Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor has announced she has converted to Islam on twitter, and had changed her name to Shuhada’. The news has lead to mainly congratulatory responses from Muslims.
A press release by the Islamic Centre of Ireland, where she proclaimed the testimony of Islamic faith, stated that her embrace of the religion was a “careful and informed decision and follows a lifetime of searching and study”. Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, who facilitated her conversion added, “We warmly welcome Shuhada to the Ummah, the global family of Muslims around the world and here in Ireland and like a family we will support her through her newly revived spiritual journey”. Shaykh Al-Qadri also posted a short video of them together on his Twitter after her conversion.
American-Muslim Theologian and Scholar Yasir Qadhi posted on Facebook and Twitter that he “was very happy” to hear of her conversion, continuing to say that
“Sinead always struck me as a deeply religious person, and many of her songs and lyrics displayed that. I vividly remember her anger at the Catholic Church and the infamous incident in the early 90s in which she tore up the Pope’s picture on live national television because of the sexual abuses and cover-ups taking place under his watch. She was always a deep thinker, and so her embracing of Islam is, as she herself realizes, a natural conclusion.”
Again, many of the comments on his posts are congratulatory, with a few also expressing concern over the changing of her name to Shuhada, pointing out that it is unnecessary, except if she herself felt the desire to do so.
The twitter hashtags #SineadOConnor and #SineadOConnorEmbracesIslam also show congratulatory messages and one of welcoming. This itself has been acknowledged by O’Connor, when she tweeted her gratitude:
“Thank you so much to all my Muslim brothers and sisters who have been so kind as to welcome me to Ummah today on this page. You can’t begin to imagine how much your tenderness means to me”
Another reaction to the conversion has been a sleuth of critical and Islamaphobic responses, which has lead in turn to a counter-response. Journalist Julie Burchill wrote in the Spectator, “what sort of woman identifies with a religion which supports the oppression, torture and murder of women who dare to want freedom?”, leading to condemnation by the Muslim Council of Britain, who told the Evening Standard that “It is a shame that some commentators are blinded by bigotry and hatred when they see the worst in people finding in Islam a fulfilling end to their spiritual quest.”
Adding nuance to the conversation has been journalist Nargess Moballeghi, who on her facebook page, warned against placing too much importance on celebrities converting to Islam, a symptom of a celebrity culture that “magnifies the issue above and beyond its station”, and noting that “What she has decided to do, or how she decides to do it doesn’t validate or prove anything. It’s her journey. It’s public for reasons that it shouldn’t be.”