Saturday, September 30, 2006

Woman who lost 8 relatives on 9/11 embraces Islam

Woman who lost 8 relatives on 9/11 embraces Islam

WASHINGTON, Sept 11: An American woman who lost eight relatives in the 9/11 attacks has embraced Islam. Elizabeth, now Safia Al Kasaby, 43, lives in Tampa, Florida. She is a former sergeant first class of the US Air Force National Guard. She lost one uncle and seven cousins in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Her grandfather was a Jew and her grandmother was Catholic.

Safia said that in 1997, nearly destitute, she approached a synagogue in North Tampa for help. Officials at the shul wanted to know if she was a member. She was not. They asked her if she was really Jewish. She became disillusioned and for eight years she did not participate in organised religion.

She found Islam in 2005 on the third day of a Moroccan vacation.

At first, Safia's family didn't take her seriously and some colleagues at her banking job made fun of her new attire. She dared not pray at work.

Mostly, Safia kept her new faith at home, learning about her religion on web sites and Islamic chat rooms.

After a meeting with an imam at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area in June, Safia felt more at ease with her new faith. But some in her family are reluctant to accept her new faith. Her eldest daughter, Sylvia, wants little to do with her. A Baptist and young military widow, Sylvia berated Safia when she showed up at her husband's funeral wearing a hijab.

At home, Safia raises two daughters. Ten-year-old Natalia says her mother's religion is cool.

Ada, 18, appreciates Safia's transformation and doesn't put up with people who make fun of Islam or stereotype Muslims. "I say, 'Wait a minute. My mom's a Muslim,'" Ada said. "She's not a terrorist."

Safia says she looks forward to the day when her religion is not an issue.

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