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Boston ‘Labels’ US Muslim Converts

Published: 30/04/2013 04:18:12 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Recent bombings in Boston have created new problems for Muslim converts in the United States, particularly women who are facing unprecedented scrutiny and stereotyping.“Whenever someone talks about Muslim converts (more)

CAIRO - Recent bombings in Boston have created new problems for Muslim converts in the United States, particularly women who are facing unprecedented scrutiny and stereotyping.

“Whenever someone talks about Muslim converts being involved in something negative, it's done in a way in which people say, ‘Be careful, look what happens when you become Muslim,'” Seema Imam, an education professor at National Louis University in Lisle, Ill., told Huffington Post.Imam, who grew up as an observant Methodist, has reverted to Islam 40 years ago at age 17

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She began to face a new dilemma after deadly bombings in Boston earlier this month that killed three people.

Many people began to pronounce that people who revert to Islam engage in violence.

This perception was solidified after news revealed that one of the Boston suspect's widowed wife, 24-year-old Katherine Russell, was an American convert to Islam.

Women converts were particularly targeted with accusations of being incapable of making their own decisions.

“These reports are misogynous in nature, reducing women to creatures who cannot think for themselves,” said Malika MacDonald Rushdan, who converted in 1995 after divorcing her Christian husband.

A similar stereotyping faced Kelly Wentworth, 35, when she told her Yemeni friend that she was interested in learning about Islam.

After consulting a Muslim professor who taught at Tennessee Tech, where the two were students at the time, she decided to revert to Islam, a decision which was not celebrated by her friend.

“He was worried people would think that I converted because of him, or that I was being forced to convert,” said Wentworth, a software engineer in Atlanta and board member of Muslims for Progressive Values, a national advocacy group.

“The stereotype is out there. That's something I fight with now.”

Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.

According to a 2011 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, about 20 percent of US Muslims are converts to the faith. Of those converts, about 54 percent were men and 46 percent were women.

An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.

For My Creator, Not Husband

Many women converts are facing accusations that they embraced Islam just to please their husbands.

“My faith, by definition, is for the Creator, not for my husband,” wrote Ohio attorney Sarah Anjum, who converted almost 10 years ago, while she was in college studying Islamic political movements and Arabic, and four years before she met her husband.

Katherine Wilson, a convert and Rhode Island resident who works with female victims of violence and sexual assault, opines that media has succeeded in distorting the image of Muslims, seeing their choice of faith as a knock against their own decisions.

“I believe this is partially due to white privilege in that there is not an understanding why an 'all-American girl' would give up her privilege-assumed, carefree lifestyle,” said Wilson.

“I think it bothers people that an 'all American woman' would walk away from what they think is a great life, which is a stereotype within itself.”

Facing stereotyping for years, Muslim converts are growing tired of explaining their decisions to embrace Islam.

“There will always be those who judge based upon ignorance. They are of no concern to me,” said MacDonald Rushdan.“I will keep on doing what I've always done. I will not apologize for being a God-fearing woman whose faith provides her with inner peace and contentment.”

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net




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