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This Week on teh Interwebs

Blog Carnival “Convert Truths: In Shades of Grey”

73 Comments

Update January 16th: It is never too late to submit your posts! I’m not going to do the wrap up until Monday night Europe time, so feel free to keep submitting posts. In the meantime, browse the comments on this post! Thanks EVERYONE for your feedback, I’m so happy with all of your articles and comments. I didn’t expect this kind of feedback and am grateful and happy!

Some of you may know that this week is ten years since I took my shahada. It is also going on six years since I started blogging (for those of you who remember the DP days). The blogosphere, and the internet in general, are not what they were when I started out. Muslim convert blogs have come and gone. Some of us are still going strong, some of us have left Islam completely, others have suffered the heartbreak of divorce, polygamy (more on that below) miscarriage and loss. Those of us still around don’t have the same ideas about Islam that we did five and ten years ago. And this is why I want to do a blog carnival on Convert Truths. We’re neither here nor there, at a crossroads between religion(s) and culture(s), and always, even after years of being Muslim, not quite right and out of place (hat tip to those who get my reference here).

Going back to polygamy, I got the idea for this blog carnival from a rather disgusting yet well-meaning link sent from one of my dearest friends because she knew I would laugh. A very bitter laugh indeed. It was a link from a new blogger and new Muslimah essentially giving the tired, over-zealous new convert-itis apologist arguments for polygamy (arguments which my long-term convert blogging sisters know all too well). Despite the lack of originality in her reasoning, I appreciated her enthusiasm; however, I’m not optimistic that either her reasoning or her enthusiasm will be stable or sustainable in the long run. In my personal case, my separation and impending divorce threw me for a loop. While I wasn’t part of the “converts who convert for their husbands” the way I view my Islam has changed. I stopped wearing hijab, I slack on a few things now which would have been unthinkable a year ago. I have changed, we have changed and the face of converts in the blogosphere has changed. A lot of the dinosaurs are gone, the dinosaurs who are still here have changed, and the new blogs I see seem to sadly repeat the mistakes us dinosaurs made in 2005-2006. I’m not saying I’m arrogant and that new converts today have nothing to teach me or that one necessarily has to think like me to “get it”- what I am saying is that it makes me sad to see these new bloggers who think they have all the answers, that Islam is the panacea, that the handy translated Bukhari online is a treasure trove for instant fatawa, and that your husband/wife is the best, most deeni Back Home Person anyone has ever had, ever.

So for this blog carnival I am interested in exploring a series of themes related to Muslim converts and blogging:

-Marriage and Divorce to “Born Muslims”: Get your flags out: Which country fields the best spousal units? Are you now an EXPERT on your spouse’s home country?!
-Converts and our Mosques and Masajid: Five plus years of bitching about it online: will we ever have a place? How many years did it take for the bouncers to stop giving you the side eye and make you say the fatihah to get through the door for jummah?
– Polygamy: Not just for non-virgin convert patriarchy apologists anymore?
-Muslims and Ex-Muslims: Joining Islam and leaving Islam isn’t just about shitty marriages to perverts…or is it?
-The Hijab Wars: Are you a REAL CONVERT if you don’t wear one? Or can only born Muslims not wear hijab and still get away with owning their Islam?
-Convert on Convert violence: why do we always one-up each other? Why don’t we marry each other, instead?

TEH RULEZ:
1. Add your post to the trackbacks or comments to the post. On January 16th I will post links to the articles I have received here, and you are free to post as well.
2. Anyone can write about us. Converts, non converts…Muslims, non Muslims…
3. Help me tweet and FB the eff out of this.

Can’t wait to see y’alls posts. XOXO Nicole

Author: Nicole Cunningham

American Expat and convert to Islam living and working between Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland.

73 thoughts on “Blog Carnival “Convert Truths: In Shades of Grey”

  1. Hey there, What an interesting idea! I don’t really blog
    anymore but your post reminded me of the disconnect that many
    Muslims feel from the community, masjid and sometimes from the
    mainstream Islam, not just converts. It just seems that y’all get
    extra scrutiny because your new (and easier to pick on/boss
    around). Those little old ladies (or young ladies or men) seem to
    get an ego boost from bossing others around in the masjid.

    • preach. I know that a lot of born muslims feel similar disaffection. Honestly, I think sometimes the people who play holy pious the most are the ones with the least in their lives. As such, they try to reappropriate Islam for themselves :(

  2. Salams, dinosaur here. Congratulations on your tenth. I
    wish more people kept their sites up, even if they post
    infrequently. To the extent that making one’s life public has any
    value at all, a big part of that is getting to see people grow and
    transform and mature. With the big flameouts of last year, and
    facebook sucking the life out of the open internet, I’m all the
    more appreciative of people who keep the lights on at their blog
    regardless. Looking forward to the carnival.

    • salams! thank you for your comment and thank you for stopping by! Blogging is a dying art but what people don’t realize is that facebook (unless you have a completely open profile, or a page) involves friends. People who don’t know you and want to know more about you will always land on you blog first. So while I tweet too much, I think it is important to keep a blog!

    • Where’s the “like” button for this stupid thing?! Long live
      the dinosaurs!!

  3. Salam-wa-Rahma & Bonne Année. Random passer-by here
    (nice earnest and honest blog btw). “-The Hijab Wars: Are you a
    REAL CONVERT if you don’t wear one?” Although I’m neither a woman
    nor a convert, I’d say yes, no doubt about it. I commend any sister
    that dons the hijab either in the Occident or those parts of the
    Orient where it’s politically incorrect (so to speak) but if we’re
    going to look at the issue through a narrow fiqhi lens then,
    technically speaking, brothers ought to be bearding up and not
    wearing skinny jeans or tight t-shirts (guilty as charged, the
    drain-pipe jeans not the t-shirts that is). Ultimately, it all
    comes down to the simple question of what makes a person Muslim
    according to everyone’s definition (be they pious, impious,
    jurists, mystics, activists or whatever)? An inward belief (without
    which the verbal utterance of is meaningless): There’s no God but
    God & Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His Messenger.
    Manifest this inward belief through prayer, taming your lower soul
    with fasting, giving charity to the poor, visiting God’s House (if
    you can afford it), trying to perfect your character (being good
    and doing good). Try to perform the afore-mentioned sincerely:
    slip-up, repent, slip-up, repent etc. As a wise man (Ibn Ata Illah)
    once said: “The tear of the sinner is more beloved to God than the
    arrogance of the righteous man.” Even looking at things, once
    again, through a narrow fiqhi lens, hijab is only a pre-requisite
    for the validity of your prayer and pilgrimage (and one doesn’t
    pray or perform Hajj most of a given day). Your fasting,
    charity-giving and acts of kindness aren’t predicated on it. Faith
    is the only predicate. In this day and age, when holding onto
    religion is like holding onto hot coals, I hope and trust in
    Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim cutting sisters slack for not donning it,
    especially when it isn’t a sine qua non of faith. Hijab is an
    exoteric cherry-on-top & not the alpha and omega of an
    inner state (belief). Ditto for beards. Perhaps converts
    (particularly sisters) are judged more harshly on sartorial matters
    because of the type of Muslims they fall in with at the time of
    their conversion? I’m thinking of a would-be convert walking into a
    typical mosque somewhere in the western world. I think it’s fair to
    say that regular, mosque-going, diasporic Muslims are far more hung
    up on outward manifestations of their faith (hijabs, niqabs,
    jilbabs, beards and thobes). Having just come back from a trip to
    Backhomeistan, it was a stark contrast to see more hijabs, jilbabs
    and bearded youth in one week in London than in the entire month I
    spent in the old country. I believe psychologists and sociologists
    call this a form of displacement. “…it makes me sad to see these
    new bloggers who think they have all the answers, that Islam is the
    panacea…” One definition of panacea is something that solves all
    problems. Sounds suspiciously like utopia. You’re right to be sad
    on their behalf. Disappointment WILL occur. God willing it won’t be
    a faith shattering let down for them. Utopia will only ever be
    found in the next, non-material world (inshallah). Even those most
    beloved by God (Prophets and Saints) cried, suffered, felt pain and
    loss. Unfortunately, in this material world we always have to take
    the rough with the smooth. It was ever thus. “Polygamy: Not just
    for non-virgin convert patriarchy apologists anymore?” Brothers:
    polygamy is halal but it ain’t fard. If your taking a new wife is
    going to result in the loss of an existing one, decide if you’re
    okay with doing something permitted yet highly disliked by Allah
    (if His opinion is that important to you). If taking another wife
    involves lying to the one you’ve got then you’re entering haram and
    general douche territory. Try to remember that you’re nothing like
    the Prophet (peace be upon him), his Companions or the early
    generations of Muslim men. “Converts and our Mosques and Masajid:
    Five plus years of bitching about it online: will we ever have a
    place? How many years did it take for the bouncers to stop giving
    you the side eye and make you say the fatihah to get through the
    door for jummah?” Is this really such a problem (it’s a sincere
    question)? I’m European looking (technically Backhomeistan is in
    Europe)and only had this problem in small, out-of-the-way Indian
    subcontinental mosques in the UK. The bigger ‘ethnic’ mosques are
    pretty welcoming places. I’ve heard that American mosques tend to
    be very segregated by race/ethnicity. Is that correct? Happens in
    the UK but not as much as I’ve heard that it happens in the States
    (assuming what I’ve heard is correct). Perhaps a possible solution,
    now that the convert community has some numbers to it, is to set up
    convert-run mosques? I appreciate that it’s easy for me to say but,
    in principle, there’s nothing stopping you guys from following the
    model of the immigrant communities. Such a mosque exists in Norwich
    in the UK. http://www.muslimsofnorwich.org.uk/ “Marriage and
    Divorce to “Born Muslims”: Get your flags out: Which country fields
    the best spousal units? Are you now an EXPERT on your spouse’s home
    country?!” Nicely framed! Having divorced my American (non-Muslim)
    ex about a year ago, I was briefly under the illusion that I was an
    expert on America, American women and western women in general. I
    confirm that all I’m an ‘expert’ in is the person of my ex. Anyway
    sorry for the somewhat (over) extended rambling. Good luck for 2011
    and, to quote Jon Bon Jovi, “keep the faith”.

    • Salams! Thanks so much for coming by! You know, your comment is a blog post in itself! :)
      I have to agree with you when you say that the only thing you are an expert in is the person of your ex. I fully co-sign that!

      As far as the side eye in the mosque is concerned, I think women, regardless of origin, are at a disadvantage in American mosques (and in the French and Swiss ones I have seen), namely because space is at a premium. I also find that mosques in Switzerland are pretty ethnically segregated (at least in Zurich and Lausanne, the cities I am most familiar with…although Geneva mosques have a good cross section of attendees). As such, convert women who walk in get judged doubly. We’re man stealers, fake muslims, the whole lot.
      I don’t think convert run mosques would ever fly. So many converts sign on to the “I need to marry someone from Backhomestan in order to have Muslim street cred” and as such, at least white American converts, we tend to latch on to the “culture of the other.”

      I could go on…but your comment was a post in itself! We should write a group post one day :)
      Best
      Nicole

  4. Aah. A hornet’s nest I can’t wait to poke. Inshallah I will
    produce something.

  5. Assalamu alaikum, I’d like to post soemthing just not sure
    how coherent it will be lol.

  6. Assalamu alaikum, you know, as a white Muslim, when I
    became a Muslim, that was a couple things that I was really, well,
    “careful” about, i.e., not to latch on to any so-called “Islamic”
    culture, i.e., Arab, South Asian, African, etc., and also, although
    I did I guess end up marrying someone from “backhomelandia” lol,
    twice now, I didn’t feel it was necessary. I most certainly wasn’t
    going to morph into “insert nationality here” perfect woman lol.
    i.e., perfect Arab woman, etc. I felt like I was still me, still
    Ginny, and I was still going to be myself, just that I was a Muslim
    now. And yes there are changes that come with that. I think that
    really saved me a lot of headaches but I think it also kinda
    separated me from a lot of the community too, that and being a
    blind Muslim who has a dog guide lol.

  7. Well I am a dinosaur egg having only just started on this
    whole blogging adventure. I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing yet
    but inshallah I’ll pick it up :) My conversion to Islam was a slow
    process and I didn’t even particularly realise it was happening. I
    started to believe, I said my shahada with my husband and a friend
    and then slowly, slowly I have learned more and practised more. Via
    the internet I have met a lot of lovely convert sisters – I can
    honestly say that they are the most supportive bunch of girls ever,
    I love them to bits masha’allah and I have never once felt judged
    by them. I don’t feel judged for not wearing hijab yet, I don’t
    feel judged for not knowing loads of surahs off by heart yet and I
    don’t feel judged for asking questions. And believe me, I ask a
    lot! They are supportive, funny and just generally brilliant (they
    know who they are). My beef is with Muslims who judge me and they
    tend to be Muslims who have been “born” into the religion. If a
    Muslim born girl chooses not to wear hijab then that is seen as her
    right, why should she hey? If I don’t wear hijab it’s because I
    haven’t fully embraced Islam yet and am really just sitting on the
    fence, playing with it if you will. I don’t feel that I am taken
    seriously a lot of the time and this does my head in. I have
    decided now that I don’t care whether people think I’m a “real”
    Muslim convert if I don’t wear hijab (and I gather you feel the
    same!) God will judge me, nobody else will be sat up there next to
    him giving him their opinions, so I just don’t care. My husband is
    with me every step of the way and has never put pressure on me to
    do anything. My family don’t even know that I have converted yet
    and I know that when I tell them it will be because it’s the right
    time and not because I’ve been pressurised into it. I am Muslim for
    me. Not for my husband, not for my friends (evidentally not for my
    family!) and I don’t do things to please others and make them have
    a better opinion of me. I want people to respect me for the way I
    talk, the way I behave and the way I treat others. I don’t want
    them to judge me (and won’t let them) by their own standards and
    interpretations of Islam. I want to give a good impression of Islam
    to non-Muslims but everything that I do, I do it for Allah. And for
    me.

  8. Pingback: Convert Truths Blogival- Shades of Grey | Confessions of a Multicultural Muslimah

  9. Okay, here it is! From one dinosaur to another:) Ahhhh,
    remember when we were just idealistic 20-something bloggers? Wait,
    I don’t think either one of us was ever idealistic… Anyway, we
    were 20-something, right?

    http://ummlayla.blogspot.com/2011/01/convert-truths-blog-carnival.html

  10. Pingback: My Convert Truths / Am I Crazy? | Ginny's Ramblings

  11. Here is my contribution.

    http://ramblingginny.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/my-convert-truths-am-i-crazy/

    Inshallah it’s not as discombobulated as it seems to me
    lol.

  12. I completely understand where you are coming from. I
    converted in 2001. My husband is from Syria. I converted LONG
    before I met my husband, so my conversion was of my own choice. I
    wear hijab. I have a friend who is American convert. when my
    husband sees her inside the masjid with no hijab, HE FREAKS OUT! He
    says how dare she come to the mosque uncovered, blah, blah blah.
    BUT he has a friend who is Muslim, as is the wife, and she NEVER
    covers. Yet he NEVER says anything about her, because she was born
    Muslim, and is “perfect.” I am so sick of the double standard. My
    husband gets so upset when he hears about women giving Juma’ah or
    leading prayer. I told him if the mosques we have now would give
    women a proper place and give us a voice, then you would not see
    that. I could go on and on about the frustrations I have as an
    American convert, but I will stop my rant here. :)

  13. Am I too late? I wrote this yesterday and just came across
    your carnival today.

  14. Pingback: Convert Truths | DUNYA HANIYA!

  15. Marry each other?! Ewwwwww, that’s, like, my
    brother!

  16. Pingback: I stopped believing in the idea of the Muslim ummah, and I’m ok with that | Letters to a New Muslim

  17. Here’s mine (finally, probably not very well written though
    but who cares):

    http://letterstoanewmuslim.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/i_stopped_believing_in_the_idea/

  18. Pingback: More of My Convert Truths | Ginny's Ramblings

  19. Pingback: Thoughts on Free Mixing and More | Ginny's Ramblings

  20. Pingback: Polly Want a Fatwa? « My Very Secret, Very Public Diary

  21. Pingback: i didn’t convert for you. « aishah hils dot com

  22. i wish i could have made this more coherent…and been less of a miss tardy to the party…but here goes :)

    http://aishahhils.com/2011/01/16/i-didnt-convert-for-you/

  23. For some strange reason I can’t publish my blog
    entry…Silly newb. So I’ll share this. The first time I mustered
    enough courage to walk into my local Masjid alone, I was greeted by
    the Imam with a piercing stare and a short dua to the congregation
    asking for Allah’s protection from unbelieving spies and their
    intentions. It ended with me being confronted at the end of the
    jummah service by the Imam, asking what my name was, who did I know
    etc. I laughed it off knowing I didn’t have any ill intentions.
    With America’s current tone on Islam, and me being a white male, it
    wasn’t hard for me to understand the reasoning behind the
    confrontation. It’s the world we live in. After setting that event
    aside, and plowing through the stares, I learned what I think was
    the most important realization I’ve come to concerning Islam.
    Muslim people are the same as any other group of people
    congregating together. Yeah we know the Truth so to speak, but that
    doesn’t make us immune to racism, sexism, and any other -ism
    infecting our ummah. Allah knows our intentions when we enter these
    places of worship. I just TRY to love everyone. Down with the
    haters and Muslim convert elitists. LOL

  24. Pingback: The Unfettered Convert: A Love Story « Rolling Ruminations

  25. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum, I’m a white man and have had the same
    experience in a south London, Indian-dominated mosque as ShayB
    above. In my case, the imam didn’t say it to my face that he
    thought I was a spy, but some people told me that he had been
    saying it. Apparently he thought I knew too much for a fresh
    convert.

  26. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum, This one wasn’t linked to here, but I
    thought I’d let you know: To be a Black convert, Muslim, female
    at Jamerican Muslimah

  27. Pingback: I am a Western Muslim | Confessions of a Multicultural Muslimah

  28. Pingback: salawat | online rihla

  29. Mabrook to all of the wonderful sisters who participated in this! I saw it too late, but am thoroughly enjoying all of the thought-provoking posts.

  30. Salaams Nicole! Nice work on stirring people up! I’ve been reading through it bit by bit and am feeling a renewed sense of community. I’d like to share one thing myself. I’ll do it briefly here as I’ve resigned my blog. Forgive me if it’s just a sound off.

    ***
    Technically, I’m not a convert. Technically, I was born Muslim. I was told I was Muslim throughout my life. I was told that Jesus was a man and a prophet. That Muhammad was the last prophet. That God was one. I was also told not to wear shorts or I would become loose and most likely be raped (and probably deserve it). Note:Not all of this came from convert Mom or Muslim Arab Dad. It came from everywhere.

    And in that mixed bag, I was taken to church on Sundays. I celebrated Christmas. We had annual Easter egg hunts. I performed in church pageants. While I prayed at home with my dad in the evenings, and I was certain of the identity shoved at me, I was still confused. What *was* Islam? What did it mean to be Muslim? Aside from the very, very basics I had forcibly attached to me, I never knew.

    I cam to Islam in high school. I remember very clearly deciding that it was for me. I remember two years later deciding to pray. I remember believing and feeling my heart lift. And I remember knowing that up until that point, I wasn’t Muslim.

    It pisses me off when people shove that I need to make up all my prayers from before I came to Islam. What’s the difference between me and a convert with a clean slate? Is it that I had my faith shouted at me but never explained? I grew up in the Bible belt. The only Muslims I met were before age 8 and they stole from us. Multiple times. I went to a mosque once. It was beautiful and scary. I felt more at home in churches. At least Christians opened their arms instead of turning their backs.

    Plenty of people were never Christian before they were Muslim. Plenty had a feeling about God. Example: G. Willow Wilson found spirituality in an atheist home and came to Islam.

    Convert truth for me? I’m a misfit constantly being judged and told how to do it right. After all, how good of a Muslim can I be when I was raised American, married American and don’t speak Arabic?

    What’s more, Islam doesn’t perpetuate blood rights. Just because my parents claimed Islam before I was born didn’t make me Muslim. Maybe if I had been raised in it, I would feel less harassed by my brothers and sisters who want to make sure I’m striving enough for the afterlife by asserting my need to even my score with God. I don’t feel like I owe Him anything except thanks. I’m good with that.
    ***

    Thanks for affording the opportunity! Hope it’s okay to talk here.

  31. Salam, it’s good to see you. I am a retired dinosaur, I guess. It’s good to see old names and think about the days I used to read blogs. They made an immeasurable impact on me on so many levels. Really, I think blogging and reading blogs helped re-wire my synapses, for good or for bad, I’m not sure. I am a changed Muslimah. I am also almost forty, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. I am cynical and angry WAY too often, but that is who I’ve evolved into. Anyway…
    I’m really enjoying reading all these posts. I think one day we’ll have to meet.
    Keep it up.

  32. I made another post that seems relevant to the discussion: touching on experts, convert cultural conversions, etc.

    http://luckyfatima.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/honorary-member/

  33. Pingback: Bin Gregory Productions » Blog Archive » Avatar II: Blue As I Feel

  34. Imaginary sequel to the ultimate convert movie

    Avatar II: Blue As I Feel

    http://www.bingregory.com/archives/2011/01/20-avatar-ii-blue-as-i-feel/

  35. Pingback: Avatar II: Blue As I Feel | Barbierfamilly.com

  36. Going on 11 years post-shahada now and definitely loving this discussion. I guess I have some reading to do! Oh, and it’s funny ShayB and Indigo Jo brought up the whole ‘spy in the masjid’ thing. Happened to me too.

  37. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I addressed some of the issues discussed here in a post I wrote back in October 2010 (prompted by some of the apostate blogs that sprung up and then disappeared, particularly Glitnir):

    The Problem of Convert Disillusionment

  38. I’m not sure how I was led to your blog tonight, but I’m ecstatic that I was — wish I found it 5 years ago ;) Congrats on hitting your milestone — I also turned 10 this year. Huzzah.

    It’s a little old, but I launched my blog last summer with this post When did I stop being white? on conversion and cultural loss.

    I’m loving the posts — thanks for coming up with such a great idea.

  39. Salams Nicole,

    Sister from Louisiana peeping at ya again. Thanks for the carnival, wish I’d have caught it in time to contribute. But I am enjoying the reads whole heartedly. When I first commented on your page I was coming out of my own backhomestinian drama. Two years later, so much of these stories ring true. While I’m certain this wasn’t the easiest project, thanks so much for putting it out there. Even when you’re pretty sure you’re not the only one, it’s nice to have proof!

    • HI sister! How are you? Wow…sorry about the backhomestan drama :( Do you have my email? I’m always here (plus I have yours :-P)
      That said, I think it is amazing how many of us convert sisters have similar stories. I don’t know what is wrong with the brothers, I really don’t. I think I’m going to “turn Swiss” at this point LOL.

  40. Im confused..Have you left Islam because you were divorced?…I see a lot of anger in your blog..Anyways…Come and visit my blog..myhajj.blogspot.com

  41. Man, where the hell was I when all this was going on. I still had my blog?! I vaguely remember LuckyFatima’s post? I WISH I would have jumped on this bandwagon. I’ve always had too much to say about the issue.

    Anyway, I am glad that you decided to do this–even though, like the loser I am, I am just now roundin’ the corner ;) and seeing everyone has already left.
    I sent links to a couple of others who may have missed it as well.

    You rock! I remember clicking to subscribe to your blog a while back–actually, I forgot that I had since I no longer blog–and when I saw an email of a new post, I was all too happy to stop and read.

    I just passed through Metairie the other day and cursed and hollered the whole way through. I can ride clean from Lafayette, not even catch traffic in BR, until I get close to the Veterans exit when I come to a dead stop then 10-15mph roll–which slows my roll significantly. (just wanted to comment about it because you mentioned that old eye place there in your new post)

    Can’t wait to read more new posts.

    Blessings,
    SA

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