A Convert’s Story
Christina Rountree was a junior in high school when the two hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center. And she says, like most Americans, she was flabbergasted and angry.
“And it came out in the news that this was done by Muslims. So I asked my Muslim friends…why would these people do this in the name of Islam? That’s your religion, right?”
Rountree says her friends told her: those people are crazy. They don’t represent Muslims. Islam is a religion of peace.
But Rountree wanted to know more. So she started reading about the faith, and in college she joined the Muslim Student Association on campus.
Rountree says she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, and she decided she wanted to help other non-Muslim Americans understand Islam.
“They were getting the wrong information about Muslims, and that worried me,” says Rountree. “Because as an African American, I know what it’s like to be judged just by the way you look.”
But Rountree says she didn’t know if anyone would listen to her. And she shared her doubts with a friend.
“And she said ‘Well, Christina, wouldn’t you think it would be even cooler to be an example of what a Muslim really is and not spend your whole life talking about what they aren’t?’” Rountree remembers. “And when she said that, it just clicked. And I got chills and I cried, and oh, it was such an emotional moment.”
Rountree says she believed in the prophet Muhammad and all the good he had done. She liked the structure Islam offered, and the fact that she could look to the Koran to answer everything she needed.
Rountree converted to the faith on November 17, 2006. That means she made her proclamation of faith – that there’s no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet. That’s the first of what are called the five pillars of Islam.
Rountree says she felt like converting to Islam was something God wanted her to do.
But it definitely wasn’t something her mom wanted her to do.
“My mom completely flipped out, she said I was doing it because of guys, cause I’ve always been into Middle-Eastern or Indian-looking guys,” she says. “But I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, so she couldn’t play that card on me. And my dad said: do whatever makes you happy. Do whatever makes you think that you’ve found God.”
Rountree says her mom has come around some since then, and has even gone to a service with her at her mosque.
But the experience of being a Muslim convert has also been difficult and painful at times.
She says the attempted airliner bombing near Detroit on Christmas Day was a huge step backward for Muslims everywhere.
“It wasn’t even two steps, I would say it was like a thousand steps back,” she says. “Because we had just gotten to the point where you could talk about Islam in a positive way, and not seem like some kind of traitor, and then that happened.”
To make matters worse, Rountree is a flight attendant. And soon after the terrorist attempt by the young Nigerian Muslim, she was on an airplane, getting ready to board passengers, when a fellow attendant who was on that Christmas Day flight started talking about it.
“And him and the pilot were going back and forth about: these Muslims shouldn’t be in America, I hope they do all die, and they just kept going on and on about it,” she remembers.
What she was hearing were exactly the kinds of ideas about Muslims she’d hoped to counter by example. But Rountree says she kept quiet, didn’t tell them she’s a Muslim.
She says it was just too charged a situation for that conversation.
But she says she hopes more Americans will do what she did — and learn about Islam for themselves.
“We as Americans are so quick to ask questions about everything, she says, “except for this.”
Rountree says she has a lot still to learn about her adopted faith. She doesn’t wear hijab – or the head scarf – because she says it’s not something she’s earned. But she says she hopes and prays that one day she will.
Contact Sarah Hulett at email@example.com