By Nursat Jahan ’19
You just called your parents in and sat them down with a serious look on your face. Your mom is crying, your dad is very upset, and you feel like an outsider. You have just told them that you are leaving the religion you grew up with to convert to Islam.
Tyshaun Brown ’19 was born into a Christian African-American family. When he turned 13, he began to doubt his connection to Christianity.
“I didn’t really see myself being very religious or following Christianity as I grew up,” said Brown. “But when I started to see how people and the news labeled Islam as a bad religion where people harm others, I started learning and researching about Islam. I found out that there were many positive things that the media was hiding, and that is what lead to me choosing Islam as my religion.”
Before converting to Islam, Brown discussed this matter with his family; at the time he lived with his mom, stepfather, and two younger brothers. When hearing this matter, his stepfather did not take it as calmly as his mother, even though she was not fully supportive at the time.
“My stepfather called me names such as stupid, and he didn’t think I knew about theology since I was only 13,” said Brown.
“I remember him saying stuff like ‘Islam is bad,’ ‘Muslims behead people,’ and my mother was in the room with us crying.”
When Brown started fasting because of Ramadan, which is celebrated by Muslims for thirty days by fasting from sunrise to sunset, his mother, Ms. Nephetia Brown, became supportive of him with the help of her friends, who helped her find “good and trustworthy mosques.”
“When I first found out about him wanting to convert, I was hurt, sad and scared,” said Ms. Brown. “I have Muslim friends, and I know what the religion stood for, but with today’s world and the extremists, it was very nerve-racking for me because something that I shared with my son was gone. But later on, with help from my girlfriends, I felt better because my son absolutely believed in God, just not the way I believe. My mom
and I make sure there’s more than enough vegetables, starches, and fish in the house when there isn’t any halal or Kosher meat, because at the end of the day, he is my son and I love him.”
After converting to Islam in 2015, Brown still went to church with his stepfather on Sundays for a few months.
“I was in the car going home and my stepfather asked me a question since I didn’t complete a Church ritual. He asked me, ‘Did you convert to Islam?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’
He then came home and took away my phone, my tablet, and told me that there were so many extremists in that religion and I would be brainwashed. It made me feel like I was a terrorist and an abomination to the family,” said Brown.
Today Brown has been following religious rituals such as performing salat (“prayer” in Arabic) five times a day, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and not eating haram (“forbidden”) food such as pork. He tries to fulfill the duties of Islam while living
with his mother, grandmother, and his two younger brothers.
“I felt proud of myself for converting to Islam and don’t see Islam as a religion, but see it as a pure way of life because Islam brings me closer to God with peace and harmony, which is an important thing for me,” said Brown.