My name is Natalya Solomon I’m from Flaxmere, Hastings and yes that makes me Ngati Kahungunu.
I am 1 of 9 kids and am now the oldest girl.
I am married to a Lebanese guy that I met through facebook and Alhamdulillah. I cant imagine life any other way.
Life before Islam.
When l was 8 years old my family moved to Melbourne Australia.
Life seemed pretty normal you know, the usual go school come home, help cook tea, do your homework, etc.
Fast forward to 2016, I went through a bad experience that no teenage girl should have to go through. Lets just say that the guy got his justice.
After this traumatizing experience I felt ashamed and felt like I was gonna go to hell or worse. So I wanted to be apart of a religion.
I always believed in God but didn’t know which one was real. So I started looking into different religions that I came across in Melbourne.
I did this because I wanted to have a sense of hope knowing that when I pass I’ll be at peace.
It took a while but after studying all religions, only one I connected with on a spiritual level, Islam.
My first encounter with a Muslim.
My first encounter would’ve been at my school that I went to in Melbourne. I was in Year 9 and I had become close with a girl named Mariam.
I always wondered why Muslim girls always had to cover up and so I asked all these questions.
The usual questions fellow Muslims get asked, like: Why do you wear a hijab? Why do you fast and you can't drink water while fasting?
She explained everything to me,
and it always made me wonder and left me wanting to be apart of the religion.
2016 was when I had taken my shahada.
I wanted to try help my family and I spiritually, as we were going through hard times. We got through, we always do.
Every time I prayed, every time I read or listened to the Quran, I would always burst into tears knowing that I could always talk to Allah, and just cry my heart out.
I don’t regret anything if I had come across Islam earlier in life I would’ve converted earlier.
What do I love about Islam?
I love everything about our religion.
The respect and status that women have, Islam is the religion of peace.
I can go on and say all the things I love about it, but yeah I’m just grateful that I can be apart of a community that is peaceful and truthful.
How has Islam improved me as person?
I used to get in alot of fights like young people do. I’m no longer violent towards anyone.
I’ve become a better sister, daughter, friend and wife, just being able to share my happiness with the ones I love.
My family likes my changes.
At first everyone in my family was supportive.
I tried helping my mum on a spiritual level after my sister passed away but she felt like it wasn’t the path for her.
Now that she is a Christian she tries to convert me back and force it onto me and my husband.
Parents only want the best for their children and you know thats my mum. I’ll never disrespect her.
Other than my mum the rest of my family are still supportive and happy that I'm happy.
As a Maori Muslim what challenges you have faced?
In Melbourne there are heaps of Polynesians that hang around the beaches on summer days.
They’ll see me in a lava lava or Maori clothing while I'm wearing a hijab and they say things like:
“Stop trying to be a wannabe” or
”Look at that terrorist trying to be Māori,” and
“You’re not Māori, you should take those off.”
Its hard that people see the hijab first and not the person.
When I tell them that I'm Maori they say "prove it".
I just say "I don't have to prove anything to you."
Some try to get violent and it's funny coz these people are friends with my cousins. Every time my cousins stick up for me they end up apologizing to me and them. Honestly I blame media.
Alhamdulillah I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t find Islam.