When Muslims Leave the Faith
By Daniel Pipes
Conversions involving Islam sometimes look like a one-way street in the West. Famed new believers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Keith Ellison seem to get all the attention—along with flamboyant flirts like Lindsay Lohan. But those who leave Islam may ultimately influence the faith more than converts do.
There are about 3.5 million Muslims in the U.S., according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. The data suggests that about 100,000 of them abandon Islam each year, while roughly the same number convert to Islam. Altogether nearly a quarter of those raised in the faith have left, with Iranians disproportionately represented. Similar trends prevail in Western Europe, where conversions in and out of Islam appear roughly to balance out.
In the U.S., ex-Muslims’ motives for leaving vary. Asked what their “main reason” was for no longer identifying as Muslim, Pew found 25% had general issues with religion and 19% with Islam in particular. Some 16% said they prefer another religion, and 14% cited “personal growth.” More than half of them abandon religion entirely, and 22% now identify as Christian.
Apostates challenge their former faith in three principal ways: publicly leaving, organizing with other ex-Muslims, and openly challenging the Islamic message.