Becoming a Muslim is actually very simple. Expressing the declaration of faith, the ‘shahada’ is sufficient: “I testify that there is no god but God and I testify that Mohammed is His messenger.” Usually, this is preceded by an extended period of searching, consideration and experimentation. The declaration of faith and learning and implementing the prayer are central themes of ‘Converted. Becoming Muslim – being Muslim’. These are then used as a basis for transporting the viewer to the world of the convert, using resources such as the photo documentary ‘Converted’ by photographer Saskia Aukema.
Conversion to Islam is a topic that appeals to the imagination but one about which people often know very little. Many will be surprised by the fact that self-assured, independent Amsterdam residents with a secular, Christian or Jewish background have committed to conversion to a religion that often receives very negative media coverage. With its exhibition, the Amsterdam Museum aims to expand knowledge about this social development, tackle preconceptions and challenge the visitor to put aside their stereotypes regarding images of Muslims and converts.
The exhibition is based on the Ph.D. research conducted by anthropologist Vanessa Vroon-Najem. She carried out research between 2006 and 2011 on women who had converted to Islam in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. Her research led to the AVRO documentary Verborgen Vrouwen (Spiritual Virgins) (2007, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder), the radio documentary Moslima’s met blauwe ogen (Muslims with blue eyes), the publication Hollandse Moslima’s (Dutch Muslims) (2010, IKON) and the exhibition and publication Ik Vast (I’m fasting) (2011, Amsterdam Museum). Alongside the exhibition, a book entitled ‘Converted’, a collaboration with photographer Saskia Aukema, will also be published.