Heather Matthews, with daughters Ellah, 5, and Halle, 2 — via the Daily Mail.

There seems to be nothing more exciting for tabloids than publishing pictures of white women in hijab. Well, unless it’s publishing pictures of white women converts in their racy, hedonistic, pre-Islamic days.

Last month Amy Sall and Heather Matthews told their conversion stories to the tabloid press. And instead of using the stories to dispel myths about Muslims, educate the public about Islam, or even come up with something remotely newsworthy, both news sources emphasized their incredible transformation from “former party girls” to, well … plain old Muslim.

But with fabulously shocking headlines!

The Sun‘s “I’m a blue-eyed, blonde Brit but when I wear hijab in the street I get spat at and abused: Meet the party girl who became a Muslim convert,” focuses on the verbal abuse Amy Sall experiences whenever she wears hijab in public, and the cultural clash she feels exists between the more conservative members of her community and her practice of Islam:

“After all, I’m blonde, blue-eyed, love a drink and have tattoos — hardly your average Muslim woman… I’m still trying to understand the role of women in Muslim society, and I don’t know if I will ever properly fit in. It is like living between two worlds.”

Amy’s conversion story of meeting her current husband while dancing at a nightclub, as well as her new and sincere dedication to practicing Islam, is overwhelmingly overshadowed with anecdotes of her struggles with hijab and drinking alcohol. The article is paired up paired with images of Amy with and without hijab — and drunk, in a pre-Islam night out with her girlfriends.

Despite the fact that she fully admits to not being the best Muslim she could be, she does respect the religion, admires her husband’s piety and plans on raising their three children as Muslim. But the message readers are left with is that she just needs the occasional drink night out, to “reassure myself I am still me.”

Because, you know, this article isn’t really about her conversion, highlighting convert family struggles or celebrating a love story — but about emphasizing that scary, foreign Muslim men are converting white women to a religion that erases their sense of self.

(more…)

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