Valentine’s Day: The country guy who converted to Islam for the girl of his dreams
When Bogart Lamprey told his family that he converted to Islam, they were “definitely not excited”.
“They thought I was going to go and join ISIS,” Mr Lamprey said.
“They were not happy.”
But while his “very Australian, Vegemite-on-toast” family were hesitant, the reason behind the 32-year-old’s conversion was remarkable: despite vastly different cultures and family values, he had found love.
Mr Lamprey’s wife-to-be, Noora Al Matori, was born in Iraq but grew up in Australia.
She and Mr Lamprey met in Wagga Wagga, and her parents were similarly concerned; they had always thought she would end up with someone who “understood” their way of life.
But Mr Lamprey was on already a mission to expand his horizons, and as he fell in love Ms Al Matori, he fell in love with her culture as well.
The love story of a lifetime
Bogart Lamprey and Noora Al Matori have been married four years and happily live in Canberra. (ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)
When Mr Lamprey, 32, first saw Ms Al Matori, 31, in a Wagga Wagga cafe, he was instantly smitten.
His brother kidded that he might end up marrying her, but for Mr Lamprey it was not a joke.
“I laughed it off, but I was thinking, ‘I will marry her’,” he said.
He spent the next six months visiting the cafe with the hope that he would run into Ms Al Matori, and this time speak to her.
“Every time I was in the shop I asked the elderly lady working there about Noora,” Mr Lamprey said.
He would eventually get a hold of Ms Al Matori and meet her for coffee, but for Ms Al Matori the relationship was strictly platonic.
“I kept it as friends. I grew up around Australian guys and had plenty of friends, so there was no problem with that,” Ms Al Matori said.
“I could never see myself marrying somebody who was not Middle Eastern.”
But during the preceding years of friendship, Mr Lamprey was immersing himself in her world. He realised that if he wanted to be with Noora he would have to do things the traditional way.
“I got to know and understand the culture, I embraced it, I studied the Koran every night and converted to Islam,” he said.
“Then I asked Noora to ask her dad for a meeting to ask permission for her hand in marriage, and hopefully she would [then] consider marrying me.”
Mr Lamprey had already met Ms Al Matori’s family, but only as a friend. This time the dynamic would be quite different.
“When I told my dad that Bo was interested in me and coming to ask for my hand, he decided to go on a holiday for three months and keep Bo on hold,” Ms Al Matori said.
“He wanted to see if Bo was going to stay around or turn around and go.”
Mr Lamprey stuck around, and spent time building a rapport with other members of Ms Al Matori’s family.
He returned for another meeting with Ms Al Matori’s father, and this time he brought his family along with him. After finally getting her dad’s blessing, Ms Al Matori said yes.
Embracing new family customs
As the wedding drew closer, both families warmed to the idea of embracing new family customs and traditions.
“It was either you come with us, or you don’t have to and we respect that, but we’re moving forward with our lives,” Mr Lamprey said.
“For me it was important for my family to respect Bo as much as they respected me,” Ms Al Matori said.
The families decided to not only move forward, but make the effort to immerse themselves in the other’s culture. They all get together to celebrate Christmas, as well as Muslim holidays like Eid.
“Bo’s mum always makes the effort for our festivals,” Ms Al Matori said.
“We have Christmas lunch with them and there’s no harm, it’s a mature and respectful relationship.”
Ms Al Matori and Mr Lamprey rode camels at their wedding in Wagga Wagga, almost four years ago. (Supplied)
Ms Al Matori’s family learned to love her new husband like one of their own.
“As far as I’m concerned Noora’s mum is like my second mum,” he said.
“The way they treat me is just so good, it’s amazing.”
A family of their own
Mr Lamprey and Ms Al Matori have been happily married for almost four years and now live in Canberra.
They have a girl, Jamila, who is three years old. She will be raised a Muslim, but they want to raise her in both cultures.
Jamila is learning to speak Arabic as well as English, and will get the chance to become her own person, rather than be forced down a specific path.
“Me and Bo are on the same page for what we hope for her,” Ms Al Matori said.
“If she wants to cover up when she is older she can, if she doesn’t she doesn’t have to.”
“I just want her to grow up and value herself the way we value her,” Mr Lamprey said.
“If she turns out half as good as Noora, in terms of respecting herself as a human being, I’ll be the happiest man in the world.”