I was about 13 then.
My friends and I thought it was the coolest thing in the World to be Christians.
We all went to church together on Sundays and Youth on Wednesday at the Baptist Church that is now known as “Gateway Church” on Tulare St. and Conyer. We were all die hard Christian punks. We went to shows that had Christian bands playing and listened to Footklan and Living Sacrifice.
“Dead to the World, and alive in Christ!!” we would shout as the band got ready to play their next song.
About a year went by like this. My friends even took me to the Vans Warped Tour in 2002. I was 14 when I began thinking to myself, “Religion shouldn’t be a fad. Come to think of it, I only believe this because my friends do.”
I immediately went to my Youth Pastor. I told him how I felt and what my questions were. He gave me little “workbooks” that were supposed to help guide me on my path.
My questions were serious; not just silly questions kids think of. Mine were like—why does God have a son? How can God and his son be one including the Holy Spirit? What is the Holy Spirit? Since God and Jesus are one, and Jesus died on the cross… Did God die then too?—some answers he did have, but others he just said to me, “It takes faith.”
“Faith,” I thought to myself. “Faith?
He is telling me I need to have faith to know that the basis of my religion is real and true?”
Later I went to a priest and asked him the same questions. I got the same answers. I went to the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church and asked him the same questions. Again, I got the same answers. I went home to think and gather my thoughts together.
“Judaism!!” I thought.
It’s like the backbone of Christianity. “If Christians weren’t right then Jews have to be!” I thought.
I started reading online about Jewish beliefs, culture, and tradition. I fell in love. I downloaded Jewish songs and bought movies by Jewish producers and writers. I wept and wept watching Schindler’s List and The Pianist.
I felt betrayed by my own countrymen. (I’m German) I felt angry towards Palestinians and love for Israel and its people. I went to the Synagogue, Temple B’nai David, every Friday on Chinowth and Tulare. I tried teaching myself Hebrew.
I found out that Reformed Jews allow women to wear yarmulkes. So, I immediately went and bought one. I wore it with pride in the Temple, I wore it to school, and downtown with my friends. Now I was a Jewish punk. I wanted to start a band named “The Mad Rabbis”. I wanted to be a Rabbi.
Time went on and I turned 15. Despite the passion I had for the Jewish religion, I saw the huge hole it had in it. I felt there was something missing. There was no Jesus. I completely tried to forget about him. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t. So, I thought to myself, “Judaism can’t be it. As much as I want it to be, it just can’t. I can’t believe in something knowing there is a void.”
At that time I just felt completely lost. I didn’t know what to do. I gave up. My friends started to go astray from their religion also. But the path they took was the rough one. Smoking, drinking, and partying were their way of release from what they felt. And unfortunately I began to hang out with them more.
So, I picked up the habit of smoking. I drank once, but I got so sick that I never did it again. And just the thought of alcohol still makes me nauseous. I eventually got back into my search for myself after a few months. I remembered this one religion I heard of—Islam. And that’s pretty much all I knew about it. That it was called Islam and that it’s an Arab religion. I decided to read about it.
I bought a couple of books, but I mostly went to Islamic websites. I studied this new, foreign, and misunderstood religion not knowing that it would change my life forever.
“What was this? That’s how you pray? There is no God but God? Fasting? Charity? Pilgrimage to Makkah?” I read on and on.
I learned that the people on 9/11 who called themselves Muslims were going against what their religion taught them. I found a verse in the Quran that says if you take one life it’s like taking the lives of all humanity, and if you save one life it’s like saving all of humanity.
I read that women had the right to education, divorce, owning homes, driving, etc. They have every right as any woman living in America. I found out that culture and religion differ a lot.
I began to pray as best as I could. I memorized all the Arabic and all the movements. I gained respect for my parents. I stopped smoking. I fasted my first Ramadan last year in 2004 as a Muslim. I learned that as a Muslim, I should be humble and not argumentative. I read that I should respect my elders and respect myself.
I started wearing my hijab at the beginning of this semester. I wear it because I believe my body is my own business. Just because I cover my hair doesn’t mean I am less of a woman, but in fact, it makes me more of a woman.
People may look at me and think “terrorist”, but I’d rather let them think of me like that when I know I am no where close to anyone. Or, if I’m not wearing my hijab, people could look at me like any other girl and if they like what they see on my body then they’ll talk to me. I chose respect.
I learned also that Muslims believe that Jesus (son of the Virgin Mary) was a Prophet and Muhammad was the last Prophet. I learned they accept the Bible and Torah and the Quran all as Holy Books.
I began to look at the fighting between Palestine and Israel with disgust. I didn’t understand how people could have so much hate for each other. I gained so much knowledge of this young, beautiful religion. I decided it was time.
I converted to Islam in May of 2004 at the age of 16.
I am a Muslim. That’s who I am and that is my religion. My religion has shaped my outlook on life, my behavior, and my perception and acceptance of others. It’s very important to me because it is a part of me every day, every moment. I pray five times a day.
I worship my God the way He wants and not how I want. I don’t think about Him only on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or when I am in trouble. I think about Him all the time, every day. It has made me more accept the others and has given me understanding.
Islam has shaped not only my beliefs, but also my opinions, and my actions.
Alhamdulillah. (All praise is to God)