U.S. Muslim

In light of the latest bombings in Boston, I feel I need to speak up. I sat listening to the news for most of the day Friday, and it seems to me someone is trying very hard to find a Muslim link to the reason behind the bombings. This disturbs me.

A person whose family may be Muslim is not necessarily a Muslim, in the same way a person born in a “Christian country” such as the U.S. is not necessarily a Christian. In my mind, a bad person is a bad person, no matter what church, temple, masjid (mosque) or local bar he visits. Anyone who willingly hurts another is a terrorist, so why do we need to label them as Muslim? Why then, when bad things happen such as a school shooting, we don’t hear that a “Christian terrorist” shot innocent people? It seems, in that case, the person’s religion is not relevant. So why, when a person with ANY tie to Islam does something stupid, it is automatically “Muslim terrorist”?

I’m thinking probably because, like I used to, people know little about Islam, perhaps ONLY what they have heard from the media when these horrific acts happen. Please, people, I beg of you, don’t believe these things you hear as hearsay or rumor. Learn what Islam is from a real Muslim, and you will find quite a different story. Muslims are NOT terrorists. How do I know?

I am a Muslim and an American. I was born in Lake Placid 42 years ago and lived in Vermontville all my life. I converted to Islam nearly three years ago. I wasn’t forced; I wasn’t threatened; I wasn’t brainwashed; I CHOSE Islam.

I grew up a Christian with a loving family that taught me right from wrong, family values and to love God. In March 2006, I met a Moroccan man who showed me there was something different, something I had never thought much about. All I knew about Islam was 9/11; some Muslims had done that. My husband taught me patiently for five years about Islam. I respected the religion and felt warm, fuzzy sensations inside when I heard the prayer calling or the lovely nasheeds (Islamic songs) he would play. I even had a few favorites I listened to in the car.

After all those years of learning, researching and discovering for myself, something clicked inside me so strongly that I decided I wanted to be a Muslim. There is one God, no matter what name He is called. Islam is another branch on the same tree as Judaism and Christianity. All three are from the same source, God. As a former Christian, I can say there are MANY similarities in the Bible and Quran. The basis is the same: Worship God, love one another, treat others as you wish to be treated. God is loving, kind, merciful, forgiving and wants us to be, too.

It wasn’t much of a leap to become Muslim as far as beliefs. Praying five times a day and wearing hijab (Muslim headscarf) every time I go out were a bit more of a struggle, but hey, I NEVER have bad hair days anymore! I see the looks people give me when I am out, the looks of shock, wonder and once in a while fear. But no matter the person’s reaction, I always try to give them a big smile and say hello, and most of the time I get a polite greeting back.

I wish everyone could know and understand that Islam is a religion meant to bring peace. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) We are taught to love everyone, especially those who are hard to love. We are taught to be respectful of others’ religions and forbidden to force Islam on anyone, for if someone does not TRULY believe, they cannot be Muslim. Islam was the first religion to declare all people are equal: men and women, black and white, green and purple, Arab, non-Arab, no one is better than another. ONLY by the good deeds one does can he be a better person.

Oh yes, let me address the “oppressed women” thing. Women in Islam are cherished, protected from harm, loved. Women are allowed to have money, own property, have jobs, drive cars, be anything they want to. I wear hijab because, again, I CHOSE to. My husband didn’t force me; he didn’t even ask me to. It was my idea to start covering myself. Let me put it this way: You have two pieces of candy, one in a wrapper and one open. Suddenly someone bumps you, and you drop them both. Which one will you pick up and eat? The covered one, right? Because it is protected. This is women in Islam: protected. It labels me as Muslim, so fellow Muslims recognize me and treat me with respect. And hey, my husband was the only man who respected me enough to “put the ring on it,” so I figure he is the only one who deserves to see me in all my natural, glorious gorgeousness!

I may not know all there is to know about Islam yet, but I have lived with a Muslim for seven years. And yes, you have lived with him and me in your backyard, and we have been quite peaceful. We both have many friends. All we want is to live our lives, worship God and pursue happiness.

Carla Hamadi lives in Vermontville, married to Hicham Hamadi.