CAIRO – Fascinated by Islam’s respect for women, a teenage student at University College London shared the story of finding Islam with her colleagues as part of their college Islam Awareness Week, hoping to dispel misconceptions long associated with Islam about women.
“My main reason to convert to Islam was because it gives women the respect and rights that society no longer gives,” Sara Lawler, 19, from Ingol, told Lancashire Evening Post on Friday, March 15.
“It is a way of life that is pure, peaceful and brings out the best of life.”
Sara, who was brought up as a Christian, converted to Islam last December.
Though born in Preston, she has also lived in Tanzania, India and the Midlands.
Moving from country to another, Sara could not stay in contact with her colleague at Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston, at which she studied for a year.
She says when she sees people from school they are going out drinking or having children and she didn’t want to go down that path.
Going out drinking wasn’t something Sara ever did before so she said her lifestyle hasn’t changed that much.
Relocating in Qatar with her Nigerian mum Raikiya and her English dad Kevin, she recalls how she was first attached to Islam.
“When I went to Qatar all my friends were Muslim I mixed more with Muslims than British children,” UCLan photography student said.
Officially declaring the Shahada last December, Sara said she has been living as a Muslim for a long time.
Now she prays five times a day and wears a head scarf, but admits that changing her faith wasn’t a big decision.
“It was more part of my life anyway,” she said.
“I had done a lot of research. It was not really a big decision.”
The story of her conversion was shared during the events of UCL Islam Awareness Week, organized to challenge the myths, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about Islam and Muslims.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.
The majority of the multi-ethnic minority has Indian, Bengali and Pakistani backgrounds.
The 2011 census showed that the proportion of Muslims rose from 3.0 percent to 4.8 percent, becoming the fastest growing faith in Britain.
Finding Islam, the young UCL student made her life mission to change the perceptions of Muslims.
“The scarf is not such a big deal and not all Muslims wear it. It is modesty and is to be identified as a Muslim.”
“It does not oppress women but rather liberate them as they choose who sees their body rather than men and society choosing what to see.”
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Sara said she hopes to defy misconceptions about Islam through a photography project that Muslim women are not oppressed.
“Islam brings women to a high status and emphasizes on the roles of women and how they need to be respected and honored.”
Taking the decision to don the hiajb, Sara said she hasn’t really experienced any funny looks.
“I know some people that have. I’ve not had anything yet,” she said.
“I do wish when people see someone wearing a scarf they would ask why do you wear a scarf.”
Dealing with Muslims during their stay at the Middle East, Sara’s parents welcomed their daughter’s decision to convert to Islam.
The teenager also thinks her two younger sisters, twins Jane and Joanne, 17, might one day follow in her footsteps.
“My parents are fine about it. They know it is a good religion, they have seen the good that has come out of it,” she said.
“They lived in the Middle East so they know what it’s about, they agree with it.”
Islam, as a divine religion, sets down rules that strike a balance between men's responsibilities and women's rights.
Woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind.
By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect. She is entitled to equal rights, she undertakes equal responsibilities, and she has as many qualities and as much humanity as her partner.
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