From a Bathing Suit to Hijab
By Christian Hauser, Islamic Voice
SOMAYYAH was educated in a convent and as a teenager worked as a model and in cocktail lounges. Growing up in
I would go to the beach in my bathing suit and listen to Quran on my Walkman, she said. One day I was going to the beach in a taxi driven by a Pakistani who had Quran on the radio. I got there and put one foot on the ground to get out. Then I looked at the taxi driver and said: No, take me back home. I couldnt go to the beach and take my clothes off.
Now Somayyah, a school teacher who adopted the name of Islams first female martyr, will not leave her flat without covering herself from head to toe in Hijab. Since she converted her family has refused to see her.
In interviews, some said they converted because they were disillusioned by changes in their own religious traditions. Others said they were influenced by husbands or relatives or that they liked the sense of community.
Bilal Philips, 49, a Canadian who had worked for the Saudi air force religious affairs department in
You got out of uniform as quickly as you could land put Hijab back on, said one convert, Asma Markusson, a former
An organisation called Muslim members of the military has now been set up in
Markusson said that when she arrived in Saudi in 1990 she had strange ideas about Muslims. There was this chop-chop business, she said, referring to amputations as Islamic punishment for crimes. And then what about all of this harem stuff? She now lives in
Jumana Sharpe, British woman who is the second wife of a UAE national, lost her business. Putting on Hijab has been difficult for me. I had my own beauty salon and it did cause a stir with my mostly Western clients, she said.
Westerners who converted say the hardest part is not the change in lifestyle but alienation from family and friends or discrimination when they return home wearing Hijab. Some women say they have had objects thrown at them. Jan Lifke said her passport was held at a