Islam's conversion problem - Macleans.ca
 

Islam’s conversion problem

Is enough being done to either stop or support troubled young converts?


 
Iranian Shiite Muslim women pray as they place the Quran, Islam's holy book, on their heads during a religious ceremony at the graves of soldiers who were killed during 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, just outside Tehran, Iran.(Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

Iranian Shiite Muslim women pray as they place the Quran, Islam’s holy book, on their heads during a religious ceremony at the graves of soldiers who were killed during 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, just outside Tehran, Iran.(Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo)

Four days, three attacks in three different North American cities, all reportedly driven by an adherence to radical Islamist ideology. On Oct. 20, a crazed driver in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., ran over two Canadian forces officers in a parking lot, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent; two days later, a lone gunmen armed with a hunting rifle murdered another Canadian soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, in Ottawa; and, one day after that, another wild-eyed maniac armed with a hatchet in New York hacked at four police officers, injuring two, one critically. The threads that tie these attacks together seem frayed; the similarities, however, are striking.

All three men came from troubled backgrounds. All three suffered some degree of mental anguish, battled drug addiction and turned to Islam for purpose and meaning. All three were recent converts.

Related:
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David Frum on the allure of radical Islam in Canada
Two killers, one twisted objective

This has become a worrying trend over the past year in which Islamic State has emerged as the world’s most notorious and violent radical group. Unsurprisingly, it appears to be attracting some of the most troubled individuals across the Western world, including the U.K., France, Germany, Canada and the U.S.—young men defined by fractured lives and violence, embracing a corrupted and debased version of faith to justify their rage.

That more and more of these people appear to be gravitating toward Islam has become a focal point of debate within Canada’s Muslim communities. Why has Islam become a magnet for the deranged, the lost and the psychologically unstable, many are asking, and what can be done to either keep these people out or support them once they have converted?

The Islamophobes, naturally, will argue that it is Islam itself that is the problem: A religion of violence attracts violent individuals. That, obviously, ignores the hundreds of millions of Muslims who do not subscribe to violence and whose hearts bleed every time a horrific act is committed in Islam’s name.

Islam is suffering through an era of ideological crisis. Like other crises, religious or not, an environment of conflict and confrontation attracts people seeking out conflict and confrontation. Canada’s FLQ crisis in the 1960s is one domestic example: Leftist discontent fed by Cold War-era conflicts, coupled with economic stagnation in Quebec, created the perfect environment for the emergence of a radical group like the Front de libération du Québec. The FLQ, in turn, attracted young, discontented individuals searching for a cause that would allow them to vent their internalized anger.

Islam is suffering through a similar state of crisis and is, similarly, attracting young discontents. “We’re helpless,” says Yusuf Badat, 34, imam at the Islamic Foundation in Toronto and vice-chair of the Canadian Council of Imams. “We can’t see into the inner motivations of a person who wants to convert to Islam. Many of these people are coming from broken backgrounds. They’re looking for an escape.”

The problem, he adds, is complex. On the one hand, conversion to Islam is relatively straightforward: A person announces his or her intention, then recites the Shahada, a declaration of faith, three times. There is no formal procedure. According to one website that encourages people to convert, “Becoming a Muslim is a simple and easy process. All that a person has to do is to say a sentence called the Tesitmony of Faith.” This, the website adds, can be done alone.

Once a person has converted, however, the onus remains on the individual to learn about his new faith. Unlike Christianity, where conversion usually plays out in a church setting with the congregation serving the role of guide and support network, a convert to Islam is often left to float in a sea of opposing doctrines. He may attach himself to an individual, who then becomes his guide, or he may rely on the Internet, a haven for radical views, for guidance.

This is dangerous, says Badat. “Given the current context, there needs to be some kind of protocol put in place, be it background checks or criminal-record checks. We need to know why a person is converting.”

More broadly, the Muslim community needs to talk about these issues, he adds, and make changes to the existing conversion procedures. But resources are scarce. Some organizations, such as the Muslim Association of Canada, do offer post-conversion support groups—but they only reach a small number of converts.

“Mosques are the front-line institutions in the Muslim community,” says Badat, but most mosques are run by volunteers. Some do have formal procedures in place, where a new convert recites the Shahada in front of the congregation and is accepted into the community of Muslims. We need more of this.”

In the meantime, Muslim leaders, such as Badat and others, emphasize that the rash of Muslim converts turning to Islamic State-type radicalism tell us more about Islamic State than they do Islam. “No true Muslim or Muslim convert who is embracing Islam out of a love for the faith will ever join Islamic State,” he says. “But there are too many people who see conversion to Islam as a kind of ticket into war. They are not converting as true believers, but rather, to become soldiers.”


 

Islam’s conversion problem

  1. Christians have the same problem. So do Jews and Hindus etc. All fundies have it. It’s a form of mental illness.

  2. yeah, Emily….

    Just look at the headlines around the world. it’s hard to tell who’s committing the worlds most barbaric atrocities.

    headline after headline of print describing the terror attacks carried out by Christians, Jews and Hindu’s.

    all you ever read these days.

    • Christian terrorism is well-known. So is the rest of it, but you’re only rabble-rousing against Muslims.

      That’s illegal btw.

      • Emily,

        If pointing out the FACT that muslim’s commit the vast majority of terror attacks around the world….then perhaps someone should tell the media who have been reporting on it.

        Now Emily…REAL QUICK.

        Please list the last ten terror attacks carried out by Jews and christians within the last…oh…I don’t know. 20 years.

          • Not that I want to encourage James in any way (I’ve been butting heads with him as well over his irrational fear/hatred and unsubstantiated claims), but several of your entries in no way qualify as Christian terrorism. To point out two:

            Waco was an FBI raid that went sideways when those they were raiding turned it into a hostage situation and armed standoff. How you managed to label that as a terrorist act – religious or otherwise – is beyond me.

            McVeigh’s bombing, while an act of terrorism, was not religiously motivated (for something to be an act of religious terrorism, religion has to be explicitly listed as a primary motivator). McVeigh had been raised Christian, but it was not a motivator in his attack. His actions were explicitly political. You’re good with Wikipedia – go look it up.

            Your list weakens your argument; you should have just given him the link.

          • Complain all you want Bram…..they were religiously motivated. Devout….and violent.

            Lots of groups like that….Army of God, Dominionists, Phineas priests….

            Go surfing, find out.

          • McVeigh’s actions were in no way tied to his religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

            Koresh was definitely religiously motivated, but he did not initiate the events – the FBI did. So unless you are accusing the FBI of terrorism, Waco is a bad fit.

            As for the others…

            Eric Rudolph, I agree, can be classified as a Christian terrorist.

            As far as I can tell, Ted Kaczynski was an atheist. I see no evidence his actions were in any way religiously motivated; I challenge you to prove differently.

            Scott Roeder – religion may have played a role. Bit of a stretch to call his actions terrorism (no one other than you seems to call it that; he certainly wasn’t tried as a terrorist).

            Jim Jones killed off his own followers in a mass suicide / murder, but again – not terrorism. Not even close.

            I’d provide links, but the comment chokes if more than one are included.

            Feel free to prove me wrong on any of the above.

          • Emily,

            If that’s the best you can come up with you have proven my point.

          • I am bearing in mind that you are a religious nut yourself….and Jimmy, that you keep encouraging, was born confused.

            I’m not going to go over every case with you….they are all readily available online.

            Killing people in the name of religion is terrorism. You just don’t like it when christians get named.

          • Hey, Em – I did what you wanted and actually looked up every one of them before commenting. Now you say “they are all readily available online.” Yes they are – and my summaries are accurate. The problem isn’t with me – it’s with you and your overbroad definition of terrorism.

            Not that I’m surprised – just another case of you making up your own definition. When does the Dictionary of Emily hit the bookstores?

          • Emily noted:

            “I am bearing in mind that you are a religious nut yourself….and Jimmy, that you keep encouraging, was born confused.”

            Umm…..Emily, clearly you only read your own postings. I’ve stated repeatedly on here that I am a devout ATHIEST.

            More genious from Emily:

            “I’m not going to go over every case with you….they are all readily available online.”

            Emily….google “Islamic Terrorism” or Muslim terrorism….how many hits do you get?

            Now do the same with “hindu terrorism, or Christian terrorism” Tell me what you find.

            finally:

            “Killing people in the name of religion is terrorism. You just don’t like it when christians get named.”

            Emily…the last time Christians engaged in widespread violence….was during the Crusades. Frankly, if they would have done a better job of it, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  3. The Lefts new mantra “They weren’t Muslim Terrorist they were MENTALLY ILL” that’s the ticket……

    • Religious insanity is rightwing.

      • And your insanity seems to have no affiliation.

        You are a party of one hand clapping.

        • Atheism cures religious terrorism

          Nothing cures your ignorance.

          • Yes – atheists have to find a different excuse. Usually extremist politics.

          • As I have written repeatedly, I AM and athiest.

            I don’t want anyone / thing telling me what to believe.

            And for the record, you apparently don’t know what the word “ignorance” means.

            Here’s a hint…..it does not mean, “Anything Emily disagrees with”

            but you keep trying.

          • KeithBram wrote:
            “Yes – atheists have to find a different excuse. Usually extremist politics.”

            Actually, Keith…extremist politics leads to extremist actions. I am not engaged in either one. If you want to know the real meaning of “extremist” politics, just have a look at the governments of Muslim countries in the Middle east. (Except Israel of course).

          • James: Not everything is about you. My comment was directed at Emily, who likes to think all strife in this world is caused by religion. Point her to people like Pol Pot or Stalin – avowed atheists – and she claims that they were secretly religious, or influenced by their early exposure to religion or some such claptrap.

            If she likes a person (e.g. Einstein) then past religious affiliation doesn’t matter (nor does the fact that Einstein himself said he was agnostic, not atheist) – but if you reflect badly on her belief that atheists by their very nature can do no evil, then clearly exposure to religion must still be messing with you somehow.

            We’ve had some hilarious exchanges (well, hilarious to me… though she was quite serious they read like great satire).

  4. “Becoming a Muslim is a simple and easy process. All that a person has to do is to say a sentence called the Tesitmony of Faith.” This, the website adds, can be done alone.

    This reminds me of the Firesign Theatre skit about the missionaries coming to the “New World” Vespucciland: Domini, Domini, Domini, you’re all Catholics now.

    • LOL hadn’t heard that one.

      I dunno why they’re making Islam to be so simple when all you have to do is say you ‘accept Jesus’ to be christian. Same diff.

    • When Catholics start whacking the heads off people….then I’ll pay attention.

      Until then, we don’t need to worry about the rosary folks. We KNOW who is causing the problems today.

        • Bram and James….just to be clear….are as confused and crazy as the people going overseas to join ISIS.

          Same delusions, same arrogance, same sophistry.

          Crackpots.

          • Does that mean we get to join your club then? The Macleans Crackpot Commenters Club?

          • On a more serious note – if you’d been paying attention, Em, you’d have noticed we were both more or less on the same side of this discussion. I’ve been chiding James for his belief that all evil comes from Islam (which really is only a narrower version of your own belief about religion generally, now that I think on it) and pointing out where his is wrong – including, in the post you replied to, by providing a link to an example of a Christian going Old Testament on someone.

            Face it – you’re just ticked off that I poked holes in your little fabricated list upthread. As I’ve told you time and again, if you’re going to argue a point, then use examples that actually match the topic at hand. Otherwise, people like me WILL poke holes; we aren’t all Emily-worshiping fools who take you at your (often fabricated) word.

        • LOL I’ve regarded both of you as crackpots since the beginning.

          Bram who can never make up his mind….and James who doesn’t have one.

          Sorry….go bore someone else with your nonsense.

          Ciao.

          • And you would know crackpots… being president of the club.

            Tell me Em, do you ever look at the world directly? Because all that viewing it through funhouse mirrors has been playing havoc with your thinking…

        • Keith,

          I think that the stoning of ANYONE is barbaric….no matter who is doing it. The difference of course, is that one section of various “communities” think it is just hunky dory….and they do it on a daily basis for any perceived crime.

  5. ! When will the Nazi Cancer of Islam be Removed Forever from the Planet ?

    • Nazis were RC. Keep up.

      • Jeff wasn’t literally calling them Nazis; it was a comparison. And you are clearly trying to bait someone (me?) by saying Nazis were Roman Catholic. If you wanna try proving that, go ahead; meantime, I’m just laughing my head off at you…

  6. I don’t think the comparison with the FLQ is ideal. It’s possible that in both cases, circumstance brought about extremism, though it could definately be debated. That’s not the point I’d like to make, however.

    The FLQ was finally dealt with by suppression of rights, and mass arrests without evidence, with the purpose of “sorting them out” afterward. I suppose Mr Khan would prefer this approach wasn’t used now, to “flush out” muslim extremists? Or was it proper in the case of french canadians, but not in the case of muslims?