A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicated that 23 percent of adult Muslims in the U.S. have left their faith. At the same time, the percentage of adult Muslims who are converts is also 23 percent.
Most converts to Islam (77 percent) were raised Christian.
Of those who converted to Islam:
- 24 percent said they preferred the beliefs or teachings of Islam to their prior religion
- 21 percent said they read religious texts or studied Islam before making the switch
- 10 percent said they wanted to belong to a community
- 9 percent said they were motivated by marriage or a relationship
- 9 percent said they were introduced to Islam by friend or were following a public leader
- 8 percent said they were motivated by family
- 5 percent said they had found truth in Islam
- 2 percent said they preferred the practices of Islam
In recent years, about 100,000 Americans convert to Islam annually. According to the Pew report, the same number of American Muslims leave Islam every year, leaving no impact on the religion’s overall growth.
Of those who left Islam, 55 percent said they no longer identify with any religion, 22 percent converted to Christianity and 21 percent converted to another religion or identity themselves merely as “spiritual.”
In addition, of those who have left Islam, 22 percent are immigrants from Iran, pointing to the large spike in the number of Iranian immigrants to the U.S. following events leading to and the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978 and 1979.
By comparison, the number of adult Christians who left Christianity is 22 percent. However, the percentage of Christians who are converts is only six percent, meaning Christianity as a whole loses more people than it gain from converts (in both directions).
The imam of the Islamic Institute of America, Hassan al-Qazwini, an Islamic leader in Dearbornm Michigan, lashed out against the report, saying, “The results of the survey are not without exaggeration and seem unrealistic.”
In response, Besheer Mohamed, a co-author of the report, said, “Just to start, I’ll say that the Pew Research Center is not biased against Muslims. We’re a nonpartisan, non-advocacy group and we are not funded by or organizaed on behalf of any religious or non-religious group. That’s just not what we do.”
Mohamed noted that the advisors for the report included Mohamed Magid, the executive imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Virginia, and Professor Ihsan Bagby of the Department of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky.
“This isn’t to say that we wrote the report on their behalf,” he said. “Of course it is our report, and we take full responsibility for the finding, but if were known to be biased against Muslims in that way, we would find more difficulty getting advisors to work with us.”
The findings of the report are significant for a number of reasons. First, many studies have shown that the growth rate of Islam is higher than any other religion. The Pew report shows that this is not the full picture. These studies are often reported in ways or in outlets that are bigoted against Islam and used for fear-mongering. That needs to stop, and this Pew report can be used to counter racially inflammatory content.
Second, the findings of the Pew report show that the percentage of converts to Islam is much higher than any other religion. This is not of concern per se, but further studies need to be done to map out the demographics of converts, their susceptibility to radicalization and exactly who is drawing them in. Too many times we hear in the news that a Islamist terrorist is a convert. As in all cases of radicalization, active steps much be taken to discredit the ideology of Islamism as well as violent jihad and shut down those who are promoting it.