A TEENAGER from Preston has today told how a round the world move inspired her to convert to Islam.
Sara Lawler, 19, from Ingol, was brought up as a Christian but converted to the faith in December.
She is sharing her story as part of Islam Awareness Week, which has been organised to challenge the myths, prejudices and stereotypes that exist about Islam and Muslims.
The UCLan photography student has lived all over the world with her parents because of her dad’s work as a graphic design teacher.
It was when the family was living in Qatar that Sarah was drawn to the religion.
Preston-born Sara who now lives back in Preston with her Nigerian mum Raikiya and her English dad Kevin, has also lived in Tanzania, India and the Midlands.
She said: “When I went to Qatar all my friends were Muslim I mixed more with Muslims than British children.”
Sara says she has been living as a Muslim for a long time but she officially converted in December after signing the Shahada, a declaration of faith.
Now she prays five times a day and wears a head scarf, but admits that changing her faith wasn’t a big decision.
She said: “It was more part of my life anyway. I had done a lot of research. It was not really a big decision.
“My main reason to convert to Islam was because it gives women the respect and rights that society no longer gives.
“It is a way of life that is pure, peaceful and brings out the best of life.
“The scarf is not such a big deal and not all Muslims wear it. It is modesty and is to be identified as a Muslim.”
Sara says her goal is to change the perceptions of Muslims and she hopes to do this through a photography project and she stresses that Muslim women are not oppressed.
She said: “It does not oppress women but rather liberate them as they choose who sees their body rather than men and society choosing what to see.
“Islam brings women to a high status and emphasises on the roles of women and how they need to be respected and honoured.”
Sara spent one year studying at Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston but admits she didn’t stay in contact with people from the school with moving all over.
She says when she sees people from school they are going out drinking or having children and she didn’t want to go down that path.
Going out drinking wasn’t something Sara ever did before so she said her lifestyle hasn’t changed that much.
As a convert to the religion Sara said she hasn’t really experienced any funny looks but said: “I know some people that have. I’ve not had anything yet.
“I do wish when people see someone wearing a scarf they would ask why do you wear a scarf.”
Sara has the backing of her parents, and thinks her two younger sisters, twins Jane and Joanne, 17, might one day follow in her footsteps.
She said: “My parents are fine about it. They know it is a good religion, they have seen the good that has come out of it. They lived in the Middle East so they know what it’s about, they agree with it.”
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