Islam, according to more than a few commentators, both Muslim and non-Muslim, is on the rise in western countries. Ignoring the anti-Muslim rhetoric inherent within the reporting on American Media Networks and in western Newspapers, an article in the Washington Post, in September of 2007, stated:"The number of converts, it seems, is definitely on the rise," said Michael Taarnby, a terrorism researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies. "We've reached a point where I think al-Qaeda and other groups recognize the value of converts, not just from an operational viewpoint but from a cultural one as well." Converts are a tiny subset of the Muslim population in Europe, but their numbers are growing in some countries. In Germany, government officials estimated that 4,000 people converted to Islam last year, compared with an annual average of 300 in the late 1990s. Less than 1 percent of Germany's 3.3 million Muslims are converts.(1)
Again, leaving aside the fear-mongering and anti-Muslim sentiment, which is all too common in western reporting these days, we do see that officials are finding the number of converts to Islam, rising in recent times.
Further, one Muslim website provides the following information and statistics regarding the recent rise of Islam:According to statistics from the U.N., Islam is now the world’s second largest religion after Christianity. The U.N. statistics state that the Islam annual growth rate of Islam is around 6.40% compared to 1.46% during the same time period for Christianity. Also according to these statistics, one in five people on the planet are Muslim (by birth or geographical reference).
Other statistics from the U.N.:
Islam in North America since 1989 increased 25%
Islam in Africa since 1989 increased 2.15%
Islam in Asia since 1989 increased 12.57%
Islam in Europe since 1989 increased 142.35%
Islam in Latin America since 1989 decreased -4.73%
And Islam in Australia and Oceania / Pacific since 1989 increased 257.01%
Major Religions of the World
Christian – 2,038,905,000 – 32% (dropping)
Roman Catholics – 1,076,951,000
Protestants – 349,792,000
Orthodox – 217,522,000
Anglicans – 81,663,000
Other – 537,135,000
Muslims – 1,226,403,000 – 21% (growing)
Hindus – 828,130,000 – 13% (stable)
Chinese folk religionists – 389,543,000 – 6%
Buddhists – 364,014,000 – 6% (stable)
Sikhs – 23,821,000 – < 1%
Jews – 14,535,000 – < 1% (2)
It seems rather obvious that Islam is on the rise. But what could account for the recent increase in converts? Is there anything history could teach us that might help explain this sudden rise in Islamic conversions?
Last year I was doing some research on early Christianity, for the second volume in my three volume series, ‘I Am Christ,
’ and I came across some very interesting information, regarding one of the major factors in Christianity’s early success. According to some of the most esteemed historians, of both past and present, one of the factors which contributed to the rapid increase in the numbers of Christian converts, prior to Constantine’s conversion of the empire, was the public persecution of Christian martyrs.
The Regius professor of history at both, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Henry Chadwick, described the impact of the persecutions of early Christians, saying:From embodying a counter-culture to being seen as a mainly (not invariably) conservative social force was an extraordinary step. The number of martyrs did not need to be very large for their ‘witness’ to be public and ‘newsworthy’. Remarkably soon the Church had recruits in high society, and as early as the middle of the second century was dreaming of a day when the emperor himself would be converted.
This got me thinking about my own psychology, following the events which transpired as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. I remember seeing old and frail Muslim clerics rounded up on the news, in various western countries, images of burnt and brutalized Muslim children in those two invaded countries, and I can clearly remember being so incensed by this blatant persecution, that I began to consider converting to Islam, just to show solidarity to these Islamic martyrs of the modern age. I hadn’t even read the Qur’an, nor done any research on Islam whatsoever. I just wanted to express my utter contempt, a feeling I still harbor, over these wrongful and unjust persecutions.
Following this increase in the unjust persecutions of Muslims, both the western and Islamic media were awash with stories of suicide bombers and clerics calling for violent Jihad (holy war) on the west. Osama Bin Ladin, the modern day Polycarp, was calling upon all Muslims to stand-up for Islam, using religious emotion and promises of heavenly virgins, to convince peaceful Muslims to become violent martyrs for their faith. Such was also the case close to 2000 years ago, when the original Polycarp exhorted:All the martyrdoms, then, were blessed and noble which took place according to the will of God. For it becomes us who profess greater piety than others, to ascribe the authority over all things to God. And truly, who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?—who, when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them. But they reached such a pitch of magnanimity, that not one of them let a sigh or a groan escape them; thus proving to us all that those holy martyrs of Christ, at the very time when they suffered such torments, were absent from the body, or rather, that the Lord then stood by them, and communed with them. And, looking to the grace of Christ, they despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by [the suffering of] a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure; things “which ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man,” but were revealed by the Lord to them, inasmuch as they were no longer men, but had already become angels.(4)
This horrible conversion device was seized upon by early church leaders, who, like the corrupt clerics of Islam today, promoted and encouraged, voluntary martyrdom, with promises of salvation and reward, as a means of gaining converts, to the point that, it became a widespread problem in the first few centuries of the Christian era. Again, Henry Chadwick informs us that:Voluntary provocative martyrs were easily engendered by promises of celestial joy. In the 190s Clement of Alexandria deeply disapproved of aggressive voluntary martyrs. Their attitude seemed to the emperor Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic defender of suicide, ‘theatricality’ in poor taste. Cyprian of Carthage under persecution in 250–8 also united idealized language about the martyr’s crown with express disapproval of voluntary self-destruction.(5)
Isn’t this exactly what we are seeing in recent times, with regards to Islam? And couldn’t this persecution, following 9/11, the sight of this injustice, be one of the major factors in Islam’s recent rise in western countries? I think it may be.
What are your thoughts on this? References
1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 02265.html
3. Henry Chadwick. The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great. Oxford University Press. (2001). p. 1.
4. Philip Schaff. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 1: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Martyrdom of Polycarp. Christian Ethereal Library. (1885).p. 66
5. Ibid. p. 67.