I was born in a Catholic family in Ecuador. My family was never very religious. I mean, they didn't go to church or things like that, except for my grandma whom I loved very much. However, they sent me to a Catholic high school. There, I learned about the religion and I also learned about the spiritual side of life.
Years later, I had the opportunity to go to a college in the U.S. Over there, there were a good number of Muslims studying. I didn't know anything at all about Islam at first. Sometimes I saw them performing prayers. I had never seen a prayer like that. I thought it was very peaceful, and they seemed to have so much faith while doing it.
This is the first thing that attracted me to Islam. Actually, it wasn't until I was about to come back home, when I was finishing school, that I decided to learn more about this religion. I always liked to learn about other beliefs and cultures. But this was time that I especially felt unsatisfied about Catholicism. Then, I tried to contact some people at the masjid. Finally, they led me to a sister who was teaching classes for converts at the mosque.
I started attending these classes, and after a few months I decided that Islam was the religion for me. Islam, in contrast to Catholicism, seemed very pure. I mean, like it had very little influence from people. It seemed perfect. It was hard to find anything I could disagree with. Its hard for me to express the difference I felt between these two religions...I also feel that with Islam I'm sort of more guided, either by the Quran or the hadiths. Whereas, when I was Catholic, it was kind of like I had to figure out what to do in certain situation. People might think that Islam is strict, but I think that is the way its meant to be. I mean, I feel in this way God tells us very clearly what he expects. And you don't have to just wonder in the world looking for the truth, or the real happiness, or things like that.
Islam hasn't been easy, I have to admit. For those coming from other religions, and for Muslims too, I'd like to say that its very important to respect others, and to learn to listen to them. One of the problems with Islam has been that Muslims have been so closed to other people, that they can't get to know us or the religion.
I also think that Muslims should be more open to converts, and more respectful to them. I myself felt sometimes rejected by both groups, the Muslims and my old catholic friends. I've met other converts, and often they seem like they have more faith than a Muslim-born person. So, I think they deserve some credit for that. It's very unfair to treat them as if they were not real Muslims.
Well, that is about it. I hope I'm not missing anything. Of course there are many things Id like to say. But its getting too long.