When we talk about reaching your Muslim neighbor, you probably picture an Islamic family that is either first or second generation Americans. You assume that they are new to Western culture and feel out of place where you live. We always share stories of Muslims leaving Islam for Christ, but did you know that in America, the Muslim population is steadily growing, and they are not all Arab Muslim immigrants? (Pew Research Center)
Factors leading to Muslim population growth in the US
The US continues to be a country of immigrants, and provides freedom of religion for all. The Muslim population is growing due to various reasons, including immigration of a Muslim's relatives and family, asylum, college visas, Muslims have higher birth rates, and, our topic for today, the conversion of Americans to Islam.
Why do Americans convert to Islam?
Three major reasons lead Americans to convert to Islam:
1- The appeal of stability (a wife converts so she can be included and accepted by her Muslim husband’s family)
2-Community life (a young man or woman coming from a broken home and finds welcoming families, brotherhood, food, and weekly meals on Fridays after prayers)
3- Religious structure (Americans who were disappointed in their church experience or rejected find refuge and are satisfied by Islamic rituals that make them feel self gratified and self righteous)
Most conversions to Islam are based on emotional experiences and not on knowledge and understanding of the religion. Converts are usually satisfied with the social and ritual experiences and never get deep into Islam. Some do but then they become disappointed and even feel misled.
Americans convert in different ways, such as: women who marry Muslim men, active evangelism of Muslim clerics in prisons and among minority groups, active Muslim groups in colleges, etc.
It is important to consider a person’s background when evangelizing to them. Speaking to a Muslim who did not grow up in Islam is different than how you would approach someone who grew up as a Muslim.
Most Converts in America have a Christian background
The majority of converts to Islam in America come from Christian backgrounds (Pew Research Center). The best thing you can do in this case is listen to their stories and validate their experience. We are not able to know their heart and relationship with God when they “leave” the faith, only that they identified themsleves as Christians and then embraced Islam.
The hardest part for people leaving the Church is that they are often hurt by people, and we can’t fix that. Because the Church is made up of humans who, many times, make mistakes and hurt others. That is why the cornerstone of our faith and our witness to our Muslim friend needs to be Jesus. He is the only one who can offer true love, peace, and total forgiveness by grace, which is something that Islam or the church itself cannot give your friend.
Even though most converts have a Christian background, never make assumptions as to why they converted to Islam. Everyone has their own individual story and you need to learn about your friend’s motivations for joining Islam. Give them a listening ear and a friend who will listen without judgment. Ultimately, your love for them will pave the way to the real Truth.
Share Jesus with them, not your religion
When you start talking about your faith, Muslims may assume you are just trying to convert them and may get defensive (And remember, this is not your job. You can’t save your Muslim friend!). Keep in mind it is important to focus on your relationship with Jesus as the most important part of your faith. You can also suggest they visit your church with you if they’d like to experience a different church community than the one which may have hurt them!
Questions to ask American Muslims
- What has been your experience with the Church in America?
- What appeals to you most about Islam?
- What has been the hardest thing about joining Islam?
- Do you feel like you need to earn salvation in Islam?