As most converts, when I became a Muslim, I was entranced by the mystique of Islam. It was something so different to what I was not finding in Christianity that I wanted to jump in head first; and subsequently blindly so. I donned the black abaya (long sleeved long dress), the black khimar (head cover tight around the chin and to my fingertips) and black niqab (face veil). Sadly, I was so mesmerized that I believed anything any Muslim told me and I paid the price for that.
Needless to say, at first my family was not happy at all about my decision; as a matter of fact, happiness was not even relevant… they felt betrayed. At that time, I really did not understand. My family was not a particularly religious group of people; we believed in God, but that was the extent of it. So, I was misguided in my thinking, and thought maybe they were just mad because I became a Muslim.
Ten years later… I have been struggling with the faith that I once loved so much. At first, I thought that it was the epiphany that Muslims are just as sinful and corrupt as the Christians… in general terms. However, after some introspection, I learned that it is because of this false notion that I have to be someone I am not.
As converts to Islam (and this is probably true to anyone that converts to another religion), we make the mistake of shedding our identity in order to fit in with the community. Now though, I realize that to be a productive and effective member of the Muslim community, I must keep my American identity. If I were not meant to be who I am, God would have had me be born to someone in a far off land… born into Islam. God is the best of planners and I am part of his plan as I am.
Before I continue, I want to apologize to my family… especially my sisters, Shawna and Natalie. I now understand why you were upset. Your strong, outspoken, fearless sister suddenly shut herself off from the world, and most importantly from my family, with layers of black. I love you all and so thankful to have you as my sisters for life.
Tonight, I went to an interfaith iftar at a church. It was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed the speakers and delicious food from Jafri. What intrigued me though was seeing all the different people: Americans, Pakistanis, Iranians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc. and being pleased that I could easily be identified as an American Muslim… no mistaking me for Arab because of my dark eyes. No, the loose jeans, long shirt and hijab pinned at the nape of my neck, the tiny jar of mustard seed around my neck, the round dark wooden prayer beads on my wrist clearly identified me as an American who consciously converted to Islam for it’s purity of truth for me.
I joked with my friends, laughed out loudly, smiled freely, introduced myself to a Christian, shook hands with men… because that is who I am. I am not one of those that say we can not mix with non Muslims, much less men. I was raised to be friendly, hospitable, look people in the eyes and shake their hands when you meet them. I am Muslim, alhamdu Lillah (praise be to God), but I am Lonna jo through and through. My younger sister always says you can take the girl out of Kentucky, but you cannot take the Kentucky out of the girl. Well, it goes the same with being a Muslim… you cannot take my American identity out of me. I am an American Muslim.