The In-Crowd Say It’s Cool to Dig this Chanting Thing

The In-Crowd Say It’s Cool to Dig this Chanting Thing

Apparently, over the last several weeks, since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, Western women have been converting in droves to…Islam.  We know that might sound a little strange – “Hey! Look! Radical Islamists just slaughtered 1400 Jews, beheaded a bunch of babies, raped women and girls until they bled through their clothes, and took hundreds of women and children hostage.  Let’s join their club!” – but it’s a real thing:

[TikTok Influencer Megan] Rice is among a new swath of TikTok users—typically non-Arab, left-leaning Western women—who consider themselves “reverts” to Islam, based on the belief that all people are born on a natural path to Islam and therefore revert, rather than convert, to the religion.

There are currently scores of TikTok hashtags that include the word revert, including #WhiteRevert (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). At the same time, 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, went viral this week on TikTok as young Americans declared admiration for his ideas.

The good folks at The Free Press – the new media operation started by Bari Weiss, The New York Times exile and heterodox journalist – give several reasons why Westerners, and women in particular, are converting/reverting to Islam, all of which seem valid to some degree or another and some of which are fascinating.  For our money, though, the most significant reason is “rebellion against the West”:

That traditional progressives are adopting Islamic values does not surprise researcher Lorenzo Vidino, who has studied Islamism and global jihadism for over 25 years and now serves as the director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

“I mean, rebellion is part of being young,” Vidino said. “At this point, what’s more rebellious, what’s more anti-Western and anti-capitalism and anti-establishment, than a conversion to Islam?” 

Reversion, he concluded, is “the ultimate rebellion against the West.”

This is inarguably true, although we’d add that there is more to the story than mere “rebellion.”  Indeed, we’d argue that the key words in Vidino’s phrase: “the ultimate rebellion against the West” are against the West.  Young people have always rebelled.  That’s who they are, what they do.  Rebellion against one’s own culture, however, against everything one has been taught to believe and from which one has benefitted, is a fairly recent phenomenon, less than a century old.  The West – since the 1960s at least (and to a certain extent, since World War I) – has been flaccid, weak, nihilistic.  It has become a civilization obsessed with navel-gazing and self-flagellation, devoid of purpose or belief, uninterested in preserving that which made it potent and prosperous in the first place.  This, in turn, prompts young people in particular to lash out wildly, seeking something, anything in which they can put their faith.  That they tend not to find it in the institutions and traditions of the West is hardly surprising, as we noted this summer in our encomium to the late Sinead O’Connor:

O’Connor is usually described as “anti-religious” and as an “activist” or “political crusader.”  In truth, she was none of those things.  She was a sad, damaged woman; a physically and musically beautiful person with a brutally disfigured soul.  She was, in fact, a deeply religious individual in a superficially “spiritual” age.  She yearned for truth, healing, meaning, and purpose (i.e. “telos”) and instead was given political platitudes, contemporary “theology,” and other wholly inadequate trivia.  The Church let her down, all right, but it did so by treating her as it has treated all of its adversaries since the Enlightenment, in secular and rationalist terms.

Throughout her career, O’Connor recorded spiritual and religious music.  In 1999, she was ordained as a priest in the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church (an “independent” heretical Catholic sect).  in 2018, in what might be called the least surprising development ever, O’Connor converted to Islam and officially changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat.  None of these is an act of an “anti-religious” person.  They are all, rather, the acts of a deeply religious person who is hopelessly lost and finds no solace and support whatsoever in the traditional Western faiths.  They are the acts of a woman screaming out for God and his presence on earth.

The truth of the matter is that Westerners converting to Islam is not a new phenomenon.  Obviously, Sinead O’Connor did so.  The Free Press notes that “In the year after 9/11, at least 8,000 American women converted to Islam.  During the height of ISIS in the 2010s, ‘Jihadi Johns’ and ‘ISIS brides’—Western people who fled their countries to join the extremist group in the Middle East—dominated the headlines.”  Additionally, as the title of this piece indicates, it has been “in” and “cool” to embrace aggressive and resilient Islam over the lifeless West since at least the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

As the song referenced in the title also notes, however, eventually, the wind changes direction.  At that point, the aggressiveness and resiliency they initially admired in Islam compel “reverts” to un-revert (re-revert? Un-vert?) or, at the very least, to make moral compromises that would be considered questionable at best on the Peace Train.

As is always the case, however, it is difficult – nigh on impossible – to beat something with nothing, which is to say that young people will continue to rebel by abandoning Western culture for Islam or other non-Western belief systems for as long as the West offers them no alternative.  The solution to this problem, therefore, is to offer an alternative, to believe in something, to embrace and celebrate that which made the West powerful, wealthy, compassionate, largely egalitarian, and so on.  We won’t hold our breath, of course, but that IS the way forward.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.