The artist formerly known as Sinéad O’Connor has officially converted to Islam and has changed her name to Shuhada Davitt. She announced it Oct. 19 on Twitter but had already created a new Twitter page for Shuhada Davitt back in June. Her profile image is a Nike-like logo reading: “Wear a Hijab. Just do it.”
O’Connor, who has transparently discussed her struggles with mental health, specifically bipolar disorder, had been in the news in the part couple of years for disappearances and family problems. At one point family, friends and fans worried she was suicidal. But in the images she’s shared on Twitter, where she’s wearing a hijab, she is all smiles.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Name O’Connor Has Taken, Shuhada, Refers to ‘One Who Bears Witness’
Shaykh Dr. Umar Al-Qadri, Islamic Theologian and Chair of Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council released a statement which explains why O’Connor converted and asks for people to respect her privacy as she focuses on her “spiritual well-being.” She adopted Islam this week, the statement from Al-Qadri reads.
Her decision to convert was a “careful and informed” one.
“Shuhada has a truthful soul and has always had a strong connection with the scriptures. After reading the Holy Qur’an, she came to realise that Islam is the natural conclusion of her search for the truth.”
Al-Qadri acknowledged she has “faced many challenges in her life,” but said “where there is light, darkness has tried to envelope it, the greater the light, the greater the struggle with darkness. We warmly welcome Shuhada to the Ummah, the global family of Muslims around the worldand here in Ireland and like a family we will support her through her newly revived spiritual journey.”
Shuhada means “one who bears witness, as she hopes her life and her voice will always remain a witness to truth, justice and mercy.”
2. The Irish Singer Created a Twitter Page for Shuhada Davitt This Summer But Made an Official Announcement on her Sinead O’Connor Page in Mid-October. She Said ‘I am Proud to Have Become a Muslim.’
“This is to announce that I am proud to have become a Muslim. This is the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey. All scripture study leads to Islam. Which makes all other scriptures redundant. I will be given (another) new name. It will be Shuhada,” she tweeted.
She posted a video to YouTube of her singing the Azan, the Muslim call to ritual prayer. Some pointed out it is not song but recited.
“Once I’ve practiced the Azan a hundred times I promise I’ll sing it much better than the one I’ve posted,” she wrote.
She also reached out to the Muslim community and thanked it for its support.
“Thank you so much to all my Muslim brothers and sisters who have been so kind as to welcome me to Ummah today on this page. You can’t begin to imagine how much your tenderness means to me.”
3. She Has Been Mocked & Criticized on Social Media. But the Muslim Community Has Rallied Behind Her
While perhaps not mocking nonetheless a joke, or int his case a pun, she’s being dragged on Twitter.
‘Nothing Compares to Shu’ was the first comment on the AP story about O’Connor’s conversion on Twitter. The reference to O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2U.’
This one was just the beginning of a number of puns, some mocking Islam and most mocking O’Connor:
“Shuhada done it a while ago.”
“It’s been 7 hours and 15 days….since you took my pork away.”
The Twitterverse was particularly harsh.
“It’ll be Buddhism next week.”
“Shuhada done it a while ago.”
4. The Artist Formerly Known as Sinead O’Connor Has Suffered & Struggled Publicly For Several Years With Mental Illness
“She has struggled with bipolar so I hope this helps her find peace. I can understand how the abuse she suffered in the magdalene laundry would make her seek a path away from Catholicism,” a commenter wrote on Twitter about O’Connor’s conversion.
The Irish Post reported in 2013 that the singer responded to an apology letter from the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity over their treatment of young women in the Magdalene Asylum run by the nuns. She said that while her experience there was helpful for her, she was a witness to abuses and told Rolling Stone that being forced to sleep in a nursing home when she acted out was a an experience of “panic and terror and agony …”
O’Connor was sent to the institution run by the order for shoplifting and truancy.
In a 2017 interview with Dr. Phil, she said she was “fed up of being defined as the crazy person.” Her appearance came after she posted a video to Facebook where she cries that she was “not staying alive for me. If it was me I’d be gone.” She posted it from a New Jersey motel room. Months before, she’d been reported missing in Illinois and in 2015, shared her overdose story also on Facebook She told the TV doctor/talk show host she’d tried to kill herself many times.
She also alleges her mother, who died in a car wreck, abused her physically and sexually.
5. Born Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor, Davitt Began Her Career as a Singer-Songwriter in the 1980s. When She Recorded Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,’ She Achieved Global Success
As O’Connor, the artist began singing and writing songs in the early 1980s and became famous when she released ‘The Lion and the Cobra.’ She would release 10 albums over her career.
Not initially controversial as O’Connor, she would go there though when for example, as a Roman Catholic, said she was ordained a priest and on Saturday Night Live in 1992, ripped up a picture of Pope “fight the real enemy,” she said as she tore an image of Pope John Paul II. She was at once crucified and praised. She alleged the church was “evil” for its failure to address sexual abuse which she addressed in a column for The Washington Post in 2010.
“Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and in a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics — even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore — should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders,” she wrote.
She wrote that she “knew my action would cause trouble, but I wanted to force a conversation where there was a need for one; that is part of being an artist. All I regretted was that people assumed I didn’t believe in God. That’s not the case at all. I’m Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation,” she wrote.
As O’Connor, she’s been an outspoken critic of war, child abuse and advocated for women’s rights. She also was a frequent critic in the 1990s of organized religion.
Now as a convert to Islam, she says she is “happy.”