Blaming Converts for Terrorism

Media, politicians, and Muslim scholars are pointing fingers at converts as being source of terrorism in recent trends.(1, 2) Some Muslims pass such remarks at the coffee table. This is similar to the media, politicians and other groups with anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bias that blame the Muslims after 9/11 for it. One could glance at Human Right Watch report as to what happened to the Muslims after 9/11. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Arabs and Muslims in the United States, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim, such as Sikhs and South Asians became victims of a severe wave of backlash violence. The hate crimes included murder, beatings, arson, and attacks on mosques, shootings, vehicular assaults, and verbal threats. This violence was directed at people only because they shared or were perceived as sharing the national background or religion of the hijackers and al-Qaeda members, who were deemed responsible for attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Islamophobia is still on the rise. Indeed, the tragic events of 9/11 not only caused a sharp rise in Islamophobic attitudes in the immediate aftermath thereof, but continue to account for the violence and discrimination of Muslims and Islamic institutions still facing it today.

It took approximately more than a decade now that some sections of the population have started differentiating a minority group of Muslims who are responsible for terrorism, not the Muslim mass and stood for their support (Canada, Germany, Australia, Sydney).

One could also look at the targeting of the new Muslims or converts as terrorists. When statistics are reviewed, their number is not different from the terrorists', especially young ones who come from being a lifelong Muslim. It also calls the broad branding of the Muslim converts as a terrorist threat inaccurate and misleading, and points out that there are of course far more Muslim converts who do not become terrorists than those who do.

It remarks further that there are 100 media articles on, "Muslim Convert Terrorism", the majority of which are inaccurate and speculative and only reinforce an inaccurate negative stereotype of converts (CONVERSATION).

The vast majority of Muslim converts are law abiding decent citizens. A small minority of converts find extremist message attractive (Moosavi).

Many new converts flourish and few become radicalized. Many become inquisitive about Islam for which it is or even for its defamation publicity. A majority of them, with their own initiative or being associated with helping hands, test the water of Islam for a long time before conversion. They flourish. They acquire their own status and their own prestige. The contributions made to Islam by converts are immense and exemplary.

"Converts in the west are bridge builders for communication of Islam between non-Muslims and Muslims because of their language, color, and culture (Moosavi). It will not be justified to name only a few, but examples are required for those who are not familiar with their ongoing contribution. This includes Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR, Yusuf Estes of Share Islam, Hamza Yusuf of Zaytuna College, Imam Suhaib Webb of Boston, Lauren Booth, a journalist and a human rights activist, Yvonne Ridley, a Taliban prisoner and a British journalist, and numerous others.

Some accept Islam by the bond of marriage, some perceiving what a Muslim practices and how it is different from their life. Thousands of people converted to Islam after 9/11 when they started to explore what kind of religion it is. The figure varies including a quote of 25,000 in USA annually , "Prior to these attacks, there were estimated 1.2 million Muslims in United States with rate of about 25,000 conversions a year (Afterwards).

The Charlie Hebdo cartoon affair will likely accelerate the conversion. Just four days after this incident, Matic accepted Islam in that very land posting her remark about the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him).

Many converts fall victim of isolation and desperation. They face abandonment by Muslim hosts and former non-Muslim friends and family.

When they convert to Islam, they are received with enthusiasm by the Muslims, only in the beginning and then are left out in the wilderness in the words of these converts. The converts find hard to fit into the Muslim culture.

Many converts expect Muslim communities will compensate by welcoming them and providing a new support network as is encouraged by Islamic teachings. However, in reality and again, this welcome is not always forthcoming. Rather, converts can be ostracized by lifelong Muslims because they are still perceived by some as outsiders (Moosavi).

Non-Muslim abandon them in view of the portrayal of Islam in general as a backward, violent, women suppressor religion, which is far from facts. They are unwelcomed by Muslims and become a misfit in the society at large (Booth , Allott). Thus, they are faced with the isolation and desperation that come in their way.

Many of these converts do not have the time, the ability, the means, or the environment to learn Islam. They wander from one mosque to another and from one Islamic scholar to another and come across different versions of Islam. Even translations and interpretations of Quran can be different. The examples could be the misinterpretation on beating a wife or apostasy or Jihad etc. Such examples and others create confusion in their minds. The outcome is shunning Islam or adopting the principle of following self analysis and exploring until the right answer comes in their way. (3, 4) This falls in line of the conscience given by God.

The vast majority of Muslim converts are law abiding, decent citizens. However, there are minority of converts whose previous lifestyle involved criminality, gang culture and general hostility towards authority. These converts may seek redemption in Islam or a clean break from a troubled past. In some cases though, the past remains within their psyche, and it is in extremism that they find a familiar framework. It is these innocent that may be indoctrinated by extremist preachers (Moosavi) who are looking for them as well.

One example of such was when Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri suggested Al Qaeda to consider recruiting converts in Western countries on the basis that they provide tactical and strategic advantages.

They are brainwashed by the so called Jihadists who have a common denominator with the Islamophobes of misunderstanding and misrepresenting Islam (Mahdi Hasan).

The majority of the converts are law abiding citizens and only a fraction of them are similar to lifelong Muslims who fall prey to extremism.

It is very sad to see this blame coming from the Muslims including scholars of Islam warning the converts point blank rather than to all the intenders of terror in general. A check list here on which Imam to follow and the suggestion of what Islam to follow offered under the prevailing circumstances may fall into controversy. These should be generalized for all Muslims and not limited to the converts. Which mosque to follow cannot be relied upon as in the case of Damian Clairmont .

A publicly announced recommendation to screen new Muslims or potential new Muslims, whether they are a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a criminal will drive them away from approaching an Imam for the fear of being contacted by the law enforcement with unexpected outcome. It is these individuals who hear or read some aspects of Islam and come to accept Islam to walk away from such a life. This fear is highlighted in the article by erren.

It is not my intent to elaborate on terrorism and its causes or even go on to recommend how this can be dealt with. There is abundance of write up on this. However, I will suffice to leave some remarks here.

An individual, a group, or a nation that takes recourse of terrorism by whatever means thatthey can accumulate consider themselves to be subjected to unjustified acts by the powerful against them. This is their way of dealing with injustice perceived by them. Canada is not an exception. This existed for a long time, even in Canada.

This vicious cycle will continue under the shadow of ego, selfishness and double standards. The birth or excuse of birth of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and others are being claimed to be begotten on these accounts. (5, 6)

Neither the Terrorists listed by the West, nor the West will roll back. The Muslim World as the situation exists is not expected to play any role.

The Western Muslims, with their own efforts, victimized from all sides and kept isolated in the cage of suspicion are very slowly being recognized in some corner for help, may play a role.

They need dignified and honest approaches for such assistance, which was never thought of right from the beginning by the West.

Live and let live in peace!


Dr. Naiyer Habib is a retired cardiologist. He was a Clinical Professor of Medicine, Univ. of Sask.; Head of Cardiology, Plains Health Centre-Regina Health District. Outside his proffesional life he also active in the Muslim community, he was President Islamic Association of Sask; Founder Muslims for Peace and Justice; Regional Director CIC, Regina, Sask. Former Director on National Board, Canadian Islamic Congress; Director Muslim Business Council of British Columbia. He authored "The History of Muslims of Regina, Saskatchewan and their Organisations - A Cultural Integration". He can be reached at

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Older Comments:
Response to respected Akram Hencie, God Bless you. Very valid question of not providing solution. It is to extend helping hand to these guests by hosts if not like the Host(Ansar) of Madina to the Refugee(Mahajir) of Makkah but what ever an individual, a group, a community, can do to ease their difficulties out lined on various sites. These are many. This is being done in fraction of what is required. There is no united leadership to take on these. Our leadership is divided. My call in writing to have confederation of Muslims across North America to all organisations at the time of first Iraq war remained unanswered except one.

Should Muslim leadership follow the example of Ismaili community or Pope in Catholicism without accepting their belief?

If One family adopts one Convert to look after their need, allowing their conscience(See CONSCIENCE reference in the article) look to make decision on controversy in religion faced by them may be some help? It should be noted converts may not come forward to ask for help!


The thing is that one performs jihad only with a sovereign ruler of state. Not with small packs trying to topple down a government. The converts must have been enticed by preachers comparing them to the companions of prophets doing jihad and relate it with the jihad of today against allied countries of West which has nothing in common.

In the past Jihad is to protect covenant and House of God. If enemies seize to attack covenant , then Muslims seize and shall be tolerant as well. Even prophecies clearly says Muslim worlds will ally with West. Only when West publicly/clearly declare to attack the covenant, then it turns into a totally different story.

A very timely article. It is sad that just due to a few cases of recent converts resorting o crimes or terrorism, all converts are getting painted with the same brush, without any proper scientific stats backing the claim.
The article is well written but fails to suggest any solution as to how the Muslim Community at large should give continuous support to the converts who are neglected and ostracized by both sides.

I hope the article works as a catalyst to invite a discussion for some solutions. Every person has the right to approach an Imam or a Muslim to freely convert to Islam without the fear or threat of an interview or background investigation. It is not the role of Imams. However, Imams and all other Muslims do need to be very vocal in loudly condemning violence , terrorism, and hypocracy leading to misinterpretation of the intent of Islam or Quran.