WOMEN MIDDLE FINGER GIF BY NERIAN KEYWAN
Man am I tired of hearing what the intellectual world and some Muslims think a Western person who adopts Islam as a way of life, should be called. I am not a Convert and certainly no Revert! I happen to be a human being who believes in one God and the original Jewish, Christian and Islamic scriptures, making me a Muslim, I don’t need an additional label to clarify or categorise me further.
Do we not have enough labels/categories that we are identified by in this world? Here’s just a few I come across on a daily basis and maybe the odd made up one (in no particular order and purposely random):
Christian, Bi, ESOL, Jewish, White Welsh, Non-binary, Child, Catholic, Indian, Heterosexual (sometimes clarified as Straight because straight people are like… Shit what’s that? I don’t want to tick the wrong one!), Professional, Piss Poor, Atheist, Asperger’s, Shia, Disabled, Buddhist, Prefer not to say, Born Again, African, Posh, Separated, Gay, Other (you’re fucked, you don’t fit anything!), Sufi, Robot, Muslim, Married, Novice, Wahhabi, Autistic, Minted, Divorced, Chinese, Protestant, Transgender, Turncoat, White Gypsy or Irish Traveller, EAL, Male, Adult, Single, Female, Bastard, Bitch …
I propose we get rid of the labels. I for one refuse to be called anything other than a human being, I will not be categorised. Okay, I may not have a choice, so focussing on religious beliefs, if I have to be identified and labelled as a ‘Muslim’ I am certainly not prepared to be sub categorised into what type of Muslim I am.
I grew up an Atheist and whenever I filled in a form there would never be an option for this category, so my mother would always say ‘just tick C of E, Church of England.’ It didn’t mean anything, what sort of data collection purpose did this serve? Were organisations using this information to prepare better services for me even though I wasn’t really a Christian?
Today we have the option to tick ‘Prefer not to say’ which is my choice from now on. I don’t want special treatment, I want to be treated equally. We should be educated enough to offer and adapt services to a wide range of people without making them feel they are ‘different.’ When teaching I remember the equality phrase ‘different but equal’ and now I hate that – we are equal and of course we’re bloody different but we are all the same species!
Going back to religion; as if Convert wasn’t a bad enough label, someone decided ‘No, they are not Converts, they never actually changed their religion because everyone is born a Muslim and it’s the circumstances you are born into that change that state. So, when you become a Muslim, you are actually Reverting rather than Converting and therefore you are now a REVERT!’
So, If I decide at any point in my life to change my faith, believe in something different, change an opinion etc, What would be my label? Would I be a convert because I’m converting from a Muslim to an Atheist or would I be a REVERT because I was brought up an Atheist? Hang on … I hear you shouting … ‘KAFFER’ (unbeliever) now that’s a label I forgot!
Now on a serious note, has anyone really thought about the underlying message/connotations of using these particular labels?
Take a look at this easy peasy bit of five-minute research I did into word forms of Convert and Revert. Please note I am not an expert which is why I Blog rather than Write!
The Oxford dictionary defines – Convert (noun) a person who has been persuaded to change their religious faith or other belief.
“He is a recent convert to the Church”
This definition suggests the person is not in full control – they have been persuaded. This raises the question as to whether the use of the word ‘Convert’ as a noun, is fitting to describe a new Muslim.
Compare this to the verb form which could be construed as more positive because the subject is in control.
Convert: change one’s religious faith or other belief.
“At sixteen he converted to Catholicism” he wasn’t persuaded he just did it! But do we need to use the noun form to label him?
Now let’s look at the word REVERT as a noun: a person who has converted to the Islamic faith (Wow! Muslims have totally claimed that one).
But what is the Verb form? Revert: return to (a previous state, practice, topic, etc.).
“He reverted to his native language”
Take a look at this!
|Synonyms:||return, go back, come back, change back, retrogress, regress, default;|
Convert to (the Islamic faith).
“I reverted to Islam five years ago”
Note the synonyms here for the verb form; they include regress, default, retrogress which all have negative definitions– Retrogress for example is defined; go back to an earlier state, typically a worse one.
“She retrogressed to the starting point of her rehabilitation” We’ve all heard of ‘defaulting’ if we fail to keep up a payment and similarly regress is also a negative term for going back, implying failure.
Of course, there are no examples here of ‘regressing to Islam’ but in my view the negative implications are there in the synonymic definitions of the verb, and therefore the noun should not be used as a label to classify new Muslims.
I would like to ask the experts the following questions;
Is there an expression or word in Arabic (within the Quran) that is used for a Convert or Revert, or is a person who embraces the religion, immediately recognised as a Muslim?
In the 7th century when Islam was revealed and began to spread, were those embracing Islam (followers of the Prophet Mohamed PBUH) referred to as Converts, Reverts or Muslims?
My concern is that without really understanding linguistic implications of word forms, terms and expressions in a particular language, we may well be compounding issues that new Muslims face. We really need to STOP and THINK about how we categorise and refer to individuals and groups and consider the underlying negative and dividing affect this may have.
Less of the Labels I say! I’d love to hear your thoughts, particularly if you embraced a belief other than that which you were born into and have been given a label to define where you fit into your new faith/belief.