Conversion to Islam and veiling among American Muslim women in Kansas
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Over the past decade, Islam has come of age in America. Despite Islam being a controversial subject, its presence in America is obvious, becoming the fastest growing religion in the United States. While Americans are selecting Islam as a religion and way of life, the number of converts of women outnumber men by about four times, raising the question of why women more than men have converted to Islam. The process and reasons for American and European women’s conversion to Islam have been studied by scholars of American Muslims and especially American converts to Islam. My thesis reveals that women converts in Wichita offer similar reasons for conversion to those discovered by these other scholars. As with their studies, I found through ethnographic interviews that American women experienced problems with the Christian concept of the trinity, were attracted to the Islamic notion of women’s rights, and found satisfaction in the comprehensiveness of Islam. I also explored what converts think Islamic beliefs are regarding women covering, since while covering is a widespread cultural practice in countries that are Muslim-majority, the hijab stands out as a minority practice in countries where the vast majority of the population is not Muslim. The approach used in this study was to use a snowball sampling technique to find subjects for face-to-face interviews in which I asked a series of questions. A total of 20 female conversion narratives were examined in hopes of answering the question of what motivated these women to convert as well as what the converts thought about hijab. My research reveals that because my informants are American Muslims, their conformity to Quranic rules concerning modesty in dress is expressed in terms of their rights as women to personal dignity and freedom.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Program of Liberal Studies