Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Youssef Story, Part One

"He's here on a wife-hunt." "He converted in Iraq." "Watch out - he's a bit off." The whispers fly from student to student as everyone adds what they have learned or fabricated about the newcomer until a consistent story forms, gels and instantly takes on the authority of legend. While even this compiled version may contain certain untruths, its wildest elements are those which have been most extensively verified.

Timothy was born and raised in Manchester, England. He left school before the age of 16, or else left despite having failed the standard exams at the end of that year. Somewhere in this murky youth he took up drugs and a vague group of wanderers, drifting as they did. Unemployed and unhappy, already in his mid-twenties, Timothy joined the military in search of discipline and stability. He got shipped to Iraq, where the seemingly authoritative teachings of the Shia imams spoke to his lost and wandering soul, and he converted unquestioningly. He condemned his former friends, decried his compatriots and accepted the decadence of Christianity. Casting away his old Christian name, he became Youssef and felt himself at a new start.

Once again in England, he found the local Muslim community less tolerant of his ignorance and less patient in their teachings. Moreover, he had decided that the greatest promise offered by Islam was that of a wife, and when he could not find this source of leadership and companionship at home, he decided to seek it elsewhere. Fellow British muslims impressed upon him the need to learn Arabic and study for himself, and Youssef set out inspired to find certainty in a new language. Enter Morocco.

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