Denmark: Teenagers convert to Islam at home

Denmark: Teenagers convert to Islam at home

Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad also reported recently (DA) that some converts to Christianity want to keep their conversion secret, as they are afraid it would be used against them or their families abroad.


When Danish teenagers convert to Islam, it often happens at home, in the living room, in front of a couple of witnesses.  It is not so popular among teenagers to convert to Islam by saying the Muslim declaration of belief aloud in front of an imam.  That's at least what representatives of the Islamic community in Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen told Kristeligt Dagblad.

The last study of Danish converts to Islam "New Muslims in Denmark" from 2007 shows that teenagers form a big portion of converts to Islam - over a third who convert to Islam are, according to the study, 19 or under. But the Muslim congregations don't meet these teenagers.

Nørrebro-imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, who has close ties to many of the converts, participated in about 30 conversions this year in Copenhagen - and over half were men over 30.

"I meet very few teenagers who convert to Islam.  This year there have been only two.  The teenagers who choose to convert by me have typically grown up with Muslim children in the same building or have had Muslim friends their whole life," says Abdul Wahid Pedersen.

Samir El-Rifai, head of the Islamic Faith Society in Fyn also points out that most converts the congregations has been in touch with in recent years are between 19 and 25.  Only a few are younger.

"The youth read about Islam and have Muslim friends in school.  Almost all who convert are either done with studies or getting an education, and therefore are slightly older.  Today they're sincerely interested in Islam when they convert," says Samir El-Rifai.

According to Michael Aytac, responsible for converts in the Islamic Knowledge and Information Center in Aarhus, some Islam converts never come to the mosque - even after they've converted.  He says they know that some youth keep their conversion secret from their family and therefore don't come to the mosque.  They're afraid of being outcast, since the family, through the media, link Islam with something very negative.

According to the convert study from 2007, about 2100-2800 people converted to Islam since the mid 1970s and until 2005.  Most converts are women, and almost 80% are under 30.

Kate Østergaard, religion historian at Copenhagen University, who is one of the two researchers who conducted the study, says that just a quarter convert through a mosque or an imam.  She estimates that most of the teenagers convert at home, where they live.

"They use friends as witnesses - and it can easily just be in the living room, where they say the declaration of faith in Arabic with the right intention," says KateØstergaard, who estimates that some of the young converts will leave Islam again.

The other researcher in the study - anthropologist Tina G. Jensen of the National Center for Social Research, also thinks so.  According to her, many conversions which take place during adolescence are a 'one-hit wonder' by the young teenagers.

"It's not so official as when one converts by an imam.  Maybe they said the declaration of faith in a spontaneous moment and regret it the day after.  It can be less binding, when one says it at home in the living room," she says.

Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish), h/t Snaphanen

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