But I’m a convert, and my experience is nothing like this!

I’m not surprised. You see, you’re not me. And I’m writing about my experience, mainly, as well as those of some other converts that I know–but from my own perspective.

I don’t pretend to speak for all converts, everywhere. Or even for all those white folks from small North American towns who converted in the early ’80’s. Or for anyone else but myself.

What I have observed is that there are some important variables that affect the sorts of experiences that converts have, such as:

  • Date of conversion
  • Place of conversion
  • Type(s) of community (communities) you join or get involved with
  • “Race”, ethnicity, skin colour
  • General physical “being”–meaning, can you sort of “pass” as a born Muslim, or at least not stick out like a sore thumb?
  • Gender identity and gender presentation
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social class–your birth family’s, and your Muslim spouse’s, if you get married
  • Whether you get married, and if so, to who
  • Educational level, especially at the time of conversion
  • Whether you have children, and if so, how many
  • If you have any disability (visible or not) or health issues
  • The reaction(s) of your birth family
  • The reactions(s) of your friends and neighbours
  • Age and life experience at the time of conversion
  • Financial resources and/or work experience at the time of conversion
  • If you have a credit history
  • Whether you have traveled or seen much of the world before converting
  • The political “temperature” at the time that you convert
  • Your religious background

I’m sure I’ve missed some important factors, but these are some of them that seem to come up most often, in my experience. So, I’ve encountered converts who are similar to me in many ways (ethnically, class-wise, in terms of religious background), but who converted a decade earlier (or a decade later), and had a significantly different experience. Or, they got involved in a very different type of Muslim community, and it worked out differently for them than it did for me. And I’ve met converts who accepted Islam at about the same time that I did, married the same type of person, and joined a similar Muslim community, but were of a different “race”–and, well…. Sure, “race”  is a social construct, and there is supposedly “no racism in Islam,” but the reality is that it really does matter.

  1. #1 by Global Sisters on June 14, 2012 - 2:48 pm

    Not that it’s any of my business, and this is not at all about judgment. Since there’s a comment function here, I’ll just ask 😉 Are you still Muslim or have you decided that Islam is not a religion for you?

    • #2 by xcwn on June 16, 2012 - 1:19 am

      I still do identify as Muslim, though I am well aware that many Muslims would disagree.

      • #3 by Global Sisters on June 16, 2012 - 7:04 am

        Salams!! Cool! Hey I think that some Muslims might not agree that I’m one too 😛 I think it’s better not to bother thinking about what other Muslims thinks. Everyone seems to have ‘opinions’ which are a lot of times basically what’d I’d call ‘discriminating thoughts’ in my opinion so 😉

  2. #4 by MrPopularSentiment (@MrPSentiment) on June 19, 2012 - 6:13 pm

    Another difference is simply perception. Someone who is still very much *in* the community, with strong ties and a high level of acceptance from the Muslim community, probably won’t have the same perception of what’s going on as someone who has been somewhat marginalized by it – even if the experiences are objectively the same.

    In any case, I’m really glad that you’re writing. Your perspective is quite rare in the blogosphere and I’m enjoying your series on the hijab (I found you through Libby Anne’s blog).

  3. #5 by Sarah on June 24, 2012 - 3:06 am

    I think it would be interesting to do some sort of comparative study on how these factors affect ones experience as a Muslim convert. I have had such a drastically different experience from you but, I also made a very different choice on who I would marry (a non-Muslim who eventually became a Quranist Muslim as well) and where I would draw the line as far as ‘conventional thought’ goes. I have no problem with being called a heretic and a kaffir for not following the hadith, even if it means that like you, I’m considered a non-muslim by some people. I’m glad that you’re moving past public perception of things. At some point you have to care about yourself and Allah and tell the community to just keep their opinions to themselves.:P lol ^_^ In any case, I find your blog an interesting read, even if it pisses me off that you had to deal with that. A good reminder to praise God for the fact that I did not have to deal with crap like that on top of everything else in my life. ^_^ Alhamdulillah.

  4. #6 by Reem on July 13, 2012 - 6:09 pm

    If it’s okay to ask, why do you still remain Muslim despite all of these feelings that it is unfair to women? Is it because you think these patriarchal rulings/ahadith/ethos come from Muslims rather than the religion itself?

    • #7 by xcwn on July 15, 2012 - 7:43 pm

      • #8 by Joseph on March 18, 2014 - 10:35 am

        I read your piece on respecting this space. You have all the right not to answer her question. But I really think she’s being sincere. Many of us reading and benefiting from your writings have similar questions. Regardless, I remain your fan and a supporter of your work and pray that you recover in peace.

    • #9 by Heather on December 15, 2012 - 3:00 pm

      Maybe because Islam is a lot broader than most insular, conservative Muslims believe it to be.

      To the woman who wrote this blog, thank you. I can relate to a lot of it.

      Salaam alaykoum.

      • #10 by Reem on March 19, 2014 - 2:54 am

        Yes actually, the question came from a place of sincerity. I didn’t mean to offend. I only asked because I thought however you came to still stay Muslim would help me do the same despite those concerns.

      • #11 by xcwn on April 5, 2014 - 7:52 pm

  5. #12 by dimunitivediva on July 31, 2012 - 7:27 pm

    As a new convert I was very disappointed to see the role that race played within Islam. I was disabused of my notions of the peace and harmony of the Ummah very quickly.

    • #13 by Heather on December 15, 2012 - 3:02 pm

      I am as well. It is sad. There are race issues and ethnocentrism, not to mention classism as well.

  6. #14 by xcwn on August 1, 2012 - 3:39 am

    Yes, racism and ethnocentrism were so common in the communities that I was involved in. The damage this caused converts and their kids is seldom discussed, unfortunately.

  7. #15 by Maryam on February 6, 2013 - 5:35 pm

    Salam,
    Just came across your blog via a younger convert friend. I’m a con from the late 70’s, still here. Keep writing. Thanks for your perspectives.

  8. #16 by Katiba on December 3, 2014 - 5:12 pm

    thanks for your writing. Mom is a convert, and had some pretty hellish experiences. as her daughter, I caught some of that ugliness too – the mean folks saved some for me while they were at it.
    sorry to say it, but methinks a lot of the total garbage that we had to face is thanks to the Wahhabi freak show that took over the religion in the early 80s. What a bloodly mess they’ve made. it makes me want to cry.

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