Posted by Zubair Khan
Source: The Economist:
IN THE wake of the attacks on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, speculation has grown about the possible involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite, a British convert to Islam. Ms Lewthwaite, known as the “White Widow”, was married to Germaine Lindsay, one of theLondon 7/7 bombers and himself a convert. She is wanted by Interpol and the Kenyan police in connection with a separate alleged bomb plot. Ms Lewthwaite, the daughter of a British soldier who served in Northern Ireland, grew up in the English home counties and converted to Islam in her teens. How common are converts to Islam? And why do they adopt the religion?
Those who embrace Islam tend to do so after years of contact with Muslims. (Ms Lewthwaite reportedly had a close relationship with Muslim neighbours during her youth.) Some, mostly women who make up around two-thirds of new believers in Britain, convert because they want to marry a Muslim. Others are fed up with what they see as thebawdiness of British society. Many speak of seeking a sense of community. Prisons have proven fertile ground for conversions for men. Some worry that those who convert in jail are exposed to more radical strains of Islam; others say that Islam’s discipline and structure, along with the support they received from other Muslims, helped them to cope with life inside.