I just thought I'd put this out there for all of those who have used this statistic in talking to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, reverts and otherwise--that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Okay. I saw this in the NYT first but I prefer the CNN version:
The Muslim share of the global population will rise primarily because of their relatively high birth rate, the large number of Muslims of childbearing age, and an increase in life expectancy in Muslim-majority countries, according to the report, "The Future of the Global Muslim Population."
Conversion will play relatively little part in the increase, the report anticipates. It says little data is available on conversion, but what little there is suggests Islam loses as many adherents via conversion as it gains. (emphasis added)
- CNN.com, World Muslim Population Doubling, report suggests
First of all, NYT's version of the article was a very different, less objective tone. The underlying sentiment, I felt like, was, "Have no fear, oh white folk! Muslims will not overtake the world population." And when I say white folk, I am calling to mind the call for Europeans to reproduce more as they have fewer and fewer children. And I'm like, really, is this a race? Pun not intended. Is this a race or competition to see what group can dominate in terms of the world population? Have the number of children that you will and don't worry about it!
And this is exactly what I've been saying all along...if people were suddenly cognizant of how many billions of Muslims there were on earth, and if they see all Muslims as potential extremists and terrorists, now that we're about to make up over a quarter of the world's population with this so-called youth bulge, heh, if our extreme nature were true, there'd be much cause to crap one's pants right about now, and for the next 20 years as this growth continues.
So on that front, people need to just calm down.
The second part of that, though, is what I'm telling you we need to wake up about. I don't exactly identify as a revert, but eh, close enough. A lot of times when we talk about conversion to Islam, I hear many a Muslim cite the fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion, as if conversion is the source of our increases in numbers. That's false advertising, baby.
I'm not one to eat up statistics without that proverbial grain of salt, but I've rarely heard this as part of the conversation...what do you say? That as many Muslims leave Islam as people are converting to it? That the main numbers are from babies being born to Muslims? Uhhh, you don't say?
What have I got to say to that? No duh!
It may be a coincidence of the current article on Altmuslimah by a revert, or the predilection of some of my Muslimah friends on facebook, but I've been hearing a lot of stories of disillusioned reverts to Islam over the last couple of weeks. And I know those aren't just all suddenly cropping up, many have been there. None of these have been, by the way, people who have left Islam. One commenter on the site of one sister, a "native" Muslim, stated that it's a wonder that she stayed Muslim after her experience.
Now, not all of the people leaving Islam are the converts. A lot of the people are those "native" Muslims who sought alternative ways to live life. Okay. But the notion that (the way that we practice) Islam is so great that look, people are just flocking to the religion, giving up their white privilege to grow beards and don hijabs (as so many of the conversion stories featured, often, are of white Americans) is an exaggeration.
We are in crisis. Muslims are in crisis. We may cry and whisper masha'Allah when we hear conversion stories, witness a shahadah, and I know I did, the first shahadah I witnessed after becoming practicing. It's touching, but we cannot ignore that people who call themselves Muslims are doing horrendous things, resulting in dire consequences for the Muslims and non-Muslims in the communities surrounding them, loved ones of victims, and having reverberations for Muslims everywhere.
As someone who was barely a nominal Muslim before 9/11, I have no idea what it was like before we became synonymous with terrorists in certain circles. But as a practicing Muslim after 9/11, I know that it is hard to come from a place where you were at once everyone else and then suddenly become this other, often finding yourself the token, trying to avoid being grand apologist. It's not a good look.
All of this to say...it is really hard, especially living in the West, to become Muslim...and not in the practice as much as in the identity with this religious group. I align myself in practice and identity, before that statement is taken incorrectly. Reverts need a lot of support, and I'm seeing across the blogosphere that it's not just me that feels like they're not getting the minimal necessary to be able to sustain not only the identity, but the practice. Those who opened them with welcome arms as they first became interested in the religion disappear soon after the shahadah.
What kind of ummah is that?
This is not new. Br. Dr. Jeffrey Lang talks about it in his book, which I'll have to reread at some point.
So stop using the "fastest growing religion" line, please. We should not be so smug. What is the state of those in our religion? There's a lot of uplifting and essential soul saving we need to do on a grand scale, some within our own communities. We need to be more activists than some of us are apologists right now.
I say this because I know I'm one of them, God have mercy on me.
"We all know that sometimes life's hates and troubles
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet your life times that and twice its double
That God knew exactly where He wanted you to be placed
So when you say you're in it but not of it
Make sure you're not making this a place sometimes called Hell..."
- Stevie Wonder, "As."