I guess a little background about myself before I tell my story would be in order. My name (as per the top of the post) is Mike LoPrete, and I'm a 19 years old college student. I was born Catholic, raised Christian, and lived in midwestern American, where it is almost exclusively Christian (pockets of Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, but they are largely ignored communities around here). Not until I took my own initiative did I learn about Islam in an unbiased fashion (my mother has said of Egypt that "if you sneeze the wrong way, they'll throw you in jail" and that based on the current situation in Pakistan, she concludes that it is a 'God-forsaken' country)...I am at heart both a mystic and an academic at the same time; on one hand I am intensely curious about the world, and generally don't accept "I don't know" as an answer, but on the other I do tend to embrace the mysteries and surprises of this world.
I started learning about Islam about a year and a half ago, nothing too in depth, and I certainly didn't think I was going to convert. Ironically, I was going through a period of spiritual renewal; I was agnostic for a few teenage years, and thought that I had 'refound' Christianity, as it were. But all my life, I've had problems with some of the things about Christianity. I didn't get the idea of the trinity, or of Jesus being all man and all God at the same time. If Jesus was God, why did he pray to God, and why did he say 'God, why have you forsaken me?' when he was on the cross? It didn't make sense, and it didn't seem right. I'm a student of religion in my university, and since most of the focus is on Christianity, I have learned a great deal about it, and the deeper I went, the more problems I had.
And then I started learning about Islam. I met someone online one day (January 14, 1999, I will always remember that), and she was a Muslim girl my age who just needed someone to talk to b/c she was going through tough times. As I helped her through, we started becoming good friends, and started talking about Islam as well. She had basically told me about the 5 pillars, about the Quran, how it is similar to Christianity, etc...my academic flame lit, I had no end to my questions, and she always gave me a straightforward answer that came from her heart, rather from impersonal dogma other people regurgitated to her. I took this last summer to study it more, but by June or so I was pretty much drawn in. I said the shahadda in the beginning of October, I can't remember the day exactly, but by this time I had already embraced Islam.
I'm currently still studying Islam, memorizing the prayers and hopefully a Surah or two for Ramadan, beginning to learn Arabic, and reading some of the Hadith. It is really a very exciting time right now, but I still have many worries about whether I will be accepted by my family (they are all fairly religious Christians, and I haven't told them yet) and questions that will be answered in time.
Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my ramblings,