More in France Are Turning to Islam, Challenging a Nation’s Idea of Itself

The Sahaba mosque in Créteil, a Paris suburb, popular with those converting to Islam, which is a small but growing number – Agnes Dherbeys for The New York Times

Source: The NewYork Times:

By MAÏA de la BAUME.

CRÉTEIL, France — While the number of converts remains relatively small in France, yearly conversions to Islam have doubled in the past 25 years, experts say, presenting a growing challenge for France, where government and public attitudes toward Islam are awkward and sometimes hostile.

The spacious and elegant modern building, in the heart of this middle-class suburb of Paris, is known as “the mosque of the converts.”

Every year about 150 Muslim conversion ceremonies are performed in the snow-white structure of the Sahaba mosque in Créteil, with its intricate mosaics and a stunning 81-foot minaret, built in 2008 and a symbol of Islam’s growing presence in France. Among those who come here for Friday Prayer are numerous young former Roman Catholics, wearing the traditional Muslim prayer cap and long robe.

Whatever the impact, there is little doubt that conversions are growing more commonplace. “The conversion phenomenon is significant and impressive, particularly since 2000,” said Bernard Godard, who is in charge of religious issues at the Interior Ministry.

Of an estimated six million Muslims in France, about 100,000 are thought to be converts, compared with about 50,000 in 1986, according to Mr. Godard. Muslim associations say the number is as high as 200,000. But France, which has a population of about 65 million, defines itself as secular and has no official statistics broken down by race or creed.

For Mr. Godard, a former intelligence officer, it is the “nature” of conversions that has changed.

Conversions to marry have long been common enough in France, but a growing number of young people are now seen as converting to be better socially integrated in neighborhoods where Islam is dominant.

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  1. Islam is the fastest growing faith in Britain. Hundreds and thousands of Brits are reverting to Islam. By the middle of this century, over half of Brits would be Muslims.

    New research has shown more women convert to Islam than men – in fact, they account for 60 per cent of conversions. They believed that they should be a force for good by building bridges between the Muslim and Non Muslim communities in order to understand Islam better.

    Examples of women who have left high powered jobs in the city, educated women who mostly found out about Islam independently via books, the internet or discussion with Muslims; seem to be the picture that is portrayed in this study. This clearly demonstrates a clear pattern of converts who while non Muslim rethought their lives and actively sought to reject secular values, for a belief system offering spiritual and worldly guidance in order to regulate life in a meaningful and fulfilling way. The rejection of materialism and decadence seem to be some of the catalysts in making that change.

    One of the most high-profile examples is Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth, who recently announced she had adopted the faith after a trip to Iran. The conversion of Lauren Booth will have a positive impact, despite claims that it is just attention-seeking. It will encourage people to convert, unless they idolise her, but I think that it will educate people and make them more interested in learning about Muslims. It’s all about having a look at the Quran with an open mind, without presumptions and assumptions…Then would the reader understand what the beautiful religion is
    all about….

    Increasing numbers of young, university-educated women in their twenties and thirties are converting to Islam. Well – educated white women are more likely to convert to Islam than other groups. Through wearing modest clothing, all the way to a head scarf, it’s no longer about how you look, It’s getting free from this idea that you are defined by your dress size.” At the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, women account for roughly two thirds of the “New Muslims” who make their official declarations of faith – and most of them are under the age of 30.

    The question is why are so-called liberated women choosing Islam. Such women are part of an intriguing trend. They seek spirituality, a higher meaning, and tend to be deep thinkers.

    While 9/11 has led to a western military and ideological onslaught on Islam, 9/11 has also been the catalyst for increasing numbers, born and bred in the west, to question and reject western values and convert to Islam.

    It is also of no surprise that no matter what policies or narrative is pushed by governments, writers, thinkers or elements of the media to try and reason away such conversions as ‘fringe’, ‘coercion’ or ‘blind following,’ this trend will continue in a world that seeks to understand the extent to which Capitalist liberal values have failed man in every sense and left a void which can only be filled by the truth!

    “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of
    its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to
    possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which
    can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man
    and in my opinion for from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the
    Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the
    dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems
    in a way that would bring it the much
    needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad
    that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to
    be acceptable to the Europe of today.” [G.B. Shaw, THE GENUINE ISLAM, Vol.
    1, No. 81936.]
    IA
    London School of Islamics Trust
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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