When Faith & Family Collide

© All rights reserved. My family eating Couscous (things weren’t always so happy!)

When Faith & Family Collide

Seven years ago I told my mom that I was going to spend a summer in Morocco with my (then) fiance.  This didn’t come particularly as a surprise but she still wasn’t happy.  Days and days went by and she was certain that I was going to get married on this trip.  And she was mad.  In reality, I was planning something big – my conversion (or reversion) to Islam.  I didn’t want to tell her this was going to happen, hoping instead to put off that conversation until I had returned but she wore me down and one afternoon I just spit it out.  I’ll never forget what she said next.  “That hurts me more than you getting married without me there.”  I was flabbergasted.  How could my faith really be more hurtful than a marriage without my mom there? Even in a post 9/11 environment I truly didn’t think it would be such an issue.  In my mind I had rationalized that if I decided to become Catholic or Methodist there would be no problem.  Heck if I had said I was going to become Jewish or Buddhist it would be ok.  In my heart I knew that the choice I was going to make was the right choice and although it hurt me tremendously to see how it affected the one person I loved more than anyone else I knew she would understand one day.

This isn’t where my story ends.  I went to Morocco and I said my shahadah (testament of faith), a single sentence, which is all that is required to become a Muslim.  It happened at my sister-in-law’s house, and was just my husband and I.  In a way it was an empty feeling.  Every other religious milestone in my life had been celebrated with a congregation.  There were classes and some pomp and circumstance but this was a very singular experience.  I spent the rest of my trip oblivious to what would be waiting when I got home.

I didn’t tell anyone that I converted when I got home.  My mom knew of course but no one else.  I wanted to let it out slowly so as to ruffle as few feathers as possible. I was learning how to simply live in America as a Muslim, and as one that was still under wraps. My diet had to completely change, and living in the Midwest when I say completely I mean COMPLETELY!  Beer and pork are food groups here.  Although I wasn’t a party girl before, there was no more drinking or going out to bars.  I don’t remember exactly when I began to tell other people but it was a slow process and only as I felt comfortable enough with certain family members to let it out.

I know that a lot of my family didn’t express their anger or displeasure with me and over time they have come to accept the choices I made.  There have been times where our faith has become contentious, strangely it’s usually about food.  This confuses me because is it really that big of a deal?  So what I don’t eat bacon why does it matter?  Other times it’s because of holidays, though we don’t shun my families holiday celebrations.  I’m proud to say that we celebrate with my family and my family celebrates Muslim holidays with us.

I’ve learned through this process that true love goes far beyond the boundaries of faith.  My mom was my toughest critic but now she’s my biggest supporter and I know she’s taken personal hits for her willingness to stand up for me.  Families are a fickle thing and when it comes to religion I have learned passions run deep, but blood runs deeper.

I’d love to know your experiences dealing with issues of family and religion.  Is this something that you’ve been through or are currently dealing with?



  1. says

    As I began reading I couldn't tell whether or not the story of your relationship with your mom would end happily or not. Very suspenseful! I can't imagine that kind of hurt and I am so glad that both you and your mom are courageous, strong women who believe in the power of love!

  2. says

    I've been Muslim my whole life. Same for my husband, so we didn't have this issue, but I know other people who have had their families get REALLY UPSET with them converting to Islam. I think for a lot of people it is the LAST religion they would want their kids to convert to. There is so much misinformation about it. I hope that you have found peace in Islam, and I hope that that peace soothes the pain of your family's disapproval. By the way, have you heard of the movie Moozlum? It's written and directed by a Muslim guy who struggled with his Islamic identity. I love it. http://www.moozlumthemovie.com 

    • says

      You're right about that!  I have found peace with my choice and think that we (my husband and I) have done a good job balancing things.  We don't cut off our kids from my families culture but draw the line when we have to.  It's been an interesting ride!

      • LaToshia says

        I’m dating a very wonderful Moroccan man at the moment and we have both mentioned marriage do I have to convert myself if that day does come ?

  3. says

    This is such an interesting topic. I think I know what you mean. Had i came to my parents and said I didn't want to be Catholic anymore i know they wouldn't disown me but they would be hurt. Hurt because in my culture religion is almost a tradition. Everything seems to revolve around our religion. I would hope that my children would be Catholic also as I am raising them. I understand if they fall in love or grow to love another religion their is potential for a change just like their Dad did for me. Thank you for sharing i'm glad your mom came around :)

    • says

      That's an interesting comment on religion/culture.  I think that while I converted we as a family try to maintain a lot of cultural things.  I know that some people see this as wrong but I couldn't completely cut my kids off from the cultural practices of my family.  I think it's great that you are teaching your kids to have an open mind about religion!

  4. says

    I have to admit that, being raised Christian, I know little to none about Islam. I don’t even know if I’m supposed to say Muslim or Islam? This is what I love about my Mulitcultural Familia…I am going to come out of this experience a stronger woman, a better human being, and an International chef! Thank you for sharing your story, Amanda. I cannot wait to learn more about our similarities and our differences :-)

  5. says

    I enjoyed your honest and intriguing story.  I've heard stories about how badly my parents were treated when they when  converted to Mormonism by family.  Now years later, you'd never know that at one point in time it was an issue.  I think a lot of the myths were debunked!  I know when family disapproves of our decisions it makes it a lot harder. 

  6. says

    I was raised Catholic and before I met my husband I decided to be Christian but never told my mom.  I didn't want to have that conversation with her, LOL  It was a very personal decision for me and after veturing out to other churches I felt it was the right decision.  I ended up telling my mom before we got married and she always blamed my husband for it.  No matter how many times I tried to convince her otherwise she still believed it was because of him.  I wish she would just appreciate my deeper understanding and love for God and be happy with it.

  7. Stephanie says

    Great article Amanda! I am also married to a Moroccan husband and although I am not Muslim, we are raising out little girls Muslim in America so it’s a big interest of mine. It’s funny because diet and food was always an easy thing to me and it never felt like I changed anything after meeting my husband- I never liked pork to begin with so that was easy! And I don’t really drink much so that wasn’t an issue either.

    You may also be interested in my magazine as we talk about a lot of the same issues you address: incultureparent.com


  8. Holly says

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so happy that your mother has turned out to be your biggest supporter. I think that’s one of the most loving things a parent can do–support their children’s choices, even when they have trouble accepting them. It can feel like a form of rejection if their daughter or son adopts a different culture or religion. It can take time….This is a fascinating topic & I enjoyed reading your post.

  9. Dania Santana says

    I am more of a strange from religion and I can see how difficult it can be to make a decision like that and confront the ppl who are closest to you. I was raised Catholic, but started separating myself from religion in my teens. For the most part, what worries me is that most religions have very restrictive views about women. That being said, I can see how your mom would be worried about your future because of your choice. However, as you said, blood runs deeper. I also think that a mother's love is universal and your mother is living proof of that. 

  10. says

    Amanda, I love this post. :)  For me, religion was a big problem when I got married.  For my husband's family, if I didn't get married Catholic, I was going to cause the damnation of our children.  For my mother, become Catholic was a personal attack on her.  She was raised Catholic and chose to turn away for many personal reason.  Both sides of the family refused to come for the longest time and it wasn't until the week before our wedding that my mom finally reconsidered.  I know how interfaith relationships can be, and I can only imagine how much harder it must be for you since Muslims are so highly misunderstood in the U.S.  I'm glad that you could be a positive example for your family and I hope that they and others keep on learning.  Thanks for sharing your story and I hope that you'll continue to enlighten us on this topic. ♥

  11. Holly Garza says

    Such a beautiful, well said comment!!

    You are so right! I have learned a thing or two here.

    PS Muslim is supposed to be (said that way, because as with all Faiths; you have some who practice, some who don't) a Person who submits to God

    Islam is the Religion ;)

    Therefore if you are talking about the Religion, say you wanted to ask a question you'd say…."what does ISLAM say about….?"

    If you were talking about a person you'd say "Why do some Muslims do….?"

  12. Hayat says


    I came across your website searching for Moorish influence in Portugal. I’m Belgian with Moroccan roots, who’s living with husband and 2 kids in Portugal.

    When my parents got married in the 1970’s, my mum (Belgian and Catholic) did not converse to Islam the “religion by default” from my dad. My sister and I were baptised and went to catholic school.

    In the meantime, we all saw the light and are atheists (non-religious) now. No discussions and problems about religion in our family ;-)