Did you know about the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB)?
The article also discussed converts to Islam who then renounced it. Two things struck me about converts: one, many were young and, two, women who converted thought they would be seen as having more dignity.
As most observers of Islam know, apostates have death sentences hanging over their heads because they’ve left the faith. Therefore, they need to be especially careful about how they lead their lives.
The New Statesman article tells us:
between 2001-2011, more than 100,000 British people converted to Islam.
“Many converts leave the faith. We don’t have exact statistics but some stats say 50 per cent will leave within a few years,” says Usama Hasan, a part-time Imam and a senior researcher at the counter extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation.
Whilst the young and women join for more structure or dignity, others join for a lifestyle change — those who view Sufism as representative of Islam — or because a previous partner was (or is) a Muslim.
The reason people leave Islam is that
Some converts don’t receive the community support upon entering the faith.
… bad experiences with Muslims …
The magazine interviewed Pepe, now 39. He converted to Islam at the age of 20, having been drawn in by the mysticism of Sufism. A decade later, he did become a Sufi, affiliated with the Chisti Tariqah, which has its origins in Afghanistan.
Pepe left fundamentalist Islam because:
The more I got involved … the more cult-like it was becoming. I had to get permission from the Sheikh [religious teacher] to do a lot of things, like if I wanted to leave town. When I questioned things, they told me to completely stop reading books and only read what they gave me …
… his Sheikh interpreted one of Pepe’s dreams to suggest that his father didn’t care about him …
Now living in Canada with his Muslim wife and children, he says:
“I was confused when I first left the religion but I came to the conclusion that none of it is real. I was very angry at the time,” he says.
“I would call myself an atheist but even if there is a higher power, I don’t think it affects the way I am with people. If anything, I would say I’m a more compassionate person now, because I know how people’s minds can be manipulated,” he says.
He eats pork and drinks alcohol, but not in front of his children.
Extremist Islam came into play in Goran Miljević’s story. He was brought up as a Serbian Christian. When he was 17, he was expelled from college. Now 19, he says that was the catalyst for becoming a Muslim:
Converting to Islam was somewhere I could belong, a brotherhood, somewhere you can go where you’re listened to and supported.
His parents were unhappy with his decision, although they did not ask him to leave home. Still, he did spend a couple of nights at his mosque.
Miljević later thought differently once he saw how he was meant to conduct his life (emphases mine):
I was really practising at one point, proper hard core. But what I realised is that you can’t be a convert and be moderate, you have to be extreme because that’s how you distinguish yourself.
He has since become an ex-Muslim, although he will defend good Muslims. However, he says:
at the end of the day, religion is politics.
As for women, the New Statesman tells us:
75 per cent of all British converts to Islam are women. And, according to one study in Leicester, Between Isolation and Integration, a large percentage of female converts were attracted to the faith because of the status it affords them. Many believe the religion provides them with a high spiritual status and a type of dignity our modern, secular country can’t.
However, this search for respect — which is what it seems to be — has its drawbacks. The aforementioned Usama Hasan of Quilliam observes:
The reason why some converts leave the faith or become confused is not only because of the narrow-mindedness of many Muslims. But also because of the dominance of culture: some Muslims will insist on Pakistani, Saudi or Iranian culture and say it is Islamic.
So, whilst conversions to Islam have increased post-9/11, so have departures:
“I’ve noticed certainly after 9/11 that a growing number of young Muslims in the UK have lost their faith, and many have become Christian, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist,” Hasan says.
RMC (Radio Monte Carlo — from Paris, these days) had a morning talk show discussion on this last year. The panellists said that in an increasingly global world, many people chose to seek refuge in their own racial and/or religious groups which afford them an identity with which they can define themselves more comfortably. The panel concluded that people needed to belong to a smaller group of people which stand out from the rest. That might be fundamentalist Muslims, Christians or atheists.
The search for self-identification by adopting distinguishing traits of one form or another seem to be part of the human condition in a fallen world. In a global society, the more extreme these are, the better — at least for a while.