Laura Stuart, a revert to Islam, argues that new Muslims could easily become confused about their new religion because of all the disinformation out there. So here she gives advice to new Muslims based on her own experiences.
What is my message? Simply this – in your search for the truth, always check the authenticity of your sources. I will try to illustrate below how people can become confused when reading about Islam especially where the agenda of the author is not clear.
A recent article on the New Statesmen website entitled “Confessions of an ex-Muslim” (http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2013/05/confessions-ex-muslim) recently caught my attention. First and foremost, what exactly was the motivation for the author Omar Shahid to choose this headline? Is Omar Shahid trying to say he himself is an ex-Muslim? Secondly, with what intention did Omar Shahid write the article? The author starts his article by claiming:
“Over 100,000 people in Britain converted to Islam between 2001-2011, yet it is believed that up to 75 per cent may have since lost their faith. Who are they – and how do they feel about the way of life they embraced then quickly abandoned?”
A revert to Islam myself, the above just does not ring true. My experience with reverts in the Muslim community does not reflect that statement at all. Rather strangely for a journalist, Omar Shahid neglects to put any links to statistics or evidence to illustrate where he got his claimed statistics from.
To try and substantiate his claims I did a fair amount of searching on the internet and did find one study that offered the 75% statistic, perhaps this is where he got his information from but we can’t know since he does not link us to his own or anybody else’s research. That particular study was made in Chicago, USA and not Britain, it was carried out by the late Rasool Khan and Professor Ilyas Ba Yunus, and the year in which it took place was 1996. So not representative at all of Britain today if this is what Omar Shahid based his claims on.
In short if that study is what Omar Shahid based his opening statement on – a survey carried out many years ago in the USA – then we really have to wonder what message exactly is he trying to get across? With this thought in mind I looked at further articles written by Omar Shahid and found that he himself is what I would term a very confused person with regards to Islam. In another article (http://omarshahid.co.uk/2013/01/23/my-rejection-of-islam-why-i-stopped-believing-in-religion-as-its-taught/) Shahid explains that he may have found the answer to his doubts about Islam in Sufism, best described as a mystical form of Islam. Shahid is certainly a master of the attention grabbing headline.
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Back to the first article, it continues, seemingly as a promotional piece for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. C.E.M.B.is a group formed of apostates from Islam most of whom want a voice and often a platform from which to attack Islam and as such is admired by Islamophobes. Anyone could quietly stop practicing Islam as a religion if they wanted to but these people want to be “in your face” about it.
The C.E.M.B. are loved in particular by Neo Conservative/pro-Israel groups who have an agenda to promote Islam as a backward religion and its followers as backward savages, homophobes, barbarians, and wife beaters. Strange then if that were the case that so many reverts are women and educated ones at that!
The enemies of Islam love highlighting that the Shariah decrees the killing of apostates (which could only happened in an Islamic state) and comparing that to the State of Israel. With much of the body of the article related to ex-Muslims and their stories of apostasy, we then hear how ex-Muslims use pseudonyms and find the internet a good base for attacking Islam. I suppose for the enemies of Islam, the more who are out there sowing the seeds of confusion the better!
My next concern is why does Omar Shahid go to Usama Hasan for an opinion? One can only surmise to further sow the seeds of confusion perhaps? Usama Hasan is an extremely controversial figure amongst Muslims, firstly for his views on Islam itself and secondly for his position within the so called anti-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation.
In conclusion, I believe that the promotion of high profile writers like Omar Shahid is part of the government and mainstream media’s (I decline to differentiate between the two) campaign to promote Muslim voices that they consider moderate, liberal or progressive.
Such writers are capable of sowing seeds of doubt and confusion and at the same time the government wants to silence the speakers they find too orthodox. This tactic in itself is a major strand of their “Prevent” strategy. This strategy has led to a lot of air time and print space being given to people I regard as likely to spread mass confusion amongst Muslims.
Who knows, perhaps they have a vision where Muslims could be separated from the Qur’an and led into a state of confusion where the Qur’an becomes merely a book of legends and tales along the lines of how the Liberal or Reform Jews view the Torah? We are likely in those times described in the hadith or Prophetic narrations as the “end times,” the times of hypocrisy and lies.
The most common Muslim voices talking about Islam in the media are those with a good secular as opposed to Islamic education, those who want to promote an agenda, such as the Council of ex-Muslims or government sanctioned anti-extremism organisations such as the Quilliam Foundation.
Another recent example would be the media coverage of a group who want to promote an “all-inclusive mosque” where women can lead men in prayers and homosexuals are welcome. Personally I have never heard of anyone being turned away from a mosque for being homosexual so I would boldly say that a homosexual can pray in any mosque in the UK without any fear unless he or she overtly wishes to promote their homosexual agenda which might not go down too well in what is still a conservative community.
So my advice to Muslims and not yet-Muslims who follow the mainstream media on such issues as Israel/Palestine or the phoney “War on Terror” is contained in this quote from Malcolm X: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
On a more positive note, last weekend, I attended IERA’s “Seeds of Change” conference, the biggest Islamic event in Europe for both Muslim and non-Muslim women, 1600 women listened to motivating and uplifting talks by reverts and scholars.
During the day six more females accepted Islam, a very emotional day for them and for us watching with tears in our eyes as they began their new lives as Muslims. The journey to Islam is a different story for every single revert, yet taking the shahadah, or declaration of faith, which entails verbally bearing witness that there is no God but Allah (swt) and Muhammad (saw) is his final messenger, is exactly the same for every Muslim today as it was for the very first reverts to Islam, over 1400 years ago.
The journey after accepting Islam is much more complicated, fraught as it is with sectarianism, misinformation and sadly sometimes some difficult experiences with our own families, spouses and with fellow Muslims themselves. Best to always bear in mind that Islam is perfect but we Muslims as human beings are full of weaknesses. As a community we really need to do more because reverts really do need support following their acceptance of Islam especially on learning how to pray.
So my advice to new Muslims would be to first learn the meaning of the declaration of the Islamic faith “there is no God but Allah,” followed by the conditions of shahadah. This declaration is also the essence of the first commandment given to Moses (as): “The Lord God is One.” Once one truly understands the meaning of that declaration everything else can fall into place around it.
Islam is simple when followed with this in mind and reverts and born Muslims alike need to understand the Oneness of Allah (swt) in order to rule out all unnecessary confusion due to cultural and sectarian interpretations The real understanding of this gives Muslims the strongest foundation from which to take their first steps and to continue on their lifelong path of learning.