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IRISH AMERICAN SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER FINDS ISLAM

Continuing our journey of discovery of Islam in America has brought us to New Brunswick, New Jersey, to one of the halal restaurants here,alhamdulellah, which we find here in America, and with one of our sisters in Islam, sister Cheryl Dacey.

Interviewer:
Assalamu`alaikum.

Sister Cheryl:
Walaikum Assalam.

Interviewer:
Welcome to the program.

As I explained to you, we are travelling across America and we are meeting Muslim brothers and sisters. For our viewers back in Saudi Arabia and Middle East maybe they are not really aware of the life of Muslims in America. So that’s why we came to you here today.

So please just give us a little background about yourself. And tell the viewers how you became Muslim.
Sister Cheryl:

Well, I was born into an Irish Catholic family, and I went to Catholic school from first grade to college, got married, have four children that are grown now and divorced, and through my employment I met some Muslims.

Interviewer:

And where was that employment?

Sister Cheryl:

Actually it was in a company I was working for in New Jersey, and the Muslims I met were working with us in New York and we met in a company project. And what I noticed over the years getting to know them is how respectful they were to my mother and to me, the behavior of the men I found to be much better.

Interviewer:
But before you met these Muslim gentlemen, did you have any ideas or pre-conceived notions about Islam?

Sister Cheryl:
When they said we believe in the same God, I thought they were crazy because I said “No, of course we don’t believe in the same God”. I thought it was totally a foreign type of religion from what I believed in. I didn’t realize that we have the same prophets and that much of the information that we have been taught is actually the same as what Muslims were taught. So I really didn’t know much about Islam.

Honestly, regarding the fighting that goes on all over the world, I don’t find myself to be a prejudiced person, but it gives you cause to say “Well, there are Muslims fighting Christians all over the world.” So at that time I was probably being a good Christian a little bit more on the Christian side of the fence, not understanding the plight of the Muslims.

Interviewer:

And so how did you start going in the path of accepting Islam yourself?
Sister Cheryl:

Well, initially the first time that I got quite a bit of literature, which I read, and when I got to the point that Jesus wasn’t God that was it: I could believe everything else.

Interviewer:
OK, but when you said you believed that was it. Did you think before that point in your life you already were looking for something that was in accordance to what you believed about Jesus?

Sister Cheryl:
I believed very strongly in what I believed. I was a Sunday School teacher. I was teaching hundreds of children about Catholicism. That’s why I find it such a miracle that I converted to Islam! People argued to get their children into my Sunday School class!

So what they said was that the same God and the same message came down over and over again to the different prophets. And they put Islam, Christianity and Judaism in a sort of timeline frame as the same God but different prophets. And I thought of looking at it that way and I believed many of the same components, like Mary is the virgin mother of Jesus, but just Jesus in not God.

So it was very hard to not believe that, because I believed my whole life. And what happened I think is truly a miracle. I couldn’t sleep, and I have been given a book by a Sheikh from the Masjid (mosque) who came from Syria, he was just visiting. And the book was entitled “Miracles of the Quran” and I couldn’t sleep at all that night. I had it for two years but I never read it.

One day I just picked up the book and I read it. And once I read it I got this really fighting feeling that “Oh my Gosh, now I know it’s the truth”. I had no choice. And I knew that it was going to be so hard because it’s not really that easy to change your religion. You have to consider your family, how they are going to take it, and it’s very frightening.

Interviewer:
So how did your family take it? How did the children you taught in the Sunday School, how did all the people who knew you as a Sunday School teacher, how did they take it when you accepted Islam?
Sister Cheryl:

Well, a lot of them moved away from me. My mother had a little bit of a hard time every time I tried to tell her she would escape the discussion. She knew, but she was afraid to discuss it. And that was about 3 and half years ago, and today she is happy about it. She said “I’m glad you found a beautiful religion.” I haven’t been able to convince her to be a Muslim yet.

My brothers and sisters took it differently. Some of them accepted it better than others, but nobody gave me a hard time. My children who are now 22, 24 and my boy is 16, they were really positive about it! They were really open and interested to learn more. So I find, overall, the immediate family responded very positively. The people who didn’t know me so well, not so positively.

Interviewer:
Alright, now talking about Da`wah to women, can you tell me a little bit about your activity as far as giving Da`wah to women about Islam?

Sister Cheryl:
I started a program at the Islamic society of Central Jersey called “Muslim by Choice” program. We have a website and I started this program because I as a convert in the Masjid was someone isolated. As loving and wonderful Muslims are, they are a little bit protective too. So when you have no Muslim family, it has to be the Muslim sisters and a brother in the Masjid, but initially it’s hard to be accepted there.

So I wanted to know how to pray. I wanted to learn Arabic. But when I called the Masjid, nobody responded to me. So I started this program so that we could offer such services. We have sisters Quranic Arabic classes for reading Quran. We have anAqeeda (creed) class. We have an assistance halaqa that meets. We work very close actually with WhyIslam Da`wah booth.

And the best example I think is by attraction rather than promotion, when they see good Muslims, and they see them behaving well, that’s how I was initially attracted, somebody behaves well and believes in God and prays, is a good person and honest, they want to learn a little bit more.

 

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comments: Sun Oct 07, 2012 18:32 GMT
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