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Not Brainwashed: Converts Speak for Themselves

Written by Theresa Corbin

Never ever again will I judge a person’s freedom and liberties by the length of their skirt -Yvonne Ridley famous British journalist who converted to Islam.

Recently, news stories about the deceased Boston Bombing suspect’s wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, abound. Reports speculate about her life and her choice to become Muslim.

The media, to its credit have run some article’s from the Muslim women’s perspective, but by and large they are portraying Katherine, and women like her, as having been forced to convert to Islam.

not-brainwashed

Many news outlets are trying to portray Katherine as some sort of weak woman who fell into the hands of an overpowering force and was brainwashed straight out of Christianity and in the headscarf, Islam, and the arms of a terrorist. Absolutely ignoring the possibility that Katherine may have converted after much soul searching and reflection done of her own free will.

“She was a very sweet woman, but I think kind of brainwashed by him,” reported the Associated Press, quoting Anne Kilzer, a Belmont, Mass., woman who said she knew Katherine and her 3-year-old daughter.

As a wife, I cannot imagine what Katherine is going through. As an American woman who converted to Islam, I am very familiar with the stereotype that is pushed upon women who choose Islam.

When a woman in the West converts to Islam, it is always assumed that she has been coerced. Why else would she leave her life full of every imaginable freedom, right? She must have converted for a man, she must have been brainwashed, or she must have been at gunpoint.

It is insulting. It is a roundabout way of saying that women who convert to Islam are weak minded.

This is not the case by a long shot. Women who convert to Islam are typically outspoken, well educated, free thinkers, and are brave enough to deviate from the path society has set for them.

When I converted to Islam, the sister who was giving me shahada (the statement of faith) asked me why I was converting. She asked me twice if I was doing it for any person or felt forced to do it in anyway. “Because”, she said, “if you say that you believe and someone made you say it, your faith would not be accepted from you. Allah (SWT) knows what is in your heart.”

Brainwash [BRANE wosh] verb- to make someone adopt radically different beliefs by using forcible pressure.

How can someone be brainwashed and sincere? How is it that in Islam your faith will not be accepted from you unless you are sincere? Sincerity cannot be coerced. It is like saying you were forced to fall in love, it just doesn’t work that way.

And where is the follow up to the brainwashing? In order to sustain a state of “brainwashing” you also must isolate the subject from the outside world. You don’t see this with Muslim converts.

They go on to study at universities; work as teachers, scientists, military personnel, journalists and so on; they do charity work; they are politically active and motivated to be productive members of society.

With headlines like the following, journalists are scrambling to find a reason for so many people entering Islam in the West:

CNN WORLD NEWS: Islam is the fastest-growing religion

Why European women are turning to Islam 

Washington-Report: The Nation’s Fastest Growing Religion 

We convert because we find truth and beauty in Islam. We convert because we find freedom from objectified in Islam. We convert because we don’t let the media tell us what to think. We convert because Islam speaks to our nature. We convert for a million reasons.

We are truth seekers. We are logical, thinking human beings. We are a group of women who are strong enough to face giving up all that we know and have in order to become closer to God. We are a group of women who have faced bigotry daily from loved ones and strangers alike.

We are a group of women who despite how we are portrayed in the media, we hold our heads up high because we know who we really are. We will not be explained away as feeble minded or weak. We can speak for ourselves. And we will:

Fatima, a Canadian who converted to Islam says:

[…] I experienced the absolute power of prayer as I watched on TV for the first time in Tahrir square, Muslims pray.

This was my first call to prayer, I felt a blindness in my life had been cured. Shortly after this a good friend of 3 years I had met on Facebook, who lives in Cairo, Egypt showed me via Skype the Masjid outside his window just as Fajr [pre-dawn] call to prayer sounded.

I bowed my head and in my heart felt this to be the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. This was my second call to prayer, I felt a deafness I had in my life had been cured. I then purchased a Qur’an [the holy book] opened to Al-Fatiha [the first chapter of the Quran] and first few pages of Al-Baqarah [the second chapter], I knew I was about to find out what I always prayed for, the meaning of life, serenity, and peace of mind. I spent a year and half on a very special journey (that continues by the minute) soul searching leading me to begin studying Islam […]

fatima-aw

I received an email inviting me to attend Iftar [the meal that breaks a Muslim’s fast] on 2 Ramadan 1433 H […] This was the opportunity I had been waiting. I had not went to a Mosque since I heard my first call, there was a voice that kept telling me to wait, I would know the perfect time. It was this night I declared, As-Shahadah [the testament of faith].

Immediately upon entering the parking lot of the Masjid and a Sister greeting me at the door I felt a light shine and my spirit jump and was fully awakened realizing I was always a Muslim by heart but did not know until Allah Subana Wa Ta’ala [God] decided it was my time to live and to be given a right to life with dignity through the Muslim way of Life shown to us through the perfected life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi Wasallam).”

Western women who convert to Islam have chosen a different path that takes commitment, courage of conviction, and strength of character in today’s world. Never assume a women is brainwashed simply because she is choosing her own path. 

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13 thoughts on “Not Brainwashed: Converts Speak for Themselves

  1. This is amazing, Masha’Allah. I am so proud to be an American Muslim. I feel like I have more freedoms now as a muslim and having the rights as a muslim woman then I ever did trying to live up to false expectations in my old life.

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  2. I’m 100% Australian over 4 generations back,100% Muslim and 0% brainwashed and so proud of all my sisters speaking out the truth masha’Allah. Islam makes sense and answered all questions 🙂

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  3. I know of Yonne Ridley, her release was done after British Ambassador in Pakistan intervened, and she was handed over to the Pakistani authorities.What a tough experience for her, considering the upholders of Islam – ugh Talibans are known for their anti women attitudes. The violence against women that they conduct in public is actually feeding into image of Islam as a violent and forceful religion for women!!!

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    1. You know Yvonne Ridley personally? That would be so cool. What got me about her speech was that the Taliban wouldn’t let her hang her bra out to dry because a man might see it. For Heaven sake, don’t f@^$ing look at it! The Taliban is giving Islam a bad name and it needs to stop. This minute! They do not expect men to have any measure of self control, everything is put on the woman. as if our mere existence is some how harmful and we should stand aside and apologize for them being attracted to us. It reminds me of the dark ages in Christianity when men blamed women for the root of all evil. Are the Muslims coming into a dark age??

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      1. She is quite known in Pakistan, most normal people prayed for her safe release and Pakistani negotiators did their very best otherwise it would even become messier. I followed her case and release as I was in my early career as a journalist way back then and also most human rights activists were already becoming concerned about the madness of this TALI BANS we are landed with in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
        My dear the problem in South Asia is that majority think that ISLAM is correct and that women, all things related to women like bras etc etc need to be hidden because women are the shame of ISLAM. Why do you think we, or for that matter I too react so strongly at Islamic doctrine – because we are fighting for our survival against all such f^%$ odds. And you know the saddest part is that most Muslim countries have exactly these or more grave problems, so basically we are stuck in the DAR AGES. All this crap is giving Islam a bad name because fundamentalism is negating the moderate Islam.
        A couple of years ago a group of TALIBANS flogged a Muslim women in a public market square on the crime that “she went out of her home without a man” and so it meant she went to commit adultery, while she was so sick and without medication so had to venture out to buy it. Her flogging was done by Taliban militants with hundreds of villagers watching and agreeing that she was evil bitch. According to the SHARIA LAW OF ISLAM THAT IS ACCORDING TO TALIBAN WIFE BEATING AND KILLING IS ALLOWED TO SHOW WOMEN WHO ARE THEIR OWNERS. Really?? Thousands of us women rights activists made a public protest against this and you know what, police even had the gall to throw tear gas and beat us in that rally. This is Islam and how dark it is for us here, only we know but we fight and we fight.

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      2. Actually, I would never hang my bras n undies out for men to see, not becauseI believe men should have no control or that I as a woman should be blamed for every attractions I gain, but merely because I do not wish any men to know what I wear under my clothing. In an ideal world, all men would have self control but unfortunately we’re not living in an ideal world.

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      3. Of course, many women wouldn’t hang there underwear out for all to see. But this sister had no other place to hang them. It wasn’t like she was going in her front yard to hang her laundry. She was imprisoned and told that this place was designated for drying clothes. It was out of necessity and the fact that a man might see them should not have been an issue since this was her only option but the potential viewers had other options of places to look. So when she was told not to hang her underwear in the only place to dry them, it was almost as if they were telling her that her female existence was disturbing men.

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  4. Ma’sha Allaah this is very motivated story for those who seem not to understanding the tennacles and moral obligations of Islam.

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    1. Jazakum Allahu Khair. May Allah guide people to understanding. If you feel like this post will help people to understand Islam better, feel free to share it.

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