6106Europeans Revert to Islam for Peace: US Paper
- Dec 31, 2005Europeans Revert to Islam for Peace: US Paper
CAIRO, December 27, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) - Islam is
a message that appeals to more and more Europeans who
are looking for inner peace and reacting to the moral
uncertainties of Western society, Muslim and
non-Muslim researchers told a leading US paper
Tuesday, December 27.
Although there are no precise figures, observers who
monitor Europe's Muslim population estimate that
several thousand men and women revert each year, The
Christian Science Monitor (CSM) said.
Mary Fallot, who reverted to Islam three years ago
after asking herself spiritual questions to which she
found no answers in her childhood Catholicism, told
the paper she finds the suspicion her new religion
"For me, Islam is a message of love, of tolerance and
peace," Fallot said.
Only a fraction of reverts are attracted to radical
strands of Islam, researchers told the paper, adding
that even fewer are drawn into violence.
A handful have been convicted of terrorist offences,
such as Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" and American
John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan,
according to CSM.
"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
The Monitor quoted experts as saying that admittedly
patchy research suggests that more women than men
However, contrary to popular perception, only a
minority do so in order to marry Muslim men, it added.
"That used to be the most common way, but recently
more [women] are coming out of conviction," says Haifa
Jawad, who teaches at Birmingham University in
Though non-Muslim men must revert in order to marry a
Muslim woman, she points out, the opposite is not
Fallot laughed when she is asked whether her love life
had anything to do with her decision.
"When I told my colleagues at work that I had
reverted, their first reaction was to ask whether I
had a Muslim boyfriend," she recalls.
"They couldn't believe I had done it of my own free
In fact, she explained, she liked the way "Islam
demands a closeness to God."
"Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it's easier
because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework;
man needs rules and behaviour to follow. Christianity
did not give me the same reference points."
Those reasons reflect many female reverts' thinking,
experts who have studied the phenomenon told the
"A lot of women are reacting to the moral
uncertainties of Western society," Dr. Jawad said.
"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 reverts.
"There is more space for family and motherhood in
Islam, and women are not sex objects."
At the same time, argues Sarah Joseph, an English
revert who founded "Emel," a Muslim lifestyle
magazine, "the idea that all women reverts are looking
for a nice cocooned lifestyle away from the excesses
of Western feminism is not exactly accurate."
Some reverts give their decision a political meaning,
says Stefano Allievi, a professor at Padua University
"Islam offers a spiritualization of politics, the idea
of a sacred order," he said.
"But that is a very masculine way to understand the
world" and rarely appeals to women, he added.
After making their decision, some reverts take things
slowly, adopting Muslim customs bit by bit, the paper
Fallot, for example, does not yet feel ready to wear a
head scarf, though she is wearing longer and looser
clothes than she used to.
Others jump right in, eager for the exoticism of a new
religion, and become much more pious than fellow
mosque-goers who were born into Islam.
Such reverts, taking an absolutist approach, appear to
be the ones most easily led into extremism, the paper
The early stages of a revert's discovery of Islam "can
be quite a sensitive time," says Batool al-Toma, who
runs the "New Muslims" program at the Islamic
Foundation in Leicester, England.
"You are not confident of your knowledge, you are a
newcomer, and you could be prey to a lot of different
people either acting individually or as members of an
organization," Ms. Al-Toma explained.
"New reverts feel they have to prove themselves," Dr.
"Those who seek more extreme ways of proving
themselves can become extraordinarily easy prey to
At the same time, Al-Toma said, reverts seeking
respite in Islam from a troubled past.
She gave Muriel Degauque, a Belgian revert who blew
herself up in a suicide attack on US troops in
occupied Iraq last month, as an example of this type.
Degauque, who had reportedly drifted in and out of
drugs and jobs before reverting to Islam, might be
persuaded that such an "ultimate action" as a suicide
bomb attack offered an opportunity for salvation and
forgiveness, she added.
"The saddest conclusion" Al-Toma draws from Degauque's
death in Iraq is that "a woman who set out on the road
to inner peace became a victim of people who set out
to use and abuse her."
Called by French and Belgian media as "la kamikaze
Belge," Degauque left the impression that all Muslim
reverts exhibit extremist tendencies.
The EU launched a drive against terrorism after the
9/11 attacks and stepped it up after the Madrid train
bombings 14 months ago.
Muslim minorities have taken the brunt of the
anti-terror measures, which include predawn raids and
stop-and-search campaigns, for no reason other than
Recently, Europes main rights and democracy watchdog,
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE), expressed concern at increasing Dutch
intolerance towards Muslims and the climate of fear
under which the minority was living.
A recent report by the International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights (IHF) also said that
Muslim minorities across Europe have been experiencing
growing distrust, hostility and discrimination since
the 9/11 attacks.
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