Hopes of a Dutch Convert
Nourdeen Wildeman is a Dutch convert.
He converted to Islam “officially” on December 9, 2007. Despite his recent conversion, he managed to launch his ongoing project
“Find the Mosque that Fits You Best.”
In this interview, Nourdeen talks not only about his project’s experience, which gives useful information on Dutch mosques, but also about his daily challenges and opportunities as a Dutch Muslim convert, as well as a positive role model for European Muslim youth.
Q: Would you please tell us more about your project?
Wildeman: It is an e-project aiming to profile all mosques in the Netherlands. Through this project, any Muslim can know all about the mosques there with full information about each mosque. Each mosque’s profile features its ethnic background, address, postal code, telephone number, email address, picture of the mosque, overhead organization, language of the Friday sermon Khutbah, bookstore, mosque’s capacity for males and females, availability of bathrooms and place for ablution (wudu) both for men or women, and finally some general remarks (like, old building, no parking, special lessons, furnishing, also the mosque’s prayer times according to its specific location). Moreover, the user can know whether this information is 100% confirmed or not as I did visit most of them personally to prepare these profiles. So those which were visited by any one else other than myself are labeled “unconfirmed.”
Thanks to Allah, there are 350 confirmed addresses out of the project’s 408 different ones. Based on the number of the confirmed mosques, I have currently 160 full mosque profiles on the website.
Q: Can you now give us a glimpse of your journey into Islam?
Wildeman: I don’t really know when I became a Muslim. I started reading about Islam by coincidence four or five years before pronouncing the testimony of faith (Shahadah). I just wanted to know about that hot issue tackled a lot by the European media.
The first book I read about Islam was very academic and very difficult to understand. So I decided to get another book to understand Islam more, and I kept reading more and more.
After reading many books, I found out that Islam was not as I expected. In fact, many of the Islamic opinions were similar to what I naturally believed in.
Most of the ideas that the media is disseminating about Islam as a religion of oppressing women turned out to be totally wrong. I found Islam to be a very rational religion. It is pro-science. It encourages people to understand everything around them, to meditate, and it is truly a self-critical religion. Before digging more into Islam, I had always thought that life of an atheist is very easy, in terms of being free to do whatever one wants, but personally I used to criticize such a lifestyle. Then came a stage when I grew a certain awareness of God. This was emphasized by the truth I felt in both the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah.
Q: And what was your source for Islamic knowledge?
Wildeman: As a matter of fact, I did not contact any imam to learn more about Islam. I just read many books. Later on, I had good relations with some Muslim brothers and sisters, but my readings helped me so much that I, sometimes, knew more Islamic information than many of them.
Q: What was your family’s reaction to your conversion and how do you cope as a Muslim member in a non-Muslim family?
Wildeman: My religious background includes my father who is an atheist and my mother a Christian, so I mainly grew in a multi-religious environment. I did not tell them immediately that I will convert to Islam. Instead, I paved the way for it by asking them about their reaction if I turned to another religion such as Islam. They said that this is my life, and as long as I don’t disturb anyone, then I’m free. My mother suggested that it would be easier for me to be a Christian. My answer was that I’m not seeking the easiest religion, but the trustiest. As for my father, I was so happy that he accompanied me to my Islamic statement ritual (Shahadah), and video-taped it. His concept in supporting me was that I’m part of him, and Islam will be part of me, then he will accept me with Islam.
In fact, many of Muslim converts face big family problems when they declare their Shahadah, and most of them are women. I even have more respect for women in my country who revert to Islam as it is more difficult for them because they have to wear veils. I knew some who were kicked out of their homes and their families didn’t accept them any more. But I was lucky, Alhamdulillah, with my family. After that, I got involved with some Islamic networks and forums through which I knew some Muslims. Then, I met with those Muslim fellows and asked them to show me how to pray. They encouraged me to pray in a mosque. It took me a month to go to a mosque because that was so scary for me at the beginning. It’s like going to a swimming pool as a young kid for the first time. It was my first time to pray before other people. Had I known that I’d be very much welcomed to the mosque as I’m now, I’d not have delayed my prayers in mosques at all. But now I have many friends who invite me to have lunch with them every now and then.
The greatest event that happened to me after I became a Muslim was organized by Brother Jacob. The Dutch Converts’ National Day was a very important day for me and for all Muslims in the Netherlands who shared everything with me. It was just then when I realized that there are many Muslim reverts, and that they are having the same lifestyle I have.
Q: It seems that you have a very supportive family. But what about the professional part of your life, was it negatively affected by your conversion to Islam?
Wildeman: After I declared the Shahadah, I sent an e-mail to my boss telling him that I have become a Muslim. However and thank God, I did not get fired. Instead I got a bonus at the end of the year based on my evaluation. My boss said that in addition to my good performance during the year, I was also capable of making difficult choices when I became a Muslim. He said that I have the guts to take a difficult choice and that is also good for work.
Q: Are you planning to do any further in-depth Islamic studies and what were the very useful books for you being a Dutch Muslim convert?
Wildeman: I read a book by Tariq Ramadan entitled In the Footsteps of the Prophet. This book helped me a lot as a European Muslim because it is written in a way suitable for western Muslims. The Arabic way of writing a story is different from the Western one, but he was able to convey the message using the western approach.
(NourdeenWildeman is born and raised in the Netherlands. He converted to Islam in 2007 and is active in the field of dawah and supporting New Muslims. He is board member for the Dutch ‘National Platform for New Muslims’, writer and public speaker at gatherings in his country and abroad).