I was attracted to Islam by a brief contact that I had with a young boy. I had a Somali student when I was at Victoria, and the students were required to do an assignment about consumption, which is what I teach.
And his answer didn’t fit into the parameters of the assignment really. So I had to call him in and say:
“Well, you know, this doesn’t really answer the question.”
And so he explained about the way that his family butchers, which was outside the paradigms of thought entirely.
And then after that I went to Japan, and when I went to Japan there were a lot of Muslim students there, and there was an Islamic center, so I just started reading these books, mainly probably to sort of argue with people.
Also because in my class there was a whole lot of Philippians who were Catholic, and there were a few Muslims from different countries, and there was a bit of a class rift.
Because I was from here, I didn’t know anything about Muslims, and I didn’t really know much about Catholics either. And after a lot of reading I thought “Ah… Yes… This is it!”
So I became a Muslim.
As a Muslim Woman
Being woman in Islam is really good.
I would say that I would definitely have been described as a feminist before I was a Muslim woman. Now I think the whole paradigm of feminism is way too limiting for women. So I say with more and more study of the position of woman in Islam, it’s so much more, and so much better than feminism which is totally bounded by modernist logic.
I think that Islamic sisterhood is what the feminist project wanted for women.
The relationships between women in Islam from an Islamic basis are very very warm and supportive; in some ways maybe are sort of old-fashioned to us, like you have the responsibilities as a Muslim in certain situations, and I feel that women in Islam nurture each other and support each other very well, do everything they can for each other, and if there is a crisis of some kind there is always somebody who can help you within the group of the sisters.
You know, somebody can do everything; there are nurses, typists and doctors and people who can paint, there is a sister for every job, and they will help you.
So the solidarity between women is just another aspect of Islam that supports you as a member of the community and the wider community, and your family and circles around circles, which is what Islam is. It’s a very happy and fascinating way of life.
Before I became Muslim, I thought to myself:
“OK, well I’ve got a good education, and I’ve got a good family and a happy life, and it doesn’t matter to me if I get married or not, and it doesn’t matter to me if I have children or not.”
Then when I became Muslim, I thought:
“Being married is an important consideration if you are a Muslim,” and I did marry, then I had children.
I wouldn’t have imagined that I could have such a good relationship with another person. My husband is not a New Zealander, so we have a cross-cultural marriage, and people used to wonder about that.
But both my husband and I are Muslims, and our baseline reference is always Islam, in every decision we reference Islam, and so we have a huge common ground that transcends all other considerations in our marriage, so both of us will submit to the Islamic rules whatever they are.
But I really couldn’t ask for a better husband. Although, alhamdulillah, I’m very grateful for my husband, I think a large part of why he is such a good husband is because he is a Muslim. It’s not just he has got a nice family, or he is a nice guy, but his baseline is Islam, and Islam is good.
Media and Misperception
There’s a great deal of miscommunication in the media about Islam. And it would seem to me, as someone whose business is to research, that it is obviously not objective. But worse than that, it’s intentionally misleading.
They always pin-pick things from reference books. Say they go to the Quran, and they pick out something, or they pick out part of something, which is more often the case. For example, they pick out the part about women, and there will be corresponding parts about men before it or after it usually, but it’s not there. So it always looks like it’s some huge patriarchal head squashing the life out of the poor well-covered women who are ashamed of their bodies.
It’s a total misunderstanding of even the beginnings of Islamic thought to have such ideas, which are totally embedded in me. I mean some of this just dropped in these little explosive bombs of untruth that people just accept, because of course they don’t know and they don’t know enough about it to know that it isn’t right.
The espoused doctrine of New Zealand is that you are free; wear what you want and do what you want… So my consideration is “Why can’t I wear my scarf? Why can’t I wonder about wearing my big dress and my scarf as I want to without being harassed? And what’s so weird about that? What does this have to do with anybody else?”
But further than that, the whole ideology of the participant portraying democracy is that I’m free too to do what I want and wear what I want. I’m not breaking the law, or doing anything scary. I’m just walking around doing my shopping and minding my own business, so what’s the problem with that? Why is that anything really?
Islam is a complete entity by itself. It’s neither moderate nor extreme. It is a way of life. But Islam is the perfect system followed by many people, maybe all of them are imperfect. So some people are extreme, as in any group some people are extreme…
Again I have a problem with the words. What does extreme mean? What is an Islamic extremist? What does that mean? What is “moderate” Islam? Does that mean that you do your five prayers, but you are not as adherent to some other rules? I mean who is defining the terms?
So I always have problems with the terms, especially the terms that are used in media contexts because they are so loaded. I mean what does that mean? Islam is neither moderate nor extreme.
Islam is a complete system. Your job is to submit to the will of Allah and learn your religion. You go through and you learn your religion. The better you know it, the better you perform it, and the better you are to your community and all others.