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I converted to Islam about one year ago. Before this I was a hodge podge of Christian/Buddhist/Unitarian Universalist. Being a ceramic artist who's work targets religion and spirituality, I have observed and learned about several faiths. I felt could never pin point my beliefs to just one system, but Islam was one religion I never got the chance to fully learn about until about a year ago.

Being very liberal minded, my main hang up with religion was judgment from other people and from God. I would always think, "What about homosexuals? People of other faiths? People who do good service all their lives but don't believe? Would a forgiving God really banish all these people to hell?" And then something clicked. Why was I trying to answer all of these questions when I didn't possess the power to? If I truly believed that God was just and merciful, what did I need to worry about? For humans to say one way or the other about someone's eternal destiny is taking on the power of God.

I also find it very interesting how people are so quick to cast each other to into hell. "You had a child out of wedlock! You're going to hell!" "You don't believe in my God, you're going to hell!" I have NEVER heard it the other way around... "You gave that homeless man a dollar! You are SO going to HEAVEN for that!" Not that I think we should take advantage of God's mercy, but we can't let fear be our driving force.

Muslims have their problems as a community just like any other religious community, but what I have learn from Islam is the strong link between the self and God. We all have our individual struggles (aka the real Jihad) on a daily and hourly basis. Islam has taught me that instead of pointing fingers at someone with a different struggle, we must focus on ourselves, help each other get through life with love and compassion, and leave judgment up to God.