Maguy’s son had warned his mother: born Catholic, he wanted to change religion. Aged around twenty at the time, the young man was in research. The son of this committed Catholic became interested in Buddhism, then Islam. Secretly, Maguy then hopes that he will not become Muslim. She recognizes it today: for her, this religion was linked to violence.
So, when she learned that he had turned to Islam, she says she felt ” crushed “. His son’s conversion dates back around ten years and Maguy today claims to have accepted it. However, her still misty eyes when she talks about it seem to mean that the situation remains complicated. It was to share her questions that this resident of Bonneuil-sur-Marne (Val-de-Marne) wanted to participate in an evening dedicated to parents – or grandparents – whose child has converted to Islam, organized by the diocese of Créteil.
At the bishopric, Thursday October 19, around ten Catholics from Val-de-Marne listen attentively to Maguy. Evoking his fears and his prejudices, his testimony resonates with their own experience. The objective of this evening? Offer a place to speak and exchange with other parents in the same situation, as explained in the preamble by Michel Fagot, deacon and responsible for relations with Muslims in the diocese of Créteil. An initiative that is all the more necessary in the current context where fears and confusion about Islam are prevalent.
Question your first reactions
A first round of the table first allows us to illustrate the diversity of the converts’ backgrounds: woman or man, building apprentice or computer engineering engineer, rather liberal or more rigorous religious practice… On the other hand, one common point, conversion occurs. most of the time around the age of 20.
In any case, for the family, it is always a surprise, sometimes a shock. For these practicing Catholics there also appears a form of guilt for not having succeeded in passing on their faith to their children. The situation was particularly delicate for Graziella, involved in her parish. Her daughter, aged 16, started wearing a “djellaba” on the street last spring. By discovering it, without trying to understand, the mother admits to having had a reaction ” brutal “ : “I waited for her to come home from school and threw everything away. Except the Koran of course, I just hid it. »
This is where Joëlle intervenes, to question this knee-jerk reaction. With her husband Jacques, they are one of the two witness couples during this evening. Their daughter Céline, now 47 years old, converted to Islam twenty-five years ago. “Did your teenager tell you that she was doing this by choice, or to do like her friends? “, asks Joëlle.
“I didn’t go so far as to ask him, Graziella concedes. I didn’t understand that from one day to the next, she said she had converted. For me, at 16 years old, you don’t know anything about this religion if you haven’t been immersed in it. »
During the evening, Michel Fagot shares some keys to understanding the Muslim religion in order to help participants understand their child’s spiritual journey. Enough to reassure them, push them to enter into dialogue with their child and “measure the seriousness of their approach”.
Disruption of habits
Beyond the fears, becoming a Muslim also involves a change in lifestyle, which affects the whole family. The question of meals is particularly symbolic. Parents of converts seek to adapt. They discover halal meat. Some may even stop drinking alcohol in the presence of their child.
However, tensions exist in families. Éric and Véronique, the other witness couple, say they had to give up large family tables, because the wife of their converted son does not want to remove her veil in front of their son-in-law. Situations that can cause disappointment or anger. At the risk of jeopardizing the relationship with their child? It is not necessary “above all, don’t break the link”advise witness couples.
“It was very hard at the beginning because Céline practices strict Islam,” recognizes Joëlle, even evoking a ” trauma “. However, the Catholic Action activist preferred “accept many things”, rather than breaking off the relationship. Little by little, a dialogue was established and led her daughter to make some concessions.
The grandmother says, for example, that her daughter and her husband went so far as to color their children’s eyes in the photos. Indeed, certain Salafist currents are wary of representations of faces. “But they got over it, rejoices Joëlle. Now we have pictures of our grandchildren all over the house! »
Attention to the elderly
With hindsight, parents or grandparents can even appreciate the good that conversion can bring. “As soon as we are sick or have a problem, Céline and her husband come to help us,” underlines Joëlle, recalling that in the Muslim religion particular attention is paid to elders, particularly mothers. “ Sometimes I tell myself that this is what helps us to keep going. »
Paradoxically, some testify to the fact that their child’s spiritual journey also pushed them to be “more Christian”. Céline’s conversion was thus for Jacques and Joëlle an opportunity for new discussions on the way in which faith animated their lives, or even the notions of justice and solidarity. Questioned by their daughter about the Bible, the couple was also pushed to delve more carefully into the texts. A posture of openness which does not prevent disagreements. “For example, she considers that women are more respected in Islam; I don’t think so, and I don’t hide it,” underlines Jacques.
True interreligious dialogue
“I hope one day I can say things like you!” “, reacts Solène (1). Her son recently converted and she says she feels “really bad ever since”. She still has difficulty accepting it but tries to see the positive, perceiving a certain calm in her child.
Deacon Michel Fagot wants to be reassuring. He insists on the fact that what these parents experience with their children is nothing other than a real “dialogue with Muslims”, an interreligious dialogue at the family level, sometimes difficult but which can be fruitful. A process that takes time, and for which there is no ready-made recipe. But as the accompanying couples point out, this conversion is also an opportunity to become more tolerant.
Conversions, a phenomenon difficult to quantify
An Ifop survey carried out among people Muslims or “Muslim culture” was carried out in April-May 2016. Its results were presented in a report written by Hakim El Karoui for the Institut Montaigne: “A French Islam is possible. »
7.5% of people who say they are Muslim stated that neither of their parents is Muslim. “This figure can correspond, schematically, to what we consider to be conversions to Islam”writes the author.
Furthermore, 10 to 15% of newly baptized people in the Catholic Church come from Muslim families. in the diocese of Créteil. A proportion that we find in other urbanized dioceses.