March 17, 2007

Conversions Unveiled

An interesting article from Wednesday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (JS) Online about the new book, Becoming Muslim: Western Women's Conversions to Islam, by Anna Mansson McGinty. Amazon's book description reads, "While Islam has become a controversial topic in the West, a growing number of Westerners find powerful meaning in Islam. Becoming Muslim is an ethnographic study based on in-depth interviews with Swedish and American women who have converted to Islam. Proceeding from the women’s life-stories, the author explores the appeal of Islam to some Western women and the personal meaning assigned to the religion. While conversion is often perceived as entailing a dramatic change in worldview, the women’s experiences point to an equally important continuity. Notably, the conversion is triggered by particular personal ideas and quests, and within Islam the women can further explore already salient thoughts. The work appeals to students in the fields of anthropology, religious studies, psychology, and women’s studies, interested in identity, conversion, and gender."

In the 1990s, when she first set out to interview women about their conversions to Islam, Anna Mansson McGinty expected to meet the wives of devout Muslims, women whose religion had come from their husbands.

But a more complex picture emerged as McGinty, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, began delving into the women's stories for her 2006 book, "Becoming Muslim: Western Women's Conversions to Islam."

McGinty, 35, interviewed women in her native Sweden and in the United States, and found no typical Muslim convert. Nor did she find conversions that could be reduced to a single act.

"The book's main aim," she said, "is to show that conversion is not, as many scholars have described it, a one-time event. It's a constant process. It's never-ending."

Among the nine women profiled in the book was Mariam, an American-born graduate student in anthropology who went to do field work in an oasis in northern Africa, and while in the field converted to Islam at age 25. Years later, she married a man who also was a Muslim convert.

There was Fatimah, a former Catholic who had abandoned religion in college, then, as a married mother of two, watched a documentary on nuclear holocaust that led her to embark on a spiritual quest. In the course of this quest, she would divorce her husband, convert to Islam and later marry a Muslim man.

"Becoming Muslim" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, $65) sheds light on how women in Islam are perceived, an issue that reflects the rift between the Muslim world and the West.

Yvonne Haddad, a professor who teaches the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University, said a fundamental misconception about Islamic women stems from an old colonialist notion.

"There is a whole history of European colonialism," she said, "that justified the occupation of Muslim lands by saying, 'We have to save Muslim women.' "

Early Crusaders saw Muslim women in their veils and imagined they were abused by their men, hidden under cover, Haddad said.

Today the idea persists, though it is balanced by a view from the opposite side of the cultural divide.

"Muslims look at Western women as being abused by their husbands because they allow strange men to talk and flirt with the women," Haddad explained.

Negative ideas about the treatment of Islamic women, however, are not without some grains of truth.

There have been forced marriages and "honor killings" of women in certain Muslim cultures, said Marcia Hermansen, director of the Islamic World Studies program at Loyola University of Chicago, but such practices are not part of most Muslims' "everyday reality. It's not sanctioned by the religion."
[Note: Honor killings are not solely a "Muslim phenomenon," but have been done by members of other religions, including Christians.]

"Under the Taliban, certainly women were hideously oppressed," said Leila Ahmed, a professor at Harvard Divinity School.

At the same time, Ahmed said, "nobody has ever asked me to explain why there have been women heads of state in Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. How many European and American women heads of state have there been?
[Note: To my knowledge, only two, the UK (Margaret Thatcher) and Germany (Chancellor Angela Merkel).]

"The extraordinary achievements and freedoms of Muslim women are simply invisible."

Hermansen pointed out that some of these heads of state were the wives or daughters of leaders, evidence in her view that "family identity trumps gender distinctions for the most part."


McGinty's interviews with the nine women were never intended to be a scientific survey. Instead, they offer a window into the journey toward conversion and the consequences of that decision.

One of the Swedish women told McGinty that the decision to wear the veil changed the way fellow Swedes viewed her. The woman said that strangers assumed she was an immigrant and would speak slowly, asking, "Do . . . you . . . speak . . . Swedish?"

The veil has become a powerful symbol of the complexity of Islamic conversion.

McGinty found that converts were eager to wear the veil to identify themselves as Muslim, yet also saw it as something "intimately linked to the stereotypes of Muslim women."

Some women, McGinty said, remove the veil before entering their workplaces.

Women also told McGinty that, since their conversions, people seemed to view them as boring or serious, almost discounting the possibility that they might have a sense of humor.

All of the women, McGinty said, found something in Islam that aligned to a core part of their personality.

Some found that zakat, or alms giving to the poor, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, fit a belief in social justice.

Others found in Islam a faith that spoke to their sense of religious yearning or spiritual quest.

Some of the women, she said, found that Islam allowed them to try out a new kind of femininity, one that emphasized modesty and placed value on who a woman is rather than what she looks like.

"Conversion triggers profound questions to the self," McGinty wrote in her book. "It heightens the awareness and prompts reflections of who one is, who one was, and where one is heading."

1 comment:

Ahmedinajad said...

Dear Sir,
The following issue can destroy ISLAM or ISRAEL; study it thoroughly to see if there is any truth to it.
READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.
Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link;&version=46;
Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.
And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!
NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.
100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING
Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?
GENESIS: 21:14 - 21
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.
This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??
Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?
I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces - unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.
For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:
(MUHAMMAD IN THE BIBLE),,31200-galloway_060806,00.html George Galloway media appearances
HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 - 122
101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.
102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!”
103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),
104. We called out to him “O Abraham!
105. “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” - thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
106. For this was obviously a trial-
107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:
108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:
109. “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”
110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
111. For he was one of our believing Servants.
112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous.
113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.
114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,
115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;
116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);
117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;
118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.
119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:
120. “Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!”
121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
122. For they were two of our believing Servants.
Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.
Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka’ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael’s mother followed him saying, “O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us,” and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka’ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
‘O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.’ (14.37) Ishmael’s mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.”
The Prophet said, “This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, ‘O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it.”
The Prophet added, “May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael’s mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.” The Prophet further added, “Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada’. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, ‘This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.’ They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water).” The Prophet added, “Ishmael’s mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, ‘Do you allow us to stay with you?” She replied, ‘Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.’ They agreed to that.” The Prophet further said, “Ishmael’s mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.