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A Muslim Dawah Woman in Switzerland: Nora Illi

Islam is a religion in which its followers contribute to the well-being of the world by simply sustaining their existence. How? While there may be multiple answers to this question, being exemplary to humanity is undoubtedly one of them. A Muslim is a caller, not only with the language of Islam but also with the language of actions. Although the prevalence of Islamophobia makes this task a bit challenging today, Muslims breaking taboos exist all over the world. One of them is Nora Illi.

Born on April 3, 1984, as the daughter of a renowned psychotherapist, Nora was baptized in the Catholic Church but came from a non-conservative family with left-wing views. Therefore, she grew up with a liberal mindset. Her life revolved more around her circle of friends after her parents divorced. In her youth, she delved into punk culture, vegetarianism, and various trends. During that time, she was also interested in Buddhism. Nora’s curiosity about different worldviews would eventually lead her to embrace Islam.

The Path to Allah

Two important events play a role in Nora’s conversion to Islam. The first one is the announcement of her conversion by her boyfriend Patrick Jerome: Her boyfriend Patrick Jerome, whom she met at a demonstration in favor of Palestine, announced his conversion to Islam; the second was Nora’s trip to the Middle East. Only two weeks after Patrick’s conversion to Islam, 18-year-old Nora traveled to the UAE and Oman and was so impressed by the sincerity of Muslims, Islamic culture and especially the call to prayer that she decided to convert to Islam.

Living Islam Authentically in Europe

After converting to Islam, Nora continued her education at the theology department of the University of Zurich. As she began wearing a headscarf, her sudden change shocked her close circle. However, she continued to move forward confidently on the path she knew to be right, disregarding the opinions of others. Nora played a role in the establishment of the Swiss Central Islamic Council, where she conducted studies on women’s issues. Thus, she became instrumental in introducing Islam to many women from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, leading hundreds to guidance.

The Veil Incidents

Some may recall that in 2006, the issue of a ban on the veil was first raised in the Ticino region of Switzerland. Nora, protesting this ban, traveled to the region to appear with a veil, leading her name to be heard worldwide. After this incident, Nora, who did not hesitate to defend her beliefs on television programs, was seen by some as a radical who should not appear in the media, and by others, as extreme as to accuse her of terrorism. However, all she did was to present Islam as she knew it to be. In a television interview, Nora stated:

“I used to have prejudices against Muslims, and I thought Muslim women were oppressed.
Later, I saw that Islam treated women like pearls.”

Nora, who emphasized that much of the information attributed to Islam is not accurate, says she has never been objectified.

Significant Timing

Last week, Nora Illi, a 35-year-old woman leaving behind her husband and six children, succumbed to breast cancer, a battle she had been fighting for a long time. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, she was buried with a limited number of people being able to attend the funeral. Nora, being in intensive care at the time, did not witness this, but due to the pandemic, it is challenging to see people on the streets without masks. Who knows? Perhaps a calamity is more effective than a thousand protests.

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