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Women Converting to Islam

When Educated White Women Convert to Islam

I don't know if I'd call it a trend, but the Daily Mail reports at least seven white, educated women have converted to Islam. Since we really don't know just how popular it is, let's consider the why of it all.

According to the Daily Mail, most women get their feet in the mosque through a very unempowering door: a boyfriend. But what makes converting to Islam for love more meaningful, and popular, than Charlotte's three-visits-to-the-rabbi attempt to switch to Judaism in Sex and the City?

Women say they find a purpose in life once they're no longer slaves to Western clothes, careers, and binge drinking. Most report an Eat, Pray, Love-like bliss, or state of peace, upon visiting a Muslim country or temple. "In the West, we are stressed for superficial reasons, like what clothes to wear," said Kristiane Backer, author of the German book From MTV to Mecca.

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Ultimately, women seem to fall in love with the religion's old-fashioned values that emphasize community and family. They don't feel oppressed, they say, because Islam is not inherently misogynistic. "The big mistake people make is by confusing culture with religion," said yoga teacher and Muslim convert Camilla Leyland. "Yes, there are Muslim cultures which do not allow women individual freedom, yet when I was growing up, I felt more oppressed by Western society."

I don't want to belittle anyone's genuine religious conversion, but a lot of these women are quite young and sound idealistic. One admitted to giving up the hijab after a few years, and I wouldn't be surprised if others followed her lead. Is it purely conversion? Or is it partly contrarianism, like a more extreme version of refusing to own a TV?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
snowysakurasky snowysakurasky 6 years
zeze said: , you come off very judgmental and really...unthoughtful. (comment #2) not sure about judgemental, but i really noticed that it was not a thoughtful article (or summary of another person's article.) i just think if tressugar is about 'sex and culture' the posts should be more thoughtful than this, unless they're something simple like a poll just for fun. anything on religion, please don't take it lightly, i think thats what's offending people. i see the merit in not wasting time and energy on one's appearance, of course. but if you are converting to a religion, isn't the point because you believe in that God, not as an excuse to focus on things other than your appearance? (not that you should need an excuse) i can see appreciating the convenience of not needing to style your hair and apply makeup while visiting a country where everyone covers up, but for people here converting, isnt that a very frivolous reason? i mean, you could cover up and marry and not have a career without saying that you are muslim. Or just be a natural beauty without covering up and be a nice wife and dont work. You dont have to buy the religion to copy the culture. Its just hard for me to understand as an agnostic. I would love the security of a guaranteed afterlife for those who follow the Ten Commandments or something else, but I cannot bring myself to see any organized religion as anything but a money-grab. Perhaps the idea here is American Christian(/Jewish) women who are educated ditching their shopping and consuming lifestyles and marrying Muslims and becoming family-centric instead of self centered. (this reminds me of the tres article i just read on 50's housewife life improving marital relations) Maybe its an easy/smooth transition for former Christians and Muslims since they've always been monotheistic (so they still believe in the same God). i just dont get if the original article implies that they become true believers or just want a lifestyle change and like the Muslim husband-style. On the flip side, there are definitely Muslim women with careers in the Islamic world (in the more progressive countries,) and I also heard that under their burkas they often have very nice makeup, clothes, and hair which they can show off in their homes at family gatherings, etc. Also they go shopping for lingerie in their burkas! So there are a variety of sub-cultures, I believe. one more thing "They don't feel oppressed, they say, because Islam is not inherently misogynistic." makes the article author sound really ignorant....or at least the author thinks the readers are ignorant and for the record people convert and then let it go all the time....Christians, Buddhists, Vegans, etc
mbibble mbibble 6 years
Also towards the gutsy Anonymous who asked, I am an (educated white female) atheist who never subscribed to any religion. I was not raised with a religion and wouldn't need to be in order to see prejudice. To those who think that the opposing comments are disproportionate, imagine what an article would look like if its sole intention were to explore the reasons people convert to other religions like Islam. Does this article even remotely resemble that? Do you think that this does anything healthy for its readers? I'm heated, not because I feel that my religion has been insulted, but because my intellect has and I genuinely believe that this type of thinking is dangerous when posed without any substance behind it. SMH.
stephley stephley 6 years
Why would ‘When white educated women convert to Islam’ lead to a debate about non-spiritual conversions? Are we questioning the “white educated” women, or Islam? Whatever was intended, the set-up is highly offensive. And for the gutsy Anonymous who asked, I’m a life-long Catholic.
Spacekatdude Spacekatdude 6 years
I continue. When the truth is that these new Buddhists probably had a lot of profound thought and wisdom behind their decision. An interesting and important point that comes out in the Daily Mail article which hasn't been addressed here fully is the idea that coming into a religion as an adult by choice is very different than having a religion - or lifestyle - imposed upon you as a child. I chose Christianity as an adult and so my faith is different in some deep ways from those who felt the full brunt of hypocrisy and oppression as a child. Those in the west who did not grow up Muslim and then choose it as an adult have a different experience than those who grew up in it.
Spacekatdude Spacekatdude 6 years
While I think the use of the word "unempowering" in connection with a boyfriend is questionable - and off-topic - I didn't find the article above - or The Daily Mail article - Islamophobic. IMHO the pile-on of comments seemed disproportionate to what was actually said. The title of the article is appropriate because, whether or not it's true, Islam is perceived by many in the West as a religion that oppresses women, and a religion mainly made of poor, non- white people. So, indeed, why would well- off white women want to join that? Colleen raised some good questions: are they doing it to please a guy? (hope not) Or for deeper, spiritual reasons? Or is it a fad? I knew a lot of folks in college who switched from atheism to Christianity, or from Christianity to atheism - and back. Back in the early seventies a lot of people picked up Buddhism for the first time - the reaction most heard was: why the he'll would you want to do that?
Colleen-Barrett Colleen-Barrett 6 years
This post is only about Islam, because that was the jumping off point of Daily Mail article. The real critique I am making is when people have nonspiritual motivations for converting — when it's seems more like a phase than a way of life.
GTCB GTCB 6 years
I'm not going to slander any one religion in particular, because I have a pretty low opinion of 'em all.
stephley stephley 6 years
Why do white educated women convert to any religion? Should we debate that and question the seriousness of their intentions?
mbibble mbibble 6 years
You were hoping to spark a debate so you didn't include any actual facts, didn't present two sides of an "argument" and even in your comment, didn't attempt to address the actual issues taken with your post like selecting a misrepresentation of Islam for a photo, using belittling comparisons, and saying that youth and "sounding naive" (by your standards) are reasons why some women's conversion to Islam is not "genuine?" Your stance in your writing was as clear as it was unfounded. If you were truly hoping to "spark a debate," I think the way you approached it was lazy and irresponsible. I don't personally think you were trying to do anything but express your opinion; which is fine with me/the constitution. Mostly, I'm just relieved that our comments made you feel the need to cover your tracks, but I'm insulted that you think your readers are stupid enough to need a poorly written/conceived article in order to "debate" the prospect of not being closed-minded/ignorant to the facts. Besides, there's no real debate here. We're all in agreement.
Colleen-Barrett Colleen-Barrett 6 years
Just to clarify, the question of why are white, educated women converting to Islam is first posed by the author of the Daily Mail article linked here, and she is a former Muslim. She provided the facts/opinions like women are introduced to Islam through boyfriends and attracted to its old-fashioned values that I referred to here. I think people have multifaceted reasons for converting — some are genuine, others not so much — and I wrote this hoping to spark a debate, so I'm happy to see it has!
snarkypants snarkypants 6 years
i agree with all of the above comments. the headline and photo are demeaning, as nobody educated would ever convert. and, like anon #4 said, that photo represents a very small minority of islamic women. people have their own reasons to convert (to any religion), and i highly doubt ANYBODY converts without fully understanding their new religion. it's not like these women are like, "ooooh my new boyfriend is muslim, better convert! too bad he couldn't be jewish, since i just converted for my last man!" ugh. this makes me angry.
zeze zeze 6 years
I have to say, even the title of the article is judgemental - "educated white women" as if she is surprised they could be so stupid as to be sucked into some cult.
zeze zeze 6 years
Gotta agree with the above post! Colleen, you come off very judgmental and really...unthoughtful. I've known a few women who have converted out of a deep spiritual belief. There is no reason that a "white" woman would be duping herself into believing Islam while the beliefs are "normal" for an Arab. Your whole argument is totally ridiculous.
mbibble mbibble 6 years
I really need to stop reading this blog. For one, why is a boyfriend introducing something to their partner ever "un-empowering?" Secondly, Charlotte is a fictional character, so of course *actual people* converting to Islam will be more meaningful and popular. The real reason it's more "popular" is because bloggers like you recognize that Islam is a hot topic on which many people have complex thoughts on and, although it's nothing new for educated white women to change religions, feel the need to bring it up as though it is a fresh perspective on an old, condescending way of treating the subject. Now that Islam is more popular for both positive (but mostly negative reasons) in the US, I don't really see how this trend is any different than the other conversions/adoptions we've seen over the last 300 years. Also, the author of this entry is making the same mistake that's quoted - confusing culture with religion. Just because someone removes their hijab, that act does not remove them from the Islamic community. Someone tell me where in the Qur'an it is stated that you must wear a hijab to be muslim. Islam is a practice, sure, but it's also a way of life and of thinking that is so similar to Christianity (probably because they both share the same, exact origins) that I don't understand why such a huge contrast is implied here. Well, I do understand, but I'd rather not. Of course, the feelings Islam provide could not possibly be real. They can only be compared to crappy movies...conversions only compared to stuff that happens on TV. And how much more young and naive could they possibly be than when they were born into a religion and asked to blindly follow? Arguably, great things can come out of both...if you subtract the negative, condescending press.
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