Converts have their own set of issues. “What works for families from overseas doesn’t work for us. We have so much baggage as reverts,” say R. Kerns, a community activist. Many converts are often urged to get married as soon as they accept Islam. New converts are still learning about the religion and the pressure to get married is very high.
As many do not know their rights and understand differences in opinion, they think the only route to marriage is what is being presented to them. “I don’t recommend this to anyone. You are just learning the religion and getting married just makes the equation harder to solve,” says Kerns. Often with no family or support system, many turn to the imām to act as their wali but, in reality, a majority of the time, the imām does not know them. “I have had people call me late at night to perform a nikkah and act as a wali,” says imām Magid.
Many are influenced into decisions that are culturally unsuitable for them. When women and men are introduced by the imām, they often don’t share their legal or financial history. “That’s what we don’t see in the imām’s office – the two sides of a brother,” says Kerns. “The lives we live as Muslims have to be inclusive of who we are, where we came from. Many of us have dealt with prison, abuse, and need to be deprogrammed.”
written by sr Hena Zuberi