Saturday, February 18, 2006

Turning Muslim in America

This documentary shows some nice normal American's in Texas who are converting to Islam because Southern Baptist Christianity is not conservative enough for them. Please read that sentence again.

There are some things about this documentary that I would like to address. Like some other sources, the short film makes the statement that Islam is the fastest growing religion in America. While Scientologists and Muslims have both made this claim, and while the statistics are conflicting on this matter, most do not show Islam as being anywhere near the fastest growing religion (I am not even going to dignify the Scientology claim with a snicker). Wicca makes a good claim to the title of fastest growing, as do nonreligious categories, and deists. A lot depends on how you measure growth. A percentage based measurement allows people to use lots of emotional adjectives when dealing with tiny religions drawing tiny fractions of converts from the huge population of the US.

The media is likely to accept the "Islam is the fastest growing religion" claim for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it makes people sit up, take notice and keep watching through the commercial breaks, mostly out of fear of being swamped by Islamic jihadis. Also, it is easy to accept if one has heard that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world but again this is misleading. Most of this growth is based on population increase which is slowing and much of the new growth is being counted from Africa where some of the "converts" are not all that clear on the idea of belonging to one religion exclusively. Many Africans are being counted as being Islamic and Christian converts even if some of them have not abandoned traditional African religions. One Friday in a mosque here, a Sunday at church there and an ceremony for the ancestors can all be accommodated.

Of course, from the blurb at the end, the documentary seems to be more of a "get to know us" piece than an investigative piece of journalism so we can expect the odd exaggeration.

Another thing I wanted to note was that, hearing a southern accent and seeing a Burka/Hijab is not an improvement to either. It's like mixing beach sand with pudding. Hearing Elly May Clampett speaking seriously about her spiritual beliefs while buried in laundry requires far more cultural sensitivity than I have left.

Some other points:

I don't want to say for sure, but the son of the woman who thought it would have been easier if her newly-Muslim son had just told her he was gay... I think he is gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that (unless he is a Muslim).

Islam has many little rituals designed to constantly remind the adherent of the religion (and give the old school Muslims many things to constantly pick at). It is quite a bit like the rituals of obsessive compulsives: hand washing, obsession with cleanliness, repetitive chanting, a preoccupation with modesty, etc. It is almost like someone thought to write down the symptoms of someone with OCD and design a religion around them. All formalized religions do this to an extent but Islam seems to have raised it to an art.

I love that they talked to a Texan woman who was unsure if Muslims believed in God. I wonder how many people on this planet can name the continent they live on.

I hope someone out there can inform me that this was a mockumentary. If not, I wonder if these people were told before they signed on that many Muslims consider it extremely offensive when a Muslim converts away from Islam. "Hey kids, who made this documentary? Allah!"

Stick with Wicca.


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