Why is Islam the most Rapidly Growing Religion in the United States?Recep Şentürk, PhD
Today, the fact that Islam is the most rapidly spreading religion in the United States, as well as in the rest of the world, has attracted the attention of Muslim and non-Muslim observers. However, although this is of great importance, this issue has not been thoroughly discussed. New births, immigration, and conversion are three sources for this increase. There is no sign suggesting that it will stop in the near future. The negative images shown to the public by media organizations prejudicial to Islam may slow down this increase, but cannot stop it.
The most interesting sociological aspect of this increase is that it affects all levels of society. Although in different ratios, people from all parts of society, women and men, rich and poor, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, Jews and Christians, educated and uneducated, black and white, young and old have all become Muslims via conversion. The ratio of conversion to Islam is especially high among university students and prisoners. If just a certain section of society were choosing to embrace Islam, it could be easier to understand this trend. The fact that sections of the society which normally adopt different mentalities and life styles are making the same religious choice makes the conversion issue of Islam quite an interesting sociological question in American society.
In view of his study on seventy famous converts, Larry Poston, who studies conversion sociology, states that Westerners become interested in Islam for five reasons: 1 - Simplicity (20%), 2 - Rationalism (21%), 3 - The universal fellowship of people (19%), 4 - The due importance given to this world (19%), 5 - Non-existence of clergy class (10%). Poston assert that conversion to Islam generally occurs in a person's life in their late 20s and early 30s. It is reported that converts do not abandon their former lives and families; instead, they become more active in life and strive to introduce Islam in the West like Meryem Cemile and Muhammed Asad.
These and similar observations shed a light on the question that we posed at the beginning: "Why Is Islam the Most Rapidly Spreading Religion in the United States?" However, the one drawback of these studies is that they pay no attention to the fact that Islam spreads not only in the United States, but also throughout the world. In our opinion, it would be possible to obtain more general results if we were to consider the fact that Islam is spreading globally.
From a global point of view, it can be stated that modernism lessens the effects of widespread religions-primarily Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and African religions-on people, but Islam is an exception in this matter. Due to the fact that Islam does not contradict modern sciences, it has not been affected negatively by modernism ideology, but rather defeated politically by the West. Islam, a traditional system of comprehension that has not been defeated by modernity, appeals as a solution to people across the world who complain about modernity, or at least, who are spiritually dissatisfied. The criticisms directed at modernity by post-modernism have contributed to the spread of Islam. As a matter of fact, it could be stated that greater modernization will paradoxically create a greater tendency to Islam. The fact that Islam is the most rapidly spreading religion in the United States of America is the clearest indication of this situation.
It can be also argued that Islam's long historical tradition based on theological and judicial foundations is effective in its spread against globalization, religious pluralism and ethnical pluralism. Observers say that Islam provides the needs of Americans who cannot be satisfied by science or capitalistic materialism. This condition can be taken as an indication that Islam will be a great center of attention in America in the post-modern age.
On the other hand, the American experience sets an example of Muslims who live a quiet and peaceful life in a multi-religious society with members of other religions on a basis of mutual respect.
Examining the experience of Muslims in the United States can shed a light on the Westernization debates that rage among us. Islam's rapid spread in the most powerful nation in the West shows that Westernization does not harm Islam but rather brings greater dynamism. This is because Islam has the power to give the spiritual satisfaction that the Western culture cannot provide, despite its advanced level, and that it extricates people from conflict between religion and science, protects the sexual ethic and the family, and establishes a true brotherhood between people of different races, religions and colors by overcoming racism and religious discrimination.