Wednesday, 19 December 2012
The Journey of an Australian Sister and Her Husband Malcolm X and The Quran Led Sara to Islam::
My name is Sara, I’m a Muslim Australian, and I’m actually descendent of a couple of Jewish convicts, believe it or not, and from those men who were brought here in a large clan or group, and married into other clans, French, German, Russian…
Somewhere along the line over the years they lost their religion, they were not really religious Jews, so by the time you got down to my grandfather, he had converted to Mormonism, and also my mother was a Mormon, and at one stage, probably in her early twenties, she was a door-to-door woman missionary, but she became disillusioned with that and let it go because she did not feel authentic going around preaching something which she didn’t in her heart really believe in.
So I was raised without any religion really, except what I guess is ingrained in Australian culture, so I went to Sunday school, and this kind of thing. I wanted to do that, I remember I had a wanting to do that, you didn’t have to do that, but I was interested. I was a curious child and I always had an inquiring mind. I remember when I was a child I used to try to imagine thinking about what was God like. I don’t know whether that sort of thing usually preoccupies young children, but that was the sort of thing I used to think about.
In my early teens I experimented with Christianity a little bit, and I joined a Church, and sort of went along with all that. This seemed to be something which was good, and true but I sort of went out of that and just became a normal teenager.
When I was 21 I moved to Sydney, and I spent 8 years there, I went to university and I worked. When I was there was the first time I had an encounter with Islam, and it was through a movie called Malcolm X, which probably many people may have seen. I was about 22, I went with my friend and I was very impressed with this person. I was impressed with his humility, I’d never before seen a man or a public figure of a man stand up and admit he was wrong about something, and I remember that really affected me.
Because when he goes to Makkah – and that was another thing which really affected me – it was when he went to Hajj and previously he had been this white people hating person (he was in the Nation of Islam – NOI – and they thought white people were the devil, they had these kinds of beliefs) and he went to Hajj and he prayed next to these blond blue-eyed men, of all different colors and he realized he was wrong, and he admitted that in front of the whole world, and that really impressed me.
And I was also impressed with the fact that he thought when he went to Makkah that wow here is a place where there seems to be equality of different races, so that affected me so much, I was a bit of an eccentric character in my early twenties, and I just very much lived according to what I felt, you know, according to what inspired me.
After that film, I actually felt so touched that I knelt down in the aisle, and I don’t really know why I did that. Lots of people were looking at me, but I just remember doing that because I was so touched. So I think that is when I first thought a bit about what Islam can be about, but I didn’t pursue it. I sort of became a Malcolm X fan, I read the book, and I bought the T-shirt you know, I did not go past the person to what was behind that.
Invited by Muslim Sisters
And it was not till later on that I had my second child, she was five months old, and this is almost five years ago, that I went to what they call a Da’wah Day put on at the Gold Coast by some Muslim women, where they were sharing information about Islam, and talking about misconceptions, and trying to bridge gaps. I found out about this through a group I was involved with, a natural birth community, and I was on someone’s mailing list and I got an e-mail about this, and I thought I’ll go there, as I’d been interested in Muslim people and Islam as I had become more politically aware as well.
We’d just been through September 11, a couple of years down the track, and I just remember the news about Iraq, and the atrocities at the Abou Ghuraib prison, and these images very much affected me, and made me start questioning what is really going on. I thought we were the good guys… I didn’t exactly think that, I was a bit more aware than that, but I couldn’t believe that people who had supposedly gone there to liberate the society, and though it was a certain group that committed those particular things, it deeply affected me and made me look more deeply into what was really going on.
And I began to understand a bit more about Islam in the media, and I began to feel for the Muslim people that they are being unfairly discriminated against, and generalized about. I always had the sense of justice, I don’t know if it’s in my Jewish blood, but I remember being little and watching on TV a program about the Nazis, and there were images of the concentration camps, I was only about my son’s age – 10 years old – or maybe younger, and I remember picking up something and throwing it at the television I was so upset at this terrible injustice perpetrated against this sector of people in the world by another group.
So I researched, and that was another thing when I saw this invitation and I thought I would like to be part of something which is proactive that works against these prejudices, and helps to bridge these gaps as well, so I’m going to go and meet these women. I also thought of my children who have a Turkish Muslim background, although my husband was not practicing at all, and his family hadn’t been particularly practicing either, so I thought for my children if I was able to tell them something about Islam if they ever asked me.
So I went to this group on this day, and I walked into this room, and there was all these women wearing scarves, but actually the first one that opened the door was in full cover, which didn’t bother me. It had never ever bothered me. If I ever saw a woman in a burqu’ or in a niqab, I just thought she was a very religious woman, I associated that particular dress with being a strictly religious person, it never frightened me or worried me.
So I had an amazing day there. Because you are not taught a lot about Islam in school, when you do encounter and start learning about it, it’s like opening this beautiful treasure box and it is just full to the brim, but you never saw it, you never knew it was there. I read lots of religious books, but I always bypassed the Quran, I don’t know why, I didn’t have anything against it. Once you do delve into it, it was amazing.