Why ARE So Many Modern British Career Women Converting To Islam?


Why ARE so many modern British career women converting to Islam?

Tony Blair’s sister-in-law announced her conversion to Islam last weekend. Journalist Lauren Booth embraced the faith after what she describes as a ‘holy experience’ in Iran.

She is just one of a growing number of modern British career women to do so. Here, writer EVE AHMED, who was raised as a Muslim before rejecting the faith, explores the reasons why.

Rejecting her faith: Writer Eve Ahmed was raised a Muslim

Much of my childhood was spent trying to escape *Islam.

Born in London to an English mother and a *Pakistani Muslim father, I was brought up to follow my father’s faith without question.

But, privately, I hated it. The minute I left home for university at the age of 18, I abandoned it altogether.

As far as I was concerned, being a Muslim meant hearing the word ‘No’ over and over again.

Girls from my background were barred from so many of the things my English friends took for granted. Indeed, it seemed to me that almost anything fun was haram, or forbidden, to girls like me.

There were so many random, petty rules. No whistling. No chewing of gum. No riding bikes. No watching Top Of The Pops. No wearing make-up or clothes which revealed the shape of the body.

No eating in the street or putting my hands in my pockets. No cutting my hair or painting my nails. No asking questions or answering back. No keeping dogs as pets, (they were unclean).

And, of course, no sitting next to men, shaking their hands or even making eye contact with them.

These ground rules were imposed by my father and I, therefore, assumed they must be an integral part of being a good Muslim.

Small wonder, then, that as soon as I was old enough to exert my independence, I rejected the whole package and turned my back on Islam. After all, what modern, liberated British woman would choose to live such a life?

Well, quite a lot, it turns out, including Islam’s latest surprise convert, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth. And after my own break with my past, I’ve followed with fascination the growing trend of Western women choosing to convert to Islam.

Broadcaster and journalist Booth, 43, says she now wears a hijab head covering whenever she leaves home, prays five times a day and visits her local mosque ‘when I can’.

She decided to become a Muslim six weeks ago after visiting the shrine of Fatima al-Masumeh in the city of Qom, and says: ‘It was a Tuesday evening, and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy.’

Before her awakening in Iran, she had been ‘sympathetic’ to Islam and has spent considerable time working in Palestine. ‘I was always impressed with the strength and comfort it gave,’ she says.

How, I wondered, could women be drawn to a religion which I felt had kept me in such a lowly, submissive place? How could their experiences of Islam be so very different to mine?

Convert: Lauren Booth, who is Cherie Blair's half sister, decided to convert to Islam after what she described as a holy experience in Iran

According to Kevin Brice from *Swansea University, who has specialised in studying white conversion to Islam, these women are part of an intriguing trend.

He explains: ‘They seek spirituality, a higher meaning, and tend to be deep thinkers. The other type of women who turn to Islam are what I call “converts of convenience”. They’ll assume the trappings of the religion to please their Muslim husband and his family, but won’t necessarily attend mosque, pray or fast.’

I spoke to a diverse selection of white Western converts in a bid to re-examine the faith I had rejected.

Women like Kristiane Backer, 43, a London-based former MTV presenter who had led the kind of liberal Western-style life that I yearned for as a teenager, yet who turned her back on it and embraced Islam instead. Her reason? The ‘anything goes’ permissive society that I coveted had proved to be a superficial void.



Changing values: Camilla Leyland, 32, pictured in Western and Muslim dress, converted to Islam in her mid-20s for 'intellectual and feminist reasons'

The turning point for Kristiane came when she met and briefly dated the former Pakistani cricketer and Muslim Imran Khan in 1992 during the height of her career. He took her to Pakistan where she says she was immediately touched by spirituality and the warmth of the people.

Kristiane says: ‘Though our relationship didn’t last, I began to study the Muslim faith and eventually converted. Because of the nature of my job, I’d been out interviewing rock stars, travelling all over the world and following every trend, yet I’d felt empty inside. Now, at last, I had contentment because Islam had given me a purpose in life.’

‘In the West, we are stressed for super*ficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system.

'In the West, we are stressed for super*ficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God'

'Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realised how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one god makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.

‘I grew up in Germany in a not very religious Protestant family. I drank and I partied, but I realised that we need to behave well now so we have a good after-life. We are responsible for our own actions.’

For a significant amount of women, their first contact with Islam comes from *dating a Muslim boyfriend. Lynne Ali, 31, from Dagenham in Essex, freely admits to having been ‘a typical white hard-partying teenager’.

She says: ‘I would go out and get drunk with friends, wear tight and revealing clothing and date boys.

‘I also worked part-time as a DJ, so I was really into the club scene. I used to pray a bit as a Christian, but I used God as a sort of doctor, to fix things in my life. If anyone asked, I would’ve said that, generally, I was happy living life in the fast lane.’

But when she met her boyfriend, Zahid, at university, something dramatic happened.

She says: ‘His sister started talking to me about Islam, and it was as if *everything in my life fitted into place. I think, underneath it all, I must have been searching for something, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my hard-drinking party lifestyle.’


Liberating: Kristiane Backer says being a Muslim makes her life purer

Lynne converted aged 19. ‘From that day, I started wearing the hijab,’ she explains, ‘and I now never show my hair in public. At home, I’ll dress in normal Western clothes in front of my husband, but never out of the house.’

With a recent YouGov survey *concluding that more than half the *British public believe Islam to be a negative influence that encourages extremism, the repression of women and inequality, one might ask why any of them would choose such a direction for themselves.

Yet statistics suggest Islamic conversion is not a mere flash in the pan but a significant development. Islam is, after all, the world’s fastest growing religion, and white adopters are an important part of that story.

‘Evidence suggests that the ratio of Western women converts to male could be as high as 2:1,’ says Kevin Brice.

Moreover, he says, often these female *converts are eager to display the *visible signs of their faith — in particular the hijab — whereas many Muslim girls brought up in the faith choose not to.

‘Perhaps as a result of these actions, which tend to draw attention, white Muslims often report greater amounts of discrimination against them than do born Muslims,’ adds Brice, which is what happened to Kristiane Backer.
She says: ‘In Germany, there is Islamophobia. I lost my job when I converted. There was a Press campaign against me with insinuations about all Muslims supporting *terrorists — I was vilified. Now, I am a *presenter on NBC Europe.

‘I call myself a European Muslim, which is different to the ‘born’ Muslim. I was *married to one, a Moroccan, but it didn’t work because he placed restrictions on me because of how he’d been brought up. As a European Muslim, I question *everything — I don’t accept blindly.

‘But what I love is the hospitality and the warmth of the Muslim community. London is the best place in Europe for Muslims, there is wonderful Islamic *culture here and I am very happy.’
For some converts, Islam represents a celebration of old-fashioned family values.

Ex-MTV Presenter Kristiane Backer with Mick Jagger in the late Eighties

‘Some are drawn to the sense of belonging and of community — values which have eroded in the West,’ says Haifaa Jawad, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, who has studied the white conversion phenomenon.

‘Many people, from all walks of life, mourn the loss in today’s society of traditional respect for the elderly and for women, for example. These are values which are enshrined in the Koran, which Muslims have to live by,’ adds Brice.

It is values like these which drew Camilla Leyland, 32, a yoga teacher who lives in Cornwall, to Islam. A single mother to daughter, Inaya, two, she converted in her mid-20s for ‘intellectual and feminist reasons’.

She explains: ‘I know people will be surprised to hear the words *“feminism” and “Islam” in the same breath, but in fact, the teachings of the Koran give equality to women, and at the time the religion was born, the teachings went against the grain of a misogynistic society.


Escape route: Former DJ Lynne Ali is happy to pray five times a day

‘The big mistake people make is by confusing culture with religion. Yes, there are Muslim cultures which do not allow women individual freedom, yet when I was growing up, I felt more oppressed by Western society.’
She talks of the pressure on women to act like men by drinking and *having casual sex. ‘There was no real meaning to it all. In Islam, if you begin a relationship, that is a *commitment of intent.’

Growing up in Southampton — her father was the director of Southampton Institute of Education and her mother a home economics teacher — Camilla’s interest in Islam began at school.

She went to university and later took a Masters degree in Middle East Studies. But it was while living and working in Syria that she had a spiritual epiphany. Reflecting on what she’d read in the Koran, she realised she wanted to convert.

Her decision was met with bemusement by friends and family.

‘People found it so hard to believe that an educated, middle-class white woman would choose to become Muslim,’ she says.

While Camilla’s faith remains strong, she no longer wears the hijab in public. But several of the women I spoke to said strict Islamic dress was something they found empowering and liberating.

Lynne Ali remembers the night this hit home for her. ‘I went to an old friend’s 21st birthday party in a bar,’ she reveals. ‘I walked in, wearing my hijab and modest clothing, and saw how *everyone else had so much flesh on display. They were drunk, slurring their words and dancing provocatively.

‘For the first time, I could see my former life with an outsider’s eyes, and I knew I could never go back to that.

‘I am so grateful I found my escape route. This is the real me — I am happy to pray five times a day and take classes at the mosque. I am no longer a slave to a broken society and its expectations.’

Kristiane Backer, who has written a book on her own spiritual journey, called From MTV To Mecca, believes the new breed of modern, independent Muslims can band together to show the world that Islam is not the faith I grew up in — one that stamps on the rights of women.

She says: ‘I know women born Muslims who became disillusioned an d rebelled against it. When you dig deeper, it’s not the faith they turned against, but the culture.

'Rules like marrying within the same sect or caste and education being less important for girls, as they should get married anyway —– where does it say that in the Koran? It doesn’t.

‘Many young Muslims have abandoned the “fire and brimstone” version they were born into have re-discovered a more spiritual and intellectual approach, that’s free from the cultural dogmas of the older generation. That’s how I intend to spend my life, showing the world the beauty of the true Islam.’

While I don’t agree with their sentiments, I admire and respect the women I interviewed for this piece.

They were all bright and educated, and have thought long and hard before choosing to convert to Islam — and now feel passionately about their adopted religion. Good luck to them. And good luck to Lauren Booth. But it’s that word that sums up the difference between their experience and mine — choice.

Perhaps if I’d felt in control rather than controlled, if I’d felt empowered rather than stifled, I would still be practising the religion I was born into, and would not carry the burden of guilt that I do about rejecting my father’s faith.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/a...eer-women-converting-Islam.html#ixzz13dPSNsms


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IMHO Sikhism has the biggest headstart when it comes to a westerner looking for spirituality as it is based upon Universal Brotherhood of whole mankind as well as a complete way of life . But the Sikhs have made very little effort to understand their faith let alone propagate it among others .

Had sikhs have preached sikhism in last 150 years to all around the world then today we could have been a worldly religion and condition of sikhs would have been different .All leaders would have been queing to visit sikh places promising them Justice against any atrocities if committed.


Hmm, from what I've read of Islam and the Quran, there are parts in there which are definately not supportive of women's rights. I don't see it making the awesome statements Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji does.

But what can be done to promote Sikhi? The current poll shows 70% of respondents think Sikhi should be shared around more than it is. I'm yet to meet a fellow Westerner who even knows what it is called!

But Sikhi is the #1 logical religion, and is beautiful beyond measure. I think Sikhi is the perfect religion (re-linking with the Divine) to co-exist and harmonize an otherwise secular society. Sikhi needs no set of Shariah laws because it is based on fundamental truth and is about the higher functions of people, about spirituality. We need secular laws to create an environment which allows freedom and the keyword from the initial article - "choice". Secularism also allows a society to progress and change as people and thoughts evolve (ie. when society grows up, people become more civilised, you can modify your laws to stop stoning adulterers and cutting off theives hands).

The "Western" world has done that, but has lost it's parent religion (Christianity) because it is one of those religions which I think had a role to play at a point in time in history when people weren't civilized enough to be able to make "choices" and needed the fear of God to control the masses for their own good. Unfortunately society is a two-legged beast (oh, you mean like Miri/Piri???), and Western society has largely lost it's spiritual leg and is now wobbling around on a path to secular self-destruction.

Sikhi is the perfect other leg!!! It is logical, fits into a secular world (leaving policy to the policy-makers in a democratic government) and promotes peace and higher truth. If only it was more well known! If only Sikhi was "marketed", it would easily outrun Islam and Christianity in a couple of generations.

Sikhi isn't stuck in the past, it's not about historical stories and outdated rules. It is essential spirituality and Truth.

I hope I made sense!



These type of conversion raises many questions about women's equality.The entire west criticises Islam for not giving women equality yet it is women from west that embracing islam.Now islamists will say that if we don't give equality why western women are converting into islam?


These type of conversion raises many questions about women's equality.The entire west criticises Islam for not giving women equality yet it is women from west that embracing islam.Now islamists will say that if we don't give equality why western women are converting into islam?

I think the issues here are more about spirituality than equality. religion is out of fashion in the west so there is a spiritual void. that is why its so popular for westerners to go retreats all around the world, take up yoga or turn to religion later in life when they are tired of a materialistic society. most of these women have had close contact with a muslim partner in the article so that is how they get introduced to spirituality and realise that the spirituality is what fills a hole. the rest is an external manifestation of that and is less important than the sense of
1 belonging to a community, and
2 spirituality

Converts are less likely to suffer from the cultural side effects as they will generally be strong women and wont stand for it and therefore they wont necessarily be subjected to the same inequalities so their conversion has nothing to do with gender equality.

If the women had come in contact with sikhism first, then i am sure they would have become sikh as Sikhi is just as spiritual if not more so than islam IMHO. People are influenced by whats around them.


But still educated women Converting to Religion that openly say that women are not equal,
west is bad ,non muslims are people that will go to hell etc is beyond the understanding of many people.Just read the case of case krystine who dated Imran KhanThe biggest play boy of his time.He dated mostly non muslim girls from India to england.He use to openly say that women are inferior Yet krystine embraced islam


1947-2014 (Archived)
Does anyone think it might be the opportunity to wear cool garb and identify with a culture that seems exotic?

These are successful and educated women hooking up with successful and educated men. Do the anonymous, less educated and affluent, women of the west, who hook up with less educated and affluent muslim men, have a similar experience?

Does the zeal and fervor of conversion cloud one's perception of the other stuff that is going on that is not as spiritual?

Would these women tell a similar story if they married men from countries that upheld strict adherence to the summa and hadith? Or entered into muslim faith via those cultures, instead of in England?

Would they tell a similar story if they were to marry a successful man from a rich and powerful family in Sudan or Saudi?

What if they were to convert in Iran, and were unable to travel back to England to practice their faith?

Would they even be welcome in a family that adhered strictly to Summa and hadith?

What do the western women who convert, marry and bear children have to say when their husbands divorce them and have the children spirited off to their mother country? How effective have state departments been in reuniting these women with their children?

My list of questions is growing longer by the minute.


Spnadmin Ji,
All very very good questions. Maybe the reality doesn't sink in until much mich later when the passion for the new partner had faded and the rose tinted glasses come off!

Speaking of conversion, what about the fashion among famous men to convert to the Church of Scientology?!


I wonder if there are any instances of Western women getting involved with Sikh men and then converting? I haven't come across any reports of that to date.



I wonder if there are any instances of Western women getting involved with Sikh men and then converting? I haven't come across any reports of that to date.


Muslim men demand a woman converts before marriage but Sikh men do not so there are probably fewer. There are also more Muslims working in the media in the UK at least and they are very quick to publish anything that helps them. Sikh presence in the media is not as strong or united!


I wonder if there are any instances of Western women getting involved with Sikh men and then converting? I haven't come across any reports of that to date.


its happened many times, and will keep happening

same with western men converting for sikh girls etc.

as long as its genuine its ok, I dont support converting for the sake of your partner though.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Spnadmin Ji,

Speaking of conversion, what about the fashion among famous men to convert to the Church of Scientology?!

This is another trend that completely baffles me. To put my bafflement into context so you understand I am not being critical, but truly bewildered. Between the ages of 14 and 59 I belonged to NO religion. Sikhism was the only religion that did not leave me bewildered.
There are a billion Christians and a billion Muslims. Western media is pro-semitic and focuses more on the Jewish (less than Sikhs) and ignores people converting to Sikhism.

Sikhism defined in a dictionary:

— n
1. a member of an Indian religion that separated from Hinduism and was founded in the 16th century, that teaches monotheism and that has the Granth as its chief religious document, rejecting the authority of the Vedas.

I am not sure how this related to successful women, British women, or successful British women who marry Muslims. Seems like ethnic backlash against the West, its media, and against Jews to me. Let's return to the topic. Thank you, spnadmin

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