Assalamualaikum I am Andrea Cruickshank.
Born and bred in Hastings New Zealand.
I worked as a caregiver for the elderly for many years, I am currently retired.
I have one daughter.
Life before Islam
I was raised by a single mother, I am the youngest of 5 siblings.
We were raised in a conservative Trinitarian Christian church, I also attended the church school in Napier.
I consider myself as a deep logical thinker. I questioned the Pastor “why is there one God in the Old testament and three in the New testament”? He stood over me at the height of 6ft and shrieked at me “you will believe or go straight to hell.”
I could not comprehend Jesus and the Holy Ghost. It wasn't logical, whereas the commandments are so straight forward and specific.
I continued to go to church and the church school to please my mum, my heart was not in it.
I also went to mainstream school.
When I was 21 I did an OE overseas experience, I completely went off the rails living the fast lane and partied hard. When I returned to New Zealand I worked in a rest home for the elderly and I continued partying.
I was in a serious car accident the day after my friend's wedding. I slowed down the partying scene because of my health.
I met my daughter's father and gave birth at 27. My mother would take my daughter to church, she volunteered me to help out there, so I ran some Sunday school classes and just helped out, which was a good social outlet, my views on the Trinity were still the same.
My daughter was abused at the church school, she acted out and physiologically crashed and burned because of it. She met Ryan who became a close friend to her, he would take her to church and she settled down with his support.
Ryan was interested in Islam my daughter approached a couple of Maori revert brothers to talk to Ryan, so they met up and spoke to him and answered all his questions, Ryan also met the Sheikh and 10 days later he converted and took his Shahada. My daughter converted after some time in August 2010 after further research and finding the answers to her questions.
My first encounter with a Muslim
My first encounter was meeting the Maori brothers that came to talk to Ryan. I attended Jummah with my daughter and talked to the Sheikh. He gave me a dvd to watch which was by Billal Phillips called, God's true religion. Watching the dvd was a light bulb moment, I decided to look into Islam more seriously, I googled for more information as I had a lot of questions on woman's rights.
I converted in December 2010 at a community picnic. I said to sis Asma the Sheikh's wife “I'm ready” she replied “for what’? She giggled and said “you have to tell me”, I said “you know.”
I said the shahada in front of the sisters and they all embraced me and welcomed me and threw around Muslim names, I chose Khaltha. After saying my shahada I felt tingly and lighter like a load had been lifted, I no longer felt guilty for not being able to accept the Trinity, it was a huge burden gone and a relief.
What do I love about Islam?
Purpose and structure.
How has Islam improved me as a person?
Age 17 I was diagnosed with clinical depression and it was a daily battle, after finding Islam I have the odd one or 2 days where Im down, but I believe the purpose and structure of it has helped my mental health. I am still me and I am a lot happier.
My family likes my changes
My mum was an Adventist till the day she died, she accepted my conversion begrudgingly as she could see I was happier. I didn't wear my hijab in front of mum out of respect. When she passed I always wear it.
My sisters are happy for me they know I'm still the same old me, but a happier version.
As a Pakeha New Zealander what challenges have I faced?
Racism is really bad people yelling "F off to your own country", If it's not direct racism theirs the undertones of it, it has been a challenge to hold my tongue. People treat me like an idiot as they assume I'm a foreigner until I open my mouth and speak, then they hear I'm clearly not.
I was born with a disability so I have dealt with prejudice.
Since March 15 the Christchurch terrorist attack, racism is no longer tolerated in New Zealand and even the gang members won't tolerate it, if they see it they will intervene. I have found people are more warmer and empathetic since then.