William Rhew is a former Christian from Johnson City, Tennessee in the USA. He shares the story of his conversion to Islam when he was in senior year of high school:
“I remember the day I did it. I sat in a Food City parking lot for 45 minutes and contemplated what I had just done and how it was going to affect my life.”
He says that Christianity, left him with many questions so he decided to “look for answers”. A Muslim girl from his high school introduced him to Islam and later referred him to Taneem Aziz, a founding member of a mosque in the city.
“Taneem is responsible for most of my learning about Islam now because what I didn’t learn from him, he gave me the resources to learn from, such as (websites on) and books, and a copy of the Quran,”.
He says that what attracted him to Islam is the “simplicity of who is God. I figured out that God is God. I found that really beautiful. Another thing I find beautiful is that Islam encourages you not only to be pure in heart and mind, but to be presentable, to look nice. And we have the original Holy book we can see what was written.”
After just 2 months of intense research of Islam he decided to convert and not tell his family and friends about it immediately.
“Many of my friends who have converted have spent three or four years studying Islam before they even considered to convert. Although it was a bit hasty, I did put a lot of effort into researching the religion before I jumped into it.”
The scariest part was “realizing that everything you once were religiously is now thought of as wrong or partially wrong, and you have to come to terms with the fact that some things have to be relearned.”
” I didn’t really come out, so to speak, as Muslim with my friends and even still some of my family don’t know.”. My parents had known something was kind of different when I began to not eat pork, (though) I never had a thing for alcohol, I never drank. (But) they noticed my patterns … were a little different. I was waking up at an odd time early in the morning, doing something they weren’t sure (what it was), which was prayer. And they saw who my (new) friends were.”
Religion, he says, is now a taboo subject at home: “We don’t talk about it because it creates conflict and that’s not what I want. It’s not productive.”
“I want Wil to always make a choice for himself and know it’s the right choice,” says William’s mom, Rebecca Rhew. She and his father have lived in the area for some 20 years. She supports Wil, she says, and what he “believes in his heart,” because he’s her son.
“Wil may believe differently from what we want him to believe, but I would not debate him or put him down. It’s hard to know about different cultures. You have to learn and take into consideration what the other person is thinking. I don’t put down someone else’s religion (even if) I don’t accept it myself. It’s not my place to judge them. (And) I think one of the things Wil has showed me is you can’t push (religion) down; people have to believe it for themselves.”
William, who is president of the Muslim Student Association’s campus chapter at the University he attends, says most of the media influences people to perceive all Muslims as extremists. “I wish the voices of normal Muslims would be heard over that of the extremists’, because, unfortunately, the more extreme voices yell louder. Assumptions are very dangerous. Assumptions are what have us in the state we are in now. Don’t prejudge us from what you see or hear.”
“Diversity is nature’s beauty. I have always had an interest in religion and culture, and I think in part that contributed to my becoming Muslim. I was willing to learn about it.”