The fiancée of Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja has spoken out about why she made the decision to covert from Catholicism to Islam.
Rachel McLellan, 22, from Brisbane, and her Muslim groom, 31, will tie the knot in what they describe as a ‘big white wedding’ next month following the cricket season.
Appearing on 60 Minutes, to be aired on Sunday night, the bride-to-be admitted she believed the misconceptions of the faith before she met Khawaja.
‘Ussie was the first Muslim I’d ever met,’ Rachel told reporter Allison Langdon.
‘I was very ignorant around Ussie, I will admit to that. I only listened to what I had heard on the news. All I read was well, terrorists and awful things.’
The Pakistan-born batsman – who became the first Muslim to ever play cricket in Australia – said his faith has always come first in his life.
And so it came as a surprise when he fell in love with the Catholic school girl.
Despite trying to challenge the stereotypes of the religion, Khawaja said the pair have faced outrage since going public with their relationship.
‘A lot of times a lot of the hate I get is from other Muslims on social media,’ he said.
‘We will put up a photo of us two, and it will be like, “Oh she’s not Muslim. That’s haram, you can’t marry her”.’
Khawaja proposed to his then-girlfriend – who was born into a devout Catholic family – during a romantic New York holiday in July 2016.
As their relationship blossomed, the batsman said he never put any pressure on Rachel to switch religion for him – and insisted the decision was entirely hers to make.
‘I never was going to put a gun to Rachel’s head and say you have to convert,’ he said.
‘I told her I would prefer her to convert but she has to do it on her own. Unless it comes from you, comes from the heart, then there is no point doing it.’
Walking away from her Catholic roots, Rachel made the controversial decision on her own to convert to Islam last year.
‘[I felt] no pressure from him, not any pressure from his family. I just knew it was so important to him,’ she said.
By sharing their story, the pair are determined to break down the religious and social barriers that still permeate society.