Susan Carland on becoming a Muslim and her love for Waleed
SUSAN Carland has opened up about her conversion to Islam in a new interview, admitting she was "terrified" to tell her loved ones she had become a Muslim.
The academic and wife of The Project host Waleed Aly appeared on this week's episode of ABC show Home Delivery, and sat down with host Julia Zemiro for a look back at her life.
Carland was raised Christian, and religion was always present in her life: She was made to attend Sunday school throughout her primary school years.
But questions about her faith started to emerge.
"When I was 17 I still had lots of questions. I began to wonder, am I just following the Christian path because that's what I've been raised in? Is there truth or meaning elsewhere? I decided I was going to look," she told Zemiro.
Islam was not her first option.
"I was adamantly NOT interested in Islam; I thought it looked sexist and outdated and barbaric. All the stereotypes, the standard things that many politicians today seem to think. But to my surprise, it provoked my interest."
Two years later, at the age of 19, she became a Muslim. In those two years, she'd immersed herself in books and joined a Muslim women's group at university to make sure the religion was right for her.
The next test: 'Coming out' about her religion to her family and friends.
"I was terrified, absolutely terrified about telling people. My family - my mum in particular. And my friends, it was awful. I was so worried about telling people, because I didn't know how they'd react. I assumed they would react negatively, and most people did," she recalled.
"It didn't help that I wanted to wear the hijab straight away. I think if I just said, 'I'm going to become Muslim but still look the same' it would have been much easier for people to take."
Carland converted to Islam pre-9/11, and has now watched her religion become closely linked to global terrorism in many people's perceptions. Even now, Carland says her life would be "so much easier" if she wasn't a Muslim: Time and again, she says she comes up against people who "cannot believe that someone, especially an educated woman, would possibly choose it for herself."
But this hasn't swayed her from her religious beliefs.
"I really believe in Islam as a religion. I really believe it has something to offer the world and it's a thing of beauty. I just want people to see that," she says.
Elsewhere in the wide-ranging interview, which focused on Carland's early years growing up in suburban Melbourne, she revealed her first love: actor Yahoo Serious, who she fell for when she saw his 1988 film Y oung Einstein as a child.
"I remember walking out of the cinema with my mum and dad and thinking, why are they acting like nothing's changed? I'm a woman now," she laughed.
"I think I always liked the oddball ... which says a lot about Waleed!"