A Letter to My Family
By Michelle Al-Nasr
I am writing this for all my Muslim brothers and sisters who have converted (or re-verted) to Islam, and have had the courage, against all odds, to stand firm on their beliefs - no matter how great the cost. I want to convey the sorrow I share with many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Islam, that have had to distance themselves from their families, because of their acceptance of the religion of Islam.
I want to first tell you, “I love you”, you are my family, I have not forgotten you. It breaks my heart that if you do not agree with my life choice, that you have chosen to reject me. If you do not agree with me, then at least respect my decision. If you only knew how difficult this decision was for me, how difficult it is to be a Muslim. Especially, a Muslim woman. Did you ever try to imagine what kind of commitment it takes to be a Muslim? It is not as easy as you may think. I want to let you into my mind. I want you to look through my eyes, and just know - if only for a moment - how I have felt, what I have dealt with and what it is like to for me.
Think for one minute about something that means so much to you, something that you feel so strongly about, that you are willing to undergo losing your entire family and friends as you know it. Becoming estranged to the same people that you have known all your living years. All of the sudden, you are the outcast, the lost soul who doesn’t have enough sense to know what you are doing, everyone is telling you that you are throwing your entire life away. Think about how strong you must feel about the actions you are taking. Not just any actions, mind you, but actions that take sincerity and a firm belief. Actions that are not to be taken lightly. Actions with consequences which include: sacrifice, loss, humiliation, degradation and racism to name only a few.
Continue to think about something in your life that means this much to you. Would you be willing to sacrifice you career? Money? Your new car? Your house? Would it be easy for you to give up many of the pleasures that this life has to offer? Think about your family. How would you handle losing your entire family for this ‘something’ that means so much to you. No longer are you wanted to even talk for a while, for fear that you might mention this ‘something’ that means so much to you. You mention it, why? Because it is the ‘something’ by which you base and dedicate your entire life to. Of course, if talking means to discuss the things that means so much to others, you should not be offended, you should only be quiet and listen. After all, it is important to them. Maybe they might bring up the something they heard on the news, the ‘something’ that you dedicate your entire life to, but do not disagree - nor tell them what you know from hands-on research and personal experience - only listen, because the TV knows more, and so do they. You must realize, as well, that because of this ‘something’ you have chosen, you know longer have a right to discuss or comment on any matter about the city, state or country you have spent your whole life in, if you do - you now are told (instead being respected for an intelligent opinion) you should be expelled from the country.
Think about going to the store just to pick up some bread. As you get in your car and drive down the road someone begins screaming curse words at the very sight of you, dressed according to this ‘something’ that you believe so firmly about, probably they think that you don’t understand them - but you do, and all too well. Just get used to it, it happens quite often. Also, remember that you are oppressed and you are looked at with pity and contempt, as an oppressed woman - having no mind of her own. All this, even though this ‘something’ is what you chose, what you live everyday - not by force, but because you believe it is right. Keep all of this in mind as you are driving in your car. Walking into the store, you feel all eyes are on you - all of the sudden you hear laughing - you think to yourself, they aren’t laughing at me, are they? But of course, you know better, because every time you leave your house people are constantly either making fun of you or cursing you, one of the two. All because of this ‘something’ you love. At the bread aisle, you notice the grocery store security guard seems to be following you up and down each aisle in the store, when you look in his direction, he discreetly glares at the kitty litter boxes on sale, not wanting to give himself away. As you get to the cashier, ready to check out - you notice how courteous the cashier is to the woman in front of you. Don’t get your hopes up, there will be none of that when it is your turn. They really don’t care, ‘How are you doing, today?’. They just take your money, and glare at you. Never mind, you are on your way home.
In your car you notice your gas gage and panic a little, it’s on empty, and you need some gas, but don’t chance it, do not stop - if you were to try to pay for the gas, even though you could be waving your money, they will most likely assume that you are there to rob them. It is better to go straight home, home is comfort. By the time you get home, hoping for relief, you notice a crowd of kids around your house, and wonder what they are up to. After you get in the house, someone starts knocking at your door. You answer the door, but no one is there. You walk outside to get the mail, and the kids run from behind the corner of your house yelling, “You don’t belong here!”. A while later, the teenagers in the neighborhood decide to join in on the fun by standing in your driveway and cursing you, as you are standing inside your own home. And this is only the beginning of the days in your life, but wait, there’s so much more… Now stop and think. Is there anything that you love so much?
Well, you may ask, ‘Is it worth it?’ I will tell you without hesitation, Yes it is. All that and more. Because this ‘something’, Islam, is my way of life, my love, my peacefulness, and my hope. You may think, “That doesn’t sound very peaceful, being harassed and all”. But it is. Not the harassment, of course, but the purpose behind it. The reasons that I dress as I dress, and I live in the manner I have chosen. And I want to say again, do not think for a second I take this lightly. I believe and know this way of life to be right and true.
If you cannot be happy for me, at least be content to know that you have raised someone that stands firm in what she believes. Not just a blind follower, not just one of the crowd, not someone who will be swayed at the drop of a hat. If you cannot support me in my decision , then be satisfied to respect me for my convictions, morals and values. Not an immoral, vulgar, and dishonorable life. Know that what I believe in, Islam, is not something I believe in because it’s the popular thing to do, or that it the best way to ‘Gain Friends and Influence People’. Realize, this is not a faze I am going through and I am not an over-zealous fanatic. I am striving to be the best Muslim that I can be. That is something that is not easy, but I believe that it will lead me to Paradise if I strive hard enough, and stand firm on the beliefs that “There is nothing worthy of worship but God alone, associating no partner with Him”. Where was it that I learned that I should strive to be the best I can be, and to try my hardest to stand firm on the things that I believe are just and truthful? Hey, wasn’t that you? Didn’t you teach me that?
By Michelle Al-Nasr. “A Letter To My Family” LADO Newsletter October-December 2002.