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Why are So Many Westerners Converting to Islam?


It is a fact that Islam is growing rapidly in the West. In the U.S. alone the number of Muslims has risen dramatically, from about 10,000 in 1900 to 3 million or more in 1991 (some authorities say 4.5 million). Most of this growth is due to recent immigration and the high birth rate of Muslims (5 children per family on average), rather than to conversion. Still, the number of those who convert to Islam is significant. In the U.S., the majority are African-American (a third of all Muslims according to most authorities), but there have also been significant numbers of Anglos to convert as well, many of them well-educated.

What is motivating people to turn to Islam? A recent article in Christianity Today (Aug 20,1990) reported that in the U.S., the average age of those converting to Islam (31) is about twice that for conversion to Christian faith (age 16). It listed 5 main reasons given for becoming Muslim: Islam’s doctrine is simple and rational, all believers are equal, it is a “practical” religion, and lacks a priesthood. I read and clipped the article at the time, but when I recently pulled it out to re-read it, it struck me that those “reasons” merely parrot the arguments Muslim apologists use to propagate Islam. On reflection, I would say that all that they show is that Muslim apologetics is having some effect, but these are not necessarily what is motivating Americans to become Muslim.

An American Muslim interviewed in a fairly recent book (Neighbors: Muslims in North America. Friendship Press, 1989) gave the following reasons when asked why African-Americans are turning to Islam. I have heard the same things from African-Americans in Philadelphia more than once. First on his list is racism in the church. “The discrimination that we feel makes Islam attractive to us because it’s a way of rejecting the culture that will


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