It may look like a wedding ceremony in a city in Europe, actually it is a conversion ceremony, where a Christian female has to first convert into Islam to marry her long-time Muslim lover. A Pakistani imam from a local mosque is present at religious conversion rituals. Imams in the majority of the mosques in Europe are of Pakistani origin. Once the female is converted, the mullah says, “Now you have become blessed and destined to Jannah (Muslim paradise) and it is your religious obligation to influence your parents, your siblings and other members of your family to embrace Islam”. This certainly is no isolated incident. Similar cases of religious conversion, where Christian males and females are emotionally blackmailed by the Muslim lovers and almost forced into religious conversion.
According to statistics, Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. Although much of the spread has been driven by immigration and higher birth rates among Muslims living in Europe, conversion of native Europeans also figures in this growth. A convert is defined as one who has changed membership from one religion to another. One can only speculate about the exact number of Muslim converts in Europe since most European population surveys do not include a question on religion. In total, there are likely 350,000-500,000 converts in Europe, making up almost three percent of Europe’s Muslim population. In France, estimates suggest approximately 50,000 to 100,000 converts out of a population of three to four million Muslims. For details, (Mapping the Global Muslim Population, Washington, DC, Pew Research Center, 2009). Although official statistics say, in 2006, there were 850,000 Muslims in the Netherlands, including 12,000 converts; actually, the number of converts is much higher. In Great Britain, there were about 63,000 native converts out of a population of 1.6 million Muslims in the early 2000s. Their numbers must have increased because the Muslim population as a whole reached 2.4 million in 2009 (Richard Kerbaj, “Muslim Population Rising 10 Times Faster Than Rest of Society”, The Times, January 30, 2009). Spain has an estimated over one million Muslims, roughly fifty thousand of whom are converts. Once jihadists were openly using their Muslim names in suicide attacks, while now-a-days, someone with blue eyes and a Western last name raises fewer suspicions, and the jihadists realized they can be effective cannon fodder for suicide missions. Meaning, the actual number of Muslims in most of the European nations is much higher than anticipated or surveyed.
It may be mentioned here that the European converts have participated in most terrorist plots and actual attacks that have taken place on European soil since 9/11. The shoe bomb plot in 2001, the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005 respectively, the transatlantic aircraft plot in 2006, the 2007 bomb plot in Germany, and the 2010 Moscow metro bombings all shared one common feature: European converts to Islam were involved at various levels and stages. According to counterterrorism researchers, at least dozens of converts had a confirmed role in the plotting and/or execution of terrorist attacks in European countries in the last 20 years. Although in absolute numbers jihadist converts are a small group, they represent a significant subgroup of Europe’s terrorists. Their significance also stems from the fact that in many European societies converts tend to be less physically visible than Muslims of immigrant origin. Indeed, jihadist converts have taken advantage of the Schengen Treaty and US visa-waiver programs to travel without much scrutiny.
According to a 2011 study by the Combating Terrorism Center:
Conversions of native Europeans to Islam took place in West European countries from the 1960s onward and were the result of two important developments: post-war Muslim immigration and the rise of protest and counterculture movements in the 1960s. The first generation of Muslim immigrants remained rather isolated from the rest of society; the second and third generations of Europe’s Muslims, however, have increasingly married outside their religious group. Although circumstances differ from country to country, many non-Muslim partners typically convert to Islam to receive approval from their in-laws.
Following the collapse of communism in the late 1980s, there is currently another wave of conversions. In the post-Cold War era, Islam is often viewed as a religion of rebels. Interestingly, many former Marxists have been involved in a renewed quest for identity, which partly shows itself in an interest in Islam. A growing number of former Marxists have converted to Islam, including prominent French philosopher Roger Garaudy.
According to a 2007 New York Police Department report entitled Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, “converts have played a prominent role in the majority of terrorist case studies and tend to be the most zealous members of groups. Their need to prove their religious convictions to their companions often makes them the most aggressive”.
Indeed, there have been a few cases of European converts, like the French brothers Jerome and David Courtailler, whose conversion zeal led them to “prove” their commitment to the new faith by joining jihadist groups.
The phenomenon of Islamic activism first appeared in Europe in the late 1980s, when the Salman Rushdie affair erupted in the United Kingdom. Thousands of Muslims protested against the British author and burned copies of his book, The Satanic Verses. Quintan Wiktorowicz has defined Islamic activism as “the mobilization of contention to support Muslim causes”.
In recent years, there has been a growing number of converts who have taken a public stance on Islam-related issues. They often feel more confident than Muslims of immigrant origin to criticize government policies and defend Islamic agendas. Non-Muslims are usually suspicious of converts because they “abandoned the religion of their forefathers”. On the contrary, many Muslim activists view these converts as mediators between authorities and the Muslim community.
One of the most infamous Islamic activists in the United Kingdom is Yvonne Ridley, a journalist of leftist background who converted to Islam after being freed from Taliban captivity in October 2001. In 2004, Ridley entered British politics as a candidate European MP for the Respect coalition party. The party had been established by former Labour MP George Galloway together with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain, and prominent members of the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain. According to its manifesto, the party condemns “Islamophobia and the demonization of Muslim communities”.
Yvonne Ridley herself has turned into a vocal and controversial figure, referring to Shamil Basayev as a rebel leader who “led an admirable fight to bring independence to Chechnya” and defending Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi for his 2005 Amman bombings in Jordan. Her inflammatory rhetoric about Israel and US foreign policy in the Middle East has made her a popular figure within Europe’s Islamist and jihadist circles.
Pierre Vogel represents another interesting case of a convert who turned into an Islamic activist. He was born in Germany and converted to Islam at the age of 23 while he was a professional boxer. After studying for two years in Mecca, Vogel returned to Germany and started preaching Salafism. Vogel has used the internet to reach out to young German Muslims. In December 2009, Swiss authorities barred him from attending a demonstration against the minaret ban in Bern. Due to his anti-integration messages, the 32-year-old self-appointed imam has also been monitored by German authorities who worry about radicalism among the country’s large Muslim community.
The Dutchman Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven is another leading Islamic convert. He converted to Islam at the age of 14. He studied in Amman and Medina before returning to the Netherlands. He has preached Salafism in the notorious al-Fourqaan Mosque in Eindhoven. Like Pierre Vogel, Van de Ven has used the internet extensively to propagate his Islamist messages. He has also been known for his controversial statements regarding the assassination of Theo van Gogh. Van de Ven was under investigation for his relationship with Jason Walters, a radical Dutch-American convert, who turned into a terrorist.
Although European churches say, growing number of Muslim migrants are converting to Christianity or American media outlet like Fox News claiming ‘Muslim converts breath new life into Europe’s struggling Christian churches’, reality is – majority of such conversions of Muslims into Christianity are part of their tactics of taqiya (deception) aimed at expediting their process of naturalization and enabling them in bringing rest of the family members to Europe. Once such a mission is accomplished – those so-called Christian converts start attending mosques and preaching radical Islam and jihad. They also trap Christian males and females into Love Jihad or Conversion Jihad and in most cases emotionally blackmail and succeed in getting them converted into Islam.
But Pope Francis would not accept this reality. Instead he tells Moroccan Christians, for example, the mission of the tiny Catholic community in predominantly Muslim Morocco “was not to convert their neighbors [into Catholic Christianity] but to live in brotherhood with other faiths”. While the Pope gives such advice to Catholic Christians in Morocco, he does not utter a word when thousands of Hindus in India are lured and converted into Christianity mostly by the Catholic missionaries. Similarly, when Moroccan authorities do not recognize Moroccan converts to Christianity, while many of whom worship secretly in homes; and conversion from Islam to Christianity is banned, as it is in many Muslim countries, and proselytizing is punishable by up to three years in prison, Muslim nations and societies encourage and patronize converting Hindus, Christians and non-Muslims into Islam and grant silent or open support to Love Jihad and Conversion Jihad.
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