Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why West Aussies Convert to Islam
"With defined rules for life and a strong sense of community, Islam is attracting many Perth converts"
By Paul Lampathakis, 15 January 2006.

Key Extracts
Converts say that in Islam they have found clearer answers to questions of spirituality than in Christianity, a stronger sense of community and rules to live by.

"There are guidelines for everything. It shows you how to do the right thing, to be nice to people," said Mr Cremer, a former Catholic.

"The Bible does this as well, but it has been translated too much, it has been tampered with too much. And one major difference with Islam is there is no hierarchy above me, no priests, no bishops, no Vatican."Imams (holy men) lead you in prayer. But beyond that it's just you and Allah. You're talking directly to God, that simplifies things."

Mr Cremer was also attracted to rules such as Muslims donating a percentage of their annual income to the poor. The fact that Islam was a lifestyle rather than a weekend event was appealing too, because it advocated morality in all areas, including politics and work, where he believed morality was sorely needed.

Nicole Banks:
Non-Muslim women were not compelled by the religion to switch to Islam if they married a Muslim and were allowed to keep their maiden names. She had admired aspects of the religion, such as its focus on family and respect for elders.

"For instance, you wouldn't send your parents off to a nursing home. They're looked after in the home by their kids," she said. "(In Muslim homes) wives are doing the chores, while grandmothers are looking after the younger children. Whereas here, you might not see your family from one week to the next.

If someone's sick within the community, the other girls will bring food to the house. If somebody has a baby, people will bring food and help clean the house. That feeling of closeness is very much missing in Australian society."

The religion also taught her not to be so materialistic and to be thankful for God's blessings, such as good health.

She converted from Catholicism last February after reading books presenting evidence against the claim that Jesus was the son of God.She preferred Islam's belief that Jesus was a prophet.

"And I like the feeling of one big family. We call each other brother and sister and we mean it. I also like the idea of kneeling five times a day and talking to God rather than once a week or once a year – we see praying as a privilege, not a duty."

Jeremy Meredith, 33, became a Muslim because he also liked the sense of community and the guidelines.

"People say they want freedom, they want liberty. But the bottom line is people want to know what they can and can't do. They want rules, they want guidelines, something to believe in, something to follow. In Islam, there's a rule for absolutely everything – how I eat my food, how I go to the toilet, how I get married, how I lend money."

Did You Know:
  • There are around 200, among 20,000 Muslims in WA from about 70 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and eastern Europe.
  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistcs, the numbers increased about 40 per cent between 1996 and 2001, mainly because of migration.
Source: © Sunday Times
Read the details here.

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