Image of Shuhada’ Davitt | Twitter
Image of Shuhada’ Davitt | Twitter
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Sinead O’Connor’s journey into Islam was preceded by her controversial encounters with Christianity, which she had been very vocal about.

New Delhi: Sinead O’Connor, the famous Irish singer and activist from the 1980s, recently converted to Islam and adopted a new name, Shuhada’ Davitt.

The golden voice behind songs like Nothing Compares 2 U and Mandinka said she was “very very very” happy with this new transition, as she documented the process of reciting her first azaan, as well as trying on her first hijab, on Twitter.

Also read: This Kashmiri Sikh is using music to cross national and religious divides

O’Connor’s new name Shuhada’ means martyr, or “one who bears witness to” in Arabic. However, this isn’t the first time she has changed her name — last year, the singer had announced that “Sinead is dead” because she wanted to be “free of the patriarchal slave names. Free of the parental curses”. She had adopted the name Magda Davitt.

Her journey into Islam was preceded by her controversial encounters with Christianity, which she had been very vocal about.

At the peak of her career, she rallied against the Catholic Church for fostering child abuse. In 1992, while performing on American TV show Saturday Night Live, she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II as an act of rebellion. However, at the time, she maintained that she was still a devout Catholic.

She has also been vocal on social media about her battle with mental illness. She had a traumatic childhood, after her parents divorced and her mother turned abusive. She tried to commit suicide in March 1999, and a month after that, was ordained as the first-ever priestess of the Latin Tridentine Church, a dissident Catholic church in Ireland. She said she wished to be called Mother Bernadette Mary.

In August 2018, she sent a letter to Pope Francis, requesting him to excommunicate her from the position. And now, she has converted to Islam.

The backlash

Although many congratulated Davitt for adopting her new faith, the news received backlash and trolling from Indian Twitter users as well. Some even compared it to “ghar waapsi”.

When activist Shehla Rashid welcomed Davitt into the Muslim community on Twitter, she was attacked by religious extremists for her beliefs.

Other celebrities who embraced Islam

Davitt isn’t the only celebrity who has converted to Islam, but with increasing xenophobia and religious extremism, these decisions have come with added burdens.

In 1964, the world’s greatest professional boxer Cassius Clay was perhaps the most famous celebrity to convert to Islam, becoming Muhammad Ali. His decision irked many of his fans and critics, but Ali went on to practice the religion for the rest of his life.

Renowned British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens converted to Islam in 1977 and adopted the name Yusuf Islam. He even left his musical career and auctioned off his guitars to pursue philanthropy in the Muslim community.

Also read: In this Punjab town, a Muslim family credits Ramlila for its fame and fortune

His conversion was inspired by a personal incident when he was drowning in the Pacific Ocean, near Malibu. He called out to God, pleading for help, and promised that he would dedicate his life to God’s service if he survived.

He did survive, and embraced Islam. He even started an Islamic school for children and continued to actively stand for Islamic causes he believed in. He later returned to music, but dropped his surname ‘Islam’ from his stage name and is still performing as Yusuf.

Nearer home, the ‘Mozart of Madras’ A.R. Rahman (born A.S. Dileep Kumar) became a practicing Muslim in 1989, along with other members of his family.

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