Not Just Immigration: Are We Paying Attention to American Muslim Converts?
The Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, appeared to be thoroughly assimilated immigrants in 2013.
Many Americans looked at the Tsarnaev brothers at that time and asked how they went undetected as jihadists. They wondered how two brothers could lead seemingly normal lives while an infectious jihadist ideology ate at them from the inside. Because the brothers were clean-cut guys who went to the gym and partied with their American friends, even the media asked how they could have committed these “senseless deeds.”
Few seemed to grasp that a conversion to religious fanaticism can happen silently without showy displays, or without a traceable support community. Those who asked such senseless questions didn’t understand that to a jihadist, violence and murder are not senseless.
In our secular age -- where religion is often seen as an irrelevant inheritance from the past -- the study of religion is pushed aside as a useless endeavor. Those who don’t care much for religion themselves may tend to dump all sects and creeds together in one massive Dinty More’s Beef Stew: “Being a Presbyterian is no different than being Amish or a Muslim, etc.” This is why, after every Islamic terrorist attack, so many clamor: “It’s not Islam! It has nothing to do with Islam!”
After the Boston tragedy, I happened upon a report on the building of a $50M Islamic Cultural Center ten miles north of Dublin, Ireland. Ireland, a country of some 4.6 million people, used to be a robustly Catholic country. Today Muslims constitute about 1.07% of the population, but the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life forecasts 125,000 Muslims in Ireland by 2030.
It is a well-known fact that immigrant Muslim populations do not often assimilate into the cultural life of their new nation: instead, they form parallel communities. While some may argue that Italian and Irish immigrants did the same when they immigrated to the United States, the parallel communities those groups formed did not seek to change the customs, laws, and social mores of the host country. This is what had critics of the Dublin mosque up in arms. They feared the newly created suburb around the mosque would become the genesis of a Muslim community that would eventually challenge Ireland’s governance.
The critics of the Dublin mosque were not guilty of paranoia; one has only to read the tsunami of books about the Islamization of Europe. Consider Pamela Geller’s Fatwa, Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept, or Robert Spencer’s Confessions of an Islamophobe. Observations concerning the Islamization of Europe through immigration and refugee-coddling go back to 2001, when the great Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci published The Rage and the Pride.
Fallaci wrote of a Muslim encampment in her home city of Florence: