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I want to do a quick post about Muslim converts and how we’re sometimes treated. I apologize in advance if it’s kind of a rant. 🙂
There are a few things I really dislike about the way some Muslims treat Muslim converts. Grrrr. Oh, and the way we talk about converts generally starting with…
The Word “Revert”
I get it. Since we’re all born muslim (deliberate small “m”), when we accept Islam, we are really just “reverting” back to our natural state. Except not really!
There is a difference when you consciously embrace Islam and become a Muslim, not just a muslim. But even if describing the process of “reverting” made sense to me, using the word “revert” still wouldn’t.
So many times, people have to ask, “What’s a revert?”
Other times, they take the meaning of the world literally. The other day there was a debate over whether or not a large number of prison “reverts” indicated Muslims were committing a lot of crimes and then shoring up their ties to Islam in prison! No! Jeez. Think of the implications!
In reality, non-Muslims are converting, possibly getting a fresh start in life. I seriously doubt there would have been this confusion about what’s going on if the author had just used “convert” instead of “revert.” Why introduce unnecessary ambiguity?
If we just use the word “convert,” you know what? It’s crystal clear.
Can we strike the word “revert” from our lexicon? Now. Pretty please?!?
“Born Muslim” Supremacy
On a debate forum, someone said Islam is a supremacist “ideology,” and the other party to the debate said it can’t be because anyone can join. I thought that was a great point! Supremacist groups exclude people like the Nazis would Jews and the KKK would blacks.
Everyone is welcome in Islam. Awesome. But even though Islam doesn’t exclude people, some Muslims do.
If you are a convert, you are always suspect, and what you say will be discounted or dismissed. There is no way you can become a “born Muslim.” It’s an exclusive club!
It happens to me on Disqus. It’s made very clear that I will ALWAYS be a second class Muslim in the minds of some, and what I actually do or say cannot change the status.
Not even a respected scholar like Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad can escape this stigma in the minds of such critics! I posted something about him, and was told his view was dismissed “precisely because he is a revert.” Is that really fair criteria?
Not only is this unfair, I think it’s illogical. I know “born Muslims” who barely know anything about Islam! They were from nominal families, and they didn’t learn much. Or worse, what they did learn is actually wrong!
This can happen when their own parents mix culture with religion and confuse their kids so they are not even starting with a clean slate, but a bunch of wrong things they have to “unlearn.” I’ve seen it, but hey, these kids are still “born Muslims,” so they will always rank above me!
Of course, if someone grows up from birth in an observant, righteous Muslim family learning from Day 1, that’s ideal. That is a huge advantage. But merely being a “born Muslim” doesn’t mean anything!
Nevermind making these arguments though. From what I can tell, this sort of prejudice isn’t even dented by reason. For some, the “born Muslim” is always better than the best of the coverts.
Muslim Converts: Evergreen Syndrome
I’ve been a Muslim for a long time now. More than a decade. Yet once someone knows I’m a convert, I suddenly become a “new Muslim” in need of coaching. Well, not always, but often enough!
Like the “born Muslim” prejudice, this one is hard to shake. You just ARE a “new Muslim,” and it’s a condition without a cure!
It reminds me of the movie Talladega Nights, where Ricky Bobby keeps praying to “baby Jesus,” and another person gets tired of it and points out that Jesus wasn’t a baby forever! He grew up! He had a beard! Likewise, we are NOT “new Muslims” forever, people!
Assumptions! Baseless, vexing assumptions!
Sometimes a convert knows a lot, and some have even become well-respected scholars. Well, respected among those who don’t dismiss them “precisely” because they’re “reverts.” Grrrr.
It’s really frustrating when your words are judged NOT on their own merit. When someone pigeonholes you and won’t let you escape some category in their mind.
Of course, this happens with other categories too, like age, race, gender, etc. We all do this! We all see others through categorical lenses, so it’s a matter of degree. But I think we should make a conscious effort to evaluate people’s words fairly.
And anyway, convert issues aside, why not be polite? I really hate being pounced on by other Muslims! Unfortunately, it happens often enough that I find myself becoming shy, thinking maybe it’s better just not to say anything!
Why can’t we debate with one another in the spirit of kindness and mutual respect?
Of course, we can…and I think we should! 🙂