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Sunday, April 4, 2010

New Shahaadah Interview: Leanne


In Muslimah2Muslimah's experience of reverts to Islam, we think the transitions of one's thoughts, opinions, and behavior, in fact a whole transformation of one's perspective in life is very interesting.

The negative image presented about Islam since 9-11 here in the states has really given Islam a bad name due to the media as well as people's lack of understanding. The stereotypes about the treatment of women has been rampant in the media for many years with the Taliban and other "extremist" groups. We thought it would be interesting to interview Leanne, who in the midst of all propaganda has warmly embraced Islam and get her Muslimah's Perspective on Islam...




Muslimah2Muslimah: What is your name?

Leanne Dillard


Muslimah2Muslimah: What made you become interested in Islam?

Leanne: I never really thought about Islam a lot, even after 9/11 ( I was only 16 and at that age who really cares about global politics). Then when I meet my future husband, he spoke about it a little but was not really religious and then after we got married, he decided to following Islam more closely, mashallah and of course I began to ask questions because I have always been really interested in other cultures/religions and he gave me a Quran and I read it and was amazed at how similar it was to the Bible and everything started from there.


Muslimah2Muslimah: What does your family think about your decision?

Leanne: First I will start with the fact that my family is very religious and I was brought up very religious, Southern Baptist to be exact. Now my family is somewhat understanding; however, in the beginning they were not. A lot of that I believe is my fault because I did not explain to them my feelings and thoughts I went from going to Church on Sunday to being Muslim on Friday so it was quite out of the blue to them. Also, I did not explain Islam to them very well and coming from a small town in the Deep South, they had never been exposed (except the media) to Islam. After being honest with my family about my thoughts on God and religion, they understand at least and actually I feel much closer with them because we can have these types of conversations now. My advice to any future convert is that you need to be honest and open with your family, you might be the one converting but especially if you are going to wear hijab it affects your whole family so they deserve to be part of the process.


Muslimah2Muslimah: What types of reactions have you gotten from your friends or coworkers?

Leanne: I was lucky in that my close friends understood and are still my friends today. Of course, being a good Southern Baptist I never really associated myself with people that would think otherwise. A small fraction of people I work with were upset, mainly about my openly admitting I did not drink. I never really drank before but admitting it out loud was considered a faux pa in a small college town. Overall, the reactions were all good.


Muslimah2Muslimah: How has Islam changed your life?

Leanne: How has my life not changed? I feel much more relaxed and at peace with myself now, than I ever did before. I never truly understood the “trinity” so I never felt fully satisfied with my relationship with God because I did not understand it. Alhamduliah, now I feel that everyday has a purpose and that God has truly wonderful plan for me.


Muslimah2Muslimah: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in Islam?

Leanne: Read, Read, Read. The more you know the better informed you will be and do not take this decision lightly. It took me almost a year of reading and learning before I felt comfortable making that decision and it was really hard. I spent many nights crying to God to give me answer so that I could follow my heart but also stay true to my family.

Also, you need to be honest and open with your family, you might be the one converting but especially if you are going to wear hijab it effects your whole family so they deserve to be part of the process. You cannot hide a scarf on your head ;-). But even if you outwardly do not look any different, it is an emotional roller coaster and your family can help you along the way even if they are a different religion.


Muslimah2Muslimah: Islamically, women are required to wear a hijab. Others say that you must also cover your face(niqab). What are your thoughts on this?

Leanne: I personally, do not cover my face. Women that do, especially in a Western country, may god bless them. But for me I do not feel it is mandatory. However, I feel hijab (covering the hair) is necessary, but at the same time this is not mean that women who do not wear niqab or hijab are any less deserving of God’s humanity than those of us that do.

Muslimah2Muslimah: How did you feel the first time you wore hijab?

Leanne: Terrified, honestly. I actually postponed my shahaadah for several months because I was terrified about wearing it but also felt that if I was a Muslimah that I had to wear it, how ironic. And I did get some harsh looks, I even do today a year and a half later but it is all worth it. Every time I get asked what country I am from (by the way I have a horrible southern accent, thank you Georgia!) it makes me laugh and makes it all seem not so important in the scheme of life!


Muslimah2Muslimah: What is your opinion on the common labels associated with Muslims("terrorists", "extremists" , etc.)?

Leanne: I recently read an article on CNN.com that mentioned that the recent attacks on the IRS building, etc. if they had been committed by a Arabic/Muslim they would be called terror attacks. Obviously, this is very unfair to all of us. I personally, except being searched at the airport, while my Christian co-worker (also from Georgia) went straight through (another mark it up as a hilarious moment), have never had to deal with such prejudices.

Muslimah2Muslimah: What is your view on the impression that many non-Muslims have that Islam oppresses the women and the women have no voice in their communities?

Leanne: That they have yet to meet me! LOL I pride myself in being obedient to my husband but I am a very outspoken gal! I am working on PhD in a largely white-male dominated field and find these characteristics necessary to be successful. Most westerners do not understand the difference between oppression and being obedient. They are not the same thing and as Muslimahs in the US it is our job to show them that we are not oppressed but very bright and beautiful (on the inside) women.

Muslimah2Muslimah: The media tends to give very negative views on women and many non-Muslims base their views solely on this. What was your view on Islam and the treatment of women before you converted to Islam?

Leanne: Honestly, I had no view. As I said earlier I never really paid attention to global politics.

Muslimah2Muslimah: Has your view changed in any way?

Leanne: I consider myself a feminist and especially, after I meet my wonderful Muslim friends I could never believe Islam would allow such treatment and today believe that Islam actually gives women more rights than Christianity. The hijab actually makes me feel liberated.


Muslimah2Muslimah: How have has Muslimah2Muslimah helped you along your journey to Islam?/How have you benefited from Muslimah2Muslimah?

Leanne: Just knowing there are other hijabis and especially American hijabis is very comforting. Being in a college town, all my friends are from other countries and I love them but I needed to know there were others with light skin, blue eyes, and a bad southern accent out there. And mashallah I have felt a special connection with the blog and the other readers. We are all in this journey together.

Insha'allah, everyone... please pray for our new sister Leanne and welcome her into Islam by leaving her your encouragement and wisdom, insha'allah! We are very pleased with her decision as we know she is as well. Leanne, may Allah bless you and your family in all of your endeavors and may He grant you Jannatul Firdaus! Ameen!

Also check out the New Shahaadah Album on Facebook so you can reach out to Leanne and other sisters.

Asalaamu alaikum

Nadira & Najwa


3 comments:

  1. MASHALLAH!!!! I am a new revert for the past 7 months, I was born in France, grew up in America and Now live in Thailand... My Story is a bit similar to Leanne's and YES, I find a lot of comfort in reading stories like this and Thank You Muslimah2Muslimah for your wonderful Site/Blog... You guys actually took a small part in my conversion to Islam... May Allah Bless you all...
    Olivia (YASMEEN)

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  2. Masha'Allah, this was great to read! May Allah swt reward all believing sisters! Great blog, sisters, I found you on YouTube and then clicked into your blog. Keep up the good work!

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  3. Thanks so much for sharing Leanne's story; it reminds me that I'm not alone. I can totally relate to her experience. I took my shahadah last week and have been wearing hijab for two weeks. People would really be surprised to learn the respect and honor that women are given in Islam.

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