Archive for the ‘Converts to Islam’ Category

“I could never dress like that.”

~ Sara Bokker (before embracing Islam) commenting on veiled Muslim women.

Sara Bokker is a former actress, model, fitness instructor, and (and now) an activist. She is an American woman, who had lived in Florida and on the South Beach of Miami. She abandoned her bikini, a symbol of her liberty as she used to perceive it, for niqab (face veil).

Despite being raised as a Lutheran, Sara didn’t believe in the “church stuff” such as singing, worshiping pictures of crosses and Jesus, and eating “the body and blood of Christ.” As she says, “It just did not make any sense to me.” As years passed by, she found herself on the wrong side of history. Stress and confusion were her two best companions. Sara had much disgust and hatred for herself. She turned to alcohol, dropped out of college and at the age of 19 she left South Dakota, where she grew up, for Florida by herself. Still, sadness followed her while in Florida, and she turned to psychology, self-help books and tapes, and exercise.

Trying to conform with the Florida lifestyle, Sara found herself a slave of her looks. Her money was mostly consumed by hairdresser, manicurist, gym, mall, and other beauty-making expenses. “It cost a lot of time and money to look good.” She says. Even falling in love did not alleviate sadness and stress. Then she began looking into all types and kinds of religions. She came to be interested mostly in metaphysical studies, and some sort of Eastern-type meditation and yoga. She adhered to those but she found herself craving for more than that. Eventually she went back to college, where she developed a passion for International Relations.  It was in college where she learnt the ugly truth about “American History” and “US Foreign Policy.”  She says, “I was horrified with all the injustice, racism, and oppression. It broke my heart. I was so saddened by the suffering in the world. I decided I must do something about it.” She embarked on a self-appointed duty to educate the local high school and college students about the injustice in the Middle East. She went as far as organizing local activists to travel to Washington, DC, to protest the upcoming war in Iraq. During this process, she met a Muslim man who had dedicated his life to fight for justice and human rights. The man had started his own organization, to which Sara worked as a volunteer so that she could learn more and help in the struggle. As they worked together, the Muslim guy taught Sara stories of Prophet Muhammad, his disciples, and the civilization of Islam. “I was shocked to hear these stories, as I knew nothing about this history. I became enchanted with Islam and read all I could about it, eventually reading the Qur’an.” She said.

Finally she found the truth in Islam. To all her queries about Islam, she got the answers which, according to her, were “very logical and amazingly functional.” She discovered that Islam is a complete way of life possessing guidance and answers to even the smallest of details, like how to eat and sleep.

In January 2003, at the age of 29, Sara reverted to Islam. “A blanket of comforting peace embraced me.” She explains the experience, “I felt so calm and sure and full of joy. All of a sudden I had a purpose in life, a reason to exist.” Sara pronounced her Shahadah (testimony of faith) at a public groundbreaking for a new mosque. And as soon as she said the testimony, two rainbows appeared in the sky! The Muslim sisters present went to hug her. “I was crying from so much joy,” She says. The following day, eager to show the world her new religion, she went to a local Middle Eastern store to buy hijabs (headscarves) and dresses appropriate for a Muslim woman. From that day forward, Sara dressed decently. She walked down the same streets and neighborhoods where, days earlier, she had walked in shorts, bikini, and other indecent western attires. ”Free at last!” she said. “I had broken the chains of fashion and physical enslavement enforced by a superficial society. Honestly, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer felt the pressure to dress and look better than everyone else.” This is what she advices women who wish to have true liberation:

As an ex non-Muslim, I insist on women’s right to equally know about hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness it brings to a woman’s life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being. I couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the “glamorous” Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person. It is why I choose to wear niqab (face veil), and why I will die defending my inalienable right to wear it. Today, niqab is the new symbol of woman’s liberation to find who she is, what her purpose is, and the type of relation she chooses to have with her Creator. To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are missing.

Sara was married by the man who introduced her to Islam exactly one month after her reversion. As a couple, they continue to work against injustice throughout the world. They have been travelling throughout the Middle East and they have now moved from America to Egypt to live in an Islamic environment. “My heart is complete. The sadness and loneliness are gone. I now feel I belong. I am somebody.” She says.

Currently, Sara is the Director of Communications at The March For Justice, a co-founder of The Global Sisters Network, and producer of Shock & Awe Gallery, a historical documentation and evidence of the U.S./British Crime of the Century.

Contact Information:

Email:srae@marchforjustice.com

Website: http://www.marchforjustice.com

 

 

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{Excerpted from Salim Boss’ book “They are either Extremely Smart or Extremely Ignorant”. Buy the eBook  for $1.9 and the paperback for $9. Just click here to buy the book}

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Buy Ebook Smart

[References: Bokker, Sara. “The New Symbol of Women’s Liberation.” Marchforjustice.com <http://www.marchforjustice.com/showdetails.php?id=174&gt; ; Bokker, Sara. “Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab.” The Pak Tribune 4 Jan. 2007; Bokker, Sara. “From Darkness to Light.” Radiance Viewsweekly 28 Dec. 2006. Vol. XLIV No. 28; http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/1640/>%5D

“By virtue of my seminary training and education, I knew how badly the Bible had been corrupted (and often knew exactly when, where, and why), I had no belief in any triune godhead, and I had no belief in anything more than a metaphorical “sonship” of Jesus, peace be upon him. In short, while I certainly believed in God, I was as strict a monotheist as my Muslim friends.”                                                                                                                                                ~ Dr. Jerald F. Dirks

Jerald F. Dirks was born into a Christian family, had a Christian upbringing, had attended church and Sunday school every Sunday as a child, had graduated from a prestigious seminary and was an ordained minister in a large Protestant denomination. Upon graduating from Harvard College in 1971, Dr. Jerald F. Dirks enrolled at the Harvard Divinity School, and obtained from there his Master of Divinity degree in 1974, having been previously ordained into the Deaconate of the United Methodist Church in 1972. He also holds a doctorate in psychology from the University of Denver (USA).

He has published over sixty articles in the field of clinical psychology and over one hundred and fifty articles on Arabian horses. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East and interacted widely with the Muslim communities in the United States.

Thanks to his stock of knowledge about Christianity and his experience in the Christian world which made him make such an eye-opening statement:

There is some irony in the fact that the supposedly best, brightest, and most idealistic of ministers-to-be are selected for the very best of seminary education, e.g. that offered at that time at the Harvard Divinity School. The irony is that, given such an education, the seminarian is exposed to as much of the actual historical truth as is known about: 1) the formation of the early, “mainstream” church, and how it was shaped by geopolitical considerations; 2) the “original” reading of various Biblical texts, many of which are in sharp contrast to what most Christians read when they pick up their Bible, although gradually some of this information is being incorporated into newer and better translations; 3) the evolution of such concepts as a triune godhead and the “sonship” of Jesus, peace be upon him; 4) the non-religious considerations that underlie many Christian creeds and doctrines; 5) the existence of those early churches and Christian movements which never accepted the concept of a triune godhead, and which never accepted the concept of the divinity of Jesus, peace be upon him; and 6) etc. (Some of these fruits of my seminary education are recounted in more detail in my recent book, The Cross and the Crescent: An Interfaith Dialogue between Christianity and Islam, Amana Publications, 2001.) As such, it is no real wonder that almost a majority of such seminary graduates leave seminary, not to “fill pulpits”, where they would be asked to preach that which they know is not true, but to enter the various counseling professions. Such was also the case for me, as I went on to earn a master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology. I continued to call myself a Christian, because that was a needed bit of self-identity, and because I was, after all, an ordained minister, even though my full time job was as a mental health professional. However, my seminary education had taken care of any belief I might have had regarding a triune godhead or the divinity of Jesus, peace be upon him. (Polls regularly reveal that ministers are less likely to believe these and other dogmas of the church than are the laity they serve, with ministers more likely to understand such terms as “son of God” metaphorically, while their parishioners understand it literally.) I thus became a “Christmas and Easter Christian”, attending church very sporadically, and then gritting my teeth and biting my tongue as I listened to sermons espousing that which I knew was not the case.

Despite all, Dr. Jerald remained religious or spiritually oriented while identifying himself as a Christian. He writes:

I simply knew better than to buy into the man-made dogmas and articles of faith of the organized church, which were so heavily laden with the pagan influences, polytheistic notions, and geo-political considerations of a bygone era.

Dr. Jerald F. Dirks and his wife had been actively involved in doing research on the history of the Arabian horse. In order to secure translations of various Arabic documents, their research brought them into contact with Arab Americans who happened to be Muslims. Dr. Jerald learnt a lot from the constant behavioral example of such practicing Muslims. Furthermore, Jerald was highly impressed by Muslim community compared to his American society which was ‘morally bankrupt’. He found that in the Muslim community, marriages were stable, spouses were committed to each other, and honesty, integrity, self-responsibility, and family values were emphasized. He saw that Muslims espouse moral and ethical manner, both in their business world and in their social world.

Another aspect that contributed to the conversion of Dr. Jerald was his personal quest of self-discovery through reading books on Islam. For instance within a month, he had read half a dozen or so books on Islam, including one biography of the Prophet Muhammad. He also read three different English translations of the meaning of the Qur’an. Jerald was struck by a hesitation to adopt Islam albeit his consciousness siding with Islam. In his own words, we could better understand what he went through:

One’s sense of identity, of who one is, is a powerful affirmation of one’s own position in the cosmos. In my professional practice, I had occasionally been called upon to treat certain addictive disorders, ranging from smoking, to alcoholism, to drug abuse. As a clinician, I knew that the basic physical addiction had to be overcome to create the initial abstinence. That was the easy part of treatment. As Mark Twain once said: “Quitting smoking is easy; I’ve done it hundreds of times”. However, I also knew that the key to maintaining that abstinence over an extended time period was overcoming the client’s psychological addiction, which was heavily grounded in the client’s basic sense of identity, i.e. the client identified to himself that he was “a smoker”, or that he was “a drinker”, etc. The addictive behavior had become part and parcel of the client’s basic sense of identity, of the client’s basic sense of self. Changing this sense of identity was crucial to the maintenance of the psychotherapeutic “cure”. This was the difficult part of treatment. Changing one’s basic sense of identity is the most difficult task. One’s psyche tends to cling to the old and familiar, which seem more psychologically comfortable and secure than the new and unfamiliar.

On a professional basis, I had the above knowledge, and used it on a daily basis. However, ironically enough, I was not yet ready to apply it to myself, and to the issue of my own hesitation surrounding my religious identity. For 43 years, my religious identity had been neatly labeled as “Christian”, however many qualifications I might have added to that term over the years. Giving up that label of personal identity was no easy task. It was part and parcel of how I defined my very being. Given the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that my hesitation served the purpose of insuring that I could keep my familiar religious identity of being a Christian, although a Christian who believed like a Muslim believed.

It was now the very end of December, and my wife and I were filling out our application forms for U.S. passports, so that a proposed Middle Eastern journey could become a reality. One of the questions had to do with religious affiliation. I didn’t even think about it, and automatically fell back on the old and familiar, as I penned in “Christian”. It was easy, it was familiar, and it was comfortable.

However, that comfort was momentarily disrupted when my wife asked me how I had answered the question on religious identity on the application form. I immediately replied, “Christian”, and chuckled audibly. Now, one of Freud’s contributions to the understanding of the human psyche was his realization that laughter is often a release of psychological tension. However wrong Freud may have been in many aspects of his theory of psychosexual development, his insights into laughter were quite on target. I had laughed! What was this psychological tension that I had need to release through the medium of laughter?

I then hurriedly went on to offer my wife a brief affirmation that I was a Christian, not a Muslim. In response to which, she politely informed me that she was merely asking whether I had written “Christian”, or “Protestant”, or “Methodist”. On a professional basis, I knew that a person does not defend himself against an accusation that hasn’t been made. (If, in the course of a session of psychotherapy, my client blurted out, “I’m not angry about that”, and I hadn’t even broached the topic of anger, it was clear that my client was feeling the need to defend himself against a charge that his own unconscious was making. In short, he really was angry, but he wasn’t ready to admit it or to deal with it.) If my wife hadn’t made the accusation, i.e. “you are a Muslim”, then the accusation had to have come from my own unconscious, as I was the only other person present. I was aware of this, but still I hesitated. The religious label that had been stuck to my sense of identity for 43 years was not going to come off easily.

However, in March of 1993, he became a Muslim. His wife of 33 years also became a Muslim about that same time. Some of Dr. Jerald’s reasons for conversion may be summarized as:

►His seminary education enabled him see the falsehood of a triune godhead (i.e. he couldn’t stomach the polytheism)

►The existence of early churches and Christian movements which never accepted the concept of a triune godhead, and which never accepted the concept of the divinity of Jesus.

►He knew quite well how the Bible had been corrupted.

►The “original” reading of various Biblical texts, many of which are in sharp contrast to what most Christians read when they pick up their Bible.

►The non-religious considerations that underlie many Christian creeds and doctrines

►Some seminary graduates who fill pulpits preach that which they know is not true.

►He was deeply impressed by the behavioral examples he had witnessed in the Muslim community.

►He took an initiative to learn Islam from translations of Holy Qur’an and other books on Islam.

Dr. Jerald F. dirks (now Abu Yahya) knows quite clearly that there is a price to pay for any decision people make. He faced the harsh trials for making a journey from the cross to the crescent. He gives the following advice to the converts-to-be:

There are sacrifices to be made in being a Muslim in America. For that matter, there are sacrifices to be made in being a Muslim anywhere. However, those sacrifices may be more acutely felt in America, especially among American converts. Some of those sacrifices are very predictable, and include altered dress and abstinence from alcohol, pork, and the taking of interest on one’s money. Some of those sacrifices are less predictable. For example, one Christian family, with whom we were close friends, informed us that they could no longer associate with us, as they could not associate with anyone “who does not take Jesus Christ as his personal savior”. In addition, quite a few of my professional colleagues altered their manner of relating to me. Whether it was coincidence or not, my professional referral base dwindled, and there was almost a 30% drop in income as a result. Some of these less predictable sacrifices were hard to accept, although the sacrifices were a small price to pay for what was received in return.

For those contemplating the acceptance of Islam and the surrendering of oneself to Allah—glorified and exalted is He, there may well be sacrifices along the way. Many of these sacrifices are easily predicted, while others may be rather surprising and unexpected. There is no denying the existence of these sacrifices, and I don’t intend to sugar coat that pill for you. Nonetheless, don’t be overly troubled by these sacrifices. In the final analysis, these sacrifices are less important than you presently think. Allah willing, you will find these sacrifices a very cheap coin to pay for the “goods” you are purchasing.

 

He has written a book titled The Cross & The Crescent. Amana Publications, 2001. [Paperback: 272] in which he envisioned:

In writing this book, I would like to touch the lives of those Christians who have not been given the knowledge that I have gained both about Islam, from my direct contact with Muslims, and about Christianity from my seminary education. I want to share with those Christians, who are willing to listen, what is so often known by their clergy and church leaders, but seldom finds its way into their knowledge of their own religion. Likewise, I would like to reach out to the Muslims, in order to help them understand the religious commonality that they share with Christians.

 

Other books by Jerald F. Dirks include Abraham: the Friend of God. Amana Publications, 2002. [Paperback: 340]; The Abrahamic Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, And Islam Similarities & Contrasts. Amana Publications, 2004, [Paperback: 284]; Muslims in an American History: A Forgotten Legacy. Amana Publications 2006.  [Paperback: 400]; Understanding Islam: A Guide for the Judaeo-Christian Reader. Amana Publications, 2006. [Paperback: 394]; Letters to My Elders in Islam. Amana Publications, 2008. [Paperback: 420].



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{Excerpted from Salim Boss’ book “They are either Extremely Smart or Extremely Ignorant”. Buy the eBook  for $1.9 and the paperback for $9. Just click here to buy the book}

…………..     …………..     …………..     …………..     …………..     …………..     …………..
Buy Ebook Smart

[References: Dirks, Jerald F.  The Cross & The Crescent. Amana Publications, 2001. [Paperback: 272]; “Jerald F. Dirks, Minister of United Methodist Church, USA” Islamreligion.com. 20 Feb 2006 < http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/102/viewall/>%5D