Although I am normally not a great friend of the police I will begin this with a quote from the Boston Chief of Police. In response to a group of bored bobos who felt violated because they had to sit behind protective barriers in Boston taxis the chief said “Ok, Ill tell you what, we will remove the barriers in ten or fifteen of the cabs for a two year period and see how it works; but you have to drive them.” This of course almost caused the bobos to choke on their cappuccino, and the mere thought of this probably sent a few into extra sessions with their therapists or dominatrixes. Such a barrier, which has been banned in St. Louis because the powers that be say it would promote the image that St. Louis is a violent and crime-ridden city (which it is), would have stopped a drunk AIDS victim from reaching over the seat and trying to give me a kiss the other night and would have stopped assaults on numerous drivers in St. Louis, But hey, who gives a shit about the drivers, as long as the bobos in the backseat have a comfortable view of urban decay on the way to a jazz bistro.
Now before I go into this long rant, about the perceptions of Muslim converts from born Muslims, I will have to say something. Over the next week or so I may not be able to post everyday as my situation is not going to be that stable during that time and I have a lot of things to do and may be zipping around the country.
There has been a lot of discussion on Muslim blogs of late, particularly on the blogs of Umm Zaid and Abu Sinan, and the blog of Yusuf Smith for that matter, about Muslim convert issues. One thing that has not been addressed in full detail is the attitudes of existing Muslims towards converts and if it has then I was not able to read it.
From my experience the attitudes of born and raised Muslims towards converts can be broke down into these categories;
The Sincere Practicing Muslims
This Muslim is exhilarated by the fact that you have accepted Islam. They will do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and may make feeling you welcomed into the community, and learning the deen, a top priority for them and their families and I have known many Muslims like this. To them you have not joined some kind of a club; rather you have accepted the kalima and found the correct path of Allah. They view you as someone who is more enlightened than the masses and as someone with courage and accept you as a brother or sister even if they may make you feel uncomfortable at times or if there is a social and cultural divide at times.
The Muslim Activist
The Muslim activist is also happy to see you become Muslim but the activist is not like the first group and more likely than not will not sit around and teach you al-Fatihah or small Suras. The activist is thinking about how to recruit you before someone else does and how to get you involved. If you have a particular talent, or degree of education, then the activist will covet you even more and as soon as you took shahadah was thinking about how your face would look on camera.
The Simple Muslim
The simple Muslim cannot quote the Tafseer of Ibn Kathir from heart and does not have the fatatwa of Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiya memorized (and maybe has never heard of him) but is pure of heart and is not corrupted by all of the false modern ism’s and knows that you have done a good thing by embracing Islam. Chances are the simple Muslim is busy with work and family and does not have the time to actually encourage you; but you can expect a warm greeting and smile when they see you.
The Self-Hating Muslim
The self-hating Muslim cannot escape their identity and background; but is miserable that they were born to Muslim parents. However, this Muslim is too lazy to make-up a new religion like the progressive Muslims and too afraid of their families to outright leave Islam, so they are stuck in a state of self-hatred and they look at you as pathetic for accepting the religion they wish they had no association with. They want to tell you that you should be going to the clubs they wish they had friends to take them to and having sex with the white girls they are at home jerking off to the thoughts of and think you are crazy for not fully indulging in every ill of this society.
The Modernist Muslim
The modernist Muslims may accept you; that is if you wear a suit, shave your beard, don’t study hadith, and are bringing in a six-figure income. If not they have no need for you and if you happen to have a beard and a love for the sunnah then they will see you as just one more dangerous fanatic and they curse the day you embraced Islam.
The Leftist/ Progressive Muslim
This Muslim, who is close to the modernist Muslim, is basically a bobo Muslim. That is they are educated, often urban, secular liberals. Since they have no actual belief in Islam, and are just maintaining the appearance of being Muslim out of some cultural sense of pride, then they look at you with a suspect eye for believing in something they do not and wanting to pick-up the faith of their backwards grandparents. If you do not accept their idols; the modern thinkers of the West, then you are an apostate. The Leftist Muslims, who more than likely do not practice the deen, look at you as fools for kicking Marx and Engeles to the curb and the passing over the bored suburban white kids movements of Anarchism and environmental extremism for the deen. They also may look at you as not real or authentic Muslims, even though they do not pray and may have little or no knowledge of the deen, and they may also think that you are engaging in cultural slumming and trying to be an Arab of Pakistani (which is ridiculous, given the fact that there are many, like myself, who for the most part hate modern Arabic culture). The bottom line is that they look at you with contempt; but would love you if you were an expert of modern art or a socialist activist.
One more thing, on this subject. I am glad that I did not enter Islam after passing through any other ism’s. I was not a leftist or a right-winger, I had not read the classical works of philosophy or the modern ones, I was involved with no group, and I had no interest in things going on outside of the US. Mine was a journey of trying to get closer to Allah and those that would come to influence me in my early days of the deen were all African-Americans. This has shaped the way that I think and the way that I view the deen and the world. I never rejected Western thought, because I never knew what it was; by the time I had read anything that one associates with a classical Western style education I had already read the classical Islamic works. Before I knew what post-modernism was I knew what neo-salafis were and before I read Marx I read Qutb.