In the Spring of 2016, a documentary aired on one of the Danish national channels. It was about a young man named Victor, who converted to Islam, joined Daesh and ended his life at just 21 years, blowing himself up in a suicide mission in Iraq.
Most of the documentary was based on interviews with his heartbroken mother, who one day received a text from an Iraqi phone number “Victor is Shaheed”. What is terrifying about the tragic documentary, was that Victor is not alone. There have been many cases of converts, both male and female, who have joined Daesh in both Syria and Iraq. Muslims and non-Muslims are baffled about how it can suddenly take such a wrong turn, for someone who has been growing up in a relatively idyllic and calm environment.
But there are fall-groups and dangerous touchpoints, when you are a convert to Islam. The recruiters of extremist groups, such as Daesh know that most converts might stand alone in their decision of converting and some might even get alienated from their former friends and families. Converts are looking for answers. When they are caught up and hurdled in by Daesh recruiters, they are easily brainwashed in their search for a higher truth and community.
I was watching the documentary together with my frightened mother. She herself has been a bit sceptical about my conversion to Islam so she felt like we had to watch the documentary together. I am sure she had questions, which she did not know how to ask and somehow, she wanted to make sure, that I was not going in the same direction as Victor. While watching, to my own surprise, I understood what had been going through Victor’s mind in the process of ending his life in Iraq for Daesh. When you are enlightened by Islam and you convert, you undergo a process, which changes your life. You will reflect upon your past and what you have done, which leads me to my first point:
Growing up in the West, you are exposed to everything, which you will later learn in Islam is Harram/forbidden. When you realize that most of your past has been driven by sin, it is only natural to be feel a certain amount of guilt and regret. Converts who have a healthy view on Islam and steady surroundings will know, that you are forgiven for all your past sins upon converting to Islam. However – Extremists will remind you of the nagging feelings of what you used to do. As anyone who has just entered a new world, they are willing to listen and make up for their wrongdoings. They want to compensate for their past, and groups such as Daesh know that you are a blank mind, who is hungry and searching for information, knowledge and the right path.
My second point is; When you convert to Islam, it is natural, that you want to surround yourself with likeminded people. As a convert, you don’t want to fall back into your past life and you are more vulnerable to groups who are seeking you out for their own purposes. Politicians and the media are constantly reminding people, that Islam and democracy can never be united (wrong as it might be), and extremists want you to believe that all westerners are kaffirs who will poison your relationship with God.
Extremist groups don’t want you to be surrounded by your family since they will still keep you grounded and might question your new religion and environment. When you are isolated and separated from your family and friends then you will ONLY have their “community”. They will try to demonstrate that they are the ONLY ones who care about your soul and your way to Jannah.
Not only will they try to separate you from your family, they will also take the Holy Quran away from you. Extremist groups take advantage of your lack of knowledge in Islam and Arabic and they will make you follow an Imam or Mulvi, who is reciting the Quran and Hadiths and quite often promote a more violent version of Islam, taken out of context. They will separate you from your most valuable weapons against them – Knowledge in the Holy Quran and Islam.
To to-be-converts and other converts
Knowledge is always power. When you enter Islam you start on a new and enlightened path in your life. But please note down that, just because someone is a Muslims, doesn’t mean that they can separate themselves from their cultures and individual pasts. A lot of Islamic countries are driven by nationalism and segmented propaganda within Islam. Sadly, when people are robbed of literacy and access to education and the Quran, they are fooled by someone, who does not have the right intentions. There is a huge difference on how a Muslim experience other Muslims, based on their originality. A Turk, an Iranian, a Pakistani, an Indonesian and a Tunisian will have very different opinions on what it means to be a Muslim. Travel and understanding the different Muslim communities, will give you knowledge on how to avoid being caught up in extremist groups and their politics.
To the Families of Converts
I wish I could speak out to all the families of convert, in order to help them keep their children, sisters and brothers from getting into the hands of extremists. When you are related to someone, who has converted to Islam, it is utterly important, that you do not separate them from the family. As a family who rejects one member based on their life choice, you are pushing them into the hands of extremists. They will seek guidance from elsewhere, and I cannot state, how important it is for the family to try to be a part of, or at least show acceptance, of your loved one’s life.