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From 40-a-day cigarette habit to five-times-a-day prayer: Story of a revert Muslim
Saturday December 20, 2014 11:26 PM, Agencies

She was a burlesque dancer and enjoyed nothing more than guzzling booze, twirling her nipple tassels and scoffing bacon butties in the morning. But after converting to Islam, she has now overhauled her unhealthy lifestyle, swapping a 40-a-day cigarette habit for a five-times-a-day prayer routine.


This is how 37-year-old Claire Birkill, a transformed Nottingham mum-of-three, explained how her life got changed after she embraced Islam and became a practicing Muslim.

"I used to love weekly burlesque classes. I would strip down to silky corsets and do sexy dances. Now I am so ashamed of my past - I can hardly look at the old photos. I feel like I've been reborn", Claire, who has changed her name by deed poll to Jameela, is quoted by the Mirror.

Jameela, who now travels miles to her nearest Halal butchers, puts the transformation down to meeting Sarif.

She explains: "My eight year marriage broke down in 2013 around the same time as I decided to study tourism at college. A year later, as part of that course, I travelled to Gambia. That's where I met Sarif.

"It was love at first sight. He was a teacher - so intelligent and kind. On the last day of the trip in March he told me he loved me. As I left the airport I cried and cried for three hours straight."

Back home, Jameela spoke to Sarif on the phone every night and he proposed just weeks later. After listening to him talk about his religion, she decided to research it on the internet.

"I immediately felt a connection," Jameela says. "It's about peace, empathy, love and kindness, all things I believe in. I realised I needed to become a Muslim."

She converted in a special ceremony in June, where she read lines in Arabic and declared her love for Allah.

Jameela also began observing Ramadan, saying: "It was difficult but incredibly fulfilling. Romantic thoughts are forbidden during Ramadan, so I banned myself from talking to Sarif in daylight hours because I got too turned on by his voice."

In her old life, if Jameela saw 1.15am it usually meant a heavy night on the booze, but now it is for a very different reasons - morning prayers.

She explains: "I pray five times a day including at 1.15am and 11.20pm, depending on the location of the sun and moon in the sky. I've also started reading the Koran in translation as I don't not speak Arabic fluently."

But her transformation has caused her a number of problems socially.

Jameela says: "I've been abused. Some friends don't want to know me anymore and others are refusing to call me by my new name. In the street one person asked why I wasn't wearing a letterbox, meaning a burkha. It's so disrespectful. I've heard laughing in the playground when I've picked my son up from school and been sneered at in Primark by teenage girls.

She says: "The Muslim community is very welcoming. I've been invited into their homes and made to feel more welcome by them then I ever was as a Methodist.

"I've never been happier or healthier than now. And that's all thanks to meeting Sarif", she says.

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