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About Our Project

Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in America. Migration has stimulated Muslim population growth in the United States, and there is also an increase in the number of Americans converting to Islam. However, there is effectively no major scholarly research on Muslim converts in America (as a subset of the wider Muslim population).

For reasons that are currently unknown, Muslim converts also play a disproportionate role in violent extremism (or terrorism) internationally. Converts are statistically over-represented in violent extremism and are in fact many times more likely to radicalize than people “born Muslim.”

How Islamic conversion intersects with the process of radicalization is not well understood. Religious conversion and radicalization are not the same thing, but both involve significant changes in beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. However, radicalization results in those new beliefs, attitudes and behaviors being heightened and polarized in preparation for engaging in some form of violence. Understanding how and where religious conversion intersects with radicalization requires us therefore to compare conversion, life experiences, beliefs, and social networks of non-radical and radical converts alike.

This project represents the first comprehensive attempt to understand these processes within the United States. Through the knowledge we hope to generate, we are seeking to improve the public’s knowledge of this very small growing religious community that is often maligned in the media and misunderstood by wider society. We hope that by establishing an empirical basis to the causes and processes of Islamic conversion the research can contribute to improving social cohesion, interfaith dialogue and contribute to academic knowledge.

The Minerva Initiative funds our research. You can learn more about it here.