From: Media Guide To Islam.
People convert to a religion for a myriad of personal, political, cultural and spiritual reasons. Scholar Jane I. Smith has identified some key aspects that draw many Americans to Islam:
Islamic civilization’s rich history holds an intellectual appeal for some.
Islam’s beliefs, such as the Five Pillars, are relatively straightforward and easy to comprehend compared with other religions’ precepts.
Conversion is relatively simple, involving only the Declaration of Faith rather than a lengthy process of religious education and ritual.
Islam’s “egalitarian platform,” or the faith’s emphasis on equality.
Islam emphasizes the importance of family and community. Christians and Jews who convert to Islam often say they are attracted to the faith partly because of its similarities to Christianity and Judaism. Many of the prophets and stories found in the Bible or the Old Testament -- such as the creation story of Adam and Eve or the story of Noah and the Ark -- are present in the Quran as well. The importance Muslims place on Jesus as a prophet rather than as a divine figure appeals to those who find the Christian concept of the Trinity difficult to comprehend or believe. Other converts are drawn to Islam’s lack of a formal church infrastructure and its emphasis on a believer’s direct relationship with God. And many converts of various cultural backgrounds report that Islam’s emphasis on traditional moral values attracts them.Some Muslim converts believe their conversion to Islam is not truly a conversion, but a return to the true and original religion. They refer to themselves as “reverts,” invoking the Muslim belief that Islam is the only divine revelation of the one true God and is therefore a clarification of previous revelations from prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
AFRICAN AMERICAN CONVERTS
African Americans are the largest group of converts to Islam. Most who convert to Islam today do so through the organization of Warith Deen Muhammad, though many also come to Islam through Sufi groups, as well as through individual mosques and Islamic centers around the country.
ANGLO AMERICAN CONVERTS
Anglo American converts are believed to constitute at least 2 percent of the total American Muslim population. While some women marry Muslim men and then convert to Islam, many Anglo Americans, both men and women, come to Islam through Sufism, Islam’s mystical and ascetic side. Sufism’s emphasis on seeking a direct and inner experience of God, often through techniques that include ecstatic dancing and chanting, appeals to many Americans, according to Alan Godlas, professor of religion at the University of Georgia.“Many are interested in Sufism’s psychological transformation -- the ability to move from being preoccupied with your self, with one’s self-centeredness, to a direction of feeling, sensing and experiencing the presence of God and God’s love,” Godlas says. “Islamic Sufism teaches that it is possible to move from a state of being distant from God to a state of feeling close to God—and that is possible in one’s lifetime. That is the chief characteristic that distinguishes Sufism from non-Sufi Islam.”
Latinos are among the newest converts to Islam in the United States. Islam first appeared in Hispanic communities in the early 1970s. First-generation Puerto Ricans from New York City learned about Islam in neighborhood mosques run by African Americans. Latinos who have converted to Islam report that they were attracted to the faith’s emphasis on family and gender roles, as well as Islam’s similarities with Christianity, particularly its recognition of Jesus as a prophet.Mosques and individual Muslims are beginning to target the Latino community for education, or da’wa, with classes offered in Spanish at local mosques and Islamic centers, and Spanish-language Qurans. Islamic organizations aimed at the Hispanic community have emerged over the past few decades.