Islamification (a verbal noun) is a word made up by the far-right conspiracy theorists and Islamic vilification factory which means that Islam—not actual Islam, but the myth invented by Islamophobes themselves—is taking over a region.
It happened when self-proclaimed terrorism expert, Steve Emerson, falsely claimed on Fox News that “a number of Muslim no-go zones existed in areas of the U.S., England, France, and other western countries. […] ‘Sharia law’ essentially overrode the laws of the countries in which said zones were located, and local police avoided interceding in the affected areas.” The term “Islamification” took off.
But is there any truth behind the claim? Absolutely. Olivia Rudgard, religious affairs correspondent for The Telegraph writes, “Islam is the only religion growing faster than the world’s population.” A major area of growth: The West.
But this growth, this “Islamification,” has looked so little like the Fox “News” fever dream that it tries to sell to the American public. The spread of Islam has not come with tribunals or the oppression of women or the abuse of other faiths. It has come instead with education, modesty, finance, and -not surprisingly- big appetites.
Considering the facts of Islam’s Western growth in terms of conversion rates, the media perennially publishes stories wondering who, why, how, this could be … Why Islam?
The ever-confused media has done everything to understand this phenomenon, except one thing: actually understand Islam. But this is exactly what their audience is doing. And the more Islamophobic the media message is, the more so-called terrorism experts are invited on news segments to preach alternative facts about Islam, the more people come to Islam.
Because —truth be told (pun intended)— the formula is simple. The louder the Islamophobes ‘cry wolf’ (read: spreads misconceptions about Islam/equates un-Islamic Muslim behavior with Islam itself), the more people are intrigued to learn the truth of this seemingly taboo religion.
Dale Jones, data analyst and mapping specialist for Religion Census speculates “that the burst of anti-Islam sentiment after the 9/11 attacks could have done more to grow the religion’s presence in the U.S. than slow it,” Jones says. “Rarely is opposition a very effective tool in stopping the growth of a movement.”
And so, Islam grows by some strange reverse psychology that the Islamophobes don’t even know they are propagating. The more something is in the news–even when it is negative or perhaps because it is negative, the more people are curious about it.
When Islamophobic, Dutch politician, Arnoud van Doorn, converted to Islam in 2013, it was because for the first time, he sat with and listened to actual Muslims. He learned something real about Islam, something beyond the heavily biased news reports and the Islamophobic government lobbies, the conspiracy theorists, and centuries old myths.
As Swiss politician and former proponent of a Swiss minaret ban, Daniel Streich, said after he converted in 2005,
Islam offers me logical answers to important life questions.
This was true also for Shariffa Carlos, who writes,
The story of how I reverted to al- Islam is a story of plans. I made plans; the group I was with made plans, […] to destroy Islam.” Carlos, after studying Islam with the intent to “help” Muslim women apostatize, found, “Once I started learning, however, I began to be intrigued by this message. It made sense. […] I knew it was the truth.
As media vilification and Islamophobic lobbying intensifies, many people of conscience and curiosity in the West wish to understand more. This was the case with Laura, who writes,
A Canadian newspaper had published a series of articles attacking Islam by using examples of anti-Islamic behavior of some Muslims in an attempt to vilify Islam itself.
Non-Muslims tend to judge Islam on the basis of the behavior (even when it is not Islamic) of Muslims. I was not yet a Muslim but the articles were so outrageous that I sent a letter to the editor in defense of Islam. I became curious about Islam. […] So after familiarizing myself with what Islam is basically about and what are the duties and proper conduct of a Muslim person, as well as thinking and reflecting, I felt ready to accept Islam and live as a Muslim.
But as to the phenomenon of “Islamification” —that is, individuals embracing Islam coming in the wake of Islamophobia—this process goes beyond simply their learning what is behind the vilification of Islam. That vilification, to be effective, also has to do with making taboo, in the public media forum, Islamic practices which are actually psychologically and socially positive and life-affirming. And shining light on those practices tends to lead to a favorable view about Islam and Muslims.
As opposition to anything that smacks of Islam get louder and louder about innocuous and arbitrary things like hijab, multitudes of people ask, sincerely, “Why do Muslims do that?” In the case of hijab, what they are discovering is that in most cases this dress code has little to do with Muslim women being oppressed and more to do with the empowerment of rejecting objectification and shutting down the male gaze.
And so curiosity ushers in an age where major department stores, luxury and athletic clothing lines have begun designing and selling modest clothing and even hijabs. As CNN reports, “modest dressing is a global cultural movement on the rise.” The tide is definitely turning.
Some may never embrace Islam, but yet embrace the Islamic concept of modesty. While others are coming to Islam through hijab like Jessica Rhodes who’s curiosity started with a “one-day experience of wearing hijab [and] has led a 21-year-old Briton to read more about Islam and eventually embracing the religion.”
With the growth of Islamic modesty, a variety of other Islamic ideas and ethics have taken root in the West. Halal food has been popularized with the advent of ethically treated meat and the massive success of The Halal Guys in spite of or perhaps because of the halal meat hysteria. Islamic finance is growing in popularity. The beard has been normalized for men from all walks of life.
The ignorant can shout ‘Sharia take over’ all they want without ever understanding the first thing about what they are saying. Those who hear them are finding out the truth. And what they are learning is that Islam has been in the West for over a millennium, that the Renaissance would not have happened without Islam.
They are learning that Islam is not as seen on TV, that it is a way of life that demands dignity for every human being, that it is in tune with nature, and demands that its adherents obey the laws of the land in which they life. People are learning that Islam is about spiritual awakening and a remembrance of where we all came from and where we are going.
The answer to the question: why Islam is spreading in the West? Lies in the seeds sown by its opposition. Why? Because:
They plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners. [Surat Al-Anfal, 8:30]