Trainee teacher Heather Matthews, 27, says Islam has brought her ‘love and happiness’ that she never found in her old lifestyle.
Mrs Matthews, a mother of two, returned to the faith four weeks ago – two months after returning from a holiday in Ibiza. ‘Islam has taught me about real love,’ says Mrs Matthews.
Her path to conversion began when she tried to convince her ex-husband Jerrome, himself a Muslim convert, that the religion was wrong. She was ‘very suspicious’ of the faith, and began reading up on it to support her arguments. Although they separated last year, she continued to learn about Islam – and identified with it more and more. Then, four weeks ago, she embraced Islam and became a Muslim. She said: ‘I underwent the ‘Shahadah’ ceremony of conversion to Islam by repeating a declaration of faith in front of the Imam at my local multi-faith center.
‘I had several Muslim sisters with me and they bought me a hijab and Islamic books to celebrate. It was wonderful.’
Mrs Matthews has given up alcohol, sticks to a halal diet and plans to fast during Ramadan. She has an English-language Koran which she reads daily, and wants to learn Arabic so that she can recite prayers five times a day.
‘People think I must be oppressed but I’m a strong, confident and free woman,’ she said. ‘It astounds me. But I’ve done it for love and happiness and it has completely changed my life.’
A study by multi-faith group Faith Matters found the number of Muslim converts in Britain has now passed 100,000, doubling in ten years.
The report estimated nearly two-thirds of the new converts were women, with an average age of 27 – like Mrs Matthews.