Women in America Among those Converting to Islam

February 16, 2002

Source: Newsday

On February 16, 2002, Newsday featured an article on American women who have converted to Islam. "The women say they consider the veil and modest dress symbols not of oppression, but of liberation. They say the emphasis on the female body in the Western world, with all its manifestations in popular culture, has led to the sexual objectification of women. And... they say their religion treats each gender equally, though not identically... these women are among the estimated 20,000 Americans a year who, since the mid-'90s, have adopted Islam, a religion that has been receiving much attention since the Sept.11 terrorist attacks... Despite the persistent image of the oppressed Muslim woman, about 7,000 of those converts each year are women, according to the report of a study led by Ihsan Bagby, a professor of international studies at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. The study was financed in part by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington. About 14,000 of the total number of converts in 2000, the report found, were African-American, 4,000 were white and 1,200 were of Hispanic descent. (Members of the Nation of Islam were not included in the study)... With laws for almost every aspect of life, Islam represents a faith-based order that women may see as crucial to creating healthy families and communities, and correcting the damage done by the popular secular humanism of the past 30 or so years, several experts said. In addition, women from broken homes may be especially attracted to the religion because of the value it places on family, said Marcia Hermansen, a professor of Islamic studies at Loyola University in Chicago and an American who also converted to Islam."