These gains are only for few and most alcoholic and gamblers loose. If you look at gambling as investment you find it does not create jobs equivalent to money spent. Money is lost and does not grow for most people and there is no product that benefit people as food and services.

2- Addiction: both alcohol and gambling lead in some people to addiction. We do not know who will become addicted. Though you may think may be Islam ought to allow light alcohol and gamble to its followers. The problem we do not know who will be addicted and to what extent. Islam consider life is mainly a preparation to the afterlife though alcohol and gambling are loss of time and resources and take from your time and soul to be with God.

3- Broken families: both alcoholism and obsessive gambling led to broken marriages and dysfunctional families.

4- Crime: crime rate is higher in areas where alcoholism and gambling are endemic. Gangs are well known to be associated with alcoholism and gambling.

5- Depression: as well other psychiatric diseases are known to be exacerbated by alcoholism and gambling.

6- Morbidity and mortality: gambling is one of main reasons of suicide as well alcoholism. Drunk driving contributes to a lot of death every year in western countries. The medical expenses due to alcoholism are enormous.Islam forbids alcohol and gambling to Muslims. For non-Muslims Islam does not dictate to them what to do. But Muslims like to illustrate like in this article the severe harm of both alcohol and gambling to non-Muslims. Muslims like to live around non-Muslims who enjoy intact marriages and mental and physical health.

Jesus Christ , a Jew for Allah.


Jesus a Jew by race, was a Muslim by religion, A Muslim is some one who Submits Their Will to God. This Is What Jesus Did and Taught.

Regarding the Islamic teachings of Jesus:
Jesus called God "Alayho" in Aramaic.
Jesus taught to rinse before Praying as Muslims do {John 13:10}
Jesus bowed down in Submission on the Ground to God as Muslims do {Matthew 26:39}
Jesus said, all of You who Submit your will to God, are my true Brothers and Sisters (Mark 3:31-35) as Muslims do.
Jesus taught Salvation comes from Submitting our will to God and Faith as Muslims do.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus taught that only God is All Knowing as Muslims do.
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels inheaven, nor the Son [Prophet], but only the Father [Creator]." (Mark 13:32)
Jesus taught he is just a servant of God as Muslims are:
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, butthe will of Him who sent Me." [John 6:38]
Jesus said the word "Muslim" in Luke 6:40, and told others to be a Muslim:
Aramaic translated into Hebrew: "Ein talmeed na'leh 'al rabbo; shekken kal adam she'MUSHLAM yihyeh k'rabbo."
See: Islam from the BibleTranslation in English: "No student can be above his teacher, but everyone that is a MUSLIM, can be as his teacher."
In addition to the Bible confirming Jesus was a Jew for Allah, the Holy Qur'an also clarifies that Jesus followed Allah:
"And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden." {Holy Quran 5:116}
In conclusion, Jesus Christ is a Jew for Allah.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

'Allah came knocking at my heart'



Anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been asurge in conversions to Islam since September 11,especially among affluent young white Britons Six months ago Elizabeth L. ? a graduate in politicalscience, the daughter of affluent white Britishparents, an opponent of terrorism in all its forms ?climbed Mount Sinai at night to watch the desertsunrise from its summit. ?It was the stillest, most peaceful place I?ve everbeen,? she says. ?I could hear my feelings come upfrom within me, and in one surreal moment it allseemed to come together.? Last Friday, at 4.45pm, Elizabeth went to Regent?sPark Mosque in Central London and converted to Islam. It wasn?t hard. She didn?t even have to wear a scarf.Witnessed by two Muslim men and nine other friendssqueezed into the imam?s office, she pronounced, inArabic learnt from a tape the night before, the wordsshe will repeat like a mantra five times a day for therest of her life: ?There is no God but Allah andMuhammad is his messenger.? Afterwards there was amodest celebration at Al-Dar on the Edgware Road.Elizabeth and her well-wishers sipped mint tea andsmoked apple-flavoured tobacco from a hookah. Therewas no booze, but she never drank much anyway. Why has she done this? ?I know it sounds clichéd, butAllah came knocking at my heart. That?s really how itfeels. In many ways it is beyond articulating, ratherlike falling in love.? It was, in other words, intensely personal. As sheread the Koran and prepared for her conversion, theSeptember attacks came and went and failed to derailher spiritual journey, despite their proven link to afundamentalist Islamist terror network. In as far asthey featured in her thinking, they even elicited somesympathy. All terrorism is cowardly, she says. ?But Ican see why people get fed up with the West.Capitalism is enormously oppressive.? Elizabeth is not a freak, and she is certainly notalone. There is compelling anecdotal evidence of asurge in conversions to Islam since September 11, notjust in Britain, but across Europe and America. OneDutch Islamic centre claims a tenfold increase, whilethe New Muslims Project, based in Leicester and run bya former Irish Roman Catholic housewife, reports a?steady stream? of new converts. This fits a pattern set by recent history. Similarsurges followed the outbreak of the Gulf War, theBosnian conflict and the declaration of a fatwaagainst Salman Rushdie. Some of the newcomersdoubtless do not share David Blunkett?s enthusiasm forovert espousals of Britishness. They may even havebeen caught on police videos flag-waving for theTaleban. But most will speak our language and supportour football teams with roughly average fervour, andsome ? by all accounts a rapidly expanding minority ?are white, more educated and more middle-class thanthe Home Secretary himself. These are some of Islam?s more surprising converts.They have chosen their new creed over the world?sother great religions having had the privilege ofchoice, often confounding their own and theirfamilies? prejudices in the process. They are highlyarticulate and tolerant to a degree. They?re PeopleLike Us, only they?re not. They?re Muslims. They prayfive times a day, fast during Ramadan and hope to goto Mecca before they die. They answer their mobileswith ?salaam alaikum?. Unlike Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber ofAmerican Airlines Flight 63, Britain?s pukka Muslimconverts, as the label implies, tend to beover-privileged, not under. Unlike James McLintock,the Scots lecturer?s son being held in a Peshawarjail, the fighting in Afghanistan has dismayed ratherthan attracted them. They are people like Elizabeth (who asked for her nameto be changed because she has not told her parentsyet); like Lucy Bushill-Matthews, a 30-year-oldgraduate of Newnham College, Cambridge, who flirtedwith Islam as a student in order to dismiss it, butfound it ?so simple and logical I couldn?t push itaway?; like ?Yahya?, whose father is a pillar of theAnglo Establishment and who feels that Islam ?fitsright into British tradition?; and like JoeAhmed-Dobson, a son of the former Labour MinisterFrank Dobson who believes that Islam transformed hisspiritual life ? and helped him to get a first atuniversity. If there is something familiar about these people?sstartling choices, there should be. We have been herebefore, or at least Imperial Britain?s adventuringclasses and their moneyed gap-year successors have. T. E. Lawrence fell hard for the romance and othernessof Islam and came to embody them for succeedinggenerations even though he never converted. Gai Eaton,a former British diplomat now in his seventies, didconvert. His influential work Islam and the Destiny ofMan has become required reading for bright youngAnglo-Saxons turning to his adopted faith, often as anexpression of dissatisfaction with a Western culturethat appeared to have offered them everything. Matthew Wilkinson made headlines when he converted andchanged his name to Tariq in 1993; he was a formerEton head boy. He and Nicholas Brandt, another Etonianand the son of an investment banker, swapped theirdestinies as scions of the Establishment for a Sloughsemi shared with four other Muslims. Lord Birt?s son, Jonathan, forsook a fast track intothe ranks of the great and the good by converting in1997 and starting a PhD on British Islam. So did a sonand a daughter of Lord Justice Scott, the scourge ofTory sleaze and the chairman of the Arms to Iraqinquiry. And so did Jemima Khan. ?My decision . . . wasentirely my own choice and in no way hurried,? the21-year-old daughter of the billionaire JamesGoldsmith declared angrily after suggestions that shehad converted to marry Imran Khan, the former Pakistancricket captain. She noted accurately that the Koranallowed Imran to marry any Muslim, Jew or Christian(even though it bars Muslim women from marryingnon-Muslim men). She pointed out that Imran?s sisters,far from being oppressed by his brothers-in-law, wereall educated professionals, and she insisted that shefound the tunic and trousers she would henceforth haveto wear ?far more elegant and feminine than anythingin my wardrobe?. Her plea seemed hard to credit in the circumstances,but it is a common one from educated British womentrying to persuade baffled non-Muslims that conversiondid not mean surrendering their independence or theircritical faculties. For Lucy Bushill-Matthews, it meant the reverse. ?WhenI went to Cambridge I joined the Christian and Islamicsocieties and all three political parties,? she says.?I wanted to explore all the possibilities in order todismiss them.? She thinks of herself as pragmatic and not all thatspiritual, and as such she found Islam irresistible.?It made sense of all the world?s faiths. It was aclear, simple way to believe in God.? She claims thatit has even helped her to land good jobs by markingher out as a free thinker. Her husband is a Muslim ofEnglish and Iranian descent whom she married afterconverting. Yahya, too, chose Islam from the broadest possiblereligious gamut. He was raised in a high-profileLondon family that, because of his father?s position,could not be seen to favour one faith over another. Hethen took a degree in comparative religion ? thetheological equivalent of a blind wine tasting ? andIslam, quite simply, won. ?It?s pure monotheism,? he says. ?It has a clear moralsystem and an intact tradition of religiousscholarship. No scripture expresses its message of theoneness of God as clearly as the Koran. It also has aremarkably rich mysticism, which may be what appealsto middle-class white Brits like me.? Yahya converted five years ago. Now 33, he is atOxford writing a PhD on British Islam and is dismayednot just by last September?s attacks, but also by themauling he says his religion has suffered since in themedia, even ? or especially ? at the hands of would-besympathisers. ?It?s very painful for all of us to beassociated with such sickening barbarism (of theattacks),? he says. ?That?s not what we signed up for.And now we can?t portray our religion in undilutedform. It?s always mediated by someone else. It?sincredibly frustrating to have Polly Toynbee trying tosave you from yourself.? So does this wry and thoughtful soul share the credoof al-Qaeda? Of course not. But the belief system inwhich he and the terrorists co-exist has a serious andoften lethal public relations problem. The parallelthat comes to mind is with the environmental movement,boasting tens of millions of members paying dues tothe World Wide Fund for Nature and the Sierra Club,and a handful bent on burning down ski lodges in theRockies. Well before September 11, well-heeled defectors fromAnglicanism to Islam proved so unsettling totraditionalists that the Cold War author andjournalist Philip Knightley branded them ?the newPhilbys?. They were running from privilege, hesuggested, driven as much by a sense of guilt at whatthey had as wonder at the mysteries of Islam. The factthat Kim Philby?s father happens to have converted toIslam was taken to support the accusation. Levelled atJoe Ahmed-Dobson, it quickly seems ridiculous. The sonof the former Health Secretary is a child of newLabour and the opposite of a rebel. He works on innercity regeneration, finds spiritual satisfaction inIslam?s ?constant impetus to do the right thing?, andcredits his first-class degree to the structure hisfaith has brought to his life. All those I spoke to agreed that Christianity claimsto answer the same yearnings for meaning and guidance.All had rejected it on intellectual grounds. Whygrapple with mental puzzles such as the Holy Trinityand Original Sin, they asked, when the alternative,asserting neither, proved to them so much moresatisfying?It was this clarity that won over BatoolAl-Toma, the former Catholic who offers guidance toconverts at the New Muslims Project. She tells themthey need not change their names, advises women todress modestly but not alienate their families withradical wardrobe changes and checks they haveconverted freely. Islam is not generally a missionaryfaith, she says. At one billion and counting, historyshows it doesn?t need to be. Famous convertsGérard Depardieu: The 54-year-old French film starconverted to Islam, but later converted back. He alsoexperimented with Buddhism and the Russian OrthodoxChurch but says he has now found happiness in hisvineyard in Anjou. ?I work and keep quiet,? he toldFrench Vogue. Jemima Goldsmith: The daughter of Sir James, the latefinancier, she converted ?of her own conviction? inpreparation for her marriage to Imran Khan in 1995.?It would seem that a Western woman?s happiness hingeslargely on her access to nightclubs, alcohol andrevealing clothes,? she said. ?However, as we allknow, such superficialities have very little to dowith true happiness.? Eleasha Elphinstone: The wife of the boxing starPrince Naseem Hamed switched faiths in 1998 beforemarrying. The previous year the wedding plans had beenabandoned when Eleasha had a change of heart andrefused to convert. Malcolm X: A former street hustler, Malcolm Littleconverted to Islam in jail, where he was serving timefor burglary. He joined the Nation of Islam, was laterexpelled and assassinated by Nation members in 1965. Muhammad Ali: The 59-year-old boxer previously knownas Cassius Clay became an international role model,revered as much for his political stance over Vietnamand adherence to his faith, as for his showmanship inthe ring. Cat Stevens: Born Steven Georgiou, the singer droppedhis nom-de-plume to become Yusuf Islam in 1977. Hismoment of enlightenment had come the previous year,when his brother gave him a copy of the Koran. Frombeing a superstar at the age of 19 when Matthew andSon became a hit, Yusuf married a Muslim woman fromcentral Asia called Fawzia, and became a high-profilespokesman for the British Muslim community. Mike Tyson: The former world heavyweight champion wassentenced to three years in jail for raping ateenager. He converted to Islam before returning tothe ring in 1995. He told visitors that he had spenthis time studying the Koran, Machiavelli, Voltaire,Dumas ?and a lot of Communist literature?.