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Sister act: A Muslim woman at prayer (AFP/Getty Images)

Following 9/11, the number of people converting to Islam began to rise. In the US it is estimated that approximately 30,000 convert annually. There are about 2.4 million Muslims in Britain and studies suggest there are between 10,000 and 14,000 white converts among them. It is estimated that 75 per cent are female.

As a feminist who rejects religion on the grounds that it promotes inequality between men and women, I wanted to try to understand why so many women are attracted to Islam. Its messages are clear about a woman's role. She will be subservient to her husband and devote her life to pleasing him and raising his children. "If a man calls his wife to his bed, and she refuses, and he goes to sleep angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning," is a popular phrase recited to Muslim women during religious study. 

"The true Muslim woman is always keen to win her husband's love and to please him. Nothing should spoil his happiness or enjoyment of life," says the Sisters' section of The website also has a section on how the Taliban upheld certain rights of women that are "non-existent in the West". 

Saskia converted to Islam 15 years ago during her first year at university. "I did so because I married a Muslim. I can't imagine why women would do it for other reasons." But prior to meeting her future husband, Saskia had begun to engage with Islam. "The Bible can be vague about the roles of men and women and I wanted certainty. Islam gave me that." She was brought up by an atheist father and a "pushy feminist" mother who occasionally attended church. "Although they had quite a traditional marriage, my mother made it clear that the only options for her daughter's future, as far as she was concerned, were an education and a career. I rebelled."

Soon after starting at university, Saskia began attending its Islamic Society through which she met Muayid, a Moroccan Muslim. "I was attracted to the conservative family values and the high esteem in which mothers are held." Dropping out of university, Saskia married Muayid and had two children within the first three years. But she was unhappy. "Marriage to Muayid was very hard. I wanted to be a good Muslim but he hardly prayed and almost never went to mosque." Saskia became increasingly devout and as a result tension built up in the relationship. The children would be taken to mosque every day to learn Arabic but Muayid was uninterested in their education. "He didn't even work, even though the Koran makes it clear that a man has to provide for his wife."

The fact that Muayid's family lived in Morocco meant that there was no pressure on him to change his ways. "The mother reigns supreme in Islam and even grown men have to respect and obey them," says Saskia. "If I needed Muayid to listen to me I would ask my mother to talk to him, which sometimes worked."

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March 20th, 2015
12:03 AM
Why do Western women convert? Because they have the right and ability to do so. Muslim women living in most Muslim countries do not have the right or ability to convert to another religion. "Apostasy" is a crime that is punishable by lashes or prison or - in some cases - death. Perhaps Islam in the context of Western values and law can reinvent itself to something more civilised and practical. The question people need to ask themselves is this: if Islam as a religion is so perfect (and there is no separation of religion and state in nearly all Muslim countries,) then why are Muslims leaving Muslim countries in numbers that accelerate every year? And that 100,000 converts sounds like a decent number - until you reflect on the fact that in a much smaller country, Australia, 70,000 people put down "Jedi" as their religion in the official census.

January 5th, 2015
7:01 PM
I am very annoyed to see that a lot of you think women are not allowed education in Islam, actually you are wrong. The Prophet (pbuh) wife was a business woman, not all women actually want a career and would rather have babies but those that want a career are allowed to have one. Getting married in Islam makes both man and woman complete half their religion, Muslim women should be held in high regard, as a mother you are three times more of higher status than the father is to your children. I am certainly in education but I also think that having children shows how much of a woman you are as well as having a career, and its not just the women that aren't allowed to refuse sex too many times, the men aren't either, unfortunately no one is a pure example of how Islam should be as Culture which is totally different from religion, has ruined Islamic morality. Muslim men appear to be male fachists because of their culture not because of the religion, and a lot of quotes from the Qur'an are misunderstood. Whatever is mentioned to men or women alone in the Qur'an applies to both sexes, you cannot comment on this if you're not Muslim or haven't studied Islam, it just terribly annoys me that people misunderstand Islam so much, Muslim and non Muslim. My mum's friend who is a revert always has said thank God I knew Islam before I knew Muslims, which says a lot before everyone starts commenting. Yes I do believe feminism has got out of hand, but I do not believe you need a man, as a Muslim woman, my mother is absolutely fine without one but men and women were created to benefit each other. Also, nowadays women think freedom is being allowed to walk naked in the streets and they discriminate women who cover up, might I say a man and woman should only keep each other for their spouses, call me old fashioned but you don't have to be naked to be free. I can certainly say a man who is not my husband or relative, they do not deserve to see my hair, my body etc, that's why these Islamic dress codes are put in place. I certainly know where I stand Islamically as woman and its in a high place, I know many Muslim women who are married, have a career and a family and that's how it should be, unfortunately men want to conceal the rights of the women that's why Muslim women look down trodden on. All of you thoroughly do your homework before you critisize, if its not your religion, don't you dare put it down, Islam is perfect, Muslims are not!

October 27th, 2014
9:10 PM
To Sonya Anew - I feel sorry for you if you believe what makes a woman is her man. In that case most women will be shit because their man is useless, shiftless or just plain garbage. You seem to think that it is fantastic for a woman to be nothing more than an item. I mean my horses survive of "man" and I to take from your comment that my wife - who has a PhD and is working on some serious research into cancer - won't exist if she had stayed with her long held belief of being single. I respect my wife 5000 times more as she is - independent, intelligent and witty - than I would EVER respect a piece of furniture that spreads it legs. Look at it this way most Muslim women do not get educated not because they don't want to be ignorant but because they are little more than broodmares during their fertile period and there is no need to be educated when your "husband" supplies all. Do you KNOW what happens to divorced Muslim women in some of the more extreme countries. If they don't starve to death because they have no support - either do to this or that or male family members being dead - then they are open to shame and even rape. Not to mention the number of "criminal" Muslim women for what is by all rights MINOR THINGS that get continually raped, beaten and assaulted in jail makes one SICK to call themselves human if Muslim belongs to the same race. Look up the religion and excerise your pea brain before you yap like a worthless cur.

August 6th, 2014
8:08 AM
I came to this article through google by curiousity. I am a muslim man but in no way I consider myself or any other human being's personal life style as the real reflection of what Islam is. I was very desapointed by this article and the way it was manipulated just to paint an unrealistic bad image about Islam and muslims. I don't recognise myself nor my culture within what was described here. If someone wants an answer to what Islam is or why so many people are joining Islam at a time where most religions are losing their grounds, they should go to the source. Quran tells you what is Islam, the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad (POH) reflected on his followers tells you what is Islam. Islam has liberated women, raised their status in the society and gave them the highest most noble role in the society. The prophet Says that the salvation (paradise) is under the feet of MOTHERS. A muslim came to him and asked him "Messanger of God, who is most worthy of my companionship? He said "your mother" then the man asked: then who? The prophet said, Your mother. The man said then who? he said, your mother, the fourth time the man asked then who? the prophet said: your father. A woman in Islam is a mother (which is the highest most sacred status in the Islamic society, she is a sister, a daughter and a wife. The prophet (POH) also said: "The best of you (muslims) is the one who is best with his family" many scholars interpret "family" here as "wife" and in the muslim culture when men are talking about their wives they often use the term My "family" to mean "my wife". In the other hand the prophets words action and life style are regarded as the law and the reflection of the God's message and every muslim is to take him as the absolute role model. Every detail and aspect of his life, words, behaviour have been reported and detailed. There is not one account about him beating his wives. It's the opposit. He was extremely kind and affectionate, playful and makes jokes with them. He gave his wives the ultimate role of Educating women in the society and after his death, they were the consultant of leaders in legislating governmental laws. In Islam the first most sacred beleif is the unicity of God and not to worship Idles and not to make partners to him. the second most sacred belief is to be kind towards your parents. It wouldn't stand out that a father would raise his children witnessing him opressing and beating their mother. It just doesn't fit in the teachings of Islam. Does Islam give men authority over women in the family? in the aspect of leadership yes. Does he have the right to oppress her? NO and a big NO. A wife can at any time question his behaviour, or decision or his way of bringing up his children if he is not being truthful to the teachings of Islam. He doesn't have the right to stop her from Educating herself for example. Actually I come to the conclusion that this whole propaganda against ISLAM and the huge attempt by the media to make ISLAM look and sound oppressive to women, not only rediculous but its an organised attempt to stop people from making a free choice based on the truth about Islam and it certainly doesn't answer why most of the converts are women while the whole media (which is 90% owned by a certain group of people with a speccific agenda) has successfully given this Evil image of Islam and that it's a religion that subject women. The same media that have shown the biggest terrorists of human history as fighters for freedom and democracy. The victims as terrorists.

Sonya Anew
July 24th, 2014
12:07 AM
I have been doing my homework on a number of things in this day and age. Feminism, unfortunately, has gone terribly wrong in the West. Women have been brainwashed into believing they don't need a man when having a man is one of the things that comes to them most naturally. The effects of modern culture on the western family are devastating. There are fewer men in the West who are interested in marriage and family life. As a result, western white women, in particular, catch the fancy of Muslim men of Middle Eastern and East Asian origin. The vast majority of women want a provider and a protector and, in order to have it, a good number of them will convert to a religion with draconian laws, wed and bed with potential terrorists, and birth anti-American people's children. This may give you some insight.

May 15th, 2014
9:05 AM
The idea that people (non-muslims) especially women convert to Islam under some compulsion or live under under compulsion after converting is not true and is a lie. AT LEAST- Because in western world there are good ways to live and die like a non-muslim. Noone in this world, like I repeat in non-muslim countries, cannot be forced to accept islam. This is all because of ALLAH SWT shows the way.

May 9th, 2014
3:05 PM
this is very interesting, its just so sad to see muslims trying to defend islam knowing so well the truth in everything that has been said. i think islam is more appealing to minorities because of racism, islam makes them feel like they are rebelling and kinda gives them some sense of false authority. women on the other hand turn to islam probably for the same reason, also i think women naturally are protective. muslims do try to make it look as if everyone is against islam and muslims are being discriminated against. they always make islam look desperate and under attack, this particularly appeals to the women protective instinct... my thoughts

March 13th, 2014
10:03 PM
The woman who was gang-raped and converted, may have been suffering from a form of Stockholm syndrome. There are many stories of clubbers who convert. They cite disgust with their former promiscuous, drunken lifestyles, and their satisfaction with their newfound modesty, but they could just have easily chosen a modest secular lifestyle. As far as I'm aware there is no party police forcing girls to go and behave horribly. Obviously some do it for marriage, and others as a form of rebellion. One thing I find interesting is that I've yet to hear someone say that they converted after a serious study of Islam and realising that it is the truth. I did meet a Muslim woman who converted to Judaism, but was too afraid to tell her family lest they try to kill her. Unfortunately, most of the western women who convert have no idea what they're getting themselves into - polygamy, sanctioned domestic violence, modesty patrols, etc. It's really very sad as millions of Muslim women would love to have the freedoms that these women are throwing away.

January 1st, 2014
9:01 PM
(("Violence and abuse are allowed")) This statement is false. In islam, it is not allowed for a man to abuse women physically or mentally. Its sad that many Muslims are ignorant about their own religion.

November 20th, 2013
3:11 PM
the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

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