DUBAI - Facing pressures from family members after their conversion and public opposition to their dress, a new study is looking into challenges facing new Muslim converts in Britain.
I was born and brought into a Catholic family of 10 children. I chose to accept Islam, Mary Batool Al Toma, a Muslim convert, told a symposium at the American University of Sharjah on Sunday, March 10, reported 7Days in Dubai website.How I was treated at that time was extremely painful to the point where my mother, just a few days before she passed away, when she was dying of cancer, put her arms around me and I could feel her squeezing the life out of me as she apologized to me for the way that the family had treated me during the time of my conversion.
The event saw the launch of a report into challenges facing new Muslim converts in Britain.
Themed Narratives of Conversion to Islam in Britain - Female Perspectives, the study highlighted cultural pressures facing new Muslims in Britain and the lack of support for them.
We have endeavored to describe the experience of women converts to Islam in contemporary British society, Professor Yasir Suleiman, founding director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center of Islamic Studies at University of Cambridge, told Zawya Emirati website.
The relationship between the convert and the heritage Muslim communities and wider society is explored with reference to their political, social and religious contexts.
The study, co-prepared by AUS and University of Cambridge in association with The New Muslims Project, looks into challenges facing new Muslim converts from family pressures to issues as hijab, marriage, divorce, polygamy, domestic violence and mosque provisions for female converts.
It also sheds light on challenges facing children of convert mothers and the role new Muslims play as bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims in British society.
The question of dress, the hijab is an important one, Professor Suleiman said.
I think there is a difference between wearing the hijab and being worn' by the hijab. Not every convert wears the hijab. It depends on how you feel about the faith and the culture you live in.
Locality is a factor. If you live in a small town, initially it's harder to wear the hijab than if you live in London, because you can just disappear in London.
The report also highlights that the issue of identity stands as a major challenges for new Muslims in Britain.
For many converts identity is a fluid and continuous process of self-evaluation and re-evaluation, aligned with the possibility of arriving at a comfortable sense of Self, said professor Suleiman.
Perceptions of identity change or evolve as converts develop their own understanding of their faith.
The report has won plaudits for portraying a realistic picture of women converts in Britain.
The report shows the need to help converts integrate into Muslim society, in order to enable them play a positive role, said Nawar Golley, Associate Professor in Literary Theory and Women's Studies at AUS and panel moderator.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.
The majority of the multi-ethnic minority has Indian, Bengali and Pakistani backgrounds.
The 2011 census showed that the proportion of Muslims rose from 3.0 percent to 4.8 percent, becoming the fastest growing faith in Britain.
In 2011, think tank Demo found that Muslims in the United Kingdom are more patriotic than the rest of population.Responding to the statement I am proud to be a British citizen, 83% of Muslims said they are proud of being British.