You’d think after watching BBC Three’s Make me a Muslim documentary, being a female convert to Islam is so riddled with fault lines. Not really. My recent interviews with Muslim converts offered a rare glimpse into the lives of three women who would flatly reject such comparisons. And they’re all buzzing with spiritual ecstasy, retelling what caused them to halal-ify their wardrobes and Islamise dress codes.Naturally, all this misses the bigger picture - for every woman who claims she wears an abaya out of personal choice, there's always plenty more who aren't, but rather, because the men dictate it. And security? Please. All it does is serve as some kind of an excuse for separating herself from wider society, and shirking responsibility. And lest we forget that this act of theirs can and does involve quite a bit of taqqiya. At the end, the propagandist says:
“Being Muslim keeps me from wanting to impress others and gives me more personal confidence,” says Chantelle, a 19-year-old convert from Hackney. Today, she goes by the name Khadija, as a sign of respect for Muhammad’s first wife and insists there’s more to British women trading bare midriffs for abayas than what meets the eye. “I wear the hijab because I want to. Because it’s between me and Allah. It’s not a fashion statement. Yes, I don’t go to clubs and don’t sleep around. It gives me a comfort which I know so many of my friends would love to have.”
One of those friends is Monique, who recalls how Chantelle’s embracing Islam inspired a raw honesty and emotion in her, helping her sense power and security in a head-to-toe cover-up: “I can’t really say for certain that I became Muslim because I read the Qur’an. But in a weird way, I felt Chantelle had more freedom than I did by covering herself, instead of letting it all out like me. I thought to myself ‘this was worth trying’. I can’t say I don’t miss our clubs and parties but I’d rather live like this. We still do what other girls do but it’s more toned down if you catch my drift. I haven’t looked back since”.
Whatever we may think of these converts, their decision to become Muslim may be a powerful indictment of some women’s lives in the west. That’s the impression they all left me, especially Jessica who would repeatedly ask whether feminism had delivered on its promise. So amidst all the everyday sexism and cultural creepiness hounding British women, is Islam somehow squaring their circle? Are burkas, niqaabs and hijaabs breathing soul in the lives of girls which desperately lack a higher calling, helping them reclaiming the watchwords of feminism? Does the conversion to Islam among British women bode healthily for Britain’s future? For Chantelle, Monique and Jessica, the answer to these questions is a resolute yes.I wonder if feminism - the bad forms, of course - could be faulted for leading these women to take up a Muslim lifestyle? I don't know, but I will say that if the 3 he spoke with are attacking the lifestyles of western women and condemning them as all bad, that's shameful.