Turning to Islam
by Lisa Sinclair
“Since 9/11, increasing numbers of American women are converting to Islam.” I wondered how this could be, as my professor gave statistics. These were educated Caucasian Americans, many of them formerly Christian. What was the appeal in the face of tragedy and terrorism? Why would a woman turn to Islam instead of Jesus?
As a Christian missionary in a Muslim country, I knew the appeal of Islam. I watched the crowds of men in flowing white robes as they left all commitments on Fridays to go to the mosque. I listened to the haunting music of the muezzin as Muslims were called to prayer five times a day. I frequented polygamous homes where women helped each other in cooking and caring for the many children. I watched the entire Muslim world unite to celebrate Ramadan as a community, fasting for one month for the glory of Allah. The Islam I saw was deeply religious, fiercely proud, and very inviting. At times, I felt almost wistful.
Conversions dramatically increase
CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) chairman Nihad Awad told the Saudi paper 'Ukaz that, “34,000 Americans have converted to Islam following the events of September 11, and this is the highest rate reached in the U.S. since Islam arrived there.” Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe noted that, “Women turning to Islam are aware that some people - including some of their own families - can't understand why any American woman would choose a religion often depicted as oppressive of women.” This is a false image, American Muslims protest; the subjugation of women in some countries is an aberration, not true with Islam. After all, Muslim women have led their countries in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey. Paulson notes that many American women encounter Islam by meeting or dating a Muslim man. Some are drawn to the spiritual mysticism of Islam, while others are attracted to the conservative family values and structure of Islam.
Desiring departure from cultural norms
I understand this. Many American women are tired of acquired freedoms, ambiguous role functions, and the feminization of American men. Sexual “freedoms” have robbed women of mystery and purity. In the context of a sexualized, pornographic society, veiling, cloaking, and the call to chastity resonate. Women are drawn to the rituals of prayer and creed in a chaotic world filled with too many meaningless choices. Some women blame the Church - they have been wounded there and feel isolated and alone. Some have been disappointed by hypocrisy, superficiality, and an evil use of power in the Church. To these women, the social community of Islam extends open arms. And maybe, if we are to be truthful, some women are drawn to Islam because they admire people who are willing to die for what they believe.
As an American Christian woman, I understand the unique appeal of Islam. I am saddened that the Church seems to lie sleeping while the sheep are quietly and effectively stolen. My professor speaks with passion, even tears. He is a Christian with a Muslim background, and he challenges us to really know our Master and His Word so that we have a ready answer to Islam. The search, loneliness, confusion, and longing for worship and community that attract women to Islam can only be satisfied in a living relationship with our loving God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
An urgency to respond
Today I sense a new urgency to usher women to the Lord, to help them be firmly grounded in doctrine and Scripture, able to know and explain a reason for their hope. They must know God in a very personal, unequivocal way. Only in relationship with God through Christ are we forgiven and washed clean; only in Him are we empowered for right living; only in Him do we have the sure hope of heaven. Though the outer form of Islam has the appearance of beauty, the inner life is empty without Christ. The Church must welcome and incorporate women into deep community life and deal frankly with their issues and concerns. Only the Way, the Truth, and the Life can lead us rightly. Only a relationship with the Lord will keep us anchored.