I wanted to get away from the specific issues faced by white/ European Muslims and focus more on converts in the West in general. The recent discussion about the possibility of white Muslim sub-cultures existing in the West brings up a greater discussion about Islam and culture. What does Islam say about the keeping of one’s culture for the convert to Islam? Should all Muslims get rid of their “culture” and just have a merely unified “Islamic” culture based purely on the Qur’an and Sunnah? Or should we admit there are Muslim sub communities that have a shared language and culture that will never disappear no matter how much we push for this melting pot. For this discussion, I will focus on several voices from the Muslim community.

Religious Leadership – When I talk about this group, I am referring to imams, da’ees (preachers) and ulama who are currently in the West. The overwhelming majority of these leaders were either raised in the Muslim world, or they are, at most, first generation Muslims. Of course, the main exception to this rule would be leaders from the African-American Muslim community. These religious leaders are normally completely opposed to anything seen as “division” in the Muslim community. They believe that any type of proclivity towards one’s culture, aside from cuisine and dress, as what is destroying the Ummah. Thus, intercultural marriage is their way of solving this problem. Indeed, it is not haram to marry someone outside of one’s own culture. We have to understand why many of them feel this way before we proceed. Many of these imams came from countries where nationalist governments oppressed them. Many of them spent time in prison for their pan-Islamic visions. Many of them believed that the Muslim Ummah fell because of division, as the Arabs helped rebel against the Ottoman Empire. So they want us to completely stop talking about our tribe, or “watan”, and just be one big happy Muslim family. Never mind the fact that at the end of the day, as much as they want to believe this, born Muslims will have a Muslim family, a Muslim heritage, a shared language, and at least a feeling of fitting in with their own people when they go to the mosque. More power to them, but we would love to have that as well without being told that this is “dividing the Ummah.”

Religious leaders born into Muslim families, not having lived the experience of being a convert, fail to realize the large cultural divide between us, and the folly of this Islamic monoculture approach. They want us to fit in with people who come from a totally different culture and mindset than us. This is difficult enough when talking about everyday interactions, but it becomes infinitely more complicated when you throw marriage into the mix.

As Muslims, we do not believe in “dating.” This can create disastrous situations for either spouse as there is little to no way the person’s track record, personality, compatibility, financial status, presence of STIs, temperament, or religiosity. Muslim families often make up for this discrepancy by having the family “investigate,” even from a young age, the compatibility of potential suitors. Many times, the family will heavily push or even decide for their child their spouse for them. The other protective factor, especially for their daughters, is that if the spouse gets “out of line,” their family has a method of keeping this brother in check. If he abuses her, there are brothers and uncles ready to beat the crap out of this person. If she abuses him, there are sisters and aunties ready to ruin the wife and family’s reputation. This is not to say that there are not problems with Muslim families, of course there are. But converts are complete outsiders with a non-Muslim family, and do have any of these protective factors. Female converts are also preyed upon group especially, as there are many Muslim men who are looking for green cards, have fetishes about doing it with a white woman, and believe that if their kids are lighter-skinned, they will have more opportunities in the West. Another protective factor that born Muslim families have, perhaps to a great fault, is that families will demand overly expensive mahers (marriage dowry given to the wife) from $10,000 to $50,000 and beyond. With such a high price tag, it is no wonder Muslim men prefer to marry converts. Many of them also have this idea that Western women are looser, and feel that they will have more leeway to do what they want without fear of what her or her family might say.

The result of these overlapping factors, to which most imams are completely blind, is an epidemic of divorced convert women and their born Muslim husbands, often with children, who were abused by their husbands, left for dead, and many of them have either left the Muslim community or Islam altogether. In my experience of 16 years as I convert, I have seen: the husband go AWOL after the honeymoon, husbands take their kids away and move to their home country, husbands that sat on their ass all day and did not financially support their wife, whereas she had a full-time job. I am sure that the blame is not squarely on these husbands in all cases. But we have “sheikhs” who are pushing intercultural marriage as if it is a panacea to “save” the Muslim Ummah from “division.” Spare me. The overwhelming majority of Muslim families only want their children to marry from their own country, their own village, and many times, from their own family. We are tired of being used as guinea pigs for this Islamic monocultural experiment. It is really sad because there are so few of us converts who have been here for so long to tell the Muslim community like it is.

A better solution would be to have converts simply marry each other. Marrying someone who has been through similar experiences, who are both learning, and will have far fewer cultural misunderstandings would be ideal. But there are several reasons that make it incredibly difficult to have these kinds of marriages. First, as mentioned, we are the only Muslims in our family. It is not like we can ask our family to find another convert. This concept is completely alien to Western society. Thus, many converts will first turn to the mosque for help. Most mosque goers are born Muslims, with maybe a few token converts. So the imam will be most likely look to his own congregation (and if they come from the same culture, they will be the first person he asks). Moreover, at the mosque they have complete gender separation (if they allow women in at all), and most converts leave the mosque environment after a few months anyway, so nobody goes to the mosque to look for a convert of the opposite gender for marriage. Then we have the situation where the convert learns about Islam not on their own, but from their Muslim husband or boyfriend (yes, not all Muslims are practicing). Thus, they go into Islam already having a Muslim partner. The inverse situation (non-muslim man dating or married to a Muslim women) is almost unheard of for both religious and cultural reasons. This may explain why most converts to Islam are women (contrary to the traditional, “Islam treats women like queens” argument). Also, most converts do not want to marry another convert, especially women. Usually they were disowned or estranged from their family, so they think by marrying into a Muslim family, they will get the love, support, and opportunity to practice Islam that they need. Marrying another convert, especially if their family does not like Islam, means that they would have to deal with not one but two Islamophobic families. As my one dear convert friend put it after I asked why he did not want to marry another convert, “I have enough Islamophobes up my ass.” I can understand the sentiment, and the idea of your kids have two sets of non-Muslim grandparents would be difficult. (In my experience though, most non-Muslim families with a Muslim son and daughter married to each other, come around and actually get along quite well).

Suffice it to say, for these reasons and more, it is extremely rare for converts to marry each other, and even rarer for white converts to marry each other. As I stated before in my previous articles, Islam is not “advertised” to white people, and especially to white males. Linda Sarsour and Omar Suleiman (yes I do not mind saying their names publicly hear) have often used “white” interchangeably with “non-Muslim” when giving interviews to Al Jazeera. Talk about feeling marginalized. In addition, most white converts are so far to the left politically that they would prefer to get rid of their race and culture altogether. It has unofficially become the “sixth pillar” of Islam, hate whitey.

So there you have it. That is a brief synopsis of why Islam is not growing naturally among many convert communities, especially white Muslims. I am sure that these factors have negatively affected converts of all races, although they have other factors that have contributed to their marginalization that white converts do not have to worry about. If we really want to improve the situation of all converts, we need to work hard, learn skills, study the deen, and stick together. Born Muslims can be our allies, but they really need to understand where we are coming from. I have never advocated for separation, but I do believe that if we do not have at least a discussion about these issues, what imams feel as the solution to Ummah’s problems will keep pushing converts out of the mosque like a revolving door. It will also keep a lot of Black, White, and Latino Muslims alienated to an unbearable degree unless they form their own sub-communities like the Syrians, Somalis, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Bosnians, Algerians, Moroccans…

Robert of Canada

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *