A soon-to-be-published study on Islamic life in Germany confirms the Cologne doctor's impression. The study sheds light on a phenomenon that may seem surprising given the image of Islam in Germany, where the religion is often associated with terrorism, forced marriages and honor killings: In Germany, some 4,000 people converted to Islam between July 2004 and June 2005. The study, which was financed by the Interior Ministry and carried out by the Soest-based Muslim institute Islam Archive Germany, reveals that the number of converts increased four-fold in comparison to the previous year.The article goes on to try and find some sociological links -- personal crises, wanting to stand out, etc.
The figure of 4,000 conversions means the usual explanations for why Germans convert are no longer sufficient. The annual number of converts remained constant -- at about 300 -- until three years ago. The converts were mainly women "who married a Muslim partner," Muhammad Salim Abdullah from the Islam Archive points out. Today, people are increasingly converting "of their own free will," he says, adding that the converts still include many women, but also plenty of university graduates -- middle-class citizens like Kai Lühr.
Sometimes the newly-acquired Muslim values can clash with Western principles, in the opinion of some. The key question is how literally Islam's holy book is interpreted. "Converts tend to practise their religion in a more puritanical fashion," says Wohlrab-Sahr. "Born Muslims are often more liberal."As one says in Hindi for the zeal of a convert ... naya musulman. New Muslim.
A Hamburg lawyer's office provides an intriguing example of what she means. Thirty-six-year-old Nils Bergner prays to Allah five times a day. The German convert works together with a Turkish friend Ali Özkan, also a Muslim. The two visit the mosque together, but it's only in the German's office that the prayer rug is regularly rolled out. "I just can't manage it," says Özkan. "The first prayer is at 6:00 a.m. -- much too early."
Recently, they were invited to dinner. The desert was tiramisu. Bergner hesitated because of the alcohol in the recipe. "I said, you can't be serious," Özkan recalls. "Go ahead and eat it, I said. It's just a flavoring." But Bergner left the tiramisu untouched.