“I don’t think that I’ll be changing my name any time soon,” Christian Betzmann tells me. “People keep asking me this on social media!”
The 29 year old online content creator from Germany recently made waves when he announced that he was converting to Islam after having spent a year in Pakistan. In a long post on Instagram he had written that he had discovered Islam to be a ‘religion of peace’ and that he had felt a ‘deeper connection’ towards it.
Along with the caption, he posted an image of himself with a certificate from The Islamic School of Miami, declaring him to officially now be a Muslim.
His post was met with a lot of enthusiasm from the Muslim community and within Pakistan, particularly, celebrities as well as the general audience cheered for him. It was, after all, having spent time in Pakistan that he had been drawn towards the Muslim faith.
“I notice how responses have varied from my followers on social media from different regions,” says Christian. “A lot of my Pakistani audience has particularly been asking me if I will be changing my name,” he laughs.
“Christian is my name and it’s not an indication of what my faith used to be,” he says. “I was not Christian earlier although I did believe in God. Now, I am excited to starting my journey as a Muslim.”
I am talking to Christian while he is in the Bahamas, doing what he’s always loved to do – create online content! His social media feed shows beautiful images of picturesque islands and delectable food. He does hope to return to Pakistan soon – but till the time we could actually meet, I had a short virtual conversation with him …
A lot of non-Muslims find certain tenets of Islam difficult to understand, such as praying five times a day and fasting. Were you not worried that you may not be able to adjust to the requirements of your new faith?
Christian: Not really. I think religion is a personal journey between an individual and God. I have become a Muslim because I have felt a connection towards Islam. I have done it for myself. This does not mean that I’ll constantly be posting content about how I pray, how I fast, et al. I am certainly going to try my best but my efforts towards following my faith are between me and God.
You must have been in Pakistan during Ramzan last year. How was the experience?
Christian: Yes, I was in Lahore at the time and I have always been very close to my Muslim friends, like Shahveery Jafry and Zoya Nasir. I enjoyed how everyone came together to eat in the evening and then again, late at night. It’s a great way for people and a community to get closer. I tried to fast as well and it was really hard!
Converting to a new faith is a major decision. How did your family react?
Christian: My family has stood by my decisions all through my life. They were there for me when eight years ago I told them that I wanted to travel and make online content and even now, I have their support. My mother was a bit confused. Amongst the older generation, there isn’t much knowledge about Islam and the media in the West often portrays in a negative light. She had questions and certain concerns like would I need to change my passport. I told her that I wouldn’t have to and while there were many misconceptions regarding Islam, it was actually a religion of peace.
I hope that this positive image of Islam is also visible in your future online content …
Christian: Of course. I want to depict how being a Muslim hasn’t stopped me from doing what I do and following my dreams. I want to improve people’s understanding of Islam and maybe inspire more people to convert.
When do you plan to come to Pakistan next?
Christian: I hope to come sometime in the next few months and I am looking forward to now experiencing the country as a Muslim.
You and your friend Zoya Nasir, who is often visible on your Instagram profile, have been at the receiving end of trolling, following your conversion. How did you feel about that?
Christian: It’s obviously very wrong. Everyone has their own way of living their lives and there is no need to pass judgments or bully others. It is alright to be yourself and to make your own journey without worrying about what others will say. That is a mindset that I hope to push forward with the work that I do.
What do you think?