This was an interesting article I read yesterday in the Christian Science Monitor about the reasons why more and more European women are converting to Islam, but I didn’t want to blog about it until I read another article from IslamOnline which I’ll refer to in a second. To begin with, allow me to quote from the first article.
…It is a message that appeals to more and more Europeans as curiosity about Islam has grown since 9/11, say both Muslim and non-Muslim researchers. Although there are no precise figures, observers who monitor Europe’s Muslim population estimate that several thousand men and women convert each year.
Only a fraction of converts are attracted to radical strands of Islam, they point out, and even fewer are drawn into violence. A handful have been convicted of terrorist offenses, such as Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” and American John Walker Lindh, who was captured in
Admittedly patchy research suggests that more women than men convert, experts say, but that – contrary to popular perception – only a minority do so in order to marry Muslim men.
…Those reasons reflect many female converts’ thinking, say experts who have studied the phenomenon. “A lot of women are reacting to the moral uncertainties of Western society,” says Dr. Jawad. “They like the sense of belonging and caring and sharing that Islam offers.”
Others are attracted by “a certain idea of womanhood and manhood that Islam offers,” suggests Karin van Nieuwkerk, who has studied Dutch women converts. “There is more space for family and motherhood in Islam, and women are not sex objects.”
The article goes on to describe other reasons why women are converting as well as how terrorism plays into it (in fact the article started out with a dramatic terrorist plot and ended with one). For example…
“The phenomenon is booming, and it worries us,” the head of the French domestic intelligence agency, Pascal Mailhos, told the Paris-based newspaper Le Monde in a recent interview. “But we must absolutely avoid lumping everyone together.”
The difficulty, security experts explain, is that while the police may be alert to possible threats from young men of Middle Eastern origin, they are more relaxed about white European women. Terrorists can use converts who “have added operational benefits in very tight security situations” where they might not attract attention, says Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm [Christian Science Monitor]
This is mainly in reference to Muriel Degauque who was a Belguim convert that blew herself up in Iraq in an attack on US forces.
Now the second article drew my interest as well…
Vatican cardinals have warned Italian women against tying the knot with the rising numbers of Muslims in Italy, citing what they say cultural and religious diversities.
Church officials say that Italy has seen 20,000 marriages in 2005 between Catholic women and Muslims, whose population touches the one million mark, the BBC News Online reported Monday, December 26.
Though others see this new warning based on fears other than “religious diversity”….
….“The warning expresses fears of the Catholic cardinals that Italian women who marry Muslims would later revert to Islam,” priest Kristian Van Spen, professor of philosophy, Cairo University, told IslamOnline.net Tuesday, December 27.
“In addition, they are also concerned that children born to this marriage will also embrace Islam.”
“This, consequently, will lead to an increase of the number of Muslims in Italy,” he stressed
…Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci warned in her book “La forza della ragione,” which translates as The Force of Reason, that Europe is turning into Ã¢??an Islamic province, an Islamic colonyÃ¢?Â and that Ã¢??to believe that a good Islam and a bad Islam exist goes against all reason.Ã¢?Â [IslamOnline]
In addittion to that last paragraph: Fallaci published her strongly pro-American and anti-Islam book Ã¢??Rage and PrideÃ¢?Â in which she ridiculed some verses of the Noble QurÃ¢??an. She was sued in 2002 over the provocative book and accused of violating anti-racist laws. The case was dismissed on a technicality. She was just sued recently over ‘the force of reason’ but I have not read anything on the outcome of that.
This is quite an interesting phenomena. I for one have not heard too many warnings coming out of the Vatican on Muslims, probably because the threat now are European women converts. It is simply amazing how Bin Laden and his gang has managed to screw it up for over a billion people. So much of these new found warnings and the rising tide of European racism can be traced back to 9/11 and then the bombings in London and Madrid.
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has claimed in a recent report that Muslims minorities across Europe have been experiencing “growing distrust, hostility and discrimination since the 9/11 attacks.” You can read that report here.
The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia also has a report out that finds a similar backlash can be traced to the London bombings last summer. You can read that report here.
I hope and pray that more and more Muslims will begin to speak up against terrorism but sometimes I ask myself why? How many millions of Muslims live peacefully in Europe and have been there for generations now? How many of these simply want to go to work, get paid, and put food on the table? Most of the Muslims I know who want to go to Europe have gone for that exact reason, as well as the desire to get a decent education and find a good paying job. Is it necessary that everytime a few lunatics do something un-Islamic that entire Muslim communities remind everyone that it is un-Islamic and that it is terrorism and that they do not condone terrorism? Half the population in the U.S. is against the Iraqi war, should entire American communities (not politicians mind you) stand up and say to the Muslim and Arab world that they do not support the latest handful of deaths in Iraq on a daily basis?
I put the majority of blame on Bin Laden who has thrust this situation on whole communities. In the past I suppose no one knew about Islam or Muslims and no one cared, hence ignorance may have been truely blissful. Now that it’s being showcased more locally in Europe and the U.S., and none other than by Osama and his like, Muslims must constantly stand up and say “hey, it wasn’t us alright.”
Post of Interest: Anti-Islam: A Neo-Euro Political Platform?
Some S. Florida Latinas converting to Islam for emphasis on family, women’s roles
…Scholars say Matos is part of a growing number of Latin women converting to Islam for its emphasis on family, piety and clearly defined women’s roles, values converts say were once integral to Hispanic culture but have waned after years of assimilation.
The women are among 40,000 Hispanic converts to Islam in the United States, according to the Islamic Society of North America. About a decade ago, Latino converts began forming Internet groups such as the Latino American Dawah Organization and the women’s group Piedad that trace Hispanics’ ties to Islam back to the Spanish Moors.
…”People might ask, `Why would women convert to a religion that is so traditional in its gender roles?’ But that’s part of the appeal. There’s a recovery of dignity,” said Manuel Vasquez, religion professor at the University of Florida. “Second-generation Latinas are caught between the morality of their parents and the morality of the larger mainstream society. Islam offers a clear code. Women … know they are respected, taken care and protected from the negative influences of secular society. It’s a kind of empowerment they don’t experience in a culture that is constantly sexualizing them, and Latinas are particularly sexualized.”
There are many reasons why people like me, and others, convert to Islam. Not a bad article, but I dont think they really get it all. We are not that easily stereotyped. There has been a very large and interesting conversation going about about these convert issues at my blog and with a number of converts that post there and have blogs of their own. White, Black, Hispanic, American Indian, there is more to us than meets the eye.
Interesting article. Regarding the Vatican, and let me say that I am not a Catholic, any statements that they would issue in my opinion should not be read as racist. The purpose of the church is to keep its members. Ask for instance what would happen if a Muslim wants to convert to Chrstianity in Jordan or Saudi Arabia? What type of reception would that receive?
Another point is that In Europe and the USA religion is just about faith. In the Middle East it is about identity. There are many people in the west seeking a better understanding of faith. Many of them are also seeking Chrstian renewal. Some too become radical like the ones the article points to about Muslims in Europe. Muslim and Christian leaders in the Middle East need to work together to develop a strategy for interfaith dialogue and engaging the western churches. This will result in better harmony and a better understanding of the plight of our people.
Abu Sinan, I think this article was talking more about european women than just converts in general. Although I agree that no one can fit a single description or rather stereotype. Everyone has their reasons.
Lone Wolf, i am of course not singling out the vatican, merely putting it in the long line of “Islam is a growing threat” rhetoric that has been rising in Europe since 9/11 and osama’s attacks on euro cities.
thank you both for your comments 🙂
I think the moral vaccuum of Western Europe, which forces women to give all without the commitment of marriage, would make the morality and familial security of Islam very attractive.
Here is an interesting article i found 🙂
Women In Islam!
This is a fact of life that I see groups of converted europeans; usually families or group of women led by a men or two,touring Muslim countries like Pakistan and practicing faith like a good Muslim.It is very heartening, not because i am a Muslim, but because Allah has his way to give Hidaya (enlightenment to the righteous path) to anyone He desires.Mind you they are many Muslims by birth who do things that are totally against the teaching of Islam such as drinking , womanizing, cheating. May they also be enlightened (Ameen)