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No regrets for convert to Islam

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IT’S tricky being a Muslim post-9/11 but that didn’t stop a guy who grew up in Dauphin from converting to Islam.

"When you do make that commitment, you’re not overly concerned about the fallout," said Hymie Ali, 37.

He said he didn’t think about 9/11 or Islamophobia when he converted. "You make choices you believe in."

He’d been researching and comparing religions for several years. When he was in the Canadian Armed Forces in Quebec, a soldier suggested he read the Qur’an. "I figured I might as well — I’ve read everything else. I did (it) and stuck with it."

People wonder about his conversion to a faith that’s under scrutiny in the West.

"A lot of people wonder what triggered it," said Ali, who is married to a Christian woman and was raised a Christian. His family name comes from his dad, whose roots are in Texas and, before that, Ethiopia. His mom has a German background.

They don’t have a problem with him being Muslim. "It’s usually the unknown that causes a problem," said Ali, who’s often asked questions about his religion.

He has felt the uneasiness of some fellow Manitobans.

"There’s an undertone of ‘us and them,’ where people assume you’re not Canadian," he said.

He felt it first-hand when he wore a "man-dress" — garb Muslim men wear in some cultures. He donned the clothes for one year from Ramadan to Ramadan to be mindful of his faith.

"People would drive by and yell ‘terrorist’ on Portage Avenue," he said.

Friendly Manitobans nearby didn’t turn a deaf ear to that, said Ali. "There are always other people around who respond back before I have a chance to say anything."

— Carol Sanders

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