30 Days of Ramadan, Day 2: Safe Spaces for Converts

In the 2014 30 Days of Ramadan blog I hit on this topic but I feel it’s one that should constantly get revisited.  What are we doing for our convert brothers and sisters?

Too often this narrative has been repeated:

  • Someone has found themselves called to Islam
  • They reach out to the Muslims they know, and are received enthusiastically
  • There is joy and cheer as they take their Shahadah and are welcomed with open arms
  • And then slowly the noise dies down
  • Ramadan feels lonely, Eid feels lonely, Christmas feels lonely
  • Where did everybody go?

Yes, the volition to convert (or revert so some would prefer to say) comes from the understanding of Islam and the connection with Allah (SWT), yet that does not change the need for community in a person’s life. If anything the need for a community is more necessary after a conversion/reversion than ever before.

For too long, we let the noise die down after the Shahadah.

Muslims are a vastly persecuted minority as it is; how can we have people marginalized within our own communities?

But unfortunately, this has been the case without many of us even realizing it.

I’m guilty of ignorance here. I attended my first ever KnewU: Coffee with Converts event to support a convert/revert friend of mine. I sat and I listened and I felt heartbroken at the plight that I did not know existed, and angry at myself for not having realized sooner.

I did not know that so many covert/reverts felt they did not belong to their local masjids because of the glares and stares or awkward questions they endured.

I did not consider how out of place they must have felt hearing a khutbah in another language.

I did not fathom the loneliness so many people suffered, feeling as if they belonged neither here or  there with their previous community, and they community they tried to turn to now.

Worst of all I did not realize all this because I came from a place of privilege where these were not my struggles, and I did not even realize I had privilege because outside of the Muslim community I do not.

But within the Muslim community some of us come from backgrounds that are more predominant here, and thus our safe spaces have been longstanding. We haven’t realized that our safe spaces may not be everyone’s safe spaces.

I write all this not to make the post about myself, but to simply bring to light that I too am guilty of ignorance as I am sure many of us have been. Hence the topic. And I say all this because changes have started to take place, and we need to continue progressing like this.

Alhamdulillah I am happy to report that since my last post about this, about two years ago, I have definitely seen improvement in pockets of our community. There are more convert/revert focused events and classes, and the Muslim community in Houston has slowly started to realize that these brothers and sisters in our community may not have a safe space – and thus, we need to create these safe spaces.

There are now centers specifically for Muslim converts/reverts, and the conversation has been happening  more often on more fronts.

Even today, there will be one of many convert/revert focused iftars in Houston this Ramadan, and I for one am happy to see our Ummah expanding with a true sense of brotherhood/sisterhood.

I hope that this Ramadan everyone will make an effort to figure out where we are lacking in knowledge on a personal level, and how to amend the situation. We can always do more.

It took us a while to get here.

We still have a long way to go.

But there are stepping stones now; there is direction.

Internal struggle of the day: Running errands without stopping at a Taco Bell. Talk about first world problems.

Internal affirmation: You definitely get a lot more done when you’re not distracted by food.

The 30 Days of Ramadan blog is written by Sobia Siddiqui, CAIR-Houston’s Operations Coordinator.

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