Can Islam really make inroads in the West (or East Asia)?

Lately, I’ve been watching some talks by imams on YouTube. It is really fascinating, and they are often great public speakers. It reveals a side of Islam that most Westerners don’t think about very often: the daily wisdom and advice these scholars can provide. It’s not negligible. I can see the appeal Islam has for people who want structure and community in their lives.

But… I think Islam has very little potential to win converts in the US or in Japan (where I lived for 8 years). I extrapolate from that to say that Islam has very little potential to win true converts in English-speaking countries and East Asian countries. I knew a white dude in college who converted to Islam to be with his Muslim girlfriend. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about people who convert because they believe and want to make the religion a big part of their lives.

Reasons why Islam won’t work in the specified regions:

• People there are losing their religion or have already lost it. The trend is not toward choosing another religion.

• Islam has a whole host of burdensome rules. It tells you to do certain things that are a pain in the ass (pray 5 times a day, make a pilgrimage to Mecca) and tells you not to do a bunch of things. I try to imagine a Japanese person being told not to do the following, and the idea is simply ludicrous:

  • Don’t have a pet dog.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.
  • Don’t listen to music (yes, music played with musical instruments is considered haram).
  • Don’t eat a wide range of things you eat right now, including pork and shellfish.

• Now it’s true that many Muslims blow off all of the above. I remember being in grad school and talking to the Turkish students. They were nominally Muslim but drank alcohol and did whatever they wanted to. So there is this dichotomy between Islam as something you are born into and nominally belong to, and Islam as seriously taught and believed in by imams. The trouble is that potential converts, by definition, aren’t going to be born into the religion, and those that take it seriously enough to consider it are going to talk to serious believers, whereupon they will run into the above-mentioned strictures.

And this last point describes what I think is the crux of the matter. For many Muslims around the world, Islam is a kind of folk religion, something that is just part of life. Does anyone know how many Muslims actually avoid music, for example? I mean, that one guy who quit One Direction was a Muslim. Outside of countries where Islam is prominent, I think it tends to be seen as a kind of ethnic religion and not a true world religion that is really inviting all to join (fairly or not).

Thus, while Islam has a large number of adherents on its side, as well as a relatively high percentage of serious adherents among those, I don’t think it has what it takes to win converts outside of its current stronghold.

What do you think?

When did Indonesia get move out of the east asia?

in any case your list of rules are not Islam, they are Salafiste (where they are not just strange misunderstandings).

there is no mention of pets, and many muslims have pet dods.

for better or for worse this is not well applied…

no it is not, in fact the guitar developed out of the Andalus. This is simply Salafiste nonesense.

Muslims have no rule about shellfish, you confuse Islam with the Judiasm. There is not a “wide range” of things a muslim can not eat.

What I think is that you like many have a understanding of the Islam via a strange combination of misinformation and the Salafiste assertions about the religion.

There are plenty of Muslims in East Asia. There are 23 million in China alone, and of course Indonesia has the world’s highest Muslim population. Islam spread far and wide in East Asia long ago.

Europe has fewer Muslims (though some areas with large European Muslim populations), but it’s not like Islam hasn’t been in continuous contact with Europe.

I think if it was going to happen, it would have happened a long time ago.

For clarity, there are alone the Hui, who essentially the Han who are muslim.

there is also the Philippines of course where there is the ancient population in the south that long existed before the coming of the Spanish and the Catholicism. and malaysia of course, etc.

of course the muslims were ‘cleansed’ from Europe along with many jews up to the 18e century

An added comment - Muslims not practicing Salafism is not “folk islam” and the OP recitation of practices, besides containing many errors, also is a recitation that takes the Salafiste POV as correct. The majority rejects this.

It seems that some do have a thing about them though. I thought it was part of the religion. Dogs are ‘unclean’ as are pigs.

:aside: Back in the late 80’s before I had the faintest clue what Islam was, I brought my dog to work a few times. To the delight of everyone but one fella. He would not get near my dog or let it near him. All I know about him was that he was from somewhere in the mid-east. I thought he just hated dogs, but maybe it did have something to do with his religion.

When I discovered later that Islam found dogs ‘unclean’ I found it quite ironic as this guys stench would make your eyes water.

There are still quite a few in the Ottoman section of southeastern Europe. Albania, for instance, is majority Muslim. And of course, speaking of cleansing, parts of the former Yugoslavia.

Yes the Balkans, but note the date reference please.

Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are generally considered to be in Southeast Asia, as are Thailand and Cambodia. The first two (and Brunei) have majority Muslim populations while the rest have significant Muslim minorities.

Okay but that definition, which is indeed the UN one, was not clear to me. I understood it widely, which is common (as wikipedia verifies is not only my understanding).

but it is a valid limitation, to say the UN version of the term.

We really have to ask the OP what he thinks ‘East Asia’ means - the more limited “China, Korea, Japan” definition, or the all-encompassing “Far East” definition. The fact remains, though, there is a significant Muslim presence in either scope.

I’ve always taken East Asia to be China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

The question posed in the OP is if Islam can win many converts in this area, and while there are many Muslims in China, it doesn’t seem to be growing much through conversions.

That’s kind of the preacher’s job: to explain how what they’re preaching is beneficial to someone. A good preacher will be good at that.

I currently work with an American man who is Muslim. The dude was brought up Muslim. His father converted to Islam and married a Muslim woman, an American Muslim woman (IIRC she also converted to Islam).

When I was in Japan, I worked with some Muslims. I also encountered Japanese converts to Islam while I was out and about in Tokyo.

Where do you get off deciding whether someone else’s dedication to their professed faith is true or not?

Did you think that perhaps the white dude converted to Islam for reasons other than just to be with his girlfriend? Anyway, that’s not required anywhere by any Hadith I’ve encountered. What is required in many places is for the non-Muslim man to convert to Islam before he may marry a Muslim woman.

A number of people around the world are eschewing religion. At the same time, there are also a number of people either rededicating themselves to the faith practiced by their parents/grandparents/etc. or adopting a new faith.

Gee, that sounds similar to just about every other religion in the entire history of humanity. It also sounds quite similar to just about every society in the entire history of humanity. Some rules are designed to be burdensome at times: that’s the whole point of those particular rules. The terms “rite of passage” and “inculturation” come to mind.

Last I heard, even Muslim Japanese had the freedom of choice. Someone may suggest that they not do some things, but the person decides for himself or herself.

As a more knowledgeable poster indicated, there are plenty of Muslims who, in fact, have pet dogs.

When I was in Malaysia, I saw plenty of Muslims imbibing. There was no problem, apparently, with that since they ordered their drinks at a public bar. The government did not ban such a practice. In fact, the only time the government got involved was to remind Muslims that they should abstain from alcohol during the day during Ramadan.

Again, as noted, another more knowledgeable poster stated the fact of this. More anecdotal evidence for you from my time in Malaysia: Muslims freely attended public performances of instrumental music played by other Muslims.

Plenty of religions have a dietary code.

I think you don’t know what you’re talking about.

True, but is any religion really growing through conversion these days? I can’t think of any major changes in religious boundaries in the last 100 years or so that aren’t caused by migration, with perhaps the exception of China’s repression of religion and some scattered post-colonial conversions.

One reason which the OP is correct in stating that one of the reasons against conversion is that people are become less religious in the US and other first world countries.

There has been a dramatic change in Africa over the last 115 years away from indigenous religions to Christianity.

From the same source.
Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa’s main religion and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa [a land of 1 billion] has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa…In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed.

There is a major shift in South America where only 69% of adults identify as Catholic and 19% as Protestant where historically 90% of adults were Catholic. Pentecostal and evangelical churches have seen major increases in the numbers of adherents.

Interesting. I know that in Africa Christianity spread along with Colonization, but didn’t know there was such a large movement to Christianity from Islam today.

that source is an anti-islamic hate site. You would not be very smart to rely on it.

Since decolonisation there has been a strong increase in conversion to both religions, from traditional religions - I do not say indigenous as both have been present in Africa since the earliest days of each and in sub Saharan africa for many centuries.

possibly the single largest, but there was always large christian numbers indigenous.

This was disrupted by colonial rule and the transfer of the education systems largely to the Latin script, even for the muslim populations.

This is fallacious.

There is zero sign of reduction of numbers of Muslims from the past or a receding either (speaking of the Sub Saharan area), rather conversion - which was most high during the colonial rule - has declined in the relative terms to the christianity, which gained greatly since the 1950s as both ate into the numbers of the old traditional religions that are now almost gone.

The North Africa is not “Arabs” - we are Berber - Amazight first. Already this tells you something about the quality of the source you relied on.

very doubtful, the cites and the information (I have nothing ideological on this point, but no data I have ever seen indicate this is true at all - this seems to come from an interview that was actually conservative muslim scaremongering… but in any case is not well founded).

What data from non-bigoted sources indicate is a strong progression of the Christian formerly traditional religion regions after the exit of the European colonial rule and a change thus in the social dynamic. The christians caught up in conversion.

I know of no objective statistics that say this is true (I note again that I am not offended or concerned if it were).

The only statistics I know of show that traditional religions are disappearing, but since the 1950s it is mostly in the favor of the Christians in terms of the conversion.

His source is a hate site. I assume he found it and did not realize as it is one of those set up with a façade…

Thank you, Ramira. That didn’t look right to me, but I didn’t look at the source. I know that where I lived, Islam was seen as the prestige religion, and people coming from the village to the larger town would often convert to Islam from Christianity to fit in with cosmopolitan life.

Even in post-colonial Africa, the Christianization has continued, with many priests being exported to Europe where there is a shortage of clergy.

Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists have grown tremendously in recent years, as well as the Mormon church. Although they have not had the same absolute numerical success, the membership has tripled since 2000 with 4% of their active members now residing in that continent, compared to only 2% in Europe.

Some actual estimate data is to be seen - with historical to 1960s - data in this PDF - Pew Islam and Christianity in Africa survey, from the page 63)
nothing there suggests his cite is accurate - although if you look at the huge collapse of the traditional religion (animist they say) and the huge increase in the Christian you will see support for my observations.