Sean Stone, son of the award-winning Director Oliver Stone, announced his conversion to Islam in Isfahan, Iran, last week.
While filming a documentary on the Muslim mystic poet Jallal ad-Din Rumi, Stone, the 27-year-old of Jewish and Christian upbringing, claims a great deal of exposure to Islamic beliefs and culture during his stay in the region.
Stone has adopted the first name “Ali,” and converted officially into Shi’i Islam in the office of Shia cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Nasseri Dowlatabadi.
Stone says that his acceptance of Islam and belief in the faiths of his parents are not mutually exclusive.
‘It means I have accepted Mohammad and other prophets,’ he explains.
It had not been long before his conversion was met with controversy. Stone claims to have already faced discrimination and a new sense of aversion from colleagues.
“I didn’t realize I would be so vilified,” he told the New York Post on Monday, “It is almost like I am a criminal for having accepted Islam. I didn’t realize Islamophobia was that deep. People have speculated that I have done this because I am from a spoiled family or that I am lost and trying to find myself. That is ridiculous.”
Stone’s conversion has garnered a dubious response across the spectrum; many remain convinced that his newfound faith is little more than a publicity stunt to promote a brand of acceptance that few identify with. He cites his interest in bringing Iranian culture to the United States and serving as a gateway to religious dialogue as factors in his conversion.
Mazdak Taebi, an outspoken exiled Iranian filmmaker, has taken up issue with Stone’s statements praising current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad and understating his role in suppressing Iranian rights.
“This is insulting,” said Mazdak Taebi, according to Al-Arabiya, “So many people have died. People there are shaking. They’re scared. It’s a police system.”
Naila Kelani is a Libyan-American writer currently studying in the UAE.