This past January, I wrote about a study put out by Kevin Brice called “A Minority Within a Minority” which documented the rising number of British reverts over the past 10 years. (In Islam everyone is believed to be born Muslim, so when they begin practicing the faith later in their life, they are seen as returning or “reverting” to their original state.) According to Brice, the average revert is a 27-year-old women. An article in The Independent appeared at the beginning of November that highlighted not only the numbers of British reverts but also the obstacles that they face.
According to the article, 50% of British reverts are white and 75% of them are women. This is interesting considering all the negative images surrounding Islam and women. One of the most common stereotypes of the faith is that it is oppressive towards women. Yet the article emphasizes that 25% of the female reverts actually said they became Muslim because of the status Islam affords them.
However, these new reverts face challenges that individuals born to Muslim families do not. These new Muslims must find a way to integrate their new faith with the mainstream culture that now perceives them differently. Often, they are viewed as outsiders and begin to have experiences of discrimination.
On the other hand, many times they do not find the necessary support in the Muslim community and end up being closest to other reverts who share their experience. This feeling that there is little support is further complicated by the fact that 75% of reverts say that they have been confused by the various and sometimes conflicting ways Islam is presented to them.
Despite the challenges faced by reverts, they occupy a unique positive position: they can play a vital role in fostering dialogue between the larger mainstream and the Muslim minority because they do not have the additional cultural differences.
What Brice’s study and this article underscore is the fact that there is an increased interest in Islam. Moreover, it is no longer seen as a foreign faith. In terms of the specific challenges faced by reverts, the article, in particular, highlights the need for programs within the Muslim community to support reverts to Islam, so that they are able to cope with any discrimination that they experience and do not feel confused and/or alienated within the Muslim community.
What’s your reaction to this story? Are you a revert to Islam? If so, what are some of the challenges you face? Why do you think that so many more women are becoming Muslim as opposed to men? Is this the case in regards to other faith traditions? Please share your comments below.