Good day and Assalamo `Alaikom (peace be upon you).
I’m Glyn Maclean. My genetic cells are primarily Scottish with a little bit of Irish and Belgium blood!
My mom’s people arrived in New Zealand in 1860s. They were farmers and blacksmiths primarily.
My dad arrived here in 1957 nearly a hundred years later in Wellington.
I have three brothers and a sister, most of them are overseas now. We shifted allover New Zealand. I went to 12 different schools. My parents met through a church here in Wellington.
My Life Before Islam
From my very early childhood, we used to say grace before meals. My parents went to church and we as kids went to Sunday School. But I think when I was 8 or 9 at one of the times we shifted, we didn’t get enrolled in a Sunday school and my parents didn’t go to church and we stopped saying grace and I never found out why, I never actually asked. From then on, my upbringing was secular although I tended to gravitate to friends particularly at school who were people of a great deal of faith from different Christian sects primarily. My attitude to them was always “I respect your faith but don’t try to convert me”, which they were all very good about.
It wasn’t until I came to Wellington in the 1980s after I finished university that I discovered how important church was actually to my parents. I joined a drama group that I picked up from a phonebook where churches can be found, and I found out that not only my parents were members of a church but 2 of my uncles were also founding members and I didn’t know this! One of the women there asked me “What church do you go to?” and I said “Well, I don’t” and she said “Why is that?” I replied “I have absolutely no doubt that there is God, but I just don’t feel comfortable with the other teachings that I’ve come across and so I don’t go to church.” She smiled and said “God will bring you to Him when He is ready in His own way” which I thought was very cool!
How I Became a Muslim
Well, how I came to Islam was not at all from the usual route that most of other people went through to become Muslims. I went to school in New Zealand in the 1970s and that was the era of the cold war, the doomsday ticking and atomic bombs to go off and world destruction to take place and the huge threat we were told about was communism and this red threat was going to take over New Zealand and the whole world. In the first New Zealand election that I remember there were slogans like “Vote for labor, with reds under the bed!” and if we voted for the labor, the whole country would become communist.
|I started to read the Quran and that was easier said than done because I couldn’t obtain a copy|
In the 1990s I began to notice that whereas the whole communist threat was faded away with the collapse of communism, Islam was starting to be portrayed in a very similar manner but with a very substantial difference. With the whole communism threat, we had a lot of information about both sides of the story. At school we studied things like the cultural revolution in China. We could access Marx, Linen, ... if we wanted to. Animal Farm was in the New Zealand school curriculum in 1984... Quite a lot of things that you dealt with you knew what was behind it, but with Islam in the 1990s, there was nothing. There was just this great big threat. The color changed from red to black but there was almost nothing else.
I made the decision to educate myself because I felt that it was completely wrong to basically have one set of information and I decided that the best way to go about that was to go to the source. I’d studied quite a lot of other religions to get away from the dogma of humans when organizations and politics get involved in these sorts of things. So, I wanted to go to the most important sources of that faith. So I started to read the Quran and that was easier said than done because I couldn’t obtain a copy. There were none at the libraries and the bookshop said they couldn’t get me any. I knew at that time that in Daniel Street in New Town there was a house which said “Wellington Islamic Center”. It was before we had the mosque and I didn’t doubt that I could go there and ask for a copy of the Quran and someone would lend me one. I didn’t because I didn’t know how to behave. I didn’t want to cause anybody offense. I know how to behave in a range of different Christian churches or in someone’s funeral but I had absolutely no idea how to behave in a community of Muslims so I didn’t do that.
Eventually I ordered a copy from Amazon.com on the Internet. When it arrived I expected it to be something completely foreign. I studied Japanese language at university and I expected the Quran to be as foreign to my way of thinking and my entire upbringing as Japanese language to English and I was wrong. I was absolutely shocked when I opened this up and started reading about all the stories I was brought up with as a kid. There was Adam, Abraham, Hud, Jesus and Mary (peace be upon them). All the things that had been the cornerstones of my very early upbringing and very much the same value system that my family had. And yet they were told in a way that answered all the concerns I had previously, such as the decision to take from the tree of knowledge. That was a joint decision. It wasn’t some evil woman that came and led this bloke astray. And particularly the prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). I’d always been concerned that from what I was told at bible studies and at Sunday School and at church that everything pointed to the fact that this was a man, an enormously important man with an incredible message but a human being and I’d never been able to reconcile this sort of slide through to divinity even though the church I was brought up at didn’t believe in the trinity. But there were still aspects of divinity we were being given and I didn’t ever feel comfortable with because the stories didn’t match.
|it wasn’t very long before it became very apparent to me- I really can’t quite explain how this felt- what I was reading was the truth|
Once I got out of my shock which was pretty massive, my next feeling was to feel ashamed because of my ignorance and not just my ignorance but the ignorance of the community in which I lived. The fact that we were talking of the same God, that’s Allah, the God of Abraham. This is what I would say previously “New Zealand’s God” and yet we didn’t even know this. And that was really strong. As I continued to read it wasn’t very long before it became very apparent to me- I really can’t quite explain how this felt- what I was reading was the truth, the truth in the most profound sense was there in this faith. I didn’t tell anybody else about this at the time. I finished reading the Quran, a translation obviously, then I read it again.
After the second time through, I decided to do quite a lot of research on the Internet and look at how to become a Muslim, what to do how I behaved and the general implications. I had a great deal of difficulty finding information other than the very basics like the five pillars. Information like how to pray was very difficult to find in the early 1990s and things have changed since. I remember finding a couple of articles which said you have to make (and then there were Arabic characters) and I thought “What’s that?” and then it said for prayers you have to make and then Arabic characters. I managed to find a translation for this and knew what to do and I said OK but what this would do?! And it took me probably another three weeks to know that was cleansing but it took much much longer to establish what one actually did and how to go about this. These days, a lot of people were shocked about how such basic information were very hard to find. The most constant threat throughout was that a conversion to Islam was not something to be done in a hurry. This was something to think about. This was something to research. This was something to be absolutely sure of yourself before you actually took the shahadah. I finally took the shahadah in October 2000.