By Theresa Corbin
A world of questions, stress, and backlash from family and friends often descend upon new Muslims after taking Shahadah. Converting to Islam is often shocking to those around the convert even if the decision is the most natural thing to the convert him or herself.
Brandi Marino’s story is one most converts can relate to. After converting in 2011, she faced a torrent of backlash from her Catholic family.
Brandi learned about Islam from a message she received online. Not knowing who the message was from, she thought it was spam and was about to delete it. But something stopped her. Her curiosity was piqued and so she checked the dawah material out before it went to the trash pile.
After reading the message about Islam sent by a stranger, Brandi realized she needed to know more about Islam. It seemed to answer all her questions. And even answered the questions she didn’t know she had.
Brandi took her Shahadah online soon after that first mystery message. Brandi decided she would not tell her family about her conversion until she felt ready. But Allah (SWT) had a different plan. Brandi says:
“I was doing my best to hide any Facebook post that had anything to do with my new faith from family. But I forgot to hide one post from my cousin. Then my cousin told my uncle who got the phone to my mom and filled her head with all kinds of vile lies about me and Islam”,
Challenges after Conversion
Brandi was “outed” as a Muslim to her family with one innocent Facebook post. She continues:
“My uncle was very bitter since the death of his son and has since said hurtful things to my mom about my brother and sisters. He took my conversion as opportunity to try and degrade my mother through what he saw as the ‘horrible actions’ of her children”.
Even though this was not how Brandi saw her family finding out about her becoming a Muslim, especially not her mom, it turned into a way to open dialog between her and her mom. Brandi says:
“We started emailing back and forth about Islam. Mom would get online and find some horrible things, lies, people who write about Islam and then ask me to explain why I would choose such a religion”.
Even though Brandi herself was new to Islam and didn’t have all the answers to questions that are always thrown at new Muslims, she held her own. She responded to her mom’s emails with patience and compassion and most of all truth beyond the propaganda against Islam.
When asked how the email back and forth resolved, Brandi said:
“We came to a place of mutual respect. At the last Thanksgiving we had together, she said a universal, non-denominational prayer before we ate. I knew this was my mom’s way of letting me know that she was ok with me being Muslim”.
Brandi’s mother passed away not too long after that shared prayer. In the hospital, though, as she was facing some of the toughest times of her life, Brandi had to face that uncle who sought to hurt her mom and demonize Brandi.
Responding with Good Manners
“As I was sitting in the waiting room between the times we could visit my mom, my uncle would come in and taunt me, attacking me and Islam. It was so hurtful. When the doctors recommended that we take my mom off of life support, my uncle unleashed his worse attack on me as I stood there listening to my mother dying”.
Despite these unimaginably traumatic moments she was facing, Brandi handled these insults from her uncle with grace. Instead of lashing out at her uncle, which anyone would understand under these extremely stressful circumstances, Brandi excused herself from the room.
After she left, her uncle made a comment.
to her stepdad that Brandi’s “bad behavior” had to do with her faith. Brandi says:
.“My stepdad stuck up for me. Defended me and my conduct and my faith.”
Despite all that she faced, Brandi remained composed and was there for her family at their time of tragedy. She held her head high in the face of bigotry. And she remained patient. This is the greatest of struggle, or jihad-controlling oneself. Brandi fought hard and won.
Living Islam in the West
Most Muslims who come to Islam in the West, face people in their lives who have a hard time with them being Muslim but come around to the idea eventually. There are many people who are supportive.
And then there are people who will be like a modern-day Abu Jahl to the convert. They will never except that someone they know and even someone they are related to has accepted Islam as a way of life. They will do everything they can to hurt that person.
There is nothing we can do for those who choose to be Abu Jahl in our lives. But Brandi’s character was exemplary when she faces her own modern-day, Abu Jahl.