“Are you well connected with the revert community?” a fellow asked me today.
I gave him a sort of confused, ambivalent look, shaking my head, perplexed.
No, not because the term “revert” truly grates with me (it does), but because the notion of a “community” troubled me.
Perhaps there is such a thing, somewhere, perhaps online or in an enclave of East Anglia or South London. Perhaps there are halaqas and study circles providing some sense of community. I know there are convert support groups, helping believers through those early years on the road of faith.
But, really, don’t we just become Muslims, absorbed to a greater or lesser extent into other communities, be it the local mosque, a group of friends or a tribe through marriage?
I had to think to myself: well, yes, I know a few converts. Some European, some American, some African, some Asian.
I don’t have a large circle of friends nowadays anyway, but had to ponder hard: I don’t think anyone I’m regularly in contact with these days is a convert. Once or twice a year we might see our elder statesmen who have walked this path for forty years, but no, twenty-four years into this journey, we’ve just become solitary wanderers, with a smattering of friends.
Regardless, there was a point to my companion’s question, and my bewilderment wasn’t helping. A bit frustrated, the fellow told me he was looking to marry a revert.
Poor chap. I had to ask him: “What do you mean by a revert? I mean, could she be East African, West Indian, South Asian? Could she be formerly Christian, Jewish or Sikh?”
He clarified: “Either Caucasian or South Asian.” Oh, my goodness, we’re not doing well with terminology today, but I let that one pass.
“What about a Pakistani woman?” I asked him. Apparently there are no Pakistanis left.
“What about a Bengali woman?” He admitted that he had met nice Bengalis, but lamented that most Pakistanis were very racist towards them. He didn’t think it would work with his family.
Naturally, by now the poor fellow regretted starting this discussion with me, and was soon changing the subject. I’m glad he did, because I realised then that I had nothing to offer him. Nothing but difficult questions.
It was not him, but me. I just realised that I’m disconnected. “Are you well connected with the revert community?” To be frank, I’m not well connected with any community. I mostly walk alone.