I converted to Islam at a young age.
Although I fell in love with the religion, I learned pretty quick to separate the actions of Muslims from the religion itself. Which is sad, I know. But nobody is the perfect human in any category, and as much as I wish I could say all Muslims are great, I really can’t.
A few years ago, during Ramadan, I wanted to find out about the charity obligation and whether I could give it on behalf of my non-Muslim parents.
I asked around and was directed to a well-known guy in the community.
Whilst he is not an imam of any sort, he was very outspoken about his religion and seemed to be very knowledgeable. Additionally, he volunteered a lot and was always giving back in some way or another. So he came off as pretty pious: always talking about Islam on social media. He was someone that a lot of people I knew looked up to.
Last I checked, his Facebook page has around 100,000 followers.
Before anyone starts saying that I shouldn’t have been talking to a guy, I will admit I am not a perfect Muslim. Nowhere near it, actually. I have guy friends who I talk to and hang out with on a regular basis, so to be talking to a guy was nothing out of the ordinary for me.
I knew my boundaries and had pretty good intentions.
We discussed religion and he asked me what I did for Ramadan. I told him that another one of my younger siblings had also converted and we were living as Muslims in secret, as my parents were not very accepting. After some time, he brought up the idea of joining him and some others for iftar.
I thought it was a great idea, and said I would bring my brother as it would be nice for him to have a male figure he could talk to and direct questions to. Everyone I told about this thought it was a nice chance for me to meet people.
All in all, he seemed nice and eager to help me with my faith. I completely trusted him.
Then things changed. At this point, we’d been talking for a while.
He began sending me selfies in bed and asked for some back (which I never sent).
We discussed the invitation for Iftaar and he asked how late I could stay out until. During that time, the fast broke at 8 pm and started again around 2 am, so it wasn’t unusual to stay out until the breakfast meal.
I had my own car so I was pretty chill being out late. I did, however, tell my friends about this and asked for an opinion. Something felt off.
They told me that I was over-reacting.
Of course, he wouldn’t be hitting on me, how could I think that he would do such a thing?
Then he suggested meeting up at around 4 am, and I was stumped. The fast started again at 2 am, so why would we be meeting at 4 am? I didn’t reply, so he followed up and asked me where we would be “spending the night” – whether it would be a hotel or just in my car.
Yup, that escalated fast.
I read back our conversations. I had done nothing to imply that I would be having sex with him.
Hell, I’d talked about bringing my brother.
I had no idea why he thought I was down for this, or how the hell it could have been appropriate- especially as the conversation had started off with an Islamic question, which he never answered by the way.
I told him that he was way out of line but still felt like it was my fault somehow. He proceeded to apologize, wanting to start over and actually offered me a free ticket to one of his charity events as an apology.
I politely declined and was bombarded with messages until I had to block him from my social media.
For a long time, I didn’t want to tell people because I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. He had done great things and I didn’t want to be the reason why he couldn’t continue them.
Maybe it was a stupid mistake.
Maybe I’d given the wrong impression and it was my fault.
Most of all, I didn’t want to spread gossip and be that person.
And then I met another convert and she mentioned him in a negative tone. He had been weird with her, too. I ended up speaking to a few converts I knew and it turned out he had been slightly creepy or inappropriate with a lot of them.
Ultimately, yeah – I was a little naïve there but I figured it out in the end. But what if I hadn’t been? Where would the line have been for him?
A lot of converts I know are extremely vulnerable. Some are shunned by family and left isolated. To target them and think that this is okay is just disgusting. So I told people.
I didn’t make a Facebook announcement, I just told every convert or person in the same circle that I met and I don’t regret it.
I’m not sure if he’s changed his ways or not. He’s still pretty well known and every time I see a mutual share or like his posts, I internally cringe.
It’s been years.
So here’s the thing, if you know you have a position of power and abuse that – well, you’re awful. You’re the stuff I scrape off my shoe.
One thing’s for sure.
I won’t let you ruin this beautiful religion for me because you clearly don’t represent it.