Assalamualaikum, I am Hatice Linda Kurucu, tribe Ngati Kahungunu.
My husband Omer is Turkish and we have two children. I run my own business as a Beauty Therapist and Hairdresser in Melbourne, Australia
Life before Islam.
As a child in Wairoa, NewZealand I have memories of waiting many a night in the car the pub car park for my parents.
One time my father was so drunk that I had to drive him home, I was 9 and the car was a manual.
My feet were barely touching the pedals, as I was driving my father home I was scared that I would drive into the ditch.
My father was the town's local “herb” dealer so he was very popular in the community.
I was always a believer in God.
We were Ratanas equivalent to the Anglican church but we weren't practicing.
My first encounter with a Muslim.
The first Muslim I met was my current Turkish husband. I was 23 working at a bar in Melbourne, when we met he was a security guard that was stationed due to an event the pub was hosting.
We talked and he would come and get a coffee and we hit it off so after a month we started dating. Four weeks into dating I found out he was Muslim, I thought well he doesn't seem to be a terrorist to me.
Two years into dating I started looking into Islam, I asked Omer about Islam and he gave me some books to read. I read the books and I was like this is practical and logical and I agreed with it! I even fasted in Ramadan and loved it.
Four years in and we were still dating.
I decided to meet the (Hoca) Imam and he asked me questions and I asked him all the hard questions and he answered them without batting an eyelid
He gave me logical answers and his answers impressed and resonated with me.
After speaking with the Imam it was confirmed in my heart that this was the path for me. I went home and I told Omer that I think I want to become Muslim. He was shocked and he said ok I have one question for you. "If we marry and have kids and some day we split up, will you still remain Muslim?" I said yes because I'm doing this for me.
He said ok then you're doing it for the right reasons.
Omer rang his parents and finally told them about me, his Aunt put on a barbeque and invited us and his parents to her place to meet.
Walking into the Aunt's house I could feel all eyes on me staring, good thing Maori are the pros at the intimidation stare so I have seen it all.
But you could cut the tension with a knife.
I was my friendly chirpy self which put everyone at ease.
Omer's Mom didn't say anything at the barbeque.
She just sat quietly listening looking and sussing me out.
When the barbeque finished Omer's Parents called me over for a cup of tea, so we went to theirs' and they asked me what I knew about Islam, we chatted and then all the photo albums came out and I left at 3am.
Everyday Omer's parents rang for us to come to theirs'. Six months later we had our engagement and Nikah and we moved in with them. We had a wedding 6 months later.
I did my Shahada at a vakif which is like a community gathering where everyone reads Quran and learns their deen. That night a special guest was visiting she was a Sayyid from the bloodline of Prophet Mohammed pbh.
I was overwhelmed with how full the place was as I was to do my shahada.
All of a sudden she waves to me to go to her and I maneuvered through the huge crowd and she grabs my hand and takes her ring off and puts it on my finger, then she kissed me on the forehead.
I later found out that ring was from Hajj.
I went back to my spot at the back of the room, all eyes were on me probably wondering what's so special about me.
I ended up doing my shahada in another room with another (Hoca) Imam. After saying the shahada declaration of faith I felt cleansed like water had been poured over me.
Outside, my mother in-law was talking to the Sayyid who they call Hajji Anne and my husband joined and said "no that's enough" and told me to get in the car.
Six months later after more research, I told my mother in-law that I want to change my name. She was like ok, and I told her I like the name Haticah. She was in awe, and said "Did you know that was the name Hajji Anne chose for you." But Omer wanted you to do this when you're ready and not to be pushed. Subhanallah!
What do I love about Islam?
I love the peace, contentment and inner peace that I now have, as I've never experienced it prior to Islam, due to being surrounded by violence, abuse, anger and trauma my own and inherited.
Islam gives me freedom from all the above.
How has Islam improved me as person?
I am not angry or bitter anymore.
I have empathy and I can forgive.
I never had that before.
I have a better working and family environment and we have an alcohol violence free home.
My family likes my changes.
My family can see I am living a better life and that I'm not the angry person that I was before.
My cousin came to stay with me at one stage she needed respite from her life, After staying with us, she looked into Islam and she told me that this is what she has been looking for all her life.
She embraced Islam, alhumdulilah, and hasnt looked back.
As a Maori Muslim what challenges I have faced?
The challenges were my own over thinking. My husband and I took his parents to Wairoa in New Zealand.
We stayed at the Marae.
I thought explaining to my (whanau) family about our dietary requirements would be an issue, also the alcohol.
But alhumdulilah, we were treated with the utmost respect, they separated the vegetables and meat so it wasn't cooked with pork, and they made sure no alcohol was on the tables in my-inlaws presence.
Also they loved my in-laws because their guns in the kitchen and they loved the Turkish food that they made.
Do I feel oppressed in the religion?
No. I feel Islam gives me more rights.
There are definite roles between men and woman in contrast to what I experienced in my culture.
Women work and fight like men.
I feel we're given more respect in Islam, and I have more respect for myself and others.