WELL-EDUCATED white women are more likely to convert to Islam than other groups, a Swansea researcher has said.
Kevin Brice said there was a 60-40 split in favour of women converting to Islam, and that they tended to show a “better educational profile” than the average population.
Mr Brice, of Swansea University, said every convert had a different story to tell, but one common theme was the perception that Islam offered women protection and a sense of identity. He said this may sound counter-intuitive to people.
“Through wearing modest clothing, all the way to a head scarf, it’s no longer about how you look,” said Mr Price, formerly of the university’s Centre for Migration Policy Research. “It’s getting free from this idea that you are defined by your dress size.
“We have also noted that women who convert are more likely to adopt the head scarf than people born into Islam.
“But by adopting this clothing, they attract attention. There is a strange irony. When you talk to these converts they say they experience, or feel they do, quite high levels of discrimination and name-calling.”
Using data from the 2001 census, Mr Brice estimated there were 1,500 white Muslims in Wales.
“Based on our research, in the last 10 years the numbers have roughly doubled,” he said.
He stressed these were not precise figures. Part of the reason, he said, was that converts in rural areas — possibly suffering an “I’m the only Muslim in the village” syndrome — were tricky to quantify.
Mr Brice added convert numbers had risen due to media coverage — often negative — of Islam. People would hear about Islam, find out more, and become interested.
“There is anecdotal evidence that after 2001 (World Trade Center attacks) and the 7/7 bombings, there was an increase in the number of conversions,” he said.
Mr Brice added that women tended to show more religious affiliation than men.
England and Wales’s Muslim population has risen from just over 1.5million in 2001 to 2-2.5million now, he said, with higher birth rates and immigration key factors.
Establishing numbers of Christian converts among Muslims was difficult. “It’s a bit of a taboo subject, but an area that deserves to be looked at,” he said.