Islam gaining admirers, converts after October 7

After the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and the subsequent war, Islam is finding a new and unexpected following of admirers and potential converts on both the right and left, according to two reports. The Free Press (November 18) reports that, influenced by the war in the Middle East, non-Arab, left-leaning Western women active on the social media site TikTok are identifying themselves as “reverts” to Islam, based on the belief that all people are born on a natural path to Islam. The online magazine notes that “there are currently scores of TikTok hashtags that include the word revert, including #WhiteRevert (with 1.6 million views), #BlackRevert (174K views), #JewishRevert (131K views), and #JapaneseRevert (278K). Biggest of all is the simple hashtag #revert, with 2.9 billion views, followed by #RevertMuslim (1.4 billion), and #MuslimRevert (525 million).” Also drawing new and unexpected support is Osama bin Laden’s Letter to America, “in which the terrorist justifies Al Qaeda’s hatred of the West and its attack on the Twin Towers…[The document] went viral…on TikTok as young Americans declared admiration for his ideas.” But it is unclear if this attraction to Islam is just a social media phenomenon or actually reflects a trend of young people taking up the Islamic faith. Activist Megan Rice has already helped convert others to Islam, such as millennial TikTok influencer Alex, who does not give her last name but defines herself in her bio as a “feral leftist queer gremlin” and says that she started attending pro-Palestine rallies in Boston after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. Activist Madison Reeves says that she started doing more research and ordered a prayer mat and hijabs. Then, after what she describes as the beginning of a “genocide” in Gaza, she began posting pro-Palestinian videos on TikTok that got her banned from the platform. Reeves says that she has received messages welcoming her to the religion from as far away as Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.

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Rice is encouraging others to explore her newfound faith via her World Religions Book Club, where various members answer questions from a curious crowd—even those who might not be traditionally welcome in Islam. But there are conflicts and tensions among these young people attracted to Islam. One commenter identifying as a bisexual man wrote, “I would like to one day revert and practice Islam, however I’m having trouble aligning some of my own moral and political views to the religion.” The current reversion trend has a resemblance to the conversions that took place in the aftermath of 9/11, when at least 8,000 American women converted to Islam. A similar pattern could also be seen during the ISIS conflict in the 2010s, when Western people fled their countries to join the extremist group in the Middle East. That women are leading the trend may be because they are more likely to be religious than men and because such conversions “offer a safe community for them,” according to Internet historian Katherine Dee. For other scholars, the strong contagion and fandom dynamic effects of social media lead young people to share a journey that is more about “tribal alignment” than sincere religious belief. Terrorist researcher Lorenzo Vidino of George Washington University cited the rebellious nature of such conversions, which attracts the young as well as what the FBI calls “salad bar extremism.” “You can choose different aspects of different extremist ideologies that are completely incompatible with one another,” he said. “You put it all together in a sort of collage that makes very little sense.”

While Muslims protesting for Palestine since Hamas’s attack have found allies on the left, more unexpected is the Palestinian support that has come from far-right groups, reports the Terrorism Monitor (November 27). Although Israel may be more associated with the West and the “white” phenotype than the Palestinian side and thus more likely to find support from far-right activists, “nevertheless, in this conflict the white identitarian ‘far right’…is decidedly pro-Palestinian if not openly pro-Hamas,” according to the newsletter. The far-right sympathy with Islamist and jihadist groups might seem contradictory given that far-rightists have opposed Muslim migration to Europe. But, nevertheless, it was evident during the Taliban’s conquest of Kabul in 2021, when such groups openly celebrated. The Taliban’s victory was a vindication of the “traditional” values of patriarchal and heteronormative societies. According to far-right leaders, such as Greg Conte of the National Policy Institute, the Palestinian side is applauded because it is countering “Jewish power.” Nick Fuentes of “America First,” which is nicknamed “The Groypers,” condemned what he said was Israel’s genocide in Gaza, adding that the “enemy of our enemy” could become “our friends.” Fuentes praised the protests of the “Hamas Islamist Muslim brotherhood” on American university campuses, deeming their presence more positive than that of “tricky Zionist Jews,” so that “maybe now [campuses] won’t be so gay.”

(Free Press,; Terrorism Monitor,