The Success of the American Muslim Experiment

Between 2010 and 2014, I served as a senior advisor for the U.S. State Department, and one of my duties was to engage with young Muslim populations around the world. Everywhere I went, I received earnest queries about the perceived difficulties facing Muslim life in America. “How can you stand the hostility you get from other Americans after 9/11?” was one angle, which was odd to hear from Muslims living in a much more intolerant Europe. “Do you even pray or know anything about your religion?” went another, asked more with concern or pity than derision. I suppose if all I depended on was what I read on the internet, I’d feel the same way.

This was in the comments for that article
“I wish the Christians would pay attention to this, this is what Christians should be doing as well. Too many of us seem embarrassed by our faith. If Buddhism or Islam say something in common it’s great and it’s impressive, if Christianity says the same thing people seem to shut down. It’s like there are too many of us who seem to be afraid to live the Christian faith sincerely.”

Too true.

I read his article. He states that Muslims have “prospered” since 9/11. But why have Muslims “prospered” since 9/11? He doesn’t answer that one.

I think there are multiple answers, but one big one is apparent if you search on “convert” + “Islam” on youtube. 9/11 brought Islam into the news in a way that deeply touched people. Many of these people knew nothing about Islam, but now they began investigating it. They turned to their Muslims friends or just started reading the Qur’an. They found a number of attractive qualities, and they converted.

Another group began investigating Islam at the same time to “prove their Muslim friends wrong.” A great number of them also converted because they expected to find 100% nonsense or worse, and they found some truth in it.

The converts (75% women between 15-24) then became spokespersons for Islam in public debates, etc. Myriam Francois-Cerrah in the UK, for example.

Another factor was the backlash among Muslims–they began proselytizing much more actively and publicly, and filing anti-discrimination lawsuits about headscarves, school lunches, school holidays, etc.

Finally, there was the emergence of a new generation of Muslim propagandists (“da’wa” --simply a translation of the Arabic). Shabir Ally is a good example. These are people born in the West who speak English, French, or German as their native languages. They are often highly educated in religion (Shabir, for example has a MA in Biblical Studies and a PhD in Islamic Studies). Young people who have only a smattering of knowledge about Christianity are no match for them in any sort of conversation. How many Christians can explain in detail why they believe in the Trinity or why they believe Jesus is God (the two main targets of Muslim apologists)? None?

I personally think this is a matter of concern. Many of these converts (including the above-mentioned Myriam) were Catholics. Several were ex-nuns. Several more were very pious Catholics (saying the rosary daily, for example). Online, where the action is–converts themselves say they turn to Youtube for information on Islam–the Catholic presence is negligible. Evangelicals are carrying the ball, and doing it quite well (David Wood). But Catholic seem to have their heads in the sand.

American Muslims have also had some advantages that Christians have not. Entertainment media tends to me much more friendly towards Muslims than it is to Christians. In general, when Muslims are depicted in television, it seems to be to prove a point about Islamophobia or to depict Muslims in a positive light. There’s nothing wrong with this — my opinions towards Islam tend to be fairly positive — but it is markedly different than the depiction of Christians in the media. When Christianity is depicted in the media it tends to be fairly negatively. Most positive depictions of Christianity seemed to focus on ether nominal Christians or cafeteria Christians.

What’s the result? A young person looking to explore religion will begin with a bias against Christians and a bias towards everything else.

When combined with the fact that many Muslims seems generally proud of their religion (with obvious exceptions) and highlight the good, whereas Christians seem perpetually ashamed to be Christians, and its kind of a miracle that anyone would choose to become a Christian at all.

Excellent points. Political correctness applies to some groups (Muslims, for example) and not other (Christians, for example). Again, I think part of the problem is that Christians are not educated properly in their own faith(s)–which includes knowledge of the good works that Christians do throughout the world.

For example, the refugees from Syria, Eritrea, etc. who try to cross the Mediterranean to get to Greece or Italy. Who saves them? The Italians, the Greeks, etc. Where are the Muslim navies? Egypt? Tunisia? Morocco? Turkey? Algeria? They are all absent. And yet no one comments on this…despite the fact that 99.9% of the refugees are Muslims.

I have some comments and a suggestion.

Comments: I have a link. It gives some stats on Muslim Americans. 65% are foreign-born, and 35% are native-born in America. Those numbers (like all numbers of this nature) are steadily converging, and considering how this data comes from 2011, it may be closer to 50-50 by now, although not quite there yet. Perhaps 60-40? At any rate, 2011 numbers indicate a 65-35 split at that point in time.

The 65% figure is presumed to represent people who were raised Muslim in its entirety. Out of the 35 percentage points representing native-born people, 21 of those percentage points are converts to Islam and 14 of those percentage points are born Muslim (and then presumably given no other choice as to what religion they’ll practice the rest of their lives).

Just to clarify, 35% of all Muslims in the United States are native born, and then we use number that add up to 35- meaning 21% of all Muslims in the US are converts, and 14% of all Muslims in the US are native born Muslims.

Now, that is a pretty favorable composition of numbers, the internal percentage of converts is higher than the internal percentage of native-born Muslims and that is just what Muslims are looking to achieve and sustain. It will be a bit difficult to sustain over time as the overall ratio of foreign-born to native-born converges and then reverses, but the current situation is quite favorable to Islam.

I do have a couple of comments to add, though. One- native born Muslims are increasingly likely to feel like they have a choice in their religion the more generations that separate them from their foreign-born ancestors. The total number of people who’ve left Islam is very comparable to the number of converts currently practicing Islam, and with the passage of time, American Muslims will have to work harder to keep their native-born Muslims and it’s just not going to work. On the other hand, most if not all other religions that immigrants take with them to America immediately have near-catastrophic loss of adherents in the next couple of generations. Islam is well positioned to prevent that loss very effectively in the near term (even if it is done viciously) and it will manage it comparatively well in the medium and long term. But let’s not kid ourselves, the conversion numbers are pretty well even as is and that is going to start going much more in favor of the most evangelism-oriented parts of American Christianity before too long.

I have one other thing to add about these conversion numbers, too. If you talk to Muslims about how many American Muslims are converts, most of them will not tell you a figure like 21%. Most of them will estimate something more like 30%, or perhaps 1 in every 3 as a ballpark figure. There is a very good reason for that- there really are quite a lot of people converting to Islam, especially black Americans as the first link will indicate. Conversion to Islam is generally most likely to happen in prison, actually. The thing is, a lot of those converts wind up not being Muslim for very long, and even fewer of those converts wind up raising children who are Muslim. Also, as you might expect in a situation where Islam is a small minority religion, a large proportion of Muslims marry someone who is not a Muslim- not exactly encouraged by the religion, but in this type of situation what are you going to do, right? It’s more likely to happen, and of course Islam requires that the non-Muslim become a Muslim in order to get married. (Some of this may sound like a familiar situation to Catholics in the US). As you might expect, both the high proportions of prison conversions and the marriage-related conversions lead to a low rate of permanent conversions and multi-generational impact. It is for these reasons- mainly- that American conversions to Islam happen at a rate that may seem like 1 in every 3 American Muslims is a convert, but in fact the figure looks a lot more like 21% on account of so many of these converts not sticking around long term. (Again, this is the exact situation with Catholics as you look at Protestants. But that is a topic for a different thread).

Here is a link where an imam talks about the people who convert and then leave.

These are my comments. Now I have a suggestion. There is a long-running program on EWTN where Protestant converts to Catholicism tell their story, answer some questions from someone on a whole staff of Tiber swimmers, and everyone on the program encourages Catholics to invite Protestants to switch teams. Any Protestants that happen to be listening are encouraged to become Catholic. Now, what if EWTN had a program in which ex-Muslims tell their stories about becoming Catholic? Perhaps the staff could look into hiring an ex-Muslim as a radio personality who talks about Muslim-Catholic issues on a regular basis, and plays the role of the person who helps guide other converts through the process of telling their story.

There aren’t all that many Muslim converts to Catholicism, but then there aren’t that many Tiber swimmers either and their stories are featured very regularly, at least once a week. What do you think would happen if Catholic radio featured the same types of stories from people who used to be Muslim? Would the overall effect be positive? If a Catholic radio station is able to carry this out with Tiber swimmers and approach it with motives and intentions that are completely pure and good, is there any reason why they wouldn’t be able to do the exact same thing with ex-Muslims?

Also, is there any particular reason why ex-Muslims are not currently telling their conversion stories on Catholic radio?


Good post. I wasn’t aware of either of the two articles you linked to, so thanks.

You’re listed as “Evangelical”–so….why are you pulling for the other team? Or in this case are we allies against a common enemy?

The Imam’s article: Yes, I think he’s right. I have read a bunch of different sources, and they all agree that 50-75% of converts leave Islam after converting. A lot of that has to do–as he said–with lack of local support. On the other hand, the ones leaving are not necessarily the “white women” (Muslim propagandists’ term, not mine) who convert–they’re the black prison inmates, etc. “White women” who convert generally do it for religious reasons, not for marriage; but when they do convert, they by necessity look for Muslim husbands. If you want to see what type of convert Muslims prize most, watch some youtube videos of rallies–they trot out the converts at the end. If it’s a black convert or a guy, there’s polite applause. If it’s a “white woman” the crowd goes wild. It’s clear that “white women” are a prize to be sought.

There are at least two ex-Muslim websites where ex-Muslims talk among themselves, which is very revealing. Some are born Muslim, others are converts.

Clearly if a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim man, she’s in danger of losing her faith; the same goes for a non-Muslim woman who marries a Muslim man. I’m not sure how those numbers work out.

My own daughter-in-law is “Muslim” at least in name–she’s Iranian, and fled Iran after the student protests in the late 90s. As far as I know, she doesn’t practice. What will happen to her son is an open question. Her sister and her husband (both Muslims) have a son who became an Evangelical and wants to be a missionary. Chalk one up for our team.

There are also various videos on youtube bewailing Muslims in the West for not leading Muslims lives. Indonesian Muslims have even put out a video (“Saving Myriam” I think it’s called) that is a call for action against Christians converting millions of Indonesians. So it’s not all one way.

I agree totally and whole-heartedly with your suggestion for EWTN and/or Catholic radio. As I said in my own post, Catholics have basically abandoned the field to the Muslims. Inexplicable…

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