Source: The Austin American-Statesman
Jacquelyn Harper became a Muslim at the end of January. The 25-year-old said she has never before felt as close a bond with God.
"I started reading books (about Islam), and the books I was reading started to really make sense to me," said Harper, who converted from a conservative confessional branch of the Lutheran Church. "It shocked me. I said, 'This is how I feel. This is what I believe.' "
In her journey toward leading what she described as a more pure life, Harper recently finished an eight-week Islamic course for female converts and non-Muslim women at the North Austin Muslim Community Center. Organizers think it's the only one of its kind in the Austin area.
"I feel a lot better," Harper said. "When you're doing something good, it just makes that connection that you are doing what's right and you're becoming a better person inside."
Harper became interested in Islam after she became very close friends with a Muslim. She said he never talked about his religion with her, but she became curious about how Muslims fit the stereotypes she had always heard.
"You hear a lot of bad things about Islam, and that was a lot of the reason I wanted to learn about it," she said. "When I started reading, I found that none of the stereotypes about the way women are treated were true."
The class, called Islam 101 for Women, provides an introduction to the pillars of the second-largest religion in the world, as well as a forum for women to asks questions.
"It is not just a glimpse. It is much more comprehensive," said Bahia Amawi, one of the three teachers of the course. Amawi said the course's format offers a comfortable atmosphere for women to ask questions, and the topics are pertinent to women.
The class, which began six years ago, is taught twice a year. It starts with a lecture from an imam about the five pillars of Islam and about the basic beliefs of Islam followers. The class also covers topics such as fasting, basic cultural history, dress code and marriage.