Islamic Perspectives

Diversity of Islam led me to embrace it: Dutch painter

She lived in a conservative protestant family and even thought to become a nun, but she has now converted to Islam after discovering that it ensures an equilibrium between matter and spirit and that its secret lies in diversity and embracing life in its totality.

Dutch painter Francies Van Everdingen says that power of Islam lies in its diversity and embracing the human life in its entirety. She said she converted to Islam because it beautifully spans over the spiritual and the worldly.

The Dutch TV recently screened a documentary on Muslim converts including Sufis and salafis. Painter Everdingen is at ease with both. She tries through her paintings and films to understand diversity as a path leading to unity.

Speaking to Al Jazeera.net (Arabic), Everdingen said she belongs to Almas rural region which divides the Catholic south from the Protestant north in the Netherlands.

Describing the reasons why she converted from Protestantism to Islam, Everdingen said she learnt painting in order to reach the sources following branches. Diversity and exploration of details led her to the idea of unity of God (Tawhid).

She said, I am convinced that Islam alone enjoyed unmatched diversity which is the secret of its power and appeal.

Everdingen used to visit church from time to time but, she says, trinity never appealed to her and she never accepted the divinity of Jesus which is what clergy teach people in the churches!

Everdingen said, after graduation she went for further studies in the US and kept reading books and speaking to Muslims about issues whose answers she failed to find in Christianity.

She said it was strange that she spoke about such issues because she was born in a Protestant family and even thought of becoming a nun.

Everdingen says that Islam has provided her with spiritual peace and has allowed her to become disinterested in materialism and to lead a meaningful life.

Studies undertaken by anthropologists in European universities and research centres conclude that most Europeans who converted to Islam had rejected trinity or were somehow connected to Muslims or they faced a direct challenge which led them to search for truth.

Speaking about her paintings, Everdingen said Islam has articulated her interest and has led her to desist from certain kinds of paintings. It has deepened her relationship with God and what He has endowed Nature with.

Everdingen said her understanding of diversity has allowed her to engage in contacts with various kinds of Muslims in the Netherlands. My relationship is not limited to Salafi and Sufi or Dutch and Moroccan or Turkish as all of them constitute a unity.

It is not exactly known how many Dutch people have converted to Islam, because Dutch law does not allow census on the basis of religion. But organisations in contact with Muslim converts say that they exceed 15,000. Out of the 16.5  million population of the Nertherland, about one million are Muslims, 80 percent of whom belong to Turkish and Moroccan origins. (Translated from Aljazeera.net Arabic by Zafarul-Islam Khan)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2014 on page no. 20

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