Sara Bokker January 2, 2010Posted by Salim Boss in People Who Changed.
“I could never dress like that.”
~ Sara Bokker (before embracing Islam) commenting on veiled Muslim women.
Sara Bokker is a former actress, model, fitness instructor, and (and now) an activist. She is an American woman, who had lived in Florida and on the South Beach of Miami. She abandoned her bikini, a symbol of her liberty as she used to perceive it, for niqab (face veil).
Despite being raised as a Lutheran, Sara didn’t believe in the “church stuff” such as singing, worshiping pictures of crosses and Jesus, and eating “the body and blood of Christ.” As she says, “It just did not make any sense to me.” As years passed by, she found herself on the wrong side of history. Stress and confusion were her two best companions. Sara had much disgust and hatred for herself. She turned to alcohol, dropped out of college and at the age of 19 she left South Dakota, where she grew up, for Florida by herself. Still, sadness followed her while in Florida, and she turned to psychology, self-help books and tapes, and exercise.
Trying to conform with the Florida lifestyle, Sara found herself a slave of her looks. Her money was mostly consumed by hairdresser, manicurist, gym, mall, and other beauty-making expenses. “It cost a lot of time and money to look good.” She says. Even falling in love did not alleviate sadness and stress. Then she began looking into all types and kinds of religions. She came to be interested mostly in metaphysical studies, and some sort of Eastern-type meditation and yoga. She adhered to those but she found herself craving for more than that. Eventually she went back to college, where she developed a passion for International Relations. It was in college where she learnt the ugly truth about “American History” and “US Foreign Policy.” She says, “I was horrified with all the injustice, racism, and oppression. It broke my heart. I was so saddened by the suffering in the world. I decided I must do something about it.” She embarked on a self-appointed duty to educate the local high school and college students about the injustice in the Middle East. She went as far as organizing local activists to travel to Washington, DC, to protest the upcoming war in Iraq.
During this process, she met a Muslim man who had dedicated his life to fight for justice and human rights. The man had started his own organization, to which Sara worked as a volunteer so that she could learn more and help in the struggle. As they worked together, the Muslim guy taught Sara stories of Prophet Muhammad, his disciples, and the civilization of Islam. “I was shocked to hear these stories, as I knew nothing about this history. I became enchanted with Islam and read all I could about it, eventually reading the Qur’an.” She said.
Finally she found the truth in Islam. To all her queries about Islam, she got the answers which, according to her, were “very logical and amazingly functional.” She discovered that Islam is a complete way of life possessing guidance and answers to even the smallest of details, like how to eat and sleep.
In January 2003, at the age of 29, Sara reverted to Islam. “A blanket of comforting peace embraced me.” She explains the experience, “I felt so calm and sure and full of joy. All of a sudden I had a purpose in life, a reason to exist.” Sara pronounced her Shahadah (testimony of faith) at a public groundbreaking for a new mosque. And as soon as she said the testimony, two rainbows appeared in the sky! The Muslim sisters present went to hug her. “I was crying from so much joy,” She says. The following day, eager to show the world her new religion, she went to a local Middle Eastern store to buy hijabs (headscarves) and dresses appropriate for a Muslim woman. From that day forward, Sara dressed decently. She walked down the same streets and neighborhoods where, days earlier, she had walked in shorts, bikini, and other indecent western attires. ”Free at last!” she said. “I had broken the chains of fashion and physical enslavement enforced by a superficial society. Honestly, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer felt the pressure to dress and look better than everyone else.” This is what she advices women who wish to have true liberation:
As an ex non-Muslim, I insist on women’s right to equally know about hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness it brings to a woman’s life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being. I couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the “glamorous” Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person. It is why I choose to wear niqab (face veil), and why I will die defending my inalienable right to wear it. Today, niqab is the new symbol of woman’s liberation to find who she is, what her purpose is, and the type of relation she chooses to have with her Creator. To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are missing.
Sara was married by the man who introduced her to Islam exactly one month after her reversion. As a couple, they continue to work against injustice throughout the world. They have been travelling throughout the Middle East and they have now moved from America to Egypt to live in an Islamic environment. “My heart is complete. The sadness and loneliness are gone. I now feel I belong. I am somebody.” She says.
Currently, Sara is the Director of Communications at The March For Justice, a co-founder of The Global Sisters Network, and producer of Shock & Awe Gallery, a historical documentation and evidence of the U.S./British Crime of the Century.
[References: Bokker, Sara. “The New Symbol of Women’s Liberation.” Marchforjustice.com <http://www.marchforjustice.com/showdetails.php?id=174> ; Bokker, Sara. “Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab.” The Pak Tribune 4 Jan. 2007; Bokker, Sara. “From Darkness to Light.” Radiance Viewsweekly 28 Dec. 2006. Vol. XLIV No. 28; http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/1640/>%5D
The following story has been excerpted from this Book: “They are either Extremely Smart or Extremely Ignorant” by Salim Boss. You can visit the authors blog http://www.extremelysmart.wordpress.com for a free downloadable copy of the book.