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Here’s Why Donna & John Converted to Islam

Born to Christian but not especially religious families, Hanan and her husband John became Muslims as adults in Wales.

Converting to Islam almost three decades ago, Hanan Sandercock says her decision was all about finding faith, community as well as answers to questions she had been asking, Wales Online reported.

Born to a Christian family, Hanan, formerly, Donna Sandercock, arrived in Cardiff in the early 1990s as a young art school graduate looking for work.

“I was in my 20s and I think I was searching. I wanted to know the meaning of life. I went to a Buddhist meeting but that didn’t do anything for me,” she said.

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Later on, she started to befriend young Muslims her age working and socializing.

“I was interested. Their religion was very important to them. They were solid and had a belief system I didn’t have,” she said.

“I’d eat at their houses and have the nicest food. They were really open and welcoming and happy I was interested.”

A 1994 journey to the occupied Palestinian territories helped her learn more about Islamic history and fastened her decision.

“I was walking in a wadi, a deep ravine, in the heat of the day with a friend and we got lost,” she said. “There were no mobile phones then and we had run out of water. I prayed in a way I’d never done before. I prayed that if we got out safely I’d become a Muslim. It wasn’t something I’d vocalized before but realized it had been inside me.”

Returning to Wales, she took the shahada or Islamic declaration of faith in front of the well-known late Imam Sheikh Said.

“I immediately felt a great sense of relief,” she said. “Islam explains things to me. The answers are all there.

She now lives with her husband, John Smith, who also converted to Islam as an adult.

“I became part of a diverse community. I was not pressured to be or become a particular way.

“I wore an abayah. Being Muslim is an identity and I wanted to show that.”

The largest non-Christian faith in Wales is Islam, with about 46,000 adherents in 2011.

Most Muslims live in Cardiff (23,656 in 2011, 6.8% of the population), but there are also significant numbers in Newport (6,859 in 2011) and Swansea (5,415 in 2011).

There has been a Somali and Yemeni Islamic community in Cardiff since the mid-1800s, founded by seafarers to Cardiff Docks.