(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Mathilde Loujayne was studying at a high school in Muscat when September 11 attacks happened in the US.
In matter of hours that terrorist act got identified with Islam and a lot of negativity began to spread about the religion. Mathilde couldn't come to terms with what she saw on TV and social media. For her, Muslims in the Sultanate of Oman were peace loving. Hence, the Frenchwoman started her spiritual journey to learn about the religion and finally ended up embracing Islam, which she terms as a way of life.
Mathilde is from Marseille in France and grew up in Muscat as her parents were working there.
"I was studying there when September 11 attacks happened. Everyone was targeting Muslims and giving a negative image. Muslims in Oman were very kind and welcoming. I felt a need to learn about Islam. I started reading the Quran and it gave me all the answers that I needed for my spiritual journey. It was a revelation," she said.
Fast forward her story to present day, Dubai-based resident Loujayne (name after conversion) is now at Abu Dhabi Book Fair with her book 'Big Little Steps'. It encapsulates her experiences of her life and is a guide to finding a balanced lifestyle and a glowing heart in Islam.
"My book talks about my conversion to Islam when I was 18 years old and the experiences of the next 16 years. The book talks about everything from a woman's perspective and how to live Islam as a way of live. When a woman leaves her lifestyle to fully embrace Islam, it takes time to adjust and change her way of life. This book will support those women.
"I have seen many women encounter information that centres on what they cannot do anymore when they become a Muslim. This can be discouraging in the early stages of their journey. The purpose of this book is not to highlight what is forbidden in Islam but rather illustrate how Islam as a religion is a complete way of life that reaches out to your mind with logic and to your heart with reason.
"The book delves into aspects of how to apply Islam in daily life. It talks about beauty, modesty, fashion, halal food, all health and spiritual benefits of fasting. It also covers the information about woman's rights. I met a lot of woman, who were converts. The book has a holistic view of a variety of women from different cultures, nationalities and ages."
She noted that Muslim woman have excelled in various fields and broken barriers. She pointed out Halima Aden being the first hijab-wearing model to be featured on British Vogue Magazine cover.
"I am highlighting all these aspects as nowadays there is so much negativity about Muslims. I want to break the misconceptions regarding Islam and especially when it comes to a woman. I have illustrations by Hatty Pedder, who brought life to my stories."
Loujayne quit job to pen the book Mathilde Loujayne wanted to write 'Big Little Steps' for a while now but couldn't find the time to do so.
She said: "There were many questions raised from various quarters, after my conversion and this is an answer to all of them. Even my mother had a lot of questions and wanted to understand my decision.
"The book is my epiphany and a dream since 2009. I quit my job in September to write the book. There is logic behind everything in Islam. If you understand the logic, you will know that it's for your own benefit. Now my mother and father have also converted to Islam."
Talking about the title of the book, she said that "'Big Little Steps' is all about making gradual progress. You are taking little steps but they are big ones for you. Then there is the narration by Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) that if you take one step towards God, he will take 10 steps towards you. If you walk towards him, he runs towards you. If you make one small towards him, he takes a big step towards you. So that's how the title shaped up."
So what's next?
"Well I will release my book this Ramadan. I need to find a new job now," she chuckled.