To understand why I chose Freedom Riders 2012 as my first full length documentary you have to know the way I was raised by my mother, Rita. She believed in never baptizing me, but for me to choose my own religion as I got older. I had to do a lot of self-discovery.
My adoptive father was Methodist, so from about 5 to 10 years old I went to Methodist churches and vacation Bible schools. I still have my Good News Bible that I was given at 8 years old. When my parents divorced, I didn’t go to church on a regular basis.
Instead, I would visit my best friend Stephanie’s Mormon temple when I spent the night on Saturdays. In 1986, my mother took me to visit a Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. I thought the temple was absolutely beautiful. I remember seeing this huge ceramic bowl where the Mormons baptized people. My mother said “I know you want to be baptized there, don’t you?” I responded “Yes.” She said “It’s not time yet.” I remember feeling disappointed.
I would always go with friends to their churches and find them fascinating. I visited an Evangelical church one time with a friend and went up to the alter with others from the congregation and the energy was so powerful, I fell out when the preacher touched my forehead to bless me.
It wasn’t until 1996-97 that I had my breakthrough. At that time I considered myself Methodist and was a member of the Long Beach Methodist Church in California. I moved back to Richmond, Virginia where my sister and mother were taking classes in order to convert to Catholicism. My mother remarried and her husband was Catholic and she wanted to convert for him because he couldn’t take communion. I started taking the classes, which were supposed to last for about 3 months. Halfway through, I had a one on one with the Nun that was teaching the classes. Conclusion, I was not to be accepted for the sins I had already committed, excommunicated before converting.
At the same time I was going to community college and taking a world history course and learned about Islam for the first time. I needed some extra credit, so I went to the school’s library and checked out a small paperback English version of the Koran. I have read many books, but this was the first one that had women’s rights in it. The rights include the right for me to divorce my husband if I am being mistreated. Bingo!
Shortly afterwards, I would soon meet my husband to be who was Muslim, so in October of 1997, before we married I went to the Islamic Center of Orange County in Garden Grove, California where Dr. Siddiqi converted me and gave me a beautiful Koran. I had no classes to take, no water to be poured, but only a simple declaration. ‘There is no God, but God and Muhammod is his prophet.’
When I was younger, I was upset with my mother for not giving me a clearer path to God, but now I thank her because I found out where I belong. In my own self-discovery, I have learned to appreciate and admire all religions. I believe that your relationship with God is up to you and I should not judge you because we don’t share the same beliefs. I want all religions and other beliefs to coexist because our time here on Earth is short, so why fight?
(Melissa Fazli has been happily married for 14 years with 3 handsome sons. She began iReporting in January of 2009 after being inspired by President Obama’s call for National Service. Melissa has a degree in Humanities with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences. She is graduating in May with a Bachelor’s in RTVF (Radio, Television, and Film). She opened up her own production company Dolphin 5 Productions this year to make documentaries that inspire her. Twitter @HitsandMisses Email: email@example.com)