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New Converts’ Frustrations: Do Muslims Really Care?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Jan 24, 2018

Question

I find myself falling back into that frustration of the Ummah, and I beg forgiveness if what I say offends, but the treatment and reception of converts is absolutely frustrating. This is, by no means, accusing any of the Ummah of rudeness or cruelty, but more directed to the feeling that converts don't matter to them. Where is a comprehensive guide for converts to understand all the Arabic terms thrown at them? Where is the inclusion, the active stance that other religious communities have for their converts to actively help guide them into being a Muslim? Why is going online seemingly the only resource? Why is our community more focused on inter-faith relations instead of reform in the Mosque? Whether we admit it or not, at least in America, Islam has a hierarchy, with Arabic speaking born Muslims at the top, and converts at the bottom. This ethno-centric multi-mosques in one area is ridiculous. 'Pakistani Mosques', 'Algerian Mosques', 'Arab Mosque'. No matter which one, a convert will stick out like a sore thumb, and sometimes, receive a poor showing for those who prefer this wrongful ethno-centric pattern of dividing the Ummah. Not to mention, the multiple stigmas, associations, and assumptions about converts that are stuck to us the moment we are introduced as such. How easy it is for a born Muslim to be critical of whether something I have done or live in is haram when I'm still learning and trying not to have my family hate me! How easy it is to debase a Muslimah convert because she is married to a born Muslim man, to accuse her of converting for love of man and not Allah! And the blatant shock when a convert introduces themselves as originating from a non-Muslim majority country, as if an American, or Scot, or Italian, or Brazilian could not possibly be Muslim. I am ranting, and I apologize. I feel that when I learn one thing about Islam, I find 10 more that confuse me. There is no guide for converts, no one source from our perspectives that get where our confusion is, and so many sources on the internet without any indication which is the correct one. I feel like an intruder in my mosque, and no one makes an effort to even introduce themselves. And I feel lonely. I don't want to move away from Islam, because I love it, but we have so many problems in our community that really need to be addressed. Thank you for your advice.

Consultant

Answer


New Converts' Frustrations

Short Answer: Many Muslims do not see anything wrong with the way the mosques are run. The only piece of advice I can give you here is to try to enact the change you want to see. I highly encourage you to reach out to and connect with other converts though the Internet.
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Salam sister and thank you for submitting this question.

As a convert, myself, I can understand a lot of the struggles and frustrations you feel.

Dealing with the ins and outs of different mosque communities, all while dealing with the overwhelming reality of being a new Muslim can be extremely difficult.

I will address a few points from your question.

Learning Islam

Firstly, in regard to having a comprehensive guide for new Muslims, most Arabic phrases are relatively easy to find on the internet.

There are even Wikipedia pages dedicated to some common Islamic terms, like insha’Allah, masha’Allah, and subhanAllah.

But even if Arabic terms are easy to find online, having a general resource available to new Muslims would be very handy to have.

There is a book that should be coming to publication in February this year called The New Muslim’s Field Guide,” by Kaighla Um Dayo and Theresa Corbin; both Muslim converts, and both of whom have been affiliated with About Islam in the past.

Mosques & Muslim Communities

As far as inclusion of new Muslims goes, this is an aspect that can be particularly difficult for those of us who have grown up with a church community.

Many churches go out of their way to make newcomers feel welcome and there are a lot of programs to encourage community involvement.

The unfortunate truth is that these programs either do not exist, or exist on a much smaller scale in mosques.

There are some mosques with youth programs or groups for converts, but there is not the same amount of emphasis put on them.

This particular point leads into your other observation about Muslim communities being much more concerned with interfaith activities than we are with reforming what is wrong within our mosques.

There are, perhaps, several reasons for this, though my conclusions are limited to my own speculation.

For one thing, Muslims have been the target of much vitriol in Western countries. So I do understand and support the desire to reach out to other communities in attempts to humanize ourselves to others.

Interfaith events are meant to bring Muslims and Islam to the level of “normal-ness” with which Christianity, Judaism, and other major religions are viewed in this country.

Another point may simply be that many Muslims do not see anything wrong with the way the mosques are run.

Many people are content with the patriarchal structure that excludes women from leadership and keeps converts lingering on the edges of the community.

In their minds, there is no broken system to fix in the first place.

I wish that there was some sort of a solution that I could give you for this.

The only piece of advice I can give you here is to try to enact the change you want to see.

There are certainly some like-minded individuals in your community. Even if the larger community does not want to see change, you could operate in your own way within your own group.

I do understand, however, that this is easier said than done.

On-Line Communities

This leads me to the final point I am going to address.

I understand and empathize with the desire to connect with other Muslims in a forum that does not rely on the internet. However, if you are dissatisfied with the mosques in your area, this may be the best option for you.

I highly, highly encourage you not to disregard this possibility.

Over my nine years as a Muslim I have made many more Muslim friends online than I have in “real life.”

Fact is, this is the 21st century, the internet very much is real life.

There are several women whom I have only met online who I talk with on a daily basis and feel very close to.

We exchange texts and voice messages. We talk about mundane goings-on in our life.

We discuss all sorts of different things, advise each other, support each other. All of this is done entirely online.

As much as it may seem that I am brushing off some of your concerns, do realize that I understand the struggles you’re going through and the frustrations you face.

What you are experiencing is something that many converts face.

I do encourage you to reach out to and connect with other converts, be in online, through the mosque, or another community group like a university Muslim Students Association.

Many duaa to you and I wish you the very best.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us on About Islam.

Please keep in touch.

Salam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Your First 3 Practical Steps as a New Muslim

Are We Giving New Muslims Their Rights?

How the Prophet Muhammad Cared for Converts

What Can Reverts Expect When Visiting the Mosque for the First Time?

Supporting New Muslims When Abuse Drives Them Away

Real Talk: Why Are Some Converts Leaving Islam?

New Muslim: How to Minimize Stress?

Reverts – 4 Steps Will Help in Your Path of Knowledge




About Leah Darland Hanoosh

Leah is a Muslim convert of almost a decade. She has two kids, an intercultural marriage, and half of a French degree in her back pocket, looking to switch gears to science and medicine. She has lived abroad for over a decade, having just recently become reacquainted with her roots in America. She currently lives in Michigan near her family and – masha’Allah – a sizeable Muslim community.

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