This may have been true at one point in time. Just as at one point in Canada women were not allowed to vote, and some were considered men's property. But this is not true anymore.
So for one week in January the University of Regina's Muslim Student Association held an Islamic Awareness Week to educate students on their religion and to put common misconceptions to rest, once and for all.
At the end of the week MSA held an event in the university’s theatre where Islamic converts had a chance to share their stories. The event help correct another common misconception; that people, mostly women, only convert because they have met a man they want to marry who is Muslim.
Lacey Tourney is a recent convert. She did not meet a man she wanted to marry. Instead she found a religion that made sense to her; and more importantly made her happy.
Tourney grew up in a Roman Catholic family, going to church regularly and celebrating all the Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. As she began to grow up, she started to question her faith.
“As I got older, I lost what the importance of what religion should be in a person’s life. I had no desire to go to church; basically went only on the holidays, mostly because I felt that that was the right thing to do,” she said. “I wanted God in my life. I believed in God. I knew there was a God. I knew there was something higher that brought us everything we have. I just didn’t know how I wanted to follow that belief.”
Everything changed for Tourney when she was in first year university.
“It was about a year or so into university and I started to make lots of friends that were Muslim. I had no idea what Islam was about, what being Muslim was about. I was just as naive as the next person in terms of knowing the proper information about Islam.”
“The conversations piqued my interests. Based on what they were saying I sat back and said ‘It makes sense.’ Religion can make sense. I never knew that; I never knew religion can make sense. It’s a lifestyle change, it is completely different, and I wanted to know for sure what I wanted for myself.”
Then came the turning point in Tourney’s religious journey – to convert or not to convert.
“I did as much research and reading as I could do until you get to that point of either you're going to convert to be a Muslim or you’re not,” she said.
Then she finally made a decision.
“I was alone in my room and I just did it one night. I was in the most random place you could be when converting to a religion, but that fact was I was happy after I did that,” said Tourney.
Although many mothers would be worried about their teenage daughter converting to a new religion and a religion with very negative misconceptions, Tourney's mother, Lisa, watched her daughter proudly tell her story, and was and continues to be supportive through the transition to a new lifestyle.
“At the end of the day [she is] choosing this,” Lisa said. “[She is] not drinking, or smoking, or being promiscuous. She is still going to school; she is just trying to be a better person. It’s not like she is doing anything bad, she is just trying to be a better person. Clearly, if she is happy in what she is doing, I fully support her.”
“Through all of it, we have done things together and worked together. She has explained things to me and I have gone on the Internet and tried to get as educated as I could about it. She has had questions and friends provided information,” said Lisa.
Marla Davies is another person who shared her story. Although Tourney and Davies have a friend whose parents kicked her out of the house when she converted to Islam, Davies' parents are similar to Lisa Tourney,
“My family is hit and miss with me being Muslim,” Davies said
“My dad is from the deep south of America. He is from Kentucky and talks with a drawl. He is Republican, very conservative. I thought I would have a very negative response from him when I told him, but it was actually the exact opposite. My dad says that my uncles fought in World War II so we could keep freedom and these things and he believes everybody should have freedom of religion. My mom doesn’t really talk about it with me – life just goes on. So overall it’s been a positive experience.”
Davies said she is not an oppressed woman and she can make decisions for herself. Just because she chooses to pray to Allah doesn't give other the right to misjudge her.
“People say Islam is oppressive, but I would like to think that I am an open-minded-free-thinking woman who has chosen a life for herself that she thinks is correct,” she said. “So for anyone who is not Muslim, please be careful of ethnocentrism. Please don’t assume that the way of life we all choose is right for everybody. Please give people the benefit of the doubt that they have a brain and they can choose for themselves.”
While there seems to be widespread of tension, violence and misunderstanding between of Muslims and others around the world, these two women put all that aside and follow what they believe is there calling in life. Although they may spend the rest of their lives fending off negative stereotypes, their stories heard during this week prompted many U of R students to say their eyes had been opened.