I grew up thinking religion was ridiculous
Journey from Atheism to Islam stunned, disappointed parents
Five months before their marriage, Karen Meek's fiancé told her that he was becoming a Muslim. Ms. Meek, an atheist, was taken aback.
"I thought he was being brainwashed into something," she said. "All of a sudden he stopped drinking alcohol. He wanted to pray every day. He stopped eating pork."
For months, Eric Meek, a lapsed Baptist, had studied Islam without telling her. Now, when he went to work, Ms. Meek poured over his books and videos, trying to understand his faith.
She never expected to be attracted to Islam.
"I grew up thinking religion was ridiculous," said Ms. Meek, 33, of Lewisville. "I didn't believe in God. I had no idea how the universe was created and, frankly, didn't care."
She said Islam had a logic to it that she couldn't resist.
"Coming from an atheist background, I had an easier time accepting Islam than a Christian because I didn't have to unlearn or give up any beliefs," she said.
After getting married, she prayed for the first time while her husband was at work. She learned how from a book.
"Until this point, I had done everything privately, without telling him," she said. "I did not want to join a religion just because he did. I wanted to discover it on my own."
She and her husband began meeting with other Muslims to study the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Eventually, she made her profession of faith.
Her choice of religions stunned her parents.
"One day she came and she wearing a scarf and a dress down to her ankles," said her father, Ray Allred of Carrollton. "I was shocked."
He said he was estranged from his daughter for a time because of her religion. They're close now, though he fears for her safety since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"You want to love your child, but when they do something so foreign to you, it's very difficult," he said. "I'd give anything if she hadn't adopted this religion."
Those comments were echoed by Jane Barrett of Flower Mound, who's Ms. Meek's mother. She said she especially dislikes the hijab, or head covering, that her daughter wears.
"Karen is such a pretty girl with beautiful hair," she said.
Ms. Meek said she understands. After becoming a Muslim, it took her many months to adopt Islamic dress.
"I would wear the hijab places where people didn't know me," she said and laughed. Now, she wears it all the time -- even to work, where she is an accounting clerk for a restaurant chain.
She said embracing Islam has caused her to see life in a new way.
"Going from not believing in God to believing in God is amazing," she said. "Islam opened my eyes to so many things I had taken for granted, mostly that life is a gift."