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Why European women are turning to Islam

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Peter Ford | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


PARIS – Mary Fallot looks as unlike a terrorist suspect as one could possibly imagine: a petite and demure white Frenchwoman chatting with friends on a cell-phone, indistinguishable from any other young woman in the café where she sits sipping coffee.

And that is exactly why European antiterrorist authorities have their eyes on thousands like her across the continent.



NOW, LISTEN: When Mary Fallot converted, her surprised co-workers asked if she had a Muslim boyfriend. Actually, she explained, she was drawn to Islam by the answers it provided.


Ms. Fallot is a recent convert to Islam. In the eyes of the police, that makes her potentially dangerous.


The death of Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert who blew herself up in a suicide attack on US troops in Iraq last month, has drawn fresh attention to the rising number of Islamic converts in Europe, most of them women.


"The phenomenon is booming, and it worries us," the head of the French domestic intelligence agency, Pascal Mailhos, told the Paris-based newspaper Le Monde in a recent interview. "But we must absolutely avoid lumping everyone together."


The difficulty, security experts explain, is that while the police may be alert to possible threats from young men of Middle Eastern origin, they are more relaxed about white European women. Terrorists can use converts who "have added operational benefits in very tight security situations" where they might not attract attention, says Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.


Ms. Fallot, who converted to Islam three years ago after asking herself spiritual questions to which she found no answers in her childhood Catholicism, says she finds the suspicion her new religion attracts "wounding." "For me," she adds, "Islam is a message of love, of tolerance and peace."


It is a message that appeals to more and more Europeans as curiosity about Islam has grown since 9/11, say both Muslim and non-Muslim researchers. Although there are no precise figures, observers who monitor Europe's Muslim population estimate that several thousand men and women convert each year.


Only a fraction of converts are attracted to radical strands of Islam, they point out, and even fewer are drawn into violence. A handful have been convicted of terrorist offenses, such as Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" and American John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan.


Admittedly patchy research suggests that more women than men convert, experts say, but that - contrary to popular perception - only a minority do so in order to marry Muslim men.


"That used to be the most common way, but recently more [women] are coming out of conviction," says Haifa Jawad, who teaches at Birmingham University in Britain. Though non-Muslim men must convert in order to marry a Muslim woman, she points out, the opposite is not true.


Fallot laughs when she is asked whether her love life had anything to do with her decision. "When I told my colleagues at work that I had converted, their first reaction was to ask whether I had a Muslim boyfriend," she recalls. "They couldn't believe I had done it of my own free will."


In fact, she explains, she liked the way "Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it's easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points."


Those reasons reflect many female converts' thinking, say experts who have studied the phenomenon. "A lot of women are reacting to the moral uncertainties of Western society," says Dr. Jawad. "They like the sense of belonging and caring and sharing that Islam offers."


Others are attracted by "a certain idea of womanhood and manhood that Islam offers," suggests Karin van Nieuwkerk, who has studied Dutch women converts. "There is more space for family and motherhood in Islam, and women are not sex objects."


At the same time, argues Sarah Joseph, an English convert who founded "Emel," a Muslim lifestyle magazine, "the idea that all women converts are looking for a nice cocooned lifestyle away from the excesses of Western feminism is not exactly accurate."


Some converts give their decision a political meaning, says Stefano Allievi, a professor at Padua University in Italy. "Islam offers a spiritualization of politics, the idea of a sacred order," he says. "But that is a very masculine way to understand the world" and rarely appeals to women, he adds.


After making their decision, some converts take things slowly, adopting Muslim customs bit by bit: Fallot, for example, does not yet feel ready to wear a head scarf, though she is wearing longer and looser clothes than she used to.


Others jump right in, eager for the exoticism of a new religion, and become much more pious than fellow mosque-goers who were born into Islam. Such converts, taking an absolutist approach, appear to be the ones most easily led into extremism.


The early stages of a convert's discovery of Islam "can be quite a sensitive time," says Batool al-Toma, who runs the "New Muslims" program at the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, England.


"You are not confident of your knowledge, you are a newcomer, and you could be prey to a lot of different people either acting individually or as members of an organization," Ms. Al-Toma explains. A few converts feel "such a huge desire to fit in and be accepted that they are ready to do just about anything," she says.


"New converts feel they have to prove themselves," adds Dr. Ranstorp. "Those who seek more extreme ways of proving themselves can become extraordinarily easy prey to manipulation."


At the same time, says al-Toma, converts seeking respite in Islam from a troubled past - such as Degauque, who had reportedly drifted in and out of drugs and jobs before converting to Islam - might be persuaded that such an "ultimate action" as a suicide bomb attack offered an opportunity for salvation and forgiveness.


"The saddest conclusion" al-Toma draws from Degauque's death in Iraq is that "a woman who set out on the road to inner peace became a victim of people who set out to use and abuse her."

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Vatican Warns Italian Women Against Muslim Marriages



"The experience of recent years leads us as a general rule to advise against or in any case to discourage these marriages," Ruini said (Reuters)




Additional Reporting By Ahmed Fathy, IOL Correspondent


CAIRO, December 27, 2005 ( – Vatican cardinals have warned Italian women against tying the knot with the rising numbers of Muslims in Italy, citing what they say cultural and religious diversities.


Church officials say that Italy has seen 20,000 marriages in 2005 between Catholic women and Muslims, whose population touches the one million mark, the BBC News Online reported Monday, December 26.


Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Vicar General of Rome, had said that cultural differences over issues such as the role of women and education of children make it difficult for Catholic women to marry Muslims.


"The experience of recent years leads us as a general rule to advise against or in any case to discourage these marriages," he wrote in a document released last month.


"Mixed Catholic and Muslim couples who intend to have a family have other difficulties above and beyond those experienced by other couples, when one considers cultural and religious diversity," wrote cardinal Ruini, a conservative thinker close to late Pope John Paul II.


Late Pope John Paul II was the first pope in history to pray in a mosque, when he visited Damascus.


His successor, Benedict XVI, has insisted that he is also keen to promote religious and cultural dialogue with the Islamic world.


Cardinal Ruini also expressed concern at the growing number of Catholic-Muslim marriages, calling it "intrinsically fragile".


"According to the Italian statistics office ISTAT, there were more than 19,000 such marriages in Italy last year," he added.


Ruini's warning echoed a similar one last year by Vatican cardinal Stephen Hamao, who wrote about what he called the "bitter experiences" that European women have had in marrying Muslims.




Commenting on the warning of Catholic-Muslim marriages, an Egyptian Catholic priest said the move comes in response to concerns over the growing numbers of Muslims in Italy.


"The warning expresses fears of the Catholic cardinals that Italian women who marry Muslims would later revert to Islam," priest Kristian Van Spen, professor of philosophy, Cairo University, told Tuesday, December 27.


"In addition, they are also concerned that children born to this marriage will also embrace Islam."


"This, consequently, will lead to an increase of the number of Muslims in Italy," he stressed.


There are an estimated 1.5 million Muslims in Italy, a country of about 58 million people.


Many European voices have been warning of the increasing number of Muslims in Europe.


Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci warned in her book "La forza della ragione," which translates as The Force of Reason, that Europe is turning into “an Islamic province, an Islamic colony†and that “to believe that a good Islam and a bad Islam exist goes against all reason.â€


The Egyptian priest cited a number of motives leading to the marriage of the Italian Catholic woman from a Muslim


"In addition to the social pressures, the Catholic woman who marries a Muslim does not have the right to inheritance unless she reverts to Islam," he said.


He ruled out any dialogue on marriage between Catholics and Muslims as part of the interfaith dialogue.


Observers who monitor Europe's Muslim population estimate that several thousands of men and women revert to Islam each year, according to a report by the Christian Science Monitor Tuesday.

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Why European women are turning to Islam


Because Allah the Almighty has opened their eyes, hearts and given them guidance. Whomsoever Allah guides, none can misguide....

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Many non-muslims have an idea or understand ISLAM nowadays.


They simply go to and Type ISLAM...and everything including Propaganda against ISLAM is there..


In UAE, they closed all websites that are anti-ISLAM..


smile.gif :)Islam is growing...we will be many but facts remain:


Who are the The Real Muslims


Real Muslims

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Ms. Fallot is a recent convert to Islam. In the eyes of the police, that makes her potentially dangerous.

Walee...Kuwaani naceybkooda ma qarsadaan.

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Good articles, very informative - Clear sign of struggle between the two, Xaq and Badhil. Truth remains to be stronger and will have more effect on our daily lives. God bless my My Muslims ilahayna hasoo hanuuniyo kuwa lunsan.


Funny how this latest combat against the so called "Islamization of the west" was launched, promoted by moderate famous figures in the west.


Will it work? be assured my peepz it won't, Oh yeah Im 100% sure It won't work, Who can stop the message of God in your mind?


Thank for sharing sxb

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