Monday, 2 August 2010

Irish activist converts to Islam on memorial visit to Kayseri




Irish peace activist Caoimhe Butterly converted to Islam during a trip to Kayseri to visit the family of Furkan Doğan, a 19-year-old Turkish-American peace activist slain during an Israeli commando raid on a flotilla of ships bearing humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip in May.

Butterly, who was born in Ireland but spent much of her youth traveling throughout West Africa and Latin America because her parents worked for aid groups, has spent the last nine years working as a volunteer with refugee camps in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon. Inspired by Doğan’s tale, she traveled to the Turkish province of Kayseri this past week to visit his gravesite and family and offer her condolences. During the trip, she decided that the time had come for her to convert to the Islamic faith and become a Muslim.
She said her long experience in the Muslim world was part of her decision to convert to Islam but added: “But my reason for becoming Muslim at Furkan’s grave is that he was exemplary. For him -- in the spring of his life at only 19 years old -- with his purity, belief and strength, to choose struggle for the sake of the freedom of Palestine and the Palestinians is an example for everyone young and old in the world.”

“For long years I have felt a closeness to the religion of Islam. But our fallen Turkish brothers on the Mavi Marmara, like Furkan, Ali Haydar, Cevdet, Nejdet and the others -- they were an example to me that led me to join this community,” she said. Upon converting to Islam, Butterly chose a Muslim name to be known as -- Aishah, after one of Prophet Muhammad’s wives. Butterly noted that while she felt conversion was an important step for her spiritually, in a political sense it also held meaning as she was from the Western world but did not let this stop her from standing up for justice in the Middle East.

“For I believe in Palestine’s struggle for freedom, I believe in the intifada. I believe that people from everywhere in the world should support Palestine’s rightful struggle for freedom. As someone from the West, I feel that taking part in this struggle is a human responsibility,” Butterly said.

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