My journey to Islam is, it is safe to say, not the usual one. Most white converts I have met came from a liberal and very open background. My upbringing was far from this.
Both of my parents were in the
I had a very troubled childhood, as the above can only begin to describe. My father was an alcoholic and a very physically abusive man. I grew up with the constant fear of violence against myself, my mother, and my brother and sister. Coming from such a background it only seemed natural that I seek a group of people to replace the family life that I did not get at home. The problem is, with the way I was raised, the people I sought this companionship from were the worst of the worst.
New Muslims Tell Their Stories
For several years I was heavily involved in the racist skinhead movement. As with anything else in my life, I was not content to be a follower, but always enjoyed taking the lead, and my involvement in the Neo-Nazi skinhead movement was the same. I was well known and feared in the scene in the town where I grew up.
My longing for family and friends, however, never killed the seed in my heart that what I was doing was wrong, that it was unjust. I remember a Mexican schoolmate of mine asking me when I was 16 "why do you hang out with those losers, you are better than that." He was right, but I guess there was a part of me that, even though I hated my father for what he was doing to the family, wanted to be just like him. That is where my racism and hatred came from.
The situation at home became worse for me so I was forced to move out on my own. I think from this moment this is what sealed my future as a Muslim - getting away from my father, the hatred that he felt, and experiencing the world and people on my own.
The next few years were pretty rough on me and I continued for many years on the path that I had started on. I was drinking, I was doing drugs and I was getting into very serious trouble with the law. All the while, all of the people I had sought to take the place of my family turned out to be the worst sort of people, violent, dishonest and untrustworthy.
|I started reading general books on Middle Eastern history and the national politics of the area.|
I left the state I grew up in when I was 23 and for the first time in my life was able to experience life without the overwhelming figure of my father hanging over me and the malign influence of my friends. I started to see all of the carefully crafted lies my life was based on crumble around me. I slowly saw all of the truths that my life was based on unravel. It is at this point that I started to question everything in my life, including my religious beliefs. I took the stance that everything in my life was suspect and had to be reevaluated.
I had a girlfriend at the time whom I later married. She had also been active in the racist skinhead scene that I was involved with and there was always this worry that I offend her with my new ideas and thinking. I had always been an avid reader, and I took the next couple of years to read everything I could get my hands onto. This passion of mine - reading - has lead me to collect a small library of books that now consists of over a thousand volumes, everything from Kant, Descartes to Ramadan and Edward Said.
During this time the Intifada was raging in
I started reading general books on Middle Eastern history and the national politics of the area. Again and again I found that I was having trouble understanding both the history and politics of the area because I didn't have any sort of understanding about Islam. As a child I had attended church from time to time, but didn't have a firm grounding in any religion. My father had a hatred of Islam, so as a teen I had shared this hatred without having a clue as to what Islam was about or what Muslims believed. It goes without saying that I had never met a Muslim in my life.
So I started to look into Islam, its history and beliefs. This was when the internet was gaining in peculiarity so I used both paper texts and sources from the internet to help me gain an understanding on the basics of Islam and its history. At this time I was living in
When I got to
|The idea that God could be so unjust as to hold myself and everyone else responsible for the sins of others|
From the very beginning some things struck a chord with me and answered doubts I had always had concerning the religion I was raised in. I had always taken issue with the idea that God would ever have offspring. From my reading I recognized this belief as one pulled from pagan sources. Zeus, Odin, and numerous other pagan gods all had children.
In the case of Odin, his followers even believed he hung on a tree, much like Christians believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) hung on a cross. Odinists, the name given to the followers of this ancient Northern European religion, also believed in a trinity of sorts formed by Odin, his son Thor, and his consort Freja. It was clear this innovation of the Christians did not have its basis in God, but in previous pagan beliefs.
The other issue that I had always struggled with was the concept of original sin. The idea that God could be so unjust as to hold myself and everyone else responsible for the sins of others who died thousands of years before me just seemed so unjust. I had a basic concept of God, and the idea He could be so unjust to do such a thing just did not sit well with me. It always seemed to me that Christians just didn't have the answer to these questions, and if they did, their answers just reinforced these unjust positions.
I looked to Judaism, but that religion offered more questions than answers as well. Their attitude towards the prophets, peace be upon them all, was disgraceful. Their religious texts accused these greatest of men of the most terrible crimes and I refused to belive God would pick such men to lead his people on earth.
If Judaism held such beliefs how could I look to them for guidance? ...
To Be Continued...
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