Being A Muslim In The West

{ Sunday, March 13, 2011 }

I was born into a Christian family, although only by name, since my parents aren’t really religious. After years of reading and research, I converted to Islam last summer (alhamdulillah). I’ve been familiar with the Islamic lifestyle for a while longer though, because I purposely started to spend time with other muslim girls. And in the end, I was so familiar with it that it seemed to become my own lifestyle. I still didn’t convert at that moment though, because I was thinking about my parents, family,…just everyone except myself really. I believed in God, and I felt at home with the Islamic lifestyle, but I was afraid of the consequences of my decision. I was waiting until I suddenly had the courage to tell my parents I wanted to do this. Courage that never came, and that still hasn’t come.
In the end, I came to the realisation that it was my life, and that I should live it for me (not very original, I know).
I converted in August, and something strange happened for a short while. All the things I hadn’t been doing voluntarily for a while, because of my interest in Islam, suddenly became compulsory for me not to do (not drinking, not wearing T-shirts, but long clothes, not going to parties, etc.). I don’t know about humans and their inclination to fight against any obligations, but I was starting to feel afraid I made the wrong decision, because of all this obligations that “suddenly” fell on me (while I had been living by this obligations for a year or more). Luckily, it was just a feeling, and it passed, when I started to look again at all the beauty that Islam is. I realised it was not an easy choice, but it was MY choice, and I felt proud of myself.
But I live in an European country, and the majority here has a very different lifestyle. I’m not complaining. It’s not because I’m muslim, that I think everyone should suddenly follow me. I also think the West has achieved a lot of great things, like freedom of speech, critical thinking, and democracy. But it does mean that it was my job to set boundaries for myself, in my dealing with others. I’m a student, and I’m staying in a student-house, where I’m the only muslim. There were going to be a lot of times I would have to say “no, thanks” to other people. Luckily I have friends who respect the way I want to live my life, and don't press me to drink alcohol for example.
I developed this kind of compass inside of me, that pointed me in the right direction. It’s my guide in knowing what’s acceptable to me as a muslim, and what isn’t. And at times, when I ignore this compass, I feel it very strongly, because I end up feeling bad, and not wanting to repeat the experience again. It’s still challenging, and sometimes I find myself longing to live in an Islamic country, to not always feel like the odd one out. Maybe I will someday, God only knows.
More and more people start to know about my conversion, but I still haven’t found the courage to tell my parents yet. I’m scared of how they would react. They haven’t done the same research that I have about Islam. They only came in touch with it through the media, and I think I can safely say that that’s not a good thing. I’m also not very good at explaining things, like expressing the knowledge that I have inside of me, and I fear their questions and my inadequate answers.
I also want to wear headscarf, but I know this is impossible, until I’ve told my parents. They might never accept, but at least they would know.
It’s still a long way to go, but I don’t regret my decision, because I think this lifestyle really suits my nature. Religion is also very important to me, and I consider myself a religious person. Not as in conservative and strict, but a person who needs God in her life.
I just hope that one day I can live my life fully, as I want to live it, and not feel afraid of other people’s judgement anymore.

Post from my old blog


Nikki said...

Beautiful post! I understand completely. I finally did tell my own parents after about 5 months. I thought that would suddenly open up this world where I could freely be Muslim and wear hijab and pray and fast Ramadan... but it didn't. It's now been over a year since I told them and I still am not comfortable doing any of those things around them, although with Ramadan I did it despite their discomfort.

The constant feeling of having to suppress who I am, of feeling I have to hide this huge part of my life is growing more and more uncomfortable. I know there will come a point when I just can't take it anymore and will go to my parents house in hijab and never take it off (figuratively, lol, I'll obviously take it off at home, etc. etc.)

I have tried the slow approach. Telling them of my conversion, then they had time to digest the information before Ramadan came, and now they've had more time to digest they should know that soon I will have to let our community know regardless of how they fear their perceptions.

It's really hard, Safiyah, to go against what everyone "expects" especially when it is Islam that is so feared in the west. You sound so at peace with your choice, though! Please don't ever let anyone take that from you!

Safiyah said...

Thanks Nikki :)

You sound like a really courageous lady! It's really hard, I agree, and you are right in saying that my way to express myself as fully Muslim will not be without obstacles once I tell my parents. But at least I would start a process, in which time can bring understanding perhaps. Now they don't know anything, and time is just passing without any process going on. I just need to find the courage, and it's still lacking. It feels like the hardest thing ever!

Thanks for sharing your story :) It feels good to read about others who are going through the same thing!

Danii said...

Assalam aleikum sister,

I am in a similar position to yourself - i can really relate. I am 21 and reverted 2 years ago but have only started practicing properly recently alhamdililah. My parents also don't know and I am also desperate to wear hijab and be able to be openly Muslim.

I'm also wanting to marry a Saudi man but he's in Jeddah. The only thing holding us back is his government which doesn't allow them to marry foreigners and he is having a lot of difficulty finding a job overseas. How are you guys getting around this?

Any way sis if ever you want to talk just email me on - i'd love to hear from you :)



Safiyah said...

W aleykum assalaam sis :)

Yes we really seem to be in a similar position! It's really hard when you feel so many things are holding you back!

Well, my fiancé was born in Saudi, but he is Uzbek by origin, so we don't need that permission, since he isn't Saudi by nationality himself.

I'd love to talk to you :) Do you have msn by coincidence? If not, we can talk by e-mail, no problem ;-)



Danii said...

salamm sorry i had responded to this ages ago but it musnt have saved

I am overseas for another couple of days but I will be back on 26th inshaAllah I have msn but i use a different address which i will send to u wen i am back inshaAllah

Take care sis


Safiyah said...

That would be lovely :-)

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