WHY MANY BRITONS CONVERTING TO ISLAM
BY NUR MALIKHAH,S.Pd,M.Hum
Generally speaking, being a Muslim in non-muslim countries (i.e. European countries) is sometimes hard. Many aspects make Muslims get difficulties to have their lives, like the way they do the five times prayer, how to get halal food, how to dress-up, how to socialize with community, and so on. One real example is the situation in France where the government has set to forbid women to wear burqa in France. Women wearing headscarf will be harassed and get unusual treatment by others. The other thing is that it is also hard to get halal food when Muslims live among non-muslims as most food contains alcohol, pork, or even any meat which is not slaughtered without mentioning the name of Allah. European people tend to have their common socialization in bar, pub with only alcoholic drinks served, and Muslims will not be able to mingle with them in the same manner with them even they do not drink anything.
However, I am so lucky to have chance to study in the United Kingdom (UK). People in Britain, called the Britons, are very welcome with Muslims. They have high solidarity, respect, and tolerance among religions. The most interesting think dealing with the Britons and Muslim is that many of those white people convert to Muslims in the recent decades. In the Independent newspaper (4 January 2011) it was reported that the number of Britons converting to Islam has doubled in 10 years. It is very easy to meet Muslims in many cities in UK. The Mail Online (5 January 2011) also reported the reasons how 100,000 Britons have chosen to become Muslim and the average convert is 27-year-old white woman. This phenomenon became a hot issue in UK and many scholars were invited to talk about this conversion.
Now, I will share one discussion held in the event of Lancaster University Islamic Society about the reason why many Britons convert to Muslim. The event was entitled as Islam awareness week 2011 (http://www.lancs.ac.uk/socs/islamic/), lasted from 14 – 18 February 2011. The participants were not only the Muslims but there were some non-Muslims who wanted to know the elaboration.
Lancaster, a small city, an hour heading to Manchester, is the city where I live and Lancaster University is the place where I am studying now. The number of Muslim in this city is quite a lot. There are one central mosque in town and another one in the university. The Lancaster University Islamic society often conducted some discussions about Muslims and many people are interested in joining the event. One of them is the session in the Islamic Awareness Weeks 2011 about why are so many Britons converting to Islam?. Leon Moosavi presented this title in a very clear explanation with some real facts. In his presentation, he also mentioned the fact that the number or Britons converting to Islam has grown significantly. They are from various classes (rich and poor) and different religious traditions. Many celebrities also convert to Islam and one outstanding fact is when Tony Balir’s siter-in-law, Lauren Booth, converted to Islam a year ago. It is found that in the last five years, more people wanted to know about Islam, behind the fact of some terrorisms issue and an image of Muslims are bad guys. In his elaboration, he shows that converting to Islam is not a new thing. The history shows that people have been converting Islam since Islam appeared and conversion occurred in Britain’s colonies.
However, the fact that many Britons now convert to Islam leads a misconception that they convert to Islam because of the history. From his long research for his PhD thesis, he found that the most important reason why many Britons converting to Islam is that they are looking for the meanings and answers of the big questions about Why am I here? Where am I going? Where am I coming from? How should I live? Should I be selfish? Should I engaging the hedonism so I just pleasure myself entirely? Do I have ethics in the place where I live? Should I treat people in certain way? They found the answers of those questions in the Holy Koran. Of course, they did not get the answers in an instant process. It was a very long process for them to decide to convert their beliefs until they really found that Koran is the Holy book guidance as the original revelation from God, containing some chapters and topics, which gives the enlightenment and help for people how to life. It is a handbook of life. Moosavi then summarizes some points which lead the Britons converting to Muslims as follows:
There is only one God with no competitor. People converting to Muslims only understand the amazing processes in the universe (i.e. the moon, the sun and the planet rotate around each other and continuous to go) is kept in balance because of the existence of the highest being or creator – God. This particular teaching of one God –tawhid- is the most interesting thing they want to know, comparing to the Christian with the idea of trinity. So they move from the trinity idea into tawhid.
Unique dimension because there are a lot of pay occupation that it is all about money, consumerism, stuff in one’s body. The consumerism, capitalism are too much and they are not so interesting. They need something to satisfy their spirituality, to digest which is not food, but something similar to emotion and they believe through salat they can invite the spirituality.
People now are selfish. This is the fact that the Britons found in he surrounding. They need to get the righteous brotherhood and sisterhood and found that Muslims are iving with humanity, much respect, cooperation, solidarity, give charity to the needy people with zakah. This is the feeling of solidarity the Briton feels in Islam.
The fact that Islam respect the Muslims women is the situation which made white women convert to Islam and they feel secure in Islam.
The discipline in doing five-time prayers (salat) proves that Islam has the structure of life and discipline.
6. Marriage and dakwah
The last point is a bit controversial in some point of view. The questions which the white women often were asked in the beginning they are recognized to Muslim is Did you married to Muslim? Yes, some of them convert to Islam because of marriage they have with their Muslim partners. But many of them converting to Islam without marrying their partner, but because they have to do it after the long process of understanding Islam. A woman revealed her experience of converting to Islam as: I do not convert to Islam for my boyfriend, but I convert Islam because of him. This is a controversial fact but it happened and yes, she is Muslim now.
The phenomenon show how people start to know Islam and then believe in Islam and become Muslims. Thy decided to be the minority among the majority but they are proud to be Muslims and continue the dakwah of Islam in their life.
The next question is now to all of us who are mentioning to be Muslims without the need of understanding islam from the very beginning, without being the minority, without any difficulties to do all the Koran says. Can we really understand why we are Moslem? Are we the truth Muslim? Have we accomplished all thing mentioned in Koran? No one will answer, and the answer is in our heart.