Islam, like the other monotheistic religions, was born in the Arab Middle East but unlike Christianity or Judaism, is regarded as an alien and obscure faith. The reason for the stated difference lies in that while both Christianity and Judaism were Westernized and, in more instances than not, informed and shaped Western culture, Islam, with some exceptions, remained fixed in the Middle East. Added to that, Islam was surprisingly resistant to trans-cultural transferences. For centuries, Islam, largely represented by Egypt's Al Azhar, maintained that the religion was fixed in language, culture and tradition, with the implication being that people came to Islam and Islam did not go to them. Hence, translations of the Quran were deemed misrepresentative of the faith because much was lost n translation and it was, consequently, expected that people learn Arabic as a prerequisite to their learning the faith itself, let alone embracing it. It was only upon the relaxation of the aforementioned strictures that understanding Islam became somewhat easier, although not easy.
The West, however, has only recently met Islam and the circumstance of the meeting were fiery, to say the least. The September 11th terrorist attacks only confirmed the Western perception of Islam as an incontrovertibly alien faith, a "Green Menace" and an "ancient" belief system (Esposito, 1994). Descriptors which inspire fear and suggest a persistent failure to modernize, to become part of the contemporary world (Esposito and Piscatori, 1993; Esposito, 1994). Indeed, the misunderstanding and stereotypes which surround Islam, largely instigated by the 2001, September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, have enabled the propagation and proliferation of Islamophobia. Paradoxically, however, even as Islamophobia grows, so does the number of converts to Islam, not only in the United States but across Europe.
Converts to Islam and the attitudes of these converts to the religion they have embraced, is an interesting topic of exploration, because converts to Islam differ in significant ways from those who were born into this faith. While the belief system, as in the five pillars, rituals and principles have remained the same, Western converts have, largely as an outcome of the manner of induction on the one hand, and the reasons for conversion, on the other, have adopted a paradoxically usouli (traditionalist) and modernizing interpretation and conceptualization of Islam. This argument is supported by both the literature on the topic and the results of a limited survey which I carried out on 5 born Moslems and 5 moslem converts
Westerners who embrace Islam are largely regarded as having betrayed their cultural heritage, their traditions and their national ethos. Such perceptions are expressive of popular condemnation of converts and the very prominent and real fear that converts have adopted, or have rendered themselves vulnerable to the later adoption of, a militaristic, antagonistic and destructive interpretation of Islam. Objectively speaking, a minority does but the majority does not, with the difference largely determined by the reasons for c