Wednesday, March 20, 2019

On The Project's Waleed Aly and the HAMAS supporting Muslim far right Malay Professional Forum-A compilation

by Ganesh Sahathevan

Waleed Aly at BFM radio station during his recent visit to Malaysia.

The following is a compilation of notes prepared by this writer about the cooperation between Waleed Aly and Susan Carland and , the Muslim far right Malay Professional Forum

From the ABC's Religion Report- Farish Noor and 'creeping sharia'

Statement by Farish Noor:

You mentioned earlier the Muslim Professionals' Forum (MPF), I mean this is basically a lobby group that involves professional Malaysians, but it is a sectarian one in the sense that its membership is exclusive to Muslims. So as we see more and more of these sectarian, communitarian movements appear in both countries, I think the secular civil society is going to become increasingly weakened, if not marginalised.

The MPF's speakers have included Dr Azzam Tamimi who makes no secret of his anti-Israel , pro-Hamas views. Their views are expressed in their own statements and collection of articles on their website that is now available only in archives (see Web Archive links below). The MFP considers Islam under threat in Muslim majority Malaysia, where Islam is enshrined in the Constitution as the official religion.

Waleed Aly and Susan Carland are often quoted by media on matters concerning Islam.

Both have shows that they host on the ABC and SBS.Waleed is of course co-host of Channel Ten's The Project.

The ABC 's Q&A website states ,as part of Susan Carland's resume:

In 2003, she gave the International Women's Day address at Parliament House in Victoria. She has also spoken at Chatham House in London, the Muslim Professionals Forum in Malaysia, and has been a panelist for Issues Deliberation Australia, a public policy think-tank.

In 2007 Carland was keynote speaker at a MPF dinner and talk in Kuala Lumpur.(see full text below).

In 2009 the MPF chose Waleed to represent the Muslim side in an inter-faith forum in Kuala Lumpur.

Neither Waleed nor Susan have explained their work with the MPF.



The Muslim Professional Forum,which recently hosted Monash academics Waleed Aly and Susan Carland ,  has often sought the participation of  Dr Azzam Tamimi in its events.
Dr Azzam Tamimi has said  that standing up for your principles was the 'greatest act of martyrdom'. 
( )

 A specific example of an MPF/ Azzam seminar:


Date : SUNDAY, 19th March 2006
Time : 10.30 am
Direction : Enter through MASJID NEGARA Road.

The day HAMAS won the Palestinian democratic elections, the world's leading democracies failed the acid test of democracy. Rather than recognise the legitimacy of HAMAS as a freely elected representative of the Palestinian people, the US and EU threatened the Palestinian people with collective punishment for exercising their inalienable right.

Come spend your morning with our esteemed guest, Dr. Azzam Tamimi, as he exposes the hypocrisy of the "democratic west" and unravels the web of misconceptions and fallacies about HAMAS.

Born in Hebron, Palestine, Dr. Azzam obtained his PhD. in Political Thought from The University of Westminster in 1998. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Nagoya, Japan.

His in-depth knowledge of the socio-political Middle Eastern affairs is well known and his views are highly sought. His works are widely studied and used as reference materials in tertiary and research institutions around the world. Charismatic and eloquent, his passion almost always leaves his listeners completely enthralled. Having personally experienced the plight of the Palestinians, his commitment to this cause is unquestionable, often forthrightly calling for the dismantling of Zionism just as Apartheid was.

Asnah : 012-21005777
Mimi : 012-3723135
Siti Jamilah : 012-3718518
Secretariat :
Webpage :

See generally : 
For other  examples of Azzam Tamimi's views:
ON BBC Hardtalk:


When the Palestinian human-rights group did a survey of Palestinians and asked them whether they wanted to go home, the overwhelming majority said they didn't and their offices were trashed; the offices of the Palestinian Human-Rights Monitoring Group were trashed as a result of it.   So you don't seem to like any results and Hamas and Islamic Jihad and people like that don't seem to like any results that go against their own orthodoxy do they?


You see that's nonsense.  I as a Palestinian, I know many Palestinians around the world - I know my own family, I know my friends – we all want our homes back.   Even if we live in villas, in palaces, we want our homes.   Nobody has the right to steal our homes from us.  Nobody has the right to bring people from outside and dump them on our land.  Our land is our land.


And for that, continuing violence – that's what Hamas and your friends in Hamas speaks for?


We don't call it 'violence'.  We call it 'legitimate struggle'; we call it 'jihad' ...


Well it doesn't matter what you call it.  It's still murder isn't it?


You see the problem is that you're starting the story right from the end.  Begin from the beginning.  The beginning is when we, the Palestinians were removed from our land ...


But let's deal with the act.  The act is murder isn't it?


It's not murder.

Views on HAMAS:

From: Montreal Muslim News []
Sent: Monday, 3 September 2007 10:26 AM
Subject: [montrealmuslimnews] Tamimi's Hamas; A History From Within - Book Review

Tamimi's  Hamas; A History From Within - Book Review
Jim Miles (Special to
August 29 2007
Azzam Tamimi. Hamas: A History From Within. (Northampton : Olive Branch Press, 2007)

While discussing recent events, Tamimi also discusses more of the philosophical underpinnings of the Hamas movement and the discussion that takes place within Hamas itself concerning its goals and means.

Most of the world knows the superficial history of Hamas as presented by western media, the stories of the suicide bombers, the election results that were argued to be a vote against the PLO/Fatah but not for Hamas, the resulting denial of that democratic vote by all western governments, and most recently, the Hamas takeover of the dysfunctional governance of the Gaza Strip. Azzam Tamimi's book, Hamas; A History From Within, presents a much broader and much more accurate perspective on a group that has had much more significance for the Palestinian people than simply being a militant suicidal terrorist group.
Consistent with the title, Tamimi presents a history that shows Hamas' development from its roots within the Muslim Brotherhood, from its aspects of international cooperation and denial, and from "within"  the development of the ideas, policies, and implementation of ideas that is rarely seen in western media sources. It is not a fawning sycophantic review, as it also reveals the internal struggles within Hamas between the various people and political institutions involved in its history and development, and further reveals the precarious hold it had on survival, a survival that became ensured only with the advent of more serious Israeli atrocities during the first Intifada.
Arguments have been made that Hamas was assisted in its set-up by Israel in order to counter the power of the PLO/Fatah organization. Tamimi is much more nuanced in his discussion of this, arguing more that Israeli ignorance of what Hamas embodied and what it meant to the mostly poorer and refugee Palestinians allowed it to survive without direct complicity. Beginning with Sheikh Yassin in Gaza, and as a reaction to the defeat of pan-Arabic Nasirism after the 1967 war, the Islamic Brotherhood centred their concerns not on militancy, but "primarily on instilling Islamic values and ethics in the hearts and minds of the young." At that time, Israel did not support the Islamic Brotherhood (Ikhwan) but the "occupation authorities did not object to this seemingly benign religious activity."  Tamimi argues, "At this time, the Palestinian Ikhwan"; were concerned principally with the education and training of their members and supporters so as to shield them from what they deemed to be alien and hostile ideologies and sociopolitical trends rescuing] the individual, the family, and the community as a whole from the onslaught of Western ideas, whether liberal or Marxist." An Islamic education and revival of Islamic society, and not militant terrorism, were the initial forces behind Ikhwan activities.
Following from that, and with full evidence over the years, the Ikhwan, focussed mainly on students and young people, focussed on providing social, recreational, and educational services. Again, "The Israelis did not see this association [the Islamic Society] as any kind of threat, and granted the Ikhwan a license for its establishment."  The activities of the society "included sports, recreational trips, scouting activities, and public lectures on religious and social issues." 
There is certainly room to spin these developments into that of Israeli subterfuge against the PLO, and more than likely within the broad spectrum of opinion that is usual in all possible political motivations that view could arise within some individuals, but Tamimi's overall historical development indicates, as above, that Israel simply saw it as no threat to themselves at that time. Likewise, within the Ikhwan, would be individuals that were more militantly oriented than others, but the fundamental appears solid and well argued, that education and social services were the primary goal of the original Ikhwan set-up. This led to the development of mosques, schools, kindergartens, universities, day-care, medical clinics, hospitals, and other social organizations. These organizations obviously greatly benefited the poor and the refugees within the West Bank and Gaza; in contrast, the PLO/Fatah, as evidenced in this work and other recent histories, became more concerned about supporting their own internal structures and maintaining their power and predominance politically and economically over the Palestinian territories.
As history from "within" Tamimi concentrates most of his presentation on the personalities and politicians that influenced the development of the Ikhwan into what became known as Hamas. Sheikh Ahmad Yassin was the foremost among them, a spiritual and moral leader who oversaw the major developments of the group, and who served as spiritual leader in absentia during his many years in Israeli prisons. Other less familiar names play major roles in the many developments both for and against Hamas, Khalid Mishal, Abu Marzuq, Samih al-Battikhi, Ibrahim Ghosheh, Isma'il Haniyah, Jordan's King Abdullah, and many others illustrate the political turmoil that Hamas experienced over the years. The international role played "within" Hamas is also reviewed, with its on and off relationship with what I could only label as the conspiratorial monarchy of Jordan significantly displayed.
Hamas' relationships with other Arab states, many of which appeared self-serving for the Arab states, is well outlined, with the ultimate support coming with the release of Sheikh Yassin in 1997 after the disastrous (for the Jordanians) botched Mishal assassination attempt. Yassin's Arabic tour the next year demonstrated high level political support from his Arab neighbours (except those overly influenced by his political rival Arafat) as well as the continuing strong support from the Arab populations. This support came from "the movement& amp;rsquo;s steadfastness in recent years in the face of an American-led global campaign against it. In the face of would-be crushing blows, Hamas had refused to modify its stance in the slightest towards compliance."  In Palestine, Hamas leaders were noted for "ascetism, altruism, dedication, and honesty," for living with and among the people as they always had, as "no one joins Hamas to make money or has become rich by virtue of their position within it".  Finally, donors were aware that only a small fraction of the money raised by Hamas would be used for military purposes."  This stands in contrast to the PLO/Fatah activities. The internal relationship of Hamas with the PLO/Fatah becomes more intense as events progress, the comparison between the two also drawing significant support towards Hamas. Tamimi, as with other recent Palestinian histories [1] is quite direct in his criticism of the PLO/Fatah who dominated the Palestinian Authority whose "officials were seen to be paid unreasonably high sums" as well as being employed "in the expanding security services, whose task was to control the occupied Palestinians on behalf of Israel."
 This "vast bureaucracy" secured the loyalty of its employees "and served to increase the disparity of economic means between Palestinians."   Fatah suffered from "a plague of rampant corruption"  and was "wracked by corrosive rivalries that sickened many Palestinians."
 The transition from being a section of the Islamic Brotherhood, the Ikhwan, into Hamas began before the start of the first Intifada. Internal discussion had taken place about armed resistance, with the Ikhwan maintaining that building the Islamic individual and community were paramount. From these discussions developed the movement towards protest actions, and a more militant viewpoint that found expression with the Intifada, dated as of December 8, 1987. The Intifada "was a gift from heaven" for Hamas, with the PLO and Israel being caught off guard. The Israelis misjudged it in two aspects: that it was "Merely an expression of anger that would abate in a day or two" and they "were not sure who was orchestrating the unrest."
 The results of the Intifada were counterproductive for Israel as they "were oblivious to the fact the whenever they hit Hamas, and no matter how hard they hit it, they only earned it further popular sympathy and support."  With the PLO leaders at this time still encamped in Tunis, it was these actions that Tamimi credits "to the emergence of Hamas as a credible alternative to the PLO."          
 Through all this the Hamas military wing developed, the al-Qassam Brigades, "a product of the intifada itself."  With their organization involving an "inside" and "outside" leadership, and the recognition that Israel would try to decapitate that leadership, "Hamas "seemed to make gains out of its losses."
From that time, Hamas history became public, with the western media emphasizing the Islamic militancy of the al-Qassam Brigade above the overall Hamas political set-up. From that, as is well known, Hamas has been declared a terrorist organization by many countries even though it is much more similar to all other insurgencies worldwide against foreign occupation. [2]
Eventually, through all the intervening activities, Tamimi summarizes, "From Israel's unconditional and unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon to its unconditional and unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, it was Hamas that reaped the benefits and emerged victorious despite the losses. The failure of peace negotiations, whether the Oslo Accords, the road map, or Sharon's disengagement policy, seemed in the eyes of many Palestinians to vindicate Hamas's approach." 
History then takes the story in a new direction as Hamas buys into the political process. This part of the story is much better known to the west, albeit similarly biased in its presentation of Hamas as a terrorist group. Although winning a clear majority of the Palestinian legislative seats, an accomplishment that Tamimi sees not as a vote against the PLO as "in reality, only a fraction of the votes cast was made up of protest votes," the election was universally disallowed and has resulted in ongoing internal division within the Palestinian territories, with now PLO leader Abbas being the current Israeli/American "man of peace" while being derided alternately as another PLO pawn in their hands.  The PLO, Israel, America and the west in general have done as much as possible to discredit and destroy the Hamas political success.
While discussing these recent events, Tamimi also discusses more of the philosophical underpinnings of the Hamas movement and the discussion that takes place within Hamas itself concerning its goals and means. The Hamas charter "reads more like an internal circular" and there is ongoing discussion about writing a new charter. In Appendix II, Tamimi presents a memo prepared by the Hamas Political Bureau in 2000 that is a much more nuanced document, and it still calls for "naturally - the liberation of Palestine, and supports its right to military resistance (as a right determined under international law as well). In the chapter "The Liberation Ideology of Hamas"  Tamimi develops these internal discussion as well as adding more definition to other ideas presented in passing in western media.
The idea of "hudna" or truce receives strong coverage (including previous statements that only Hamas had ever initiated and maintained a unilateral truce during the various conflicts), as well as "tahdi'" or calming, a temporary "hudna."  The result of these truces however was that "Israel's refusal to reciprocate led many Palestinians to lose confidence in the usefulness of declaring a unilateral truce."
 The concept of suicide and suicide bombing within the Islamic context as well as within western perception is discussed, along with the related Islamic discussions of jihad and its subordinate positions "qital" and martyrdom.
For those in the west who truly want to understand Hamas, Hamas  A History From Within should be required reading (along with those mentioned in the footnotes). It is clearly written, presents well structured arguments and while it is a history, it is much more than dates, names, and events, but a running discussion of the changes in ideas and organizational structures within Hamas.
Although the Israelis and Americans use their own "terrorist theology" to denounce Hamas the reality as seen by the Palestinians is one of colonial occupation and subjugation with the intent, ultimately, of Israeli hegemony over the Palestinian territories as well as the greater Middle East, supported in full by American commercial/military interests. Azzam Tamimi has presented a highly informative work, one that provides a significant new perspective for the west on what is occurring in Palestine and the Middle East.
[1] see in particular Between the Lines, by Honig-Parnass and Haddad, Haymarket Books, 2007, and The Palestinian Hamas by Mishal and Sela, Columbia University Press, 2006. While they all direct criticism at the PLO/Fatah, they also recognize the contributions made towards recognition of the Palestinian situation internationally and the powerful unifying symbolism of Arafat, particularly when he defied Israel at the end of his time in Ramallah.
[2] Nor did Hamas originate suicide bombings of civilians. Yes, that is terror, but it is also an ‘asy mmetrical’ response to massive oppression endured under occupation and the terror that devolves from Israeli and American military actions against Palestinian civilians. For a reasoned discussion on suicide bombing, see Dying To Win, by Robert Pape, Random House, 2005.-Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicle. His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government.



Muslim Women in the Midst of Change related articles:










































Friday 20/8/2004

Monday 2/8/2004

Sunday 31/7/2004
The Darfur Issue
  1. Dr. Mazeni
  2. Dr. Fauzi
  3. Dr. Musa
  4. Dr. Azhar
  5. Dr. Fauzi
  6. Dr. Mazeni
  7. Ainullotfi
  8. Islam Online Live Dialogue: Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur - An Eyewitness Account
    Click here to visit the link

Sunday May 9th 2004


1st SEPTEMBER 2007
8.00 – 10.30 PM
By Susan Carland, Australia
"… her presentation will tackle some of the most important issues in da`wah and Muslim community work today such as the often blurred relationship between Islam and culture, struggles over identity, the handling of non-Muslim sensitivities, and the issues and behaviours that see converts to Islam leaving the faith again in alarmingly high numbers. Reflecting often on her own experiences, Susan will present ideas for making converts to Islam feel more welcome in the ummah as well as illustrating their valuable da'wah potential
Susan Carland


The story of my conversion to Islam isn't overly thrilling. There was no wave that washed me to shore and saved my life after a heartfelt plea to an unknown God, like there was with Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens. There was no bolt of lightning, no booming voice. Instead, there was just years of questioning, soul-searching and investigation as a teenager that led me to embrace Islam at 19. And contrary to popular belief, I didn't become Muslim for a man.

To my knowledge, there are no other Muslims in my family tree; my family first came to Australia hundreds of years ago as convicts with the early British fleets.  I was raised in a relaxed Christian household and I went to church Sunday school regularly up to the age of 12, at which point I was allowed to choose whether I continued to attend or not. At 13, I was excited at the prospect of sleeping in on Sundays and watching music videos, and so gave away attending church with my parents. I still adamantly believed in God, but found the church I attended somewhat dull.   Even so, throughout high school, I was acutely aware of my belief in God. I remember feeling that this separated me from my classmates, most of whom proudly declared themselves to be atheist, without really knowing what this meant. For them, it was just another cool way to shun authority.

I started to attend a local charismatic church in an attempt to find God in a more funky, youth-friendly environment. The people there were lovely, sincere, welcoming people, but my questioning just increased. Did I believe what I did because I honestly thought it was true, or just because it was what I'd been raised to believe? I started to wonder about other religions, however, Islam was the last religion I was interested in. In fact, up until the age of 17, the only thing I knew, or thought I knew about Islam was the film 'Not Without My Daughter', a movie about an American woman married to an Iranian man who shows his true colours by turning into a crazy misogynist once they return to his homeland. I believed Islam to be a barbaric, sexist, violent religion that worshipped some strange pagan god, and was not interested in it in the slightest.   I remember seeing a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf walking down the street, a smile on her face as she happily swung her shopping bags. "The poor thing", I thought. "Her cruel husband must make her dress like that. How awful!"

It was around this time, when I was 17, that I decided to take a break from the church. It wasn't so much that I was turning my back on Christianity, it was that I felt I needed to sort out what I believed for myself- I needed to find out what I felt was an objective truth, and not one tied up in feelings for my family and the wonderful friends I had made in church. All I knew was that I believed in God, whole-heartedly and desperately, and wanted to be with Him, where ever He was. Maybe God was in every religion, maybe He was in none. I wanted to seek Him out for myself, as He seemed elusive and close at the same time. I made it my New Year's Resolution to investigate other religions.

Despite my adamant disinterest in Islam, I seemed to keep stumbling upon it. I'd turn on the TV in the middle of the night in a fit of insomnia and find myself watching a program on Muslims. I'd turn the page of a magazine and come across an article on Islam. Some of the depictions were positive, stimulating and uplifting, others just reinforced what I had already heard, with a bit more negativity thrown in for good measure.

But my interest had been aroused. By now I was in university, and felt a greater freedom to really think about things for myself, and not be as concerned with what my peers thought, like I did in high school. I felt the sense of intellectual liberation that I needed to properly investigate such a weighty matter. I started going to Muslim internet chat rooms and nervously asked questions. Through this, I was put in contact with some of the Muslim women who were studying at my university who patiently answered my questions and let me tag along. By this stage I was reading whatever I could get my hands on about Islam. When I was supposed to be studying for my end of year university exams, I instead read my way through Riyadh us Saliheen. In spite of myself, I was hooked.

And I found that contrary to what I thought I knew about Islam, when I let the religion speak for itself through its traditions, scholars and holy text, as opposed to taking the words of tabloid journalists or appallingly behaving Muslims, I found a faith that was peaceful, egalitarian, socially just, and with a beautiful balance of the spiritual and the intellectual. In fact, Islam seemed to emphasise that an intellectual pursuit of God was a valid path of the devoted. Naturally, as a Western woman, the matter of women's place in Islam was of great importance to me. After all, Muslim women are often viewed with suspicion, hostility, pity and down-right contempt in the West- was I ready to take that on? And what about the hijab? Was that really something I even wanted to wear? On and on I read. I also started speaking to more and more Muslim women, especially converts about these issues, as I figured that, moreso than books, they were the ones who could best tell me about the lived experiences of Muslim women and how they grappled with these significant issues.  

The more I learned about Islam, that more I realised how much it appealed to me on so many levels. But I was frightened. I knew my family wouldn't be happy if I became a Muslim, especially my mum, and I didn't relish the reactions of my friends.   I was also scared because I wondered if it were really true. What if it wasn't, and becoming Muslim would displease God? These may sound like insignificant issues now, but at the time, it was agonising. All I wanted to do was the right thing, but how could I be sure of what that was? I felt caught in a painful and lonely place. And yet, with each passing day, I realised more and more that I believed in Islam, however fear of others had me in a spiritual paralysis.

Eventually it reached the stage that I knew I was living my life for what others thought, and this was something I couldn't do anymore. I felt I'd reached a place where all my most pressing questions had been answered and that whatever hadn't yet been sorted wasn't of the faith-shaking variety. There was no one moment of truth, where everything just snapped into place. Instead, it was more of a truth slowly uncoiling before me, and a realisation gently unfolding inside me. In many ways, it felt like my whole life had been leading up until that point, and looking back over the past 19 years, I saw many markers that had been prodding me in this direction without me even being aware of it.

 I believed Islam to be true and I wanted to be a Muslim. I felt like a hypocrite and couldn't stand it anymore. I knew that I was really ready to take such a big leap of faith when I realised that even if my family kicked me out of home, my friends all dumped me, and I lost my job for wearing the hijab, I still wanted to convert. It was then that I knew I truly believed, as I knew I was prepared to lose everything to become Muslim. This isn't meant to sound self aggrandizing; it is simply meant to illustrate that this was the point I had to reach within myself before I knew for sure I was doing the right thing.

And so at 19 I became Muslim. I said my shahada over the phone to a convert friend, still unaware of even how to perform the salat properly. My mum cried when I told her, and things were extremely tense in our house for quite some time after that. I eventually had to move out of home, but I am happy to say that over time, things have healed beautifully between me and my family, and especially my mum, who now buys me headscarves as presents and sends me gifts for Eid.

I thought at the time that making the decision to convert was the hard part, and that once I became Muslim, everything would be smooth sailing. However, I realise now that the process of converting was simply the first step in a long journey of joys and frustrations, elation and tears. I can honestly say that I do not regret becoming Muslim at all, but there have been times when I've lamented my membership in the Muslim community. While I can truly say that the most inspiring, admirable people I have ever met are some of the Muslims in my local community and that many of the Muslims I have met have been kind, wonderful people, the very embodiment of what a true Muslim should be, I must also say that, at times, I have found the Muslim community towards converts to also be judgemental, scathing, self-serving and far from the welcoming, nurturing community I had been promised. I say this not as a general sort of complaint, but more as one coming from a convert aware of the ramifications that this can have, and as one that has heard similar reports echoed again and again from other Western converts of their experiences within the community. A number of Western convert writers have written extensively on this very topic, such as Dr Jeffrey Lang and J. Lynn Jones. And while my presentation will focus mainly on the experiences of Western converts, anecdotal evidence suggests that at least some of this reality is also experienced by converts who live in predominantly Muslim countries as well.

Please allow me to reiterate once again that this is not intended to be a big, pointless whine, nor is it meant to be an attack on the ummah at large as utterly useless, maybe even damaging, when it comes to the treatment of converts. I believe the vast majority, if not all Muslims genuinely like and want to help converts but are either unsure of what to do, or are unaware that what they are doing maybe causing problems for the convert. Nor am I saying that all converts, Western or otherwise, will experience the issues I am about to discuss. Instead, I am addressing this because the lack of support and negative experiences many converts report experiencing in both the West and traditionally Muslim countries can and has led to very sad outcomes, including converts completely withdrawing from the community, and even leaving Islam all together. As Jeffrey Lang says in his book "Losing my religion", "At least half of the American converts I have known ultimately apostatized and the greater part of those that haven't, keep away from the community today." [1] 

It is also important to address this issue because converts to Islam have the potential to be an amazing asset to the ummah, as they have an insight into both the Muslim and non-Muslim spheres. The impact this insight has ondawah cannot be underestimated. And when I refer to dawah, I am not merely talking about teaching others about Islam in the hope that they themselves convert. Indeed, in Australia, I believe the most important form of dawah we can be doing at the moment is simply showing the wider Australian community that Muslim men are not all terrorists and that Muslim women are not all oppressed slaves. That is, we simply need to show the non-Muslim Australian community our humanity. This form of dawah, the humanising, bridge-building dawah, is far more critical in countries like Australia, and I would argue other Western countries, at this stage than other any approach. People are not particularly receptive to your message of one God if they truly believe you want to kill them and their children. Converts also have a unique understanding of the real issues and concerns non-Muslims often have about Islam as they are often the very same concerns they themselves had before they became Muslim. They know the symbolism certain things can have to non-Muslims, especially if they are from the same cultural group that born Muslims are sometimes completely unaware of.

So what is the problem? Why are many converts reporting such difficulties within the Muslim community? It is unlikely that all these people leave Islam because they were never really convinced about it in the first place. For the majority of converts, the decision to embrace Islam is a very profound one that they take incredibly seriously and at great personal expense to their relationships with family, friends and colleagues. And for many converts, it is also not a snap decision to become Muslim, but instead something that they have given serious thought to for quite some time. Yes, we all know about the brother or sister who read a verse of Qu'ran recited and embraced Islam on the spot, Sayidduna Umar, RA, being a prime example, but more often than not, it is a choice that is made after much deliberation. Thus, it is unlikely that these converts are leaving Islam again simply because they hadn't properly thought about the decision before doing so.

And considering how genuinely enthusiastic and happy for the convert most born Muslims seem to be when they see them take their shahada, it also seems somewhat baffling that these same converts would later report feelings of isolation and even exclusion from the Muslim community. And yet they do.

But before we look more closely at some of the challenges facing converts to Islam today and why this seems to be the case, let us have a look at the snapshot of the typical Western convert to Islam as categorised by  Lang. This is by no means a definitive list, nor will every convert exhibit all of these traits. Remember that converts come from myriad different educational levels, ethnicities, religions, traditions and socioeconomic backgrounds. They adopt Islam for a multiplicity of reasons from belief in the One God, to gaining a sense of spirituality, to be part of a community and so on, so it is impossible to completely generalise these characteristics to all converts, or the issues they face about conversion. However, I believe Lang's categorisation to be a reasonable attempt at classifying the many readily identifiable traits Western converts exhibit. About converts, Lang says:
"They are relatively young, between the ages of twenty five and forty. Idealistic. Self-sacrificing. Non-conformist. Periodically reclusive. Prefers the company of society's disenfranchised. Nonmaterialistic to ascetic in nature. An activist. Liberal to radical politically. College educated. Capable of sudden drastic changes in viewpoints. Very curious. Highly opinionated. Stubborn. Argumentative. Confident. Contemplative. Tends towards rationalism as opposed to spiritualism in religion. Critical of others. Loyal to overzealous in commitments." [2]

The problem is that some of these traits can work against an individual upon entering the Muslim community. For example, the perceived rampant sexism amongst Muslims is often in conflict with their liberal Western outlook, especially as many female (and some male) converts were feminists before converting. Also, the very questioning nature that brought these converts to Islam in the first place is often discouraged if not blatantly chastised once they become Muslim, as they are now seen as challenging practices and beliefs that many Muslims hold as divinely ordained.

Whilst there are numerous issues raised by converts as to the problems and disappointments they have faced within the community since becoming Muslim, there appear to be recurring themes that are raised again and again, both anecdotally and in published works. I have grouped these recurrent themes under the main headings of Unreasonable PressuresLack of Adequate Support, and Perception of Converts.

Unreasonable pressures
There seems to be a real problem within our community of insisting that converts turn into overnight sahaba . It is for this reason that myself, many of my convert friends, and converts who have written about this topic will often give examples of the last words of their shahada barely leaving their lips when they are bombarded with rules from the nearby Muslims that they must now adhere to. Never mind that the sister doesn't know how to pray, she is told she must get rid of all her old clothing, because it is too Western and thus unIslamic, and put on the hijab immediately. Or better yet, the niqab. Don't worry that our new brother Mike has only been Muslim for three minutes. He's already been told he has to throw out all his music and get rid of his dog or he is committing a big sin. Other common instantaneous orders include:

         telling them they must leave their 'haram' job immediately. Such orders can be given even when the convert has no other source of income, they are a single parent, the 'haramness' of their job is questionable anyway, and when they're not being offered any practical alternatives. A similar approach is often taken with the new converts hobbies and past times, including photography, painting, dancing, and playing instruments- even classical ones.
         Telling them to cut ties with their 'kaffir' families and preferably move out, because their families have wine with their dinner, for example. Also, they need to cut ties with their non-Muslim friends.
         If they are already married, especially if they are a woman, that they must divorce their spouse immediately
         If they are a male, that they need to be circumcised.
         Pushing them, especially convert women, into getting married as soon as possible.

And the list goes on. Such demands are not only unreasonable, they are dangerous. We often expect brand new converts to start behaving in ways that we may have taken years to be able to do, or perhaps don't even manage ourselves. We push them to do (or not do) things that scholars have been disagreeing about for centuries, and thus make things unnecessarily hard for them. By expecting too much of them, too soon, the beauty of the religion that attracted them can very quickly become a terrible burden that is simply too much to be endured. By failing to recognise the enormity of what they are going through, and appropriately prioritising what is reasonable for them to achieve, we are causing them to drown in a sea of non-obligatory or non-urgent matters. After their shahada, prayer is the first thing they should be worrying about. Not their nail polish or the   pictures on their walls.

We also often unreasonably expect them to give up their culture and take on Arab, Subcontinental, Malay or a host of other cultures in the mistaken belief that this is somehow more 'Islamic' than the original culture of the convert. Thus, brother Richard is told he must change his name to Riyadh and sister Sarah is told she should be now wearing shalwar kameez.

Perception of converts
As a community, we seem to have a somewhat schizophrenic attitude towards converts.
On the one hand, we like them because they make us feel good about ourselves and our faith. We love converts because in many respects they help us buttress our own iman and affirm our own belief. After centuries of Western domination in political, social and economic spheres the fact that a Westerner leaves his or her religion for ours verifies for many of us the 'Truth' of Islam. Western converts help boost our moral and as such are often seen as 'trophies' for many of us.

And yet on the other hand, they are often made to feel that they are never 'full' Muslims, that no matter how long they have been Muslim, they are still somehow inferior to born Muslims, in practice or knowledge. I know of a sister who has been Muslim for more than twenty years. She has travelled the world giving lectures on Islam and written numerous important texts on the topic, and is extremely well known. And yet even today, she is still stopped by born Muslims and asked if she is aware that Islam is based on 5 pillars! This is not uncommon. I have been asked to recite verses from the Qu'ran to prove I was really Muslim, as the people I was with couldn't believe that I really knew enough to pray. This was after I had been a practicing Muslim for years. Such encounters are degrading and condescending. How would anyone here feel if I asked them to recite some Qu'ran for me to prove their Muslim-ness, or if I informed them that Islam was based on 5 pillars because I assumed that they simply couldn't be aware of this. Obviously, it would be quite insulting . And yet converts as a group report being overly corrected, even on matters that do not require correction, by born Muslims over every little detail, no matter how long they have been Muslim, no matter what their level of knowledge, and irrespective of the level of knowledge or practice of the born Muslim insistent on 'educating' them. As one convert asked me, "When do I stop being seen as the convert, and start being seen as a Muslim?"

The other predominant perception we seem to have towards converts in the West is highly unflattering, and that is that all Westerners have loose morals and led lives of debauchery and impropriety before embracing Islam. Aside from being quite offensive, it is also simply untrue. While, yes, there may have been some converts who led a rather rock-star existence before taking shahada, many of them already had a strong moral compass which governed their behaviour pre-Islam and in fact facilitated their embracing of the religion in the first place. Such an assumption can then also lead to negative judgements about why they converted in the first place. I know of a convert woman in Australia who, upon entering the mosque for the first time to take her shahada, was bluntly interrogated by one of the sisters there, "So, which of our brothers are you doing this to marry, then?". When you consider what so many converts have gone through to embrace Islam, such a crude suspicion is understandably extremely offensive and hurtful.

Lack of adequate support
Lastly, there seems to be a real lack of adequate support in place for converts to Islam. One of the biggest concerns for converts is the reaction of their family and friends , and it is sadly common that they face the very real threat of having to move out of home upon telling their family about their new faith. They often also fear how they may be treated at work, especially women who wear the hijab. It seems to be quite common to respond to converts very real fears about such matters by telling them they just need to have iman and that they need to choose between Allah and their current situation. Such comments, while no doubt well meaning, are entirely unhelpful if that is all that is offered and gives the convert little more than a case of guilt to take away with them. Offering practical help, as well as validating the concerns that the converts have, and offering alternatives, is very important. Often, all that is needed is a sympathetic ear.

Not only do we not really have many formal structures in place to help them should they find themselves on the street, but we also do not have adequate emotional support in place. Converts often tell of how excited everyone was when they first took their shahada at the mosque, but how quickly those same people disappeared in the weeks and months following their conversion. Often, they said, this was the time when they most needed assistance.

Often, converts' complaints of unpleasant treatment by the Muslim community happens at the one place where they hoped they would be welcomed and accepted- the mosque. This is not a scenario unique to the Western convert experience. A good friend of mine is Chinese Malay; his father is a convert to Islam. When his father went to the main mosque here in Malaysia and told the people there that he wanted to come in and take his shahada, they refused to even let him in the door and told him he had to leave. Convert writers such as J Lynn Jones have spent quite a bit of time covering the often unfriendly, even non-existent reception that converts often receive at the mosque, especially women. Convert women report being shouted out, criticised, and worse, simply ignored   by both other women and men, the first time they nervously entered the mosque. Often they report leaving in tears.

The ramifications of mosque inclusiveness is paramount, as Jones says,
"Not only are an unknown number of new and potentially new Muslims (of which the majority are women) turned off Islam because of the chilly or non-existent reception they receive at the mosque, but, in not providing a place of welcome or inclusion, these women are routinely denied of the only place in a non-Muslim society where they can get any support and sense of belonging. When you consider the fact, in the majority of cases, convert women are the first souls out of literally thousands of ancestors to embrace Islam, this is injustice and short-sightedness in the extreme. The simple fact is, the mosque is often the only island of safety and belonging a woman can find. If she is unmarried and isolated, where else can she feel a sense of community and support in the difficult path she has chosen? And if she is married and a mother, where else can she take her children to show them they are a part of something big and vibrant, that Islam and a devotion to God is not just something practiced in isolation, but among thousands of others just like them?" [3]

I believe we needed to be looking at conversion as an act of hijra, or migration for the faith. Indeed, converts are making hijra from being lost to guidance, from jahilliya to hidaya. And this is a profound process.   So what is the best way to help them with this process? I believe the answer can be found in the sunnah. For the first category of unreasonable expectations of converts, we can look to how Allah revealed Islam.   Allah SWT in His divine wisdom did not send the whole religion down on one day. Instead the complete message of Islam was reveled gradually over a period of 23 years. The prophet taught almost nothing but tawhid for 13 years.   Alcohol was not banned all at once, but over three stages and several years. So why do we expect new Muslims to be fully practising Muslims as soon as they convert? As a rahma, Allah did not expect the companions of the Prophet SAW, who were the best of generations, to change everything overnight, so how much more so would this mercy extend to converts today?

We have to ask ourselves if a new Muslim is struggling with their five daily prayers, should we really be emphasising him or her to use a miswak instead of a toothbrush? Or telling someone to eat with their hands instead of using a fork?
It is also baffling that we expect a cultural conversion to go hand-in-hand with the new Muslim's religious conversion when we have a clear example to the contrary in the Prophet Muhammad SAW. Bilal the Ethopian and Salman the Persian kept their pre-Islamic names with the blessing of the prophet (S). The only record we have of him ordering a convert to change their name was when it meant something blatantly unislamic, such as Abdul Messih.

 Telling a convert they must change their name really hits at the heart of their identity and self. Also think of the ramifications of this convert then telling their parents, who are likely to be struggling with their child's decision to convert that the name they thoughtfully picked out for the birth of their child has been replaced. Of course, there are converts who actively wish to take on a new name upon their conversion, and see it as symbolic of the new start in their life, however there is a big difference between someone doing this through self-determination and someone being made to feel that they must.
There is also no religious imperative for a man to now start wearing Pakistani clothing, or only eat Arab food, or for a woman to dress like a Syrian or have a wedding that goes for 5 days. Again, if this is something the convert wants to do, by all means, carry on. But when they are being mistakenly told that doing so is somehow 'Islamic', and that their old culture is 'unislamic' is where the problem lays, and also lead to a feeling of being in a cultural no man's land, where they no longer feel they can be part of their old culture, and yet their new culture seems foreign.

In terms of our perceptions of converts as perpetually ignorant or forever of a less enlightened level of Islam than their born Muslim brothers and sisters, let us remember the best of generations, the companions of the prophet. The vast majority of these people were all converts, and contained such spiritual giants as Abu Bakr as Siddiq, RA, Umar ibn al Khattab RA and Khadija, RA.

So, what can we do, practically?

        Show that there are more than one way of doing something and that's okay. There are differences of opinion in Islam and often there are two or even more ways of doing things and both maybe correct
  • Offer support programs or mentoring programs with other Muslim converts on how to deal with family and social issues
  • Avoid emphasising unnecessary practices too early on, such as marriage or even hijab. Putting too much pressure on converts can lead them to give up and leave Islam all together. Remember, it is better to be a weakly practicing Muslim with the intention to take on more in the future than no Muslim at all.
  • Offer them a staged and supportive system to lead them carefully from one stage to the next in the adoption of new practices and understanding
  • Constant reassurance and friendship to help mitigate against the often antagonistic friends and family they have to leave behind in the process. This should include practical assistance in these areas, too. For example, in Sydney, an organisation has been started that even provides free temporary accommodation for converts no longer able to live at home. They achieved this through fund-raising and actually managed to purchase a house just for this purpose. When the house is not being used for emergency accommodation, it acts as a drop-in centre for converts and people interested in Islam to come and receive advice, assistance and friendship.
  • Spiritual discussions – as this is often the most important part of their new life – a genuine and sensible spiritual faith to inspire and assist them
  • Acceptance and recognition of their own culture and background
  • Programs for born Muslims on how to deal with converts and new Muslims. Most Muslims genuinely like and want to help converts but are either unsure of what to do, or are unaware that what they are doing maybe causing problems for the convert.
  • Have induction programs for new Muslims on how to negotiate the Muslim community

Converts are crucial to the development of an indigenous Islam that is conducive to the Western context. They have cultural capital of the societies in which they live, access to a broad network of family and friends and the ability to bring the message to people that would not have normally mixed or come into contact with Muslims.

Not only do they offer important dawah potential, but they are our brothers and sisters in Islam, and for that reason alone deserve our support, assistance and respect.

[1]    P 356
[2]    'even angels ask' p 93
[3]    Jones, p 9

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