20 October, 2012

Spectator questions ‘wisdom’ of conversion to Islam

Spectator questions ‘wisdom’ of conversion to Islam

Last week’s Spectator cover story explored the subject of female conversions to Islam particularly among Christian women. Entitled,‘Till faith do us part’ Spectator columnist Melissa Kite argued that ‘more and more Christian women are converting to marry’, and questioned the ‘wisdom’ of such conversions.

Kite begins by conveying an anecdote of a friend of hers who has converted to Islam to marry her fiancé. Relaying her friend’s approach to conversion, “I’m really not that bothered…I’m not a practising Christian. It doesn’t make any difference to me either way,” Kite iterates her own unspoken thoughts on the matter as“Why on earth are you converting to a faith which thinks you are the infidel?”

She argues that her friend’s ‘casual’ attitude to the conversion “will matter to millions of Christians who, like me, are worried about their community selling out.

She continues: “The growth of Islam in Britain is often still put down to immigration, but a study last year estimated that the number of Islamic converts in Britain has risen by two-thirds from 60,000 in 2001 to about 100,000. Around 5,200 people in the UK become Muslims each year. And while there are no figures on marriages specifically, we do know that 62 per cent of conversions are women and that the average age at conversion is 27, which is pretty much the age most women get married now.”

Kite comments at the comparative ease of converting to Islam in relation to other religions, and then states that “I also fear that we Christians are just too polite. The notion that we must put others before ourselves is admirable, but it is also what makes us rather ineffectual at faith-preservation. Middle-class Christians may be the worst in this respect, and middle-class female Christians even flakier still. When my friend bends over backwards to accommodate her Muslim husband, she is displaying the ultimate trait of a nicely-brought-up English girl: ‘No, no, you first! After your religion. I insist!’

“In uncertain times, and in the face of an aggressive atheist movement, people who suddenly decide that they want religion are choosing strong religions with hard and fast rules, strict boundaries and moral certainties.

“Call me narrow-minded, but I would not convert to someone else’s religion for all the tea in China.

“The Church of England, meanwhile, looks down its nose at such dogma, preferring instead to issue edicts that are ecumenical to the point of absurdity, in the interests of social cohesion. As my friend embarks on her new life as a Muslim convert, she will no doubt discover more about what sort of social cohesion Islam is prepared to offer her.”

Kite implies that many conversions are done for the sake of marriage, citing a study carried out last year which found that a majority of converts are women and the average age of conversion is 27, which according to Kite also happens to be “the age most women get married now”.

In fact, Kite’s assertions run contrary to the findings of the study which found that there is “no evidence to support the claim that most conversion is driven by the desire to marry a Muslim man.” The author of the study, Kevin Brice, stated that although he found that “some are converts of convenience… For others it is a conversion of conviction where they feel a calling and embrace the religion robustly,” adding that "That's not to say the two are mutually exclusive – sometimes converts start out on their religious path through convenience and become converts of conviction later on."

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