Rafed English

Working Toward Acceptance

Although families may have reacted with shock and grief at first, they were willing to work through their relationship with their daughter. Their willingness to work on the relationship was often motivated by other circumstances such as the birth of a baby to the Muslim couple. The movement toward acceptance may come with the passage of time, perhaps after the family of origin recognizes that what the daughter had chosen was not just a phase in her life. At times the commitment to work it out seems to come more from the daughter than from the family. Such drastic changes in lifestyles, religion, dress, and tradition made the husband an easy mark for some families to shift the blame from their daughter to her husband. Some of the women made the change to Islam while still living in their parents' home. All of these situations required time, effort, and work on the part of both the family and the daughter to come to some level of acceptance. These families are still working on that process of acceptance.

When I embraced Islam, I told my family. They were not surprised. They saw it coming from my actions and what I said when I was home that summer. They accepted my decision and knew that I was sincere. Even before, my family always accepted my activities and my deep faith, even if they didn't share it.

They were not as open-minded, however, when I started to wear the hijab. They worried that I was cutting myself off from society, that I would be discriminated against, that it would discourage me from reaching my goals, and they were embarrassed to be seen with me. They thought it was too radical. They didn't mind if I had a different faith, but they didn't like it to affect my life in an outward way.

It has been three years and a lot has changed. My family recognizes that I didn't destroy my life. They see that Islam has brought me happiness, not pain and sorrow. They are proud of my accomplishments and can see that I am truly happy and at peace. Our relationship is back to normal and they are looking forward to our visit next month, insha'Allah.

Upon becoming a Muslim, I felt that my parents were disappointed in me. Telling them that I was a Muslim was like a slap in the face to them. It was as if I had rejected everything they had taught me as a child-everything that they had learned from their parents. It was good enough for them, so why was it not good enough for me? My brothers were sixteen, fourteen, and eleven years old when I converted, and they were not really concerned about rne. It was my choice and I had the right to do what I wanted. My other relatives are still friendly with me by telephone, but when my husband and I visit them in person, they seem tense and aloof; even ignoring us at times and talking to each other as if we were not even there. No one in my family has been interested in Islam and none of them want to become a Muslim. My mother used to wish that my husband would go back to Iran and leave me behind. She imagined that I would then leave Islam and be the daughter she had before. After four years of marriage, my husband went overseas and returned about six weeks later. My mother realized he was not going to leave me and slowly began to accept my conversion to Islam. Then I discussed my beliefs and practices with her, and she accepted me unconditionally. She realized I had chosen to believe as I do. She said she and my dad were too old to change their ways. After my thirteen years of marriage, she told me that I looked beautiful in my head scarf; just like the statues of the Virgin Mary.

When my brother, who is a minister, wrote me a letter and said that my husband, our little children, and I would be going to hell for our beliefs, my mother disagreed with him. She said that she believed there were several ways to get close to God and that she did not think we would go to hell. Five years later she passed away, may God grant her peace, and the last time I spoke to her she talked about not being afraid to die. She said she was not worried about me, but she did worry about my three brothers, including the Christian minister. She may have finally come to accept Islam as truthful even though she could not practice it herself.

My husband and I are in a unique situation because we both still live in my parents' house. They are very understanding and have not openly expressed any feelings against our beliefs, and my mother always takes care to only make pork for my father when we are eating out. We usually get together with my grandparents around holidays and they usually give us gifts. I learned from when I was a Jehovah's Witness not to try to "spoil their fun" by refusing gifts.

There have been small matters of difficulty such as fighting with my mother over the length of the clothes she makes for me. "Why do you want them so ridiculously long?!" and her frustration when I told her I could not eat food made with gelatin either (since it is usually made from pork). All in all, she has become more understanding over time, even realizing by herself that the American media purposely portrays Muslims in a bad light, now that she knows what we are really like.

I hope in the future we will be able to discuss more about our specific beliefs, which we haven't done much, and also discuss more with my father, who has basically no interest in religion of any kind. +Initially my conversion to Islam caused major conflicts with my family. They were not supportive and felt that I was being misguided and brainwashed by my husband. This later changed for two reasons: (I) they realized this wasn't a fad or change I was going through, and if they wanted to have any contact with me they would have to accept me as Muslim, and 2 once my children were born and being raised Muslim, it was hard for them to deal with the children in the same negative manner. I've tried to speak to my family about Islam in hopes that I can help them to live and die as Muslims.

- At first my mother and father were shocked. My father blamed my husband. Although the two had been the best of friends, after my conversion my father rarely spoke to my husband for an entire year. Many family squabbles have come out of my conversion. Most of the intolerance was on my mom's side of the family. To them I had become a devil worshipper who had denounced Christ. However, at a recent family reunion, I had been upgraded to a Christian who just didn't know [how] to accept and claim the healing of Christ. I've learned not to discuss religion with them.

Now my mom tells me what color of scarves look best on me and compliments me often. She has grown to accept it. I just wish my parents would ask me what I believe and read some of the Qur'an. +My choice to become a Muslim has made a difference in my relationship with my family-it is very stressful. I feel as though they think it's a stage of life I'm going through. It has been four years now and things are still a bit weird. I feel a little rejection. I would like for my family to be open with me and ask questions, instead of taking the facts of Islam from the media or other wrong sources. The most stressful thing I feel is that my family blames my husband for my conversion to Islam.

I like to be the best example of a Muslim when I visit my family, but I get very sad knowing they are not Muslims. My mom always tells me she wished my other two sisters were as good a mother as me. Being a good mom is part of being a good Muslim. How fortunate were these women whose families made some effort at reconciliation and understanding. Often parents feel that decisions made by children in the young adult years are impulsive and frivolous. Although that is a possibility, time has demonstrated that the daughter's commitment is lasting and the change in her lifestyle is permanent.

Adapted from: "Daughters Of Another Path (Experience of American Women Choosing Islam)" by: "Carol L. Anway"

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