Just over a year ago we saw Sinead O'Connor break down in a heart-wrenching video in which she begged her family to pick her up from a motel in New Jersey, claiming that she'd been left alone for two years because her mental health struggles had made her difficult to be around. Now she's seemingly found peace and happiness in a new faith, so why aren't more people supporting her in her Islamic journey?

Sinead O'Connor live at the Olympia in Dublin 2007 / Photo Credit: Patrick O'Leary/Famous

Sinead O'Connor live at the Olympia in Dublin 2007 / Photo Credit: Patrick O'Leary/Famous

The Nothing Compares 2 U singer revealed in June that she was changing her name to Magda Davitt to free her from her patriarchal ties, but in recent weeks she has proclaimed an even newer identity as she enters into a new religious path. Now she is Shuhada' Davitt, "Shuhada'" meaning "martyrs" in Arabic.

"This is to announce that I am proud to have become a Muslim", she wrote on Twitter on October 19. "This is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian's journey. All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant."

Now whether you agree with this statement or not, it doesn't invalidate her right to seek out a new faith. But still people are taking to social media to viciously tear her down for her choices. She is being called "attention-seeking", and even being accused of hypocrisy; having spent a lifetime militantly standing up for women's rights, she's now embracing a religion that's built on misogyny.

Except, of course it isn't. Islam is no more a misogynistic religion than any other. There is a whole chapter in the Quran detailing the proper treatment of women and the responsibilities men have towards them, some facets of which might appear sexist to some modern minds but to those who understand - to the strong Muslim women of the world - scripture should only be taken as allegorical teachings and not as literal laws.

There are even verses within the Quran that directly promote balance and harmony between the sexes, such as "The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female", though such lines get largely ignored in the misogyny argument. Just because some things don't conform to the Western standard of equality doesn't mean that they're inherently sexist.

Take the hijab or the burkha, for example. In some Islamic communities it has been seen as an oppressive tool, but only because it has been used as such. You can use anything to oppress a person or group. If you tell women they have to wear skirts in the workplace instead of trousers that is obviously sexist, but does that mean that anyone who wears a skirt is a victim of oppression in all other circumstances? Of course not.

Any intelligent person recognises that Islamic fundamentalism is not at the core of the religion, is not what drives the majority of the Islamic peoples. The same can be said about misogyny. Ultimately, at the core of Islam there is one main thing: Peace. Muslims greet each other with the phrase "As-Salaam-Alaikum" meaning "Peace be unto you". And that's what Shuhada' Davitt has finally found.

Don't insult her by claiming that she is submitting herself to a misogynistic faith when she has come from a country where women were systemically abused by a religious community and treated as slaves for decades. Around 30,000 "fallen women" were forced to work their fingers to the bone in the Magdalene laundries, the last of which only closed in 1996. Does this mean that Catholicism is inherently a misogynistic faith? If it does, it gets far less vocal opposition than Islam in the West.

To accuse Shuhada' of naivety is just as insulting. To assume that she has not spent much of her 51 years on this planet searching for meaning and for truth is a display of ignorance, for she has been a vocal activist in everything from women's rights and child abuse to war and sexuality. Her conversion to Islam is an extension of that journey, not a renouncement.

Other comments that Shuhada' has received in the last few days have directly targeted her mental health. Choosing a religious path is being seen by many as evidence that she is "losing her mind", rather than as evidence that she is healing herself from the horror that bipolar disorder has inflicted upon her.

Shuhada' will, of course, never be free of her mental health struggles. But the fact that she has found a community which has accepted her with open arms in spite of all the controversy that has surrounded her over the years is an incredible thing that ought to be celebrated not disparaged. She is, after all, not the only Westerner on this planet who has found harmony in the amity of Islam.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk

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