I’m sure there are other converts who experience the Naysaying loved ones who take jabs at your religion when you’re down. Many of our families are not supportive of the struggles to wear hijab, career changes where you don’t compromise your faith, even process of getting married without the whole dating and cohabitating for years thing. Basically by becoming Muslim, they question your judgment. Even if it is not explicit, their implicit disapproval for your religion can be seen in their skeptical response to even your happiest moments. Then their doubts and concerns about your lifestyle commitments become more explicit when life gets rocky. If you are not a happy smiling Muslim, well the problem is your religion. Talking to non-Muslim friends and family members about problems can open you up for critiques about Islam. I’ve heard things from non-Muslim family members such as, “Well, your prayers aren’t working for you” or “Well, what have the Muslims done for you?” or “Maybe this religion isn’t for you.” These statements are not something you want to hear when you are looking for consolation or going through lonely times. Even though the Shaolin monks could kick some butt, you’re supposed to maintain a zen like calm under whatever threats because any human failings such as losing your temper under pressure are blown up to signs of hypocrisy. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I stick to myself, especially as I struggle to gain footing in Philadelphia, to reset my career path, try to make sense out of the ins and outs of this new life.
Those who were born into practicing Muslim families may not experience the occasional bouts of Islam bashing from their families. In general, their families will support decisions to be Muslim. Nor will their families take shots at their religiosity during those hard times. Maybe not from their practicing parents, but perhaps from their non-practicing siblings or other relatives who are not Muslim. But that critique is something that really hurts when it comes from a parent. That family disconnect is what makes the situation of converts alienating. I think that’s why we cling to the ideals of the ummah, feel even more hurt when excluded from particular communities. We have not broken family ties, but we have become the “Other” amongst the people who know us best. I’m not saying I have been persecuted for converting. However it still is an unknown factor, an oddity that they are not entirely comfortable with. I did lose a lot of friends in my spiritual journey and extended family situations can be awkward, especially in the past few years when I began practicing outwardly again. I have learned that over the years I have to tolerate ignorant comments about the Muslim world, about politics, I have to take the pot shots and the jokes in stride just to keep the peace. But on an emotional level, when you are looking for someone who has your best interest at heart, you realize that your relatives and friends are no Abu Talib, and that really hurts. There is an increased pressure to make life appear picture perfect or at least not share my ups and downs with others because my lows can be another indictment against my faith, let alone my decision to practice it with sincerity.