Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Conversion to Islam, Part 3

After Europe things changed with me. I came home and cleaned house so to say. I ended some relationships and began to explore new interests that I found over there. I studied art, religion, read a ton and started cooking at a new level. I was affected.

One thing I started doing was watching BBC World News. It was the only un-local news station for people without cable (I loathed cable back then). I also began reading the Bible again because some things were bothering me. This combination caused me to ultimately convert to Islam. This will all sound silly to some of you but that’s okay. I’m a goofy sort of person.

I was reading the Bible and began disliking God. Yeah, I know. That’s not a good thing. But it was so pro-Israel, pro-Jewish, and there was a lot of killing. Like God telling the tribes of this country to kill the tribes of that country. I began to think of God as violent. Then, at night, watching the news I saw what was going on in Palestine and Israel (I hadn’t really paid attention before. I was one of those people that thought – “that has nothing to do with me” and cracked it up to the “crazy Middle East”). I always thought the Middle East was just a mess. Too many religions and too little land. But watching the news bothered me. I thought, “How can these Israeli’s bulldoze people’s houses and kill innocent children and women, let alone men?” “How hard must be conditions in Palestine where little boys throw rocks at tanks and soldiers?” It was the look in those little boys faces that made me feel for them. And how evil are these people that they can kill these little boys who are obviously struggling and have nothing to live for if they will risk their lives to throw a stone at a tank? And how unfair is it for little boys with rocks to fight grown men with guns?

I went back to the Bible and other books and read about how Christians believe that for Jesus to return, the Jews must return to the Holy Land – Israel. I also read how they – Jews - were the chosen people. All I could think was “What the hell?” If Jews are God’s chosen people, and this is what God wants, I won’t be Christian because this is sick. Ultimately, I really began to dislike God for a long time. Astigfurllah.

Now let me clear something up right away – I’m not anti-Jew. I have had Jewish friends my whole life. I do however, have serious issues with Zionists. I live near a orthodox Jewish neighborhood and have no issues with it. I separate the religion from the Zionist ideology, just like I separate Muslims from the religion: Islam = good, Muslims = some good, some bad and the same goes for Jews and Christians.

During this research phase of mine, I was reading a lot of Jewish books trying to understand. I met a Jewish guy in the bookstore and we talked for a few hours. We bought each other a book – he bought me some book by a Rabbi and I bought him some spiritual book I loved. We never spoke again because he told me that he is not able to befriend women. Just by him talking to me in the bookstore was basically against his religion. We had a very interesting conversation though where he almost had me believing that I was a Jew by descent. Anyhow, he gave me a good list of books to read and some authors. I had a bit of knowledge already of Hasidic Jews – my favorite sect in that religion. In high school, I read a lot of Jewish books too. I really got into Chaim Potok novels. To this day, The Chosen and The Promise are two of my favorite books as both really affected me spiritually and in personal ways. I also liked that a lot of Orthodox Jews and Hasidic Jews are non-Zionist and anti-Israel. They believe what is happening in Israel is a sin.

I really thought Hasidic Jews were cool. Not only because of their strict faith, but because they wore the coolest clothes. To me, they looked like Pilgrims and I thought that pretty much rocked. I also had a fascination with Quakers, Shakers, and the Amish.

Looking back it seems I just had a fascination with people who had traditional values. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a house without tradition nor values and we always want what we can’t have. I even begged my parents to send me to Catholic School because it was strict. I think I also wanted something to rebel against beside the same old same old but anyway…

Okay, after that loooong segue let me continue. Just remember I am not anti-Jew, just anti-Zionist. I won’t even say anti-Israel because again, I separate the people from the government and the people are probably mostly good, the government mostly bad, just like the rest of the world’s countries.

So. I read my Bible nightly, watched the news nightly and doing these two things –
light bulbs in my head began to flicker. I really began to dislike Israel and wanted to understand the struggle. I read up on it and was shocked to find out that Palestinians aren’t all Muslim. There’s a lot of Christians there too. Hmmm. So really the Jews weren’t anti-Islam or even anti-Christian – they were just greedy and wanted all that land to themselves and didn’t want to share. I thought back to how many times I heard in my life the Golden Rule (do click and see the roots of this term)- basically treating others as you’d like to be treated. I also how I was told how important sharing was and how it was a religious act. And I remember those bracelets with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) Would Jesus bulldoze some houses because he wanted to live there? I highly doubted it. Jesus would do the right thing because Jesus rocked. So I looked to God. Would God really condone this behavior? It sure did seem unGodly to me. My heart broke for those kids. I signed up soon after to go over to Israel to be a “human shield” for the Palestinians but my family talked me out of it.

I also started looking into Islam at a very basic level. It’s not an easy task to find good information – something that bothers me to this day. So I figured I’d go straight to the source. I checked out a Qur’an from the public library and a children’s guide to the Qur’an. I started reading it but put it down after a while. I wasn’t getting it and in general I think I was all religioned out and needed a break.

I took a long break.

Okay, I swear Part 4 will be the final post. The thing is, all these things made me convert. I don't like to tell my conversion story to people because it's not so simple. For some it is, but to me, if one of these things didn't happen I wouldn't have converted. My conversion is a sum of parts and leaving one out messes the whole thing up. So thanks for sticking with me and sorry that it's so long. I will post the rest of my conversion soon - after my birthday though, which is tomorrow. So i'll probably post the finale Monday. Insh'Allah.


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