Bethan Sexton, Daily Mail, November 19, 2023
Millennial and Gen-Z women say they’ve been inspired to convert to Islam by the Israel-Hamas war – and are sharing their religious awakenings on TikTok.
Recent converts say the conflict, which began with the murder of 1,200 Israelis on October 7, become a driving factor for their decision to join the Muslim faith.
Experts suggested for many, the choice is the ‘ultimate rebellion against the West’.
Among those sharing their journey is a self-described ‘leftist queer gremlin’ named Alex, who recently purchased a copy of the Quran – even though most interpretations of Islam take a dim view of LGBT relationships.
Alex, who has begun covering her hair with a hijab in line with Islamic teachings on modesty, says she began attending pro-Palestine marches after the October 7 terror attacks and the retaliatory strikes on Gaza.
She purchased a copy of the Quran on October 24 and took her shahada, a professing of Muslim faith, a short time after.
Alex was encouraged to convert after seeing TikToks by Megan Rice, another recent convert.
Rice posted on October 20 that she planned to read the holy book for the first time.
‘It just seems that Palestinians have this ironclad faith even in the face of losing quite literally everything,’ she told her then 400,000 followers.
Days later she founded the World Religion Book Club where she conducts live readings of the Quran. The online community now boasts 13,000 members.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in the wake of the Hamas is where her conversion ‘all started’ she told followers.
Many of the videos from predominantly Western women feature a variation on the hashtag ‘revert’.
Reversion is the Islamic belief that everyone is born into the Muslim faith and so any conversion is simply a return to the religion.
Among them is Madison Reeves, a,24-year-old mom from Tampa, Florida, who became interested in Islam in September after speaking with a Muslim girl on a language app.
However, the outbreak of the conflict and the ensuing ‘genocide’ as she describes it, compounded her reversion.
On October 24 the army vet posted a video of her wearing a hijab and celebrating her new found faith.
‘It’s a big adjustment,’ she told the Free Press.
Lorenzo Vidino, the director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, is unsurprised by the women’s conversion.
‘I mean, rebellion is part of being young,’ Vidino told the outlet. ‘At this point, what’s more rebellious, what’s more anti-Western and anti-capitalism and anti-establishment, than a conversion to Islam?’
He stated that reversion is ‘the ultimate rebellion against the West.’
In one of her videos, Alex hits back at criticism she is going to lapse back into Western ways once the ‘fad’ is over.
What part of the Western lifestyle do you think I’m going to run back to?’ She asks. ‘Uh, rampant capitalism? All the colonizing? ‘Cause I hate both of those things.’
Vindino also drew parallels between this and ‘salad bar extremism’.
‘You can choose different aspects of different extremist ideologies that are completely incompatible with one another,’ he said. ‘You put it all together in a sort of collage that makes very little sense.’
The phenomenon is not without precedent. In the year after 9/11, 8,000 US women converted to Islam, according to projections from the Hartford Institute for Religious Research.
Similarly there have been several high profile cases of ‘Jihadi Johns’ and ‘ISIS brides’ going to the Middle East, including Alabama ISIS bride Hoda Muthana who travelled to Syria to join IS in 2014.
Katherine Dee, an internet historian who studies social trends, said women are more likely to be religious and could be attracted to reversion in real life and online ‘because it offers a safe community for them.’
‘My guess is that TikTok is just following the same pattern,’ she added, explaining that there could a ‘fandom dynamic’ for some religious people who enjoy sharing with an online community.
‘It’s less about sincere religious belief,’ she explained, and more about ‘tribal alignment.’