Shakira Graham, 35, Female, Student, Mother and a part time office worker was a former Christian, Reformed Church (Dutch origins). She reverted to Islam when she was 18 years old. She kept her name as she discovered that Shakira, her birth name is a Muslim name
She grew up in a town that is known for its Almonds and she was never really forced to go to a church. Her Grandparents were deacons in the Christian Reformed Church and would take her from time to time to Sunday school and Church. Her mom never forced a religion on her and told her to make my own choice. She was Wiccian herself. She always had issues with the Trinity but no one could really explain it to her other than “Just believe” and that was it. Her Grandparents were disappointed when she didn’t join the church at 16. Please read her story in her own words
Q; How did your interest in Islam start and what attracted you to Islam?
Shakira: I started looking for a religion when I was 17, I researched all the major religions and Islam kept coming back to my mind. My interest peaked and so I spent two years studying Islam.
Q: what was the defining moment when you decided to revert to Islam?
Shakira. I kept praying and studying, and finally took the plunge so to speak after almost 3 years. I felt comfortable with my choice and I had no questions that had gone unanswered.
Q: what was the reaction of your parents/friends/spouse/relatives?
Shakira: I never told my Grandparents, it would have devastated them, my mother never really accepted it to the day she died. My friends didn’t really care one way or another. My ex-husband was never supportive of it at all but my in-laws were cool with it.
Q: What challenges did you face at your work place or cultural or with any other people?
Shakira: I found acceptance in bigger cities like in Chattanooga but the current town I reside in I get a lot of looks and snide comments. I have been called a “terrorist, traitor, told to go home, I find the bigger the town the more acceptance a Muslim gets. My co-workers other then one person is fine with it, have no issues and have asked questions.
Q: what level of support help did you get from the Muslim community or Muslims? Was it positive? How can they improve?
Shakira: The community I reverted in was not supportive at all, it was a very insular community and looked down on who they considered outsiders. I have found much support online but I have gotten a lot of flak from born Muslims who feel us reverts don’t really “know” Islam or look down on American Muslims.
Q: what are your future plans or how do you see Muslim Ummah in the future?
Shakira. I see the Ummah divided as further sectarian divides come open sadly. I don’t see a Caliphate anytime soon or sadly in my lifetime. I plan to finish college in the next three years and go into teaching while raising my son as an American and a Muslim. I think the Ummah needs to understand the needs of reverts, not look down on them as “lesser” for reverting and be more open.