White Convertophobia: Exploring British Muslim Identity

The convert of Islam may be attributed with many fruitful characteristics and identities. Their identity especially within British society is usually one with an amorphous idiosyncrasy.

To some they are the ‘immaculate’ Muslims with a complete and ultimate focus on their protocols. To others they are the brainwashed souls of society that have come to an aberration with no clear distinction.

However, not all is lost, there is a middle ground, and it is exactly this middle ground which I want to take you to. 

Converts in British society have a long history of being accused of being the ‘traitor’ by racist and anti-Islamic heads.

They deem the convert as one which has lost his focus in life, deviating from the straight and narrow, veering off and becoming brainwashed into a sugar-coated version of Islam. 

As you read the title of this article, you may have thought ‘what a load of drivel.’ To title an article with not only a common colloquially nonsensical hogwash, but also it is linguistically and semantically non-existent.

This may seem strange to many. However, if we disregard the word for a moment and consider the concept, we begin to understand that the concept is a real issue. 

The premise of ‘Convertophobia’ may not necessarily be a definitive term, however its elements and synonyms manifestations are very much existent within the lives of many.

Upon searching, we found it has been unofficially defined by a few as, “the fear of Muslim converts by non-convert Muslims.” This is interesting on many levels, one of them being the very fact that it negates the inclusion of non-Muslims altogether.

I, for one, would include non-adherents to Islam to the concept of Convertophobia just as much as those Muslims born into the faith, for many reasons, which I will later explore. Thus, consequently, my proposed definition would be:

“The irrational superstition or cultural hatred of Muslim converts enacted by non-Convert Muslims and (or) non-Muslims in entirety due to the convert’s mere embracing of Islam.” 

If one were to unravel this further, the definition in and of itself implies that the guilty party of such an act hates the convert to Islam on the pure basis that he is a Muslim.

The guilty party loathes the idea of conversion itself and detests such way of life. This could be manifest through numerous ways and in scenarios far too many to mention, although to bring it closer to one’s mind we can envisage two scenarios;

1- Convert vs. non-convert Muslim complex

The convert is hated on the basis of his or her state by a non-convert Muslim. The non-convert Muslim withholds jealousy within his or her heart because of either the attention that the convert receives, or the blessings they may have.

From a sociological perspective- the jealousy arises due to the ‘advantage’ the convert may have in a western demographic because he or she is seen to have the ‘best of both worlds’ due to possessing what some may call ‘white privilege’, and being viewed as having the religious blessing of being a Muslim. 

2- Convert vs. non-Muslim complex

The convert is hated or loathed by the non-Muslim purely built upon the known knowledge that such a person has become a Muslim.

Assumptions are made about them that they have been ‘brainwashed’ or they are no longer loyal or hold any customary or habitual practices in parallel with what is expected of one born, raised, and educated in Britain and in accordance with what may be considered a fully-fledged efficient member of society. As such, prejudiced tags are placed upon the convert and marginalisation occurs. 

As can be understood from this, it can be quite strenuous for the convert to seek some sort of civil and moral peace- for the two groups of opposing parties contain sentiments of rejection, and the lack of mutual agreement.

However, this general rule does not apply to every individual from the two opposing groups, but the concept is a possibility which could be applied to any one member from either group. Finally, one should practice giving others the benefit of the doubt, for Allah said: 

O you who have believe, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, most assumption is sin.” (Surah Al-Hujarat: 12) 

About Christopher John-George
Convert to Islam for over nine years, Arabic and Politics at Leeds University, studied Islamic Theology and Jurisprudence in the
Shafi'i Madhhab.