By Holly Ait Taouit
Questions about your personal conversion experience may come in many forms: “So, what’s your story?”; “Why did you convert?”; and “…can I ask you a question?” These among many others provide a cue for you to share your own story of conversion.
As converts (aka, reverts), we are asked to tell and re-tell the story of our journey to Islam. Not only is this task often fatiguing, but it can also be difficult to pinpoint what factors were most significant in our decisions to convert. When I recount the story of my own conversion, I recognize that I relay different aspects of the same story depending on my audience and the time allotted (i.e., the short version or the long version). But what story do we tell when others are not around—what really matters?
My personal journey to shahadah (testimony of faith) was long and a bit complicated, with multiple factors contributing to my choice to convert. Following this complex experience, I find that connecting with my original motivations for converting helps me to remember the reasons I originally fell in love with Islam, restoring my faith if I ever feel overwhelmed by my life as a convert.
When listening to others who have embraced Islam recount their stories of conversion, I have observed many similarities as well as vast differences. My passion for scientific inquiry coupled with my desire to help others through my clinical psychology skills inspired me to further explore this topic. As a scientist, these differences fascinate me. As a clinician, I want to help people tell their stories in a way that can be therapeutic.
In order to gather more information more about this topic, I am further developing a conversion questionnaire that can potentially be used by mental health professionals (e.g., counselors, psychologists, social workers) who work with converts. I am hopeful that this questionnaire will be a tool for converts to gain insight into their own motivations for converting as well as help mental health professionals better understand the Muslim conversion experience. When used in a clinical setting, I believe that this questionnaire can assist a convert in understanding their reasons for converting while also serving as a clinical tool for his or her therapist so that this topic can be adequately addressed in therapy, if necessary.
As a part of this project, I would like to invite converts over the age of 18 from the United States to participate in this online study. The questionnaire will likely take approximately 15 minutes to complete. There are no known risks to participating in this research study. Participation will, however, likely add to the scientific understanding of why individuals convert to Islam and may benefit Muslim converts seeking psychotherapy. All data will be collected anonymously and answers cannot be linked to individuals, email addresses, or IP addresses. Participants will have the opportunity to enter a drawing for a $50 Amazon.com gift card at the end of the study when they will be asked to provide their email address through a separate link (solely so the winner may receive the gift card). More detailed information about the study will be provided through the study’s website (see link below).
Link to the Survey: https://xavier.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0e4SVDpNAacqNP7
Video Description of Study:
This doctoral dissertation is being conducted under the supervision of Dr. John J. Barrett. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Holly Ait Taouit, M.A. or John J. Barrett, Ph.D. Questions about the rights of research participants should be directed to Xavier University’s Institutional Review Board.
Holly Ait Taouit is a psychologist-in-training and convert to Islam. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology, a Master’s Degree in Psychology, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at Xavier University. She converted to Islam in September of 2011 during her graduate studies and has had a long-vested interest in religion and spirituality. Her clinical interests include geropsychology, health psychology, psychology in primary care, and the integration of spirituality and mental health. She is currently completing her clinical internship and intends to graduate with her Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree in May of 2016.