I reverted to Islam at a very young age. I knew a fair amount about the religion at the time, I just wasn’t prepared for the people that went with it. I grew up in a really small populated town, so apart from being Muslims many were very cultural. I didn’t know how they would react to me as a convert and although many were very tolerant there were others who looked down upon you. I then moved to Cape Town. It was a fresh slate, no one knew me as “Jenean” who became “Suhaifa” or the “Hindu” who became “Muslim”; they knew me as a person, a Muslim. I didn’t know what reaction to expect if they knew I was a revert. They were so normal and accepting of me that I felt almost embarrassed to say that I reverted. In my old town I knew reverts were sometimes looked down upon and seen as charity cases, if you can call it that, so I kind of placed that stigma upon myself, the stigma that I was below others.
When I moved to Cape Town I didn’t want to tell people I was a revert, I wanted to fit in, to be one of them. It’s only after 5 years that I realise I was always “one of them.” I shied away from personal topics such as what is your father’s name or what is your surname. I tried my best to not let conversations get that far. I felt embarrassed to speak about my parents or family. When people asked what my dad’s name was I would say “Ghalied” (Who is my Muslim step dad), it used to kill me saying that because I love my dad dearly and truly am proud of him. My mum has a very similar sounding Muslim name, so I got away with that all the time. I thought omission would be better, I never realised that I was actually lying to myself. I succumbed to that stigma and started losing myself. But it’s different now. I finally realise how special being a revert actually is. I wasn’t born Muslim and practiced Islam because that was what was expected of me. I CHOSE Islam; I practice Islam because I want to practice Islam. I don’t have Muslim family who coerce me into praying and fasting, I do it because I choose to. So if that’s a justifiable reason who society to look down upon me so be it. I still know many people who would never let their children or daughters marry reverts and I think it’s actually disgusting. Are we not all Muslims?
When I now meet people, I speak about my reversion to Islam openly. I tell them my surname is Naidoo because I’m from a South Indian descent and that I’m not Surti, Kokni or Memon. I speak to them about my father, Morgan, who is a school teacher and about my mother, Roshnee, who owns her own businesses. I tell those people about my Hindu sister, Kelisha, and grandparents whom I love dearly. Maybe I was afraid to open up all those years was because I was afraid of not being accepted however I was rather young at the time. I am so proud of myself for finding Islam and I am so proud of all those people who have reverted to Islam. What if I was not born Muslim? It doesn’t make me less of a person than a born Muslim. I’m stronger now because I am finding myself and a big part of who you has been shaped by your family. If I deny my family, I deny myself.