Ombudsman: Muslim convert believes arson was ‘cry for knowledge’Written by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | email@example.com
A Toledo woman who worships at the Perrysburg mosque isn’t who you might expect to see huddling under the tent to pray.
But her fair skin actually doesn’t matter because her husband, Wesam, and the Muslim community he grew up in, are as welcoming as Islam professes to be.
“I didn’t convert until three and a half years after we were married and I was pregnant with our first child,” said Lisa Hawary, who previously worshipped in a Presbyterian church. “This is the most open-minded, broad-based humanitarian religion I could see myself raising my children in. You learn about religion from the beginning of time. It isn’t about just being a Muslim; it is being a well-rounded person.”
Hawary said worshipping in a tent outside the mosque since last month’s arson has been uplifting. She is surrounded by many cultures and voices.
Still, she said it is upsetting that an Indiana man allegedly set fire to the mosque’s prayer room, intentionally.
“It hurts your heart,” she said. “When you are in prayer with God, it is a personal moment and a loving moment in the day. You want that space back; you want that time back.”
Many people don’t understand what Islam’s philosophy entails.
“I couldn’t grasp having that much animosity and hate in my heart. It is a huge cry for help. It is a cry for knowledge. It is cry for understanding. It is a cry for love,” she said. “If this happened at a temple, a synagogue or at CedarCreek, I would say the same thing. That person is searching for love and understanding.”
Hawary was interested in Islam even before meeting her husband, whose family is from Lebanon.
“I was learning about Islam before meeting him. I was going from church to church and not finding what I was looking for. I was left struggling with concepts I didn’t understand.”
Her husband and mosque members answered her questions and gave her material to read. Even when Hawary was fairly certain she wanted to convert, they advised her to wait.
“If Islam is something you are thinking about, wait six months and think more. Make sure this is truly what you want to do in your heart,” she said they told her.
She wasn’t even Muslim when she was married in the mosque, but the imam (leader in the church) was open-minded and wanted to get to know her spiritually. He told her marriage is a partnership and she has the right to stand up to her husband.
Hawary said she didn’t change her first name as customary when converting to Islam, and she doesn’t wear a hijab.
Once a classmate asked one of her three children, “Why isn’t your mom wearing one of those black things?”
The response showed what Islam is about.
“She doesn’t have to wear one. It is her choice.”
Email questions or comments to Toledo Free Press Community Ombudsman Brandi Barhite at bbarhite@toledofree press.com.