By Sarah Price
May 2, 2004
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Amirah Ibrahim believes she is the only woman in Mosman to wear an Islamic headscarf.
"I've never seen another one," the 20-year-old said.
A graduate of the exclusive Queenwood School for Girls, Miss Ibrahim, or Lucie Thomson as she is otherwise known, made the life-changing decision to convert to Islam eight months ago.
Her blonde hair now hidden beneath her religious scarf and wearing traditional dress, the woman who was baptised in the Church of England prays five times a day and has pledged to serve Allah.
It is a choice that may seem at odds with her surroundings.
Her family and friends have been very supportive, she said, although when she made the decision to convert she could not tell her parents face-to-face and did it by letter.
She said her younger brother gets a little embarrassed by her appearance when he is with friends.
And her best friend, while supportive of her choice, still had difficulty with her decision to wear a scarf, Miss Ibrahim said.
When she walked down the street, she said, strangers generally nodded and smiled, although she did get the odd stare from young children.
She laughed off rare comments comparing her to Melanie Brown, the Australian woman who converted to Islam and married terrorist suspect Willy Brigitte.
Lucie Thomson's path to Islam began about two years ago.
She had always believed in God but was never sure which religious faith was right for her.
She started learning about the Koran because her boyfriend at the time followed the Druze faith, a mainly Middle East-based religion which uses the Koran.
The relationship ended but her interest in the Koran and then Islam continued.
A Muslim friend took her to a lecture on Islam and she said it was then that she knew she had found the faith she wanted.
"It felt right," she said. "I thought, I can't deny this is right."
Life changed for the better, she said. She is less aggressive and angry and her religion has given her a purpose: to become a better Muslim and to serve Allah.
She now wants to go to university to study political science, a course she has deferred since high school because she says she has a duty as a Muslim to seek knowledge.
She converted to Islam with the help of the Australian New Muslims Association in Lakemba.
There are, on average, about two people a fortnight converting to the faith at the centre, Khadija Abdullah, a member of the centre, said. All come from different backgrounds and their reasons are varied.
Mrs Abdullah, originally from New Zealand, was also not born into the religion.
The 28-year-old mother-of-two first converted to Islam in 1998, when she married her Muslim husband.
But she did not really become a true follower of the Islamic faith until about two years ago. "I was still learning, I was still questioning a lot of things, until one day it finally sunk into me what I was doing was right," she said.
She said she received no pressure from her husband to become a practising Muslim and believed she had become a better person.
She finds once she starts talking to people, they "see through the scarf".
Both women have come to the religion at a time when it has been getting a swathe of bad publicity.
But that scrutiny has strengthened their belief.
Miss Ibrahim said she believed the religion was being victimised and said the Islamic community felt it was being unfairly targeted.
But she said those who behaved badly would be judged by God.