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6106Europeans Revert to Islam for Peace: US Paper

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  • Zafar Khan
    Dec 31, 2005
      Europeans Revert to Islam for Peace: US Paper

      http://www.islamonline.org/English/News/2005-12/27/article07.shtml

      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
      attracts "wounding".

      "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
      together."

      More Women

      The Monitor quoted experts as saying that admittedly
      patchy research suggests that more women than men
      revert.

      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
      Britain.

      Though non-Muslim men must revert in order to marry a
      Muslim woman, she points out, the opposite is not
      true.

      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
      will."

      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."


      Belonging

      Those reasons reflect many female reverts' thinking,
      experts who have studied the phenomenon told the
      daily.

      "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."

      Political

      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
      in Italy.

      "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
      noted.

      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
      claimed.

      Sensitive

      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.
      Ranstorp added.

      "Those who seek more extreme ways of proving
      themselves can become extraordinarily easy prey to
      manipulation."

      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
      being Muslims.

      Recently, Europe’s 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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      More about Islam and Muslims in Europe at:
      http://www.islamawareness.net/Europe/