I’m Very Irish… And a Muslim Too!

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Leslie Carter’s Journey to Islam
Hi, I’m Leslie Carter.

I work for the Islamic Cultural Center in the women’s office as an assistant to the woman’s coordinator.

I’m Muslim. I converted from Christianity, I’m a Muslim three years now.

I had a lot of questions in my faith in Christianity since I was a teenager. The whole theme of confession, I just didn’t feel comfortable with me going into a box and telling the priest my sins and he says say this and say that and you are forgiven. I thought my sins should be between myself and God.

I consider myself as being very Irish but I’m a Muslim. But my nationality and my religion are different: I am an Irish Muslim, but I’m an Irish person and I’m Muslim. They don’t go together because- I don’t know- I find a lot of nationalities they have the culture bought into religion and stuff, whereas I try to keep it separate.
The Islamic Cultural Center was opened in 1996, and it is funded by the Al-Maktoum Foundation in Dubai, and he built it and everything, from the architect to the interiors, everything was built and made in Ireland. It is amazing to be here as it is the only purpose-built mosque in Ireland, and the largest Islamic center in Europe.

How I Found Islam

I met my husband, he was Muslim and I was Christian and we had no issues. I went to church and he went to the mosque. I had Christmas and he had `Eid. There were no issues over the religion.

Then, I slowly drifted further from Christianity and began to ask questions on Islam. I just read bits like women’s rights in Islam, how Islam looks at Jesus and I thought my questions were answered in the Islamic religion.

And then three years ago, not planned, totally by surprise, I decided to take my shahadah (declare my faith) and to be a Muslim.

The day I converted, my husband was coming here to pray. I was going to the market so I came along with him and I knew the woman that works in the office then and I came to visit her. Literally there were no plans for me to become a Muslim that day, I know I said maybe I will convert in 10 years time or whatever, but when I was there and heard the Adhan ‘the call to prayer’ I began to cry. It was like a light in my heart or something. I knew I couldn’t leave the mosque without declaring my faith.

With Christianity and Islam, I feel they are very very similar. We believe in things like the Ten Commandments. We believe in all of the prophets. It is just the confession issue and the trinity that are really the differences. Other than that, both religions are very similar. We both should love our neighbor, we shouldn’t kill or steal and we should take one God, and all of that is very similar. Christianity is the closest religion to Islam.

I wear normal clothes. I don’t wear the jilbab all the time. I just dress modestly. I have my clothes from whatever shop, but I never wear anything that’s tight or revealing, I never have, even before I met my husband before I became a Muslim, I never wore tight or revealing clothes. So I don’t miss that aspect.
Islam in Ireland

We have a lot of people come to the mosque here and ask for a copy of the Quran
My elder daughter is five years old. She would be sitting down and watching TV and if she sees a women with not so much clothes on, she would shout “Haram, change the channel”.

Maybe we are busy then or not watching or doing something and it just happens to come on, she would shout “Haram”, haram means a sin, and she would say “Change the channel”, and she is only five!. She has skirts and she doesn’t like her skirts to be up above her knee. They have to be long skirts. And this is her herself and the way she has chosen to be.

Where I was used to live before, it was mainly teenagers giving racial remarks (about Muslims). It was petty, you know, the way I look at it if they’ve got a problem with me it’s their problem not mine. I put it down to lack of respect, lack of education, and lack of morals.

We have a lot of people come to the mosque here and ask for a copy of the Quran and say “I know this is not the religion, it can’t say this in the Quran” but they wanted a copy of the Quran to clarify it.

The stories I’ve heard after 9/11 mainly was in England. There were a lot of attacks with mosques set on fire and people stabbed, you name it. In Ireland, we had a bomb scare in one of the schools. We have power of media which is actually very negative at the moment.

But people are looking at Islam and there are a lot of people who are converting. People are looking at those who are converting to Islam and thinking “There must be something nice about it for so many people to convert”.

I mean Ireland is not a very large country but to have 23,000 (Muslim) converts living in it, there must be something good about the religion.

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