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Selma Cook

Islam Channel’s ‘City Sister’ Elizabeth Leonard Journey to IslamLondon’s Islam Channel satellite television station has started a new women’s life- style show. In this program Muslim women from a variety of backgrounds get together and chat about issues of being a Muslim woman in today’s world. Elizabeth Leonard is on the panel of City Sisters and she thoroughly enjoys the open discussions and positive feedback the show has had. Leonard said, “I think this program is helping people in the UK to learn about many aspects of Islam and Muslims.”


Leonard accepted Islam just three years ago. She said that she made this all-important change through the support and encouragement of her husband. She said, “He is a born Muslim but he was not practicing when I first met him.”

Despite this he used to give Leonard information and encouraged her to ask questions and understand more about the religion.


“The strange thing is,” noted Leonard, “that the more he was talking to me about Islam, the closer he got to it himself! He would give me snippets of information and I just kept having more and more questions. This meant he had to find the answers for me!”


Husband and wife ended up encouraging each other to learn and practice Islam step by step. By the time Leonard was ready to formally accept Islam, her husband had started practicing it properly himself. They made the final step together. Since her conversion, they have agreed that it is important to concentrate on meeting more Muslims and are continually encouraging each other to learn more and do more.


What were the first things that impressed her about Islam? Leonard noted, “I come from a non-religious background, so the practical side of Islam attracted me; especially the social and economic structure of the religion as well as the treatment of women.”  

Leonard had found that in Christianity there are no real female role models whereas in Islam the roles of men and women are clearly defined and women are not only acknowledged, but honored. This was significant for her.


When she first converted to Islam, her family was bemused and did not know what to make of it because theirs was not a religious household. Leonard remembers that they had a lot of questions. “At first they thought I was just going through a phase and they gave me a few months. They really thought I would change back to my old ways,” remembered Leonard, “but soon it became evident that it was a life style choice and would last forever.” Finally, Leonard’s family took her choice to accept Islam seriously and have been very supportive ever since.


Her advice to new Muslims in the early stages of their conversion is that they should surround themselves with knowledgeable people who will encourage them to be better. She remembers that the early days, after first converting, are very difficult and that there is a lot of pressure from family and friends but she noted that things do get better and persistence is necessary. “Do not underestimate the importance of having people around you who can advise and support you and try to gain knowledge so that when people ask you questions you will be able to answer well and feel comfortable with what you say,” advised Leonard.


For the first six months after her conversion she was occupied with carving out an identity for herself. Leonard said, “I am an English Muslim woman! There is a definite role for us here in England. I believe it is very much about interacting with people. We dress differently and so on but there is still common ground between us and non-Muslims. Everyone is concerned about things like the crime rate and education, so meeting with people from different backgrounds, and letting them know we share many things in common is the starting point for living Islam and spreading it too! I honestly believe that my work with City Sisters is part of that effort.”