Friday, February 13, 2004

U.S. Soldier Muslim Convert Arrested for Allegedly Helping Al Queda.
If you look at his picture and story what is striking is that he appears to be just any normal American. This shouldn't be a surprise to too many americans, but I think it is as most associate Islam with people of african, middle eastern, or southeast asian descent. However, Islam seeks out converts regardless of race...a fact that is very apparent at colleges these past two weeks. Both Northwestern and Stanford have had free food/learn about Islam events for any passerby. Not that there is anything wrong with that - religions are free to go after converts.

What worries me is that converts to a religion are easily swayed to follow a teaching to the letter, no matter how extreme that teaching can seem to be to those uninitiated into the religion. This is not a new phenomon - Spain used Jewish converts to Christianity as its fearest supporters during the inquisition, and there is a long history of Islam using recent converts as its fiercest warriors (i.e. the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire who in their time were the most feared soldiers in the world). On a personal note, I know of this effect from experience - my entirely family converted to an extreme form of a different religion when I went away to Northwestern - albeit a non-dangerous one that places a high value on human life, which clearly is not a shared charecteristic with a group like Al Queda.

The questions here is whether those who are preaching Islam to younger adults are putting the recent converts in contact with the extreme elements of the religion, or if the converts are just more predisposed to follow this element of the religion when found. If it turns out that the answer is the former, where does this leave us?

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