In past posts, Reem and I have discussed men and women who have embraced Islam later on in their lives. As I mentioned in a recent piece, by some estimates, as many as one fourth of all Muslim Americans identify as Muslims not by birth. This awkward word arrangement, “Muslims not by birth” is usually shortened to “convert,” however not everyone agrees. Others prefer to use the word “revert.” Depending on whom you ask and what you’re looking to find out, one word may be more useful than the other. And especially since spirituality, religion, and identity are some of the most intimate of topics, you may even offend someone if you don’t ask which terminology they prefer.
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. Continue reading
Latino Muslims are a population that is relatively unknown within the Muslim American community. While still a small minority within the United States, they are a growing segment of the Muslim community’s population. The American Muslim Council estimates that in 2007 there were 200,000 Latino Muslims, a significant jump from 40,000 in 1997. A study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life in 2008 estimates that Latino Muslim U.S. residents make up 4% of Muslim Americans.
The most difficult Muslim to understand in Western countries, I argue, is the convert. Whether in the American context or the European context, there is an underlying assumption that Islam is something foreign and that someone who is American or British would never choose to join the faith. However, a new study called “A Minority Within a Minority” conducted by Faith Matters, an interfaith think-tank in the UK, found that in the last 10 years the number of British converts to Islam nearly doubled, leading some to say that the country is undergoing a process of “Islamification.”
On the next Inside Islam radio show, this Wednesday, December 15th, Jean will be talking with G. Willow Wilson, the author of The Butterfly Mosque: A Young Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam. In her memoir, Wilson tells the story of how she came to Islam and how she met her husband Omar.
In 2003, after converting to Islam, Wilson journeys to Egypt. There she meets her husband. In Egypt and through her relationship, she learns how to bridge cultural divides and to reconcile the images of Muslims in the media with the real people (including her husband) that she meets. Continue reading
Growing up in the United States, I was exposed to all different kinds of Muslims, especially those who chose to convert to Islam later in life. I have always been fascinated with the challenges that new Muslims face. Conversion seems like a very difficult decision in the context of American culture and the Western sociopolitical setting more generally, where Islam is often represented so negatively. Yet, even after 9/11, the interest in Islam and the number of converts around the world continues to grow. Continue reading