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Full Circle

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I awoke early in the morning on Oct. 24, 2004, and took off my silver necklace that had the name, Allah, written on it in Arabic. It felt strange not to feel the silver plate dangling from my neck, but I knew it was the right thing to do. As I unclasped the necklace, I could feel a presence standing behind me. Even though this visitor was invisible–I knew that it was the devil. Suddenly, the room became very cold and my body began to shake with fear.  I was so scared.
“Please protect me God,” I whispered quietly walking into the kitchen.
Then in one swift movement I tossed my silver necklace into the trashcan. A feeling of intense relief came over me as I heard the necklace hit the bottom of the trashcan with a thud.  With tear filled eyes I fell to my knees and asked God to forgive me for the past eight years of my life.
My name is Sylvia Thompson and at the age of 20 I denounced Christianity and converted to Islam. I was introduced to the Muslim faith when I was 17 years old by my boyfriend–who is now my husband. At first I thought the religion sounded crazy, because all I had ever known was Christianity. I would look at my husband’s mother and think that she was probably being forced to cover her hair and wear shapeless dresses that went all the way to her ankles.
As the years went by, I grew closer with my husband and his family. I began to love and respect his mother by watching the way she lived her life and treated others. She was one of the kindest and most moral women I had ever met. Suddenly, Islam did not seem so strange and surreal with its steadfast prayers, fastings, and innumerable rituals.  I began to read the Quran and other Islamic material his parents would give me with gusto. On many days, I would sit quietly and listen as my husband’s father picked apart the Bible in an effort to convince me that Christianity was wrong. Finally, after years of subconscious indoctrination, I decided to become Muslim. I remember sitting in my husband’s bedroom with a black shawl covering my hair and converting to Islam at one o’clock in the morning. There was a strange feeling in the room that night.  It wasn’t a feeling of joy or peace—it was a feeling of death.  This eerie, dark, feeling increased as my husband’s parents asked me to chant the ritualistic conversion prayer. I pushed this uneasy feeling to the back of my mind and tried to convince myself that it would pass. It never did.
My parents were horrified when I told them that I had converted to Islam and vowed to pray for me.  I scoffed at their remarks and instead tried to convince them that Islam was the right religion.  I explained that Jesus was just a prophet and that Allah was the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews. I ended  my diatribe by exclaiming what a beautiful and peaceful religion Islam was.  Yet, I failed to mention three important facets of Islam during my speech which were: (1) anyone who believed that Jesus was God incarnate was going to hell, (2) Muslims could not call God—Father, and (3) Islamic law enacted death for those who wanted to leave Islam.  Peaceful?  Beautiful?
I began to feel so strongly about my new faith that I taught myself how to pray in Arabic.  I would repeat these ritualistic prayers throughout the day until I had them down perfectly. My entire life became obsessed with praying five times a day and adhering to all the Islamic rituals. I could not go to sleep at night if I had not prayed the last prayer of the day, because I knew that Allah would punish me if I did not.
For the next five years I lived in a constant state of fear that became worse when I, my husband, and infant son moved to Egypt with his family. After only a few months of residing in Cairo–I began to cover my hair. Nobody ever forced me to do this, but after reading that I would hang from my uncovered locks in Hell—I felt that I had no choice.  My fear of Allah became so intense that I hoped to get cancer and therefore be punished for my sins on earth instead of after death. I would cleanse my body for prayer so obsessively, that my hands became cracked and bloody.  Still, I continued to believe in a religion that on the outside looked so moral and just. There was also the fact that all of the Egyptian people I met were very humble and kind. I rationalized that these were the type of wonderful people that the Islamic faith produced. I completely blocked out the fact that I had subconsciously started to develop a tiny hatred for Jewish people—and for my own Christian family. This unfounded dislike for God’s chosen people was due to comments I would hear by random Muslims as well as a shirt I saw an Egyptian man wearing one day. I will never forget that gray hooded shirt with a bloody knife stabbing through Israel detailed largely on the back. This image stopped me in my tracks and I think it was then that I started to subconsciously question my Muslim faith.
We returned to America with a second son three years later, because I was becoming increasingly depressed living in Cairo. I thought being back in America would lift my spirits, but I still felt scared and lost. I knew Allah was extremely angry at me and thus, I kept waiting for the inevitable to happen. When I became pregnant with our third child, I thought I would most likely die in childbirth as punishment for making my husband and family leave Egypt. I truly felt that I deserved whatever Allah was going to do to me.  I remember praying fervently while I was in labor, begging for my life and the life of my child. I was so relieved when I left the hospital alive carrying a healthy baby girl in my arms. I was shocked that Allah had not killed me.
Life went on as usual until the day my husband received a horrific email. An anonymous party had sent him the video of Nick Berg being beheaded via the Internet. Although I refused to watch the terrible sight, I could still hear Nick Berg’s deathly screams as Islamic terrorists slowly sawed his head off. Even my husband, who was born a Muslim, seemed saddened and shocked as the hooded men chanted, “Allah Akbar,” while killing poor Nick Berg. I began to cry softly for Nick Berg and the terrorists who truly thought they were doing their duty to Allah by beheading another human being. I was confused and terrified as I tried desperately to block his screams out of my mind, but they kept replaying.
The day after the Nick Berg video, God really began to “reach” for me.  For the next week, I continued to pray five times a day, but instead of the word Allah, I substituted God. I figured that since I had been taught that Allah was just the Arabic word for God– it was OK. Then I did something that I had told my parents and myself I would never do. I rented the movie, “The Passion of The Christ.” I explained to my husband that I just wanted to see what all the hype was about–and he agreed.
We sat down that Saturday night and watched the movie together in silence. I could hardly stand to watch Jesus being beaten and whipped, but something told me to continue the movie until the end. I held back tears during the short scene in the movie when Mary Magdalene reached for Jesus.  Yet, these tears could no longer be stilled when Jesus not only forgave this woman, but “gave” her unconditional love.  My quiet tears turned to sobs, when I suddenly began to realize what my mother had been trying to tell me for years—Jesus loves me.  Finally, I understood that I had a Heavenly Father who was not out to get me or do me harm. It was also at that moment I realized that Allah was not God.
The next week I could feel the devil trying to reel me back in with his scare tactics, but I was not afraid.  Finally, I felt the love and protection of God all around me. Finally, I was no longer scared to live and no longer scared to die. The world looked so new and beautiful!  I couldn’t stop thanking God for saving me.
I honestly believe that Allah is the devil. I can open the Quran to any random page and read something about death and hellfire to the infidels. I had overlooked it in the past, because I was concentrating more on the rituals and basic concepts of Islam. I failed to look at the core of the religion which I feel is based on evil. Thus, the Islamic faith is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. To some people it looks very wholesome and good from the outside, but at the same time it produces terrorists and extremists who will die trying to kill—in the name of Allah.
Please do not think that I feel that all Muslims are evil Satan worshippers, because this is far from the truth. Many Muslims I know are some of the kindest and loving people I have ever met. I love my husband’s family and know that their hearts’ are filled with the best intentions. I truly believe that they, along with millions of other Muslims, think that they are worshipping God.  They are the victims of a huge generational curse—a curse that can be shattered by prayer.
It has only been two weeks since I was saved by Jesus Christ, and they have been the happiest two weeks of my life. Every day that I wake up, I am so grateful that God never left my side during my eight-year hiatus. I feel like He was just patiently waiting for my return. I now live my life with an inner peace and love for God that I cannot put into words. Thank you Jesus for never leaving me.

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