Culture & Religion
January Sat 08, 2011
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My previous article was about conversion to Islam and the individual convert who, recent studies in the U.K. suggest convert from a sense of emptiness and longing they experience in the milieu of late modern life in Western society. Of course, this has long been the stuff of conversion and reversion of which there are many more examples in the West of people with similar experiences converting, or reverting, to various forms of Christianity in recent decades: evangelical Protestantism, Catholicism, or even Orthodoxy. In broad strokes, my own experience of conversion, like that of hundreds of thousands of others, certainly bears resemblance to this general description. I also wrote that it appears that most of these new Western converts to Islam, at least in the U.K., are not radicalized and do not convert for ideological reasons.
It remains for me to try and define radicalization a bit more precisely. To convert or even to revert to religious faith and practice is a radical act on the part of a person that very often results from a crisis (I am using "crisis" here in a very precise sense). A crisis is a turning point for better or for worse, initially used with regard to a fever or an acute disease. It also means a decisive point or simply an emotionally significant event that is either the cause or catalyst for a person to radically change her life.
Calling to mind my own conversion, which is on-going, but that began more than twenty years ago, I maintain that a religious conversion includes all of the above. Similarly, "radical" means "root", referring to what is fundamental; an extreme shift in one’s basic views, which does not necessarily (though it certainly can) refer to one holding politically extreme views. By definition an adult who undergoes religious conversion or dramatic reversion, at least in some attenuated sense, is radicalized. This is certainly true of any Western person converting to Islam.
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