“Why don’t you love Jesus?”

This essay is the third in a series about religious conversion. Click here to read Alison’s first essay about leaving … Continued

This essay is the third in a series about religious conversion. Click here to read Alison’s first essay about leaving Catholicism for Islam. Alison’s second essay challenged Muslims and non-Muslims to better understand the faith she discovered. If you’d like to submit your story of religious conversion, email onfaith@washingtonpost.com.

One day two years ago, an Egyptian woman at my kids’ preschool marched up to me with flashing eyes. “Why are you wearing this?” she demanded. “The headscarf?” I explained that I was Muslim. “So you don’t love Jesus,” she declared with anger. “Why don’t you love Jesus?” I responded that Muslims do love Jesus as a prophet, and that he is mentioned many times in the Quran. She was not convinced; I felt attacked; and she demonstrated the power of prejudice.

My personal progress within Islam has been slow during the last three years. Since the start I have been intellectually and spiritually convinced, but challenged by the specifics of outward practice. My recent first visit to a Muslim country demonstrated that daily practice of Islamic faith does not have to be cumbersome or a cause for social shyness, and further inspired me to challenge my own timidity about outwardly being Muslim.

The Quran instructed the Prophet Muhammad to “Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their garments [or veils, depending on the translation] close around them,” so as to be known as believers and not molested. The Quran does not expressly instruct women to cover their hair and necks, but Islamic culture and faith practice surrounding the Prophet Muhammad led to use of the headscarf. These are known as hadith (sayings of the Prophet) and sunnah (practices of the Prophet), and are central to Islamic practice.

After receiving such negative reactions and judgmental questions about my religious preference, I pulled back. I stopped covering my hair. I continued to read and pray on my own but returned to my ‘old’ ways of dressing and eating. Although faith is often a private matter, I grew fatigued of constantly fielding questions and doing things differently from everyone else. Yet I felt discouraged by taking the easy route. I prayed and hoped that outward manifestation of my beliefs would not always be so difficult.

My trip to Morocco in June transformed my perception of what a day should look like for a Muslim. I observed how many Moroccans incorporate prayer into their daily schedule, and how easily women moved about, dressed modestly in extreme heat, stylishly, and without baring lots of skin.

I have never been one to dress too provocatively but believed that in the D.C. heat, one must wear shorts or shorter skirts/dresses in order to be comfortable. The thought of wearing pants or longer lengths never crossed my mind. In Morocco, a predominantly Muslim country, albeit open-minded and Westernized, shorter and more revealing clothes are a minority. I chose to dress more modestly there not just to blend in, but also out of respect for my religion and other Muslims.

In a light bulb moment, I realized that I enjoyed dressing this way. I felt safe, I respected myself, and knew others respected me too. Young and/or attractive women know the discomfort of walking by a group of men outside and feeling the focus of their eyes. I have never liked that feeling of being exposed. In Morocco, I really liked the idea of dressing attractively without wearing tight clothing, and thought, if Moroccan women can do this in the heat, so can I.

I returned to D.C. with a renewed sense of confidence, some new pieces of clothing, and plans for the future. Since returning I have not missed a day of covering to my ankles, and most of the time, to my wrists, with the exception of when I exercise. I cannot afford to buy a whole new wardrobe so the progress will have to be piece by piece. I have been a little hot on the metro, yes, but during outdoor events for my kids, if I dress in light cotton layers, I feel as comfortable as I would in shorts and a t-shirt. That amazes me. I do not intend to look asexual or dowdy, and I do think it is possible to be feminine and attractive without wearing short skirts and tank tops.

The worry about what other people thought initially troubled me and challenged my outward practice for several years. Since then, I have become stronger in my conviction, and the change in wardrobe has empowered me overall in my faith. I have felt more motivated to pray on time and perhaps more bold to discuss my choices. In this small area of control over my daily existence, I am visibly declaring that I don’t need to be like everybody else, and that my faith in God is very important.

Alison Lake is a staff writer at The Washington Post and former editor of Islamic publications for a D.C.-area think tank.

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  • abrahamhab1

    A woman from Washington learns from Moroccan women how to look Islamic. Why then not shoot for the stars and go to Saudi Arabia and learn about the utmost attire that pleases Allah and His prophet (PBUH).

  • granbyk

    It seems Abraham (ironic name choice) has a lot of time on his hands to spread vitriol and hatred to comment on any article regarding Islam. Isn’t he displaying the kind of behavior he identifies in Muslims?

  • abrahamhab1

    Abraham (ironic name choice) has a lot of time on his hands to spread vitriol and hatredThis is my true name. It is Ibrahim Mahfouz and I do have a lot of time on my hand. More importantly though I know too much about that cult called Islam and I know firsthand what the followers of that ideology had done to the places they infested. I love this country too much to see that happen here. I try as much as possible to document my assertions.

  • elizdelphi

    The woman shouldn’t have been rude about the headscarf. But, Islam is, properly speaking, a heresy against Christianity. The Islamic heresy states that although God is indeed One, he is not three consubstantial Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the community of persons WITHIN God is the reason why Christians, but not Muslims, believe that God is not merely loving, but that he IS Love), and that Jesus Christ is not the incarnate Son of God, fully God and fully Man, coeternal with the Father. There are other points of error also, and the Koran misrepresents Christian beliefs and presents a revisionist (or simply erroneous–Muhammed and his early followers were clearly not by any means fully educated about what Christians believe and teach) account of Jesus. By no means am I offended by seeing modestly dressed women. Nor am I offended by seeing people who believe in the teachings of Muhammed. I just believe they’re sadly and dangerously wrong in matters of religion.

  • csintala79

    From what I understand, one can be a Muslim and love Jesus. In the Koran there are a couple score references to Jesus, all of which are positive. Although not accepting his divinity or resurrection, the Koran does accept his virgin birth and regards Him as a great prophet or messenger of God. It seems that Muslims, in general, have greater respect for Jesus than do Jews, in general. Not accepting Jesus’ divinity does not imply hatred of Him. In fact, there are Christian sects that do not accept His divinity, e.g., Unitarian Christians and other non-Trinitarians. Orthodox, Trinitarian Christians do not recognize these sects as Christian, but these groups, while not accepting orthodox creed, revere rather than hate Jesus; however, they respect Him as a man, not a god, as do most Muslims. The Trinity is not an easy sell to strict monotheists, e.g., even Luther stated that while he accepted the doctrine of the Trinity,k he didn’t understand it, logically.

  • areyousaying

    “Why don’t you love Jesus?”The same question should be asked of those radical right-wing Christian extremists who hijacked his name to promote:- pre-emptive war in Iran- torture- capital punishment- an intolerant Christian theocracy overthrowing the Constitution- rabid homophobia- xenophobia- back ally abortions- hiding pervert priests- Rove, Atwater and Hitler scapegoating of minorities including Mexicans, Muslims and BlacksWho really loves Jesus?

  • think4urself

    Abrahamhab1, I respect your right to your opinion, but why do you have to attack the author of this article? No matter what your religious beliefs are, you have the right to choose. I did not get the impression she is trying to convert anyone. She is simply telling of her particular story. You would make a much greater impact through kindness rather than flooding the site with negative comments.

  • Navin1

    Its all about me isn’t it. Because you feel comfortable dressing conservatively doesn’t mean you have the right to tell someone else. Just as the christian is wrong for asking you why you dress that way, the muslim world is wrong for telling women that don’t want to be dressed modestly that they must or else. The right to dress modestly is only meaningful if there is a right to dress immodestly. If you feel challenged by someone telling you how to dress, then a trip to an islamic nations should abhor you as to how so many women are told how to dress by their oppressive islamic culture.Why don’t I love jesus:1) if he was a man, he had no way to know what his followers were going to do and he simply regurgitated things that someone taught him.2) if he was of divine ability / insight, then he should have known what atrocities were going to be done in his name and prevented it as the Buddha and Rama both expressly did before him. If he chose not to prevent the atrocities, he condoned them. That means he condoned genocide in his name. That means, if he was supernatural, he was a demon.3) I love god first. I want no intermediaries between me and god. jesus pretends to put himself between me and god, he become an obstacle to overcome between me and god.4) any one who says he his the only son of god and the only way to god and that his name should be worshipped, should be highly suspect as evil incarnate.5) Even the people who wrote the bible didn’t love him that much as they forgot to write down his biography in more detail, forgot to write down exactly what he said so that it could be preserved for eternity. Just not that much of a priority for them to really effort fully get it right before the generation that knew him died off, hmmm maybe he’s a myth. If the early christians didn’t care that much about him, why should I?6) I have a better way to relate to god and don’t need him.But, if he was a divine creation, and I meet him in the street, then as a creation of the god I love, I can be open to loving him and showing him a better relationship with the divine truth in each of us. Now, I don’t know much, but I know more about human nature than he seems to have grasped.hariaum

  • Athena4

    “Young and/or attractive women know the discomfort of walking by a group of men outside and feeling the focus of their eyes. I have never liked that feeling of being exposed. In Morocco, I really liked the idea of dressing attractively without wearing tight clothing, and thought, if Moroccan women can do this in the heat, so can I.”That sounds like you’re blaming yourself and other attractive women for sexual harassment. I’ve got news for you – even if you’re covered up, the jerks are STILL going to harass you. Just ignore them, and teach your sons and brothers to respect women, no matter what they’re wearing.

  • abrahamhab1

    “A woman from Washington learns from Moroccan women how to look Islamic. Why then not shoot for the stars and go to Saudi Arabia and learn about the utmost attire that pleases Allah and His prophet (PBUH).”Already two bloggers on this thread have condemned me for the above. One alleges that I am spreading “vitriol and hatred” and the other alleges that I am “flooding the site with negative comments.” This latter one also asks why I am “attacking this author”. I frankly do not see any merit to any of those accusations.

  • safiyah1111

    Ramadan Mubarak Sister Alison and Brother Abrahamhab1, May Allah accept your fast and continue to guide you.

  • HarshK

    Why is dress so important? Why did mohamed have to marry about 13 different women including a 6 year old child and his own daugher in law? Why do Muslims attack and massacre civilians every day (and not other groups)? Has the convert looked into these questions yet about islam?

  • AKafir

    Allison,You as a muslim do not love Jesus of the Bible. You love Isa of the Quran. They are very very different. Muslims love to claim that they are the same person, but the stories related in one are not same to the other. You as a muslim deny the right to the christians to their own religion and to their own Deity. You tell them that their scripture is wrong and mutilated by their religious leader. You deny the divinity of Jesus that is central to the Christians and for that your Quran labels them “Mushrik” (one who takes a partner to Allah) and your Allah promises them brutal punishment.

  • AKafir

    csintala79 | August 11, 2010 12:46 PMAlthough not accepting his divinity or resurrection, the Koran does accept his virgin birth and regards Him as a great prophet or messenger of God. … Not accepting Jesus’ divinity does not imply hatred of Him.Not true. It is not what the Muslims claim about Jesus that is really relevant. It is the fact that they do not allow the Christians the right to their own Scriptures and to their own God. Islam insists that the Bible is corrupt, and the christians have “covered” up the word of God. Islam insists that theologically Trinity is insulting to Allah and for that the Christians will be punished by Allah. It is this denying to others the right to their own religion that is one of the real evils of Islam.Here is one interaction of Isa of the Quran:005.112Does this even remotely sound like the Jesus of the Bible? Where did this come from? And why the assertion that this has anything to do with the Christians?

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Some years ago, I was asked to address a group of twenty recent converts to Judaism. I thought this odd since I do not “believe” in a conventional Jewish God and never have, even in my religiously observant days. I should point out that unlike Christianity or Islam, Judaism does not require a huge faith commitment. It does not nor has it ever had an anthropomorphic view of God, has never envisioned It as a man. Judaism is, like Islam, a way of life. The existence of God is taken as a given in all branches, except Reconstructionism, whose founder, Mordecai Kaplan, had views of the God construct with which I resonate. Many considered him an atheist, a label he thought apt.There is also the Jewish Renewal movement, in which God is a celestial inhabitant, a bag lady, the ocean, a little boy petting a dog, etc.In short, in Judaism, there is flexibility. However, the rabbi who invited me to speak is a Conservative Jew, who does believe in God and knows that I do not. Still, she thought I might have something to say regarding my own struggles, trials, and tribulations, which, I’m afraid, were no great ordeal, taken together.So, I went. What struck me most of all was the different reasons these people had for undergoing the rigorous year-long conversion process. Twelve had been raised Catholic, four Protestant, and three Muslim, and one nothing. Seven had chosen to convert because they were marrying Jews. In the process, they found themselves becoming more religious than they had ever been in their lives. The rest had been seekers for awhile. Judaism resonated with them.Of all, the families had been more or less accepting, all but the Muslim families, two of whom were quite observant, and rejected their children for choosing another path, rejected them, they said, forever.I was anxious to hear more from these folks, and asked them if they were sure their decision was worth their sacrifice. They thought it was. The idea that their parents would write them off because they chose another path cemented, for them, the rightness of their decision.I told them that they might have experienced something similar, not identical, if they were converting to Christianity or Islam from Orthodox or Haredi Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, etc., but that was not the point for them. The point was that anyone whose particular religiosity would lead them to rejecting a child did not understand religion was not worth bothering with.I didn’t know what to say, and I don’t now.

  • ThomasBaum

    elizdelphi You wrote, ” why Christians, but not Muslims, believe that God is not merely loving, but that he IS Love), and that Jesus Christ is not the incarnate Son of God, fully God and fully Man, coeternal with the Father”I believe you meant to say “Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God”, not “Jesus Christ is not the incarnate Son of God”, correct me if I am wrong.You then wrote, “There are other points of error also, and the Koran misrepresents Christian beliefs and presents a revisionist (or simply erroneous–Muhammed and his early followers were clearly not by any means fully educated about what Christians believe and teach) account of Jesus.”Muhammed and his early followers may or may not have been “fully educated”, as you put it, but the god of islam most definitely was, considering that the god of islam is satan.The best liars use some truth and didn’t satan use what is in the bible, out of context, in his “temptation of Jesus”?Considering that when Jesus said, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood”, He was being very straight-forward and clear and meant what He said, literally, doesn’t the “fact” that the god of islam has prohibited alcohol (wine included) say something very loud and clear about who the god of islam is?This is just one of the many things that show that the god of islam and God are not only not the same but are diametrically opposed.As I have said, there are some that do not believe that Jesus is God-Incarnate and He is, yet follow Jesus and there are some that believe that Jesus is God-Incarnate and yet, do not follow Him, Jesus did extend the invitation to “Come follow Me”, did He not?God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof, seems as if this may come as quite a surprise to some who think “knowing” God’s Name is what it is all about, whereas it is what God has done and continues to do thru God’s Plan which God has had since before creation.We are to PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS, if the Good News is not, ultimately, for ALL, then it is not Good News at all.See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    csintala79You wrote, “The Trinity is not an easy sell to strict monotheists, e.g., even Luther stated that while he accepted the doctrine of the Trinity,k he didn’t understand it, logically.”I have met Dad, God the Father, and I have met the Holy Spirit Who revealed to me that the Catholic Eucharist is Jesus so I have met the Trinity, does this mean that I “understand the Trinity, logically”, no it doesn’t but I do know that God Is a Trinity and God is a Being of Pure Love rather than Love being an attribute of God.Doesn’t it seem that with so many people that unless they can put God in a “box”, they are not happy?Reminds me of the statement, God created us in His Image and we have been trying to return the favor ever since.You also wrote, “It seems that Muslims, in general, have greater respect for Jesus than do Jews”.The Jews do not consider Jesus a prophet but the god of islam has taken it upon himself to declare that Jesus is merely a prophet and is not God-Incarnate, which is a lie, coming from a liar.You also wrote, “From what I understand, one can be a Muslim and love Jesus.”I would say, not only love Jesus, but could be better “followers” of Jesus than some who believe that Jesus is God-Incarnate and Jesus Is God-Incarnate.You also wrote, “In the Koran there are a couple score references to Jesus, all of which are positive.”Just because something is “positive” does not mean that it is true.Sometimes the greatest “lies” are the distortion of truth, in a number of ways.An example: ‘Jesus is a Messenger.’ “Jesus is a Messenger and The Message (God-Incarnate).”, the omission or the denial of the incarnation of God, makes these two statements totally different, do they not?You also wrote, “Although not accepting his divinity or resurrection, the Koran does accept his virgin birth and regards Him as a great prophet or messenger of God.”Jesus’s Divinity and Resurrection are what Christianity is about and what the founding and forming of the Jews led to.The “fact” that the god of islam claims Jesus as a prophet and yet denies Who Jesus Is and Who Jesus spoke of Himself as, points out just who the god of islam is.Not only is the god of islam denying that God Is God but is claiming God as his underling and is also claiming that Jesus spoke falsely about Himself and yet claims One whom he calls a liar, as his prophet.And satan tries to pull this off by speaking “positive”, as you put it, about Jesus.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    Navin1You wrote, “4) any one who says he his the only son of god and the only way to god and that his name should be worshipped, should be highly suspect as evil incarnate.”That is not what Jesus said, He said, “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except thru Me”, He did not say to God but to the Father, big difference.You also wrote, “Now, I don’t know much, but I know more about human nature than he seems to have grasped.”Seems as if Jesus had a pretty good grasp of “human nature” if one were to look around the world, not just now but also in the past, and see man’s inhumanity to man and the myriad excuses that we come up with to “justify”.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Secular

    Do we need to suffer this personal journey to the dark side and provide this woman with positive reinforcement? Will Washington Post provide an opportunity to the ex-muslims why they quit being muslims. Don’t you think their personal journey be offered same platform.