Road to Arafu ~ Part 3
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and more and more Canadians are joining the faith.
Converts to Islam can face some challenges in adapting to not only their new found faith but also new cultures within places of worship.
Muslims in Calgary are joining forces to keep people from abandoning the religion for these reasons.
Erin Van Overloop's conversion to Islam came after she embraced the religion she saw in practice during a backpacking trip to East Africa.
“Everyone is equal before god. Basically we're all responsible for our own actions,” said Van Overloop.
The openness of her experience in East Africa stood in contrast to what she faced in Calgary as praying at mosques here suddenly became a source of anxiety.
Van Overloop says she felt culturally constrained by some Muslim women. “I don't dress the typical way that people expect a Muslim to dress. I don't wear a hijab. I think people just make all those external stereotypes before they get to know you.”
After distancing herself from the community for years she hit a turning point a few months ago when she connected with the Western Muslim Initiative.
The group is a Calgary-based organization that brings together converts and born Muslims to discuss the struggles of practicing their faith in western Canada.
In June, Van Overloop helped organize a convert conference which was the first of its kind in Calgary.
The session is inspired by the Ta’leef Collective, a model of Muslim living focused on inclusivity.
At the event, 100 converts and born Muslims discussed topics that are taboo for many Muslims, like divorce and domestic violence.
“People had a chance for the first time to actually step up and say this is my experience, this is what I went through, this is what I struggled with this is what is hard for me in this community.” Said Van Overloop.
Canadian journalist Irshad Manji says rejecting a monolithic Muslim identity begins with challenging the status quo and she believes it is a battle all traditional faiths face.
“I think real support comes from respectively challenging people about why do you believe what you believe? I think that is when people can feel that is when I can live my life with all its contradictions,” said Manji.
For more information on the Ta’leef Collective, visit their website.