The University of Cambridge has published a report about experiences of almost 50 British women of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and faiths (or no faith), who have all converted to Islam.
The report was commissioned and produced by the University’s Centre of Islamic Studies (CIS), in association with the New Muslims Project, Markfield.
The 129-page report brings up some “recommendations” for the convert, heritage Muslim, and wider British communities, outlining the social, emotional and sometimes economic costs of conversion.
“The consistent theme flowing through the report is the need for increased levels of support for the convert community – and the converts’ own potential to be a powerful and transformative influence on both the heritage Muslim community and wider British society”, said project leader and Director of CIS, Yasir Suleiman.
“Another of the recurring themes was the overwhelmingly negative portrayal of Muslims and Islam in the UK media and what role the convert community might have to play in helping to redress the balance. This report seeks to dispel misapprehensions and misrepresentations of female converts to Islam.”
A key revelation of the study was the heavily disproportionate attention, bordering on obsession in some cases, given to white, female converts to Islam by both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities alike.
This is often to the detriment of African-Caribbean converts, thought to be the largest ethnic group of converts to Islam, who are often ignored and left feeling isolated by both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.
“Considering the stereotypical and largely negative picture Islam has in the media and society at large, and considering that quite a lot of this revolves around the position of women in Islam, we wanted to understand the seemingly paradoxical issue of why highly educated and professionally successful Western women convert to Islam”, said Project Manager Shahla Suleiman.
“The basis of conversion is faith and spirituality – but conversion is also a social phenomenon that has become political. In this sense, conversion concerns everyone alike in society”, she added.
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