The alienation of Muslim Converts

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SHAFAQNA – The reason why I keep talking about them is simply because none else does. Converts are most of the time afraid of speaking about the double, even triple alienation they face on a daily basis. Considered to be traitors by their community of origin, seen as heretics by most Sunnis, they have to deal with convertophobia in their own religious community. On top of this comes the socio-economic alienation that many people are not aware of. Converts are most often among the poorest in our communities either because they come from poorer communities or because many of them have trained in the humanities (and came to Tashayy’u through their readings and research).

Marriage is probably the most difficult issue facing converts because the overwhelming majority of them will never be able to find spouses within the non-convert community. Suspected to be spies most of the time, converts are seen as “not really Muslims”. Yes they appear on programs about conversion but if they are more educated than the rest of the community they are viewed with suspicion.

Like brothers, many sisters are viewed with this sort of suspicion and bigotry, and often are shamed for having had intimate relationships before becoming muslim (which is normal  in western culture.) It’s also common for sisters to be bullied into bad marriages or used for immigration status.

The reason why I keep mentioning converts is because this discrimination against them is a grave sin against the wilayah. The hearts and spirits of the true Shi’ah were shaped from the clay of the bodies of the Ma’sumîn (as). This not only means that the core of their being is consubstantial with the bodies of the Ma’sumîn (as) but that they form a mystical body with all the other true Shi’ah. To deny them their rights, to remind them constantly of their origins is a grave sin against the wilâyah, one that doesn’t go unpunished. To complain about Islamophobia while our religious institutions are replete with grave cases of convertophobia is pure hypocrisy, one that needs to be pointed out and condemned.

I know that this causes great discomfort among a lot of people but I am not the one who created this situation. I have spoken to several clerics in Iran and Iraq about this issue and the truth of the matter is: they are not only unwilling to do anything about it, they are part of the problem themselves. When I tell them about the mariage issue I often get replies like:” Why don’t they marry Jewish or Christian women?”. When I reply to them that converts also have the right to raise their children with mothers who will transmit their faith to them they looked at me in disarray. They expect you to magically convert people. Others invoked the notion of ghîrah/gheyrat, some even told me they wouldn’t allow their daughters to marry a foreigner. When I mention that this is the spirit of Jahiliyyah, I again get the look of disarray.

There will be a God sent punishment for all this. I care about this issue because I frequently speak to converts who tell me about their loneliness. The ‘îds they spend on their own, the Muharrams they spend at home listening to online lectures, the way they get spied upon when they enter the seminary, how they get ostracized the second they question things they know not to be in line with correct doctrine, the hearts that get broken because of impossibility to get married and most important of all, the utter lack of support.

I care because if this issue is not solved within this decade it will cause a major fitnah in this community. Many of the converts I know have decided to stay outside the community and to live their Tashayy’u on their own but truth be told Islam is also a social religion and should be practiced in a community.

So yes I will continue to mention this issue over and over again. One of my friends was pushed to suicide in great part because of the way he was treated by the community. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.

By AlKhat AlMu’attar for the World Shia Forum in collaboration with the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies

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