Recently I read a story written by Jeremy, a young man about my age who, like me, was raised in beautiful Maryland, in a conservative evangelical subculture. We both later came to abandon some, but not all, of the beliefs we were raised with. For me, this involved questioning fundamentalism, trying on Calvinism, and finding a home in the Anglican Way. For Jeremy, it involved being kicked out of the house by his Catholic and Seventh-Day Adventist parents, rejecting Christianity but realizing he still believed in God, trying out other religions, and finally settling on Islam.
In many ways, the teachings and practices of Islam were in accord with Jeremy’s most sincerely-held convictions. For instance, he was struck by its emphasis on equality before God. “Nearly everything I believed and actively tried to practice in my life,” he writes, “was present, to my great surprise, in Islam.” He appreciated that Islam requires its adherents to study its beliefs to become better people, and that it recognizes that sometimes people must take up arms for what they believe in.
After explaining why he converted to Islam, Jeremy remarks, “Ever since my wife and I converted, she has worn a hijab . . .”
Wait a minute. His wife? She never entered the story until this moment. Presumably they were married during at least part of the faith journey Jeremy describes, and was involved in Jeremy’s decision to embrace Islam–especially since she, too, decided to convert. But what were her reasons for doing this?
Where is her story?
Elsewhere Jeremy has written, “men and women in the eyes of Allah are equal, neither is better than the other.” But then he says, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has made one of them excel over the other, and because they spend out of their possessions (to support them).”
This formula doesn’t sound like equality, and it is actually very similar to patriarchy, an ideology that has drawn adherents among conservative Christian fundamentalists. I wonder what were the deeply-held beliefs Jeremy carried over from Christian fundamentalism into Islam.