Conver(t)sations: the Unheard Stories of Muslim Converts


This panel was a part of 2nd Annual ICNYU Conference held during the first weekend of February at New York University. Panelists included Suhaib Webb, Raymond Brock Murray, Lisa Shah, Will Caldwell, Musa Bryant, Megan Putney, Whitney Terrill, Lisa Shah, Peter Casey, Cyrus McGoldrick , Jay Dabhi and the discussion was facilitated by Khalid Latif.

Usually when the convert experience is discussed in a Muslim community, the discussion focuses on why the individual converted. Although there is a great benefit in hearing these stories, the discussion never deepens into issues a convert faces after converting. This panel discusses the real experiences that converts face in dealing with the Muslim community after converting as well as issues with family, relationship, education, and many other topics.

ICNYU started the Conver(t)sations program this past January. This program aims to establish an entry point into the community for those who have converted or reverted to Islam. It can be hard for many of us to fit in and find a comfortable place in the Muslim community, and those who are converts are no exception to this. Our hope is to provide an outlet for socializing, mentorship, and discussion that makes the transition process easier for our brothers and sisters who have made the decision to embrace the faith.

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23 Comments

  1. María M says:

    As salamu alaykum,

    No words can express how I feel, thank you very much for all what all of you do for all of us.

    Jazak Allahu Khairan

  2. Mohammad says:

    Assalamu Alaikum

    Great video. Love Khalid Latif’s giggles after the every funny moment.

  3. Richie says:

    This was a very good panel. However, I heard some VERY disturbing things. The main reason I became interested in Islma was that according to Malcolm X Islam, as a religion, forbids racism. All followers of Allah are brothers.
    What I heard today is that African Americans are often times regarded as less then desirable people and are shunned by folks from Islamic countries or nationality.
    This fact alone makes me question if Islam is actually for me. I believe in the singularity of God, so why should I expose myself to the treatment of these people because i find racism to be the worst thing in any society.In some ways its no different then Christianity.
    Here in America we have “black” churches and “white” churches.This again shakes my beilief system. How can some Muslims be so heartless?
    I KNOW that I cannot handle this treatment if I was to go to a Masjid looking for knowledge.
    Once again I’m in a quandry.
    I’m still waiting to hear from Imam Webb ( I know he’s very busy)

    • MB says:

      Richie,

      Do not expect that all followers of a particular religion–any religion– are going to necessarily exhibit perfect behavior. People who convert to Islam (or any other faith) seeking a perfect community full of perfect believers are bound to be disappointed. Keep in mind what is GOD’s point of view and what GOD’s opinion on matters is as expressed in His religion, and make THAT the guide of your decision, NOT what people say or do.

      Finally, keep in mind that most large mosques in the US are totally multi-cultural and multi-racial. There are places where you can find “ethnic” mosques but in cities where there is only one mosque or there is a very large mosque with a large number of people who attend it is always multicultural. Hope that helps.

    • zunaid manuel says:

      Asalaamu alaikum brother. Islam is not jus a religion its a way of life.subhanAllAH. There is suposed to be no rasiscm anywhere in this world no matter what religion you are or where you are from 1st an for most we all have 1 Creator an HE is AllAH.. An the Prophet Mohamad (SAW) is His messenger. No matter wat religion you follow if you believe in 1 God 1 message then we on the right track. Islam being a way of life is wat every man an woman , sons an daughters of Nabi Aadam (AS),should follow. Nabi Mohammed (SAW) was not jus a Prophet 4 muslims He was a Prophet (SAW) for all mankind subhanAllAH. Follow the teachingz of Nabi Esa (AS) / Jesus an Nabi Mohammed (SAW) an you won’t go wrong.. InshaAllAH. May AllAH (SWT) have mercy on us all..

  4. Richie says:

    Let me note that my personal struggle has always been with being told (in many ways)that African Americans are inferior. I DO NOT SUBSCRIBE to this thought and will not accept anyone who thinks that because of the color of their skin,that they are somehow superior to me. NO one is superior to me and I am NOT superior to anyone else.I just want knowledge and peace.
    (As for my heartless statement,that is not targeted at Islam so please forgive my poor wording.)

    • María M says:

      As salamu alaykum, Richie,

      I have gone through some struggles too, not about the race, about being a woman, and at the end I just realize that Islam is the Heart and this Heart is pure, the impurity is in all of us, I mean with this, that the root of Islam is we are all brothers and sister, we must respect and love everyone, we must follow the steps of our beloved Prophet (pbuh), the way he behave,…..but what occurs is that many of us don´t know yet what is the real meaning of being muslim, maybe they know it but they don´t practice it, and allowed themselves in their ignorance to act in a bad way towards the others, there are hard Hearts inside the muslim family too.

      But you will find this everywhere, because we are human beings, people like you and me, are looking for a perfect society where everybody is respected just for the fact of being, where everybody will be affected for the suffering of others, where everybody will hold tight that one that needs it, …. the fact is that we are getting there, but we have to stick to our faith, believing in Allah(swt), accepting people as they are, and we have to strive for excellence seeing everything as it is, this way we can choose the Straight Way, insha´Allah.

      I really thank Allah(swt) when I see something that is wrong, this way I can choose what is right and stick to it, because I could be blind and think that I am on the right track doing the wrong thing, then it is a blessing when we see a wrong behaviour to stay away from it, insha´Allah.

      You know one thing, when I began to read the Names of Allah(swt) and learn the prayers, do the ablution, read the Quran, try to get close to the One in one word, I had the feeling inside that I found my way, and had the certainty that that was it, there is something that only the person involved get to know, that something that pushes us to shahada, and yes that makes us different from born muslims, they were blessed by being born muslims, we the converts/reverts, go through a different process, we struggle to become muslims and we decide about it and we have to do shahada someway we are like the first muslims, and once we are muslims we have to deal with a family we don´t know, but we come so full of love and so empty of knowledge, that we give everything we have until we learn that because a person calls him/herself muslim that doesn´t mean is what we supposed should be a muslim. Then we learn as the babies, we touch the fire and we get burnt, then we get scared of fire. That is why I emphasize that we should stick to Allah(swt) and to the Prophet (pbuh)and let our family grow at their own rythm knowing that noone is perfect.

      Just my thoughts.

      • Richie says:

        Maria,
        Thank you for taking time to respond and give some insight from a different equally important perspective.
        Your line ” because we are human beings, people like you and me, are looking for a perfect society where everybody is respected just for the fact of being..” Was dead on.your got right into my head because you nailed it. I guess i’m naive to a degree. I was brought up to respect everyone,but it’s up to them to keep it with their actions.
        I feel that it’s something that everyone deserves from the start. I guess only some folks feel like that. Funny thing,I was watching another of Brother Suhaib’s videos and he answered some questions for me as they were coming in to my head..he has a knack for that.
        So if I concentrate on being a good Muslim..and good person,that relationship I have with Allah will provide me with the strength to weather those storms?
        I’m blessed in that Islam is readily accepted in my family although most everyone else are Christians. The belief being that as long as I have a relationship with God,in whatever way,it’s better then not having one at all.
        I truly appreciate the assistance of everyone here and it means alot to me.
        I can only change myself,and through that change maybe I can be an example to others and inspire change in them. I need to look inward and to Allah first and foremost and not outside for that validation.
        Thank you again Maria and I’m sure you will be blessed for helping me more then you can imagine.

        • DJ says:

          Assalammualaikum WBT Richie,

          I was born a Muslim, living in a moderate Islamic country, surrounded by people of my own faith (and race). Even then, just because I am a woman who is not veiled, i am harshly questioned about my ‘Islamic-ness’ and when i express my anger at people FB-ing photos and slandering others in the name of Islam, i get slammed by those who believe they are a better Muslims. What i am trying to say is, human behaviours are not set by their faith alone. There are others, plenty others who are not bothered by race. But there are others who are. We are all human beings. What needed to be remembered is that, even Nabi Muhammad SAW was not a perfect person. How can we even compare? We can never be as him was, but we can try.

          Forgive them. Educate them if you can on what wrong they have done or said in the nicest way you can. But most importantly, just forgive them.

          Do always remember what Maria have written to you. When you are in doubt, in anger, in need of help, do your ablution and pray. It need not be at prayer times. But when you need it, pray, sincerely pray and talk to Him about it. InsyaAllah, He will calm your heart and guide you through it.

          “So if I concentrate on being a good Muslim..and good person,that relationship I have with Allah will provide me with the strength to weather those storms?”
          Yes. He will. InsyaAllah. He did for me in my darkess moments and I am not even the best example of a Muslim. But i believe in Him and Him alone.

          Also remember, وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

          أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

          “And certainly, We shall test you with a bit of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits. But give glad tidings to the patient ones who, when afflicted with a calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” They are those upon whom are the blessings, descend from their Lord, and they receive His Mercy, and it is they who are guided.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:155-157)

          Turn your storms into your guiding path as that may be what Allah SWT wills you to do, as He knows best.

          A bid you adieu and sincerely, good luck.

        • María M says:

          Richie, Barak Allahu Feekum.

        • Shareef says:

          salaam, I wont say much because Mariam n Dj have said enough, sort of…..

          I just want to quote a saying of Rasoolullah, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam:

          “no arab is beta than a non-arab except in ‘taqwaa (piety/fear of Allah)'”

          This single Hadeeth has absolutely prohibited any form of racism, whatsoever.

          Finally, you can never learn the truth about Islam by judging it as par conducts of the Muslims nowadays. Study the lives of the Holy Prophet, his blessed guided companions, and those earlier generations after them. Their conducts and legacies will suffice to enlighten you that Islam is the chosen way of life to worship Allah, subhaanah, wa ta’aalaa.

          was-salaam.

      • DJ says:

        Maria, you may be a new sister but your wisdom is true and better than some Muslims I know.

        I noticed you typed Allah SWT at the back but you refer to Nabi (Prophet) Muhammad SAW as “the Prophet (pbuh)”. I am assuming you meant Nabi Muhammad SAW when you said that as it is his steps we must follow as best as we could.

        However, (please do not take it in a wrong way, just pointing out, as a sister should to another sister), by typing it that way, it could be misleading. As all other Prophets (pbut) are commonly referred to with the acronym PBUH as well.

        When it comes to Nabi Muhammad SAW, it is better to use the Arabic acronym. Though the meaning is the same, there will be no confusion and simply said, he is special that way :)

        So just by saying the Prophet SAW, majority of Muslims will have no doubt to whom you are referring to.

        SAW = SallaAllahu alaihi wasalam = Peace Be Upon Him

        …again, just helping you gain more knowledge and becoming a better Muslim :)

        Assalammualaikum WBT

  5. Jay says:

    Thank you sooooo much for making this incredible program available online!! Jazak Allah!

  6. Cartoon says:

    I watched this live. This is definitely something our community needs to address. Seeing people convert to Islam may give us instant gratification, but our real concentration should be nurturing our convert brother’s and sister’s newfound eeman. Also, just being a friend to them too.

  7. Amy says:

    After I converted, I remember speaking on a panel for WhyIslam at a ICNA convention, for a program specifically about the problems converts face after embracing Islam. Kind of like the panel in the video, I guess. I also got to speak at a yearly MSA event to tell me story, and I’ve even posted it on my blog–and I usually focus more on my experience after saying shahadah since it’s a much more interesting and telling part of the story, I think.

    I hope that what comes from panels like these is that the community in general tries to be more attentive to the needs of converts after their shahadah. It can be a real struggle for some folks.

  8. Sagal says:

    I am truly sorry for not paying attention to our new brothers and sisters. This talk was great reminder. I will be more conscious of these issues from now on especially on Eid times. May Allah make things easy for them and us. Aameen.

  9. S.Adzrin says:

    Dear brothers & sisters,

    I’m a born Muslim & i’m grateful to Allah everyday for that. Just to let you know that from my observations, brother & sister converts are generally ‘better’ Muslims because they adhere strongly to the requirements of Islam, as His hidayah is a strong guiding force.
    Born Muslims, unfortunately, take things for granted.
    Allah tests each of us differently & He shall not burden us more than we can bear. You are all in my prayers.
    Wallahu alam.

  10. askari says:

    What bothers me about forums like this, with fellow converts, is the CONSTANT reference to “race”, which we are obsessed with in the United States. Black converts feel a need to continue to set aside themselves as if white converts cannot be “real” (even though whites were some of the earliest true “converts” to Islam, and some of the most influential converts) and whites, like this guy here, who is all over the web, feel a need to make self-deprecating comments about BEING white. Often, it is true, as he says (and Jushua Evans is similar) white converts in the mid-90s were “hip hop” whites (both talk with a strange black dialect), but al-Islam is about one ummah, one people, a belief open to all, where racism is strictly forbidden.

    Just get tired of the CONSTANT focus on it, and jokes about it, by American converts. Over a billion people on the earth are Muslim, and most do not care if you are some white guy or black guy from the US. You are BROTHERS.

  11. Muhammad says:

    As Salaamu Alaykum

    As a white convert I find it totally laughable that race would even be a factor in this fitnah of these so called jamaats not assisting the needy muslims. You see, I converted to Islam almost 6 years ago in prison and I have found nothing but suspicion and down right evil at play in these Masajid here in America. I married another convert and adopted her daughter. I have had beardless “brothers” and “sisters” who sat across from me and doubted my Islam and implied in a not so subtle way that I was a con man when I have tried to access the Zakaat thatis supposed to be for the needy close to home. Meanwhile I have seen people send vast sums overseas or worse bring in poor Muslims from any number of Islamic countries and they work in a store for a few months and they are set up with a store and a home by the Mosque. You know what kind of offer I get? They want me to somehow find an apartment and get the utilities cut on for $500. This is in major cities. Also these boards that run the communities have no problem telling you they need 3 or 4 days to make a decision and ask you to come back over and over while they go home to their big houses in their expensive import cars full well knowing a family has nowhere to go for the night. What kind of game is being played with this religion I hold so close to my heart? So here I am again at another Ramadaan and I am sharing a run down 1 br trailer with my wife, child, crippled father, and the water here isn’t safe to drink. All I can say is that how can these arabs, and the pakastanis that are too far gone in Hanafi or the Highway mentality ever expecting to build bridges with America ever going to achieve this if they push away those that are sincerely trying to follow the message of Allah SWT, and His messenger SAW? I have come to the conclusion that if you’re not here for the purpose of Dawah then you must be here only to do bad. I sure have seen a lot of bad from selling garbage cars to selling Haraam in stores. Seriously, if you sell beer, spice, counterfeit clothing, bongs, run medicaid scams, that makes you more of a mob than a Jamaat. Go away.

  12. Muhammad says:

    Correction: the sister were indeed beardless but they had no worries leaving the Hijab behind, and this was inside so called “Islamic social services” centers.

  13. Siti Alwani says:

    Assalamualaikum,

    I have only just saw this video.
    I am a born Muslim and is from Singapore but living in London now. In Singapore we have a convert association called Darul Arqam.
    http://www.darul-arqam.org.sg/
    There they will deal with all conversion and the support needed by the new converts. There are classes, gatherings, Jamaat prayers, Eid celebrations and just a place to go to if you need any help or advice. All converts are registered so that they will be able to be contacted for any new classes or activity that are being organised.
    Non converts are also welcome to the classes and gatherings, hence the converts are able to ‘make friends’ with the wider Muslim communities and not just the newly converts.
    Maybe thats what is needed in both America and Europe.

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