What follows is a press release just submitted last week by my institution (Fuller Seminary). I am copying it myself below for you. I would certainly be willing to be interviewed or discuss these groundbreaking findings with you. I will be unavailable from July 1 - 10, but otherwise, I would be very willing to discuss this if you have interest. Since I did not write this press release, I do not have permission to let you publish it. If you do wish to do so, I am quite sure I could get permission.Sincerely,Jeff Bjorck, Ph.D.firstname.lastname@example.org===============================
“Appeal of Moral Values” Key Factor for U.S. Women Who Convert to Islam
While it is commonly presumed that women in the United States who choose to become Muslims typically do so in order to marry a Muslim spouse, recent research contradicts this assumption. “Marriage was not irrelevant, but it was ranked as one of the least important among nine reasons that were assessed,” says Jeffrey P. Bjorck, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Graduate School of Psychology and study co-author with his former student, Audrey Maslim, Ph.D. The study was just published in the American Psychological Association’s new journal, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Vol. 1 (Issue 2), pp. 97-111.
Findings were based on a survey linked to an online magazine web site targeting North American Muslim women. Among the 304 women converts to Islam who responded, 93 percent cited the appeal of Muslim moral values in contrast to secular values as a very important reason for their conversion, whereas 79 percent cited dissatisfaction with a former faith (which typically was Christianity). “Given that the vast majority of adults who grew up in the United States were exposed to Christianity,” noted Bjorck, “this latter finding is not surprising.”
What might be surprising to some is that 75 percent cited obtaining an enhanced sense of identity and that 63 percent cited an appreciation of Islam’s cultural views regarding gender roles and ethnic diversity. Bjorck stated, “Islam is often viewed as oppressive to women by those outside the faith, but the women in our sample clearly disagreed. In addition, some researchers have noted that Muslim women view western women’s attire, for example, as encouraging their sexual objectification by men, prompting the question, ‘Which culture respects women more?’ Clearly, this is a complex issue.”
Twenty percent of women did note that a potential marriage influenced their decision, but these women also cited the importance of Muslim values and other belief-related reasons. As such, this study’s findings suggest that, for women in the U.S., the choice to become Muslim is a serious decision seen more as an end in itself and less as a merely pragmatic means to the end of a goal like marriage.
Respondents were well educated, with an average of 3 or 4 years of college, and they were obviously internet-savvy. As such, findings might not generalize to women with less education or those without computer access. “Still,” remarks Bjorck, “this is significant preliminary study, and it suggests that choosing Islam for these women is an important, thoughtful decision based on introspection and genuine commitment to their faith.”
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