Addressing the Unique Needs of American Converts to Islam
Are you a convert in need of resources?
Would your community/masjid like more information about starting a Feeling Muslim initiative? Would you like to send a convert a care package? Do you have any questions about this research? Would your organization like to request a guest lecture or consultation?
What Was Your Marital Status at the Time of Your Conversion to Islam?
Figure 11 represents the respondents’ marital status at the time of their conversion to Islam, as self-identified. The respondents chose from nine possible answers: single – never married, single with children, engaged, married without children, married with children, divorced, divorced with children, separated, or widowed. Of the 257 respondents, 55% reported being single, never married at the time of their conversion to Islam, the highest percentage, and an additional 5% reported being single with children at the time of conversion, bringing the total for single respondents to 60%. Four percent of respondents reported engagement at the time of conversion. Seven percent reported being married without children, while 9% report that they were married with children at the time of their conversion to Islam, bringing the total number of married respondents to 16%. Regarding divorces, 9% reported being divorced at the time of their conversion and 9% reported being divorced with children at the time of conversion, bringing the total number of divorcees to 18%. The remaining 2% reported separation at the time of conversion and no respondents were widows.
What Was Your Age at the Time of Your Conversion to Islam?
Figure 10 is a representation of the ages of respondents at the time of conversion to Islam, as self-identified. The respondents chose from eight possible responses: less than 16; 16-19; 20-24; 25-34; 35-44; 45-54; 55-64; and 65 or over. Of the 257 respondents, 2% said they were less than 16 years old at the time of conversion. Another 16% said they were between ages 16-19, and 28% said they were between 20-24 years of age at the time of conversion. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they were between 25-34 years old, while 10% of respondents answered between ages 35-44. Lastly, 3% said they were between 55-64 years old at the time of conversion, and 1 respondent or 0% (statistically) said she was 65 or over at the time of conversion to Islam. The three largest groups, from greatest to least in number, are ages 25-34 with 35%, ages 20-24 at 28%, and ages 16-19 at 16%. In other words, 79% of the 257 respondents converted to Islam between the ages of 16-34 years of age.
 If we look at the age ranges while thinking of Erikson’s Developmental Stage Theory, it is evident that the majority of converts report converting to Islam in adolescence (ages 12-19) and/or early adulthood (ages 20-25), and Erikson identifies the conflicts during those developmental stages as identity vs. confusion and intimacy vs. isolation, respectively. Please see Appendix E for a table of Erikson’s Developmental Stage Theory.
What is Your Race or Ethnicity?
Figure 6 addresses the race and ethnicity of the respondents. The respondents manually recorded their race/ethnicity, which made the question open-ended and therefore necessitated manual quantification.
The largest percentage of respondents, by far, 53%, self-identified as Caucasian or White, followed by African American or Black at 20%, then 2+ racial or ethnic identities at 14%, Hispanic or Latina at 7%, Other at 4%, Asian at 2%, and Native American at 0% with only one respondent identifying as solely Native American., , ,  It is important to note that of the 37 respondents that self-identified as 2+ racial or ethnic identities, 18 mentioned Native American as part of their race/ethnicity. Furthermore, 11 of those 37 respondents mentioned African American or Black as part of their race/ethnicity. Nine respondents or 4% self-identified as Other.
These self-identifications are representative of the diversity existing among American female converts to Islam, and while there are far more than 257 American female converts to Islam residing all over the world, this sampling is enough to offer a fair representation of the tremendous diversity within the Muslim American community, a diversity that is not being accurately represented or portrayed in American news media.
 The respondents who self-identified as Asian input the following descriptions: Arab; Asian; Chinese; Indian (South Asia); and Japanese with Korean influence
 The respondents who self-identified as Caucasian or White input the following descriptions: 2nd generation German immigrant; Irish; Italian; Anglo-Saxon; European American; White; Caucasian; English; North European; Southern Italian; Polish-American; Sicilian and Albanian ancestry; Jewish
 The respondents who self-identified as Hispanic or Latina input the following descriptions: Hispanic; Latina; Mexican; Puerto Rican; Hispanic-White; Cuban-American; Latina-White
 The respondents who self-identified as two or more races or ethnicities input the following: bi-racial: half English, half African American; Black and Caribbean American; Jewish and Irish; German and Russian; German and Mexican; German and Panamanian; Palestinian and American; White and Vietnamese; Mixed; Mixed (Black/White); Afro-Caribbean; Scottish and Latino; Thai and White; African, Welsh, Irish, and American Indian; African American, Cherokee, Japanese; African Native American; Black Native American; English, Irish, German, French, Native American, and possibly Jewish; Native American, Aztec, Spanish; German, English, French, Dutch, Israelite, Native American; African, Cherokee, Black Foot, Irish, Mongolian; Irish, Scottish, French, Native American, Canadian; Native American (Anishinaabe) and White; White, Asian, and Native American; White Irish and Cherokee; White American Indian
 The respondents who self-identified as ‘Other’ input the following: human; Bilalian; American; Ukraine; Jewish; Other; Romani/Melungeon; Danish/English; Czech family roots
Where Are You Currently Residing?
Figure 5 represents the areas of residence within the United States for 90.7 % of the respondents who self-identified as American female converts to Islam. The remaining 9.3% respondents are not currently residing in the United States. For the purposes of confidentiality and anonymity, those 9.3% of respondents residing outside the U.S. are not mapped, but they represent 18 different countries around the world. Each pink marker represents areas of residence for these 233 respondents residing in the United States. The map provides a clear understanding of the reach of the survey and shows that the respondents reside throughout the United States.
Figure 3 is a representation of the gender of the participants, and as evidenced below, 100% of the 257 respondents self-identified as female. The participants had the option to select male or female. In order to provide a more accurate representation, future studies will be inclusive of categories outside the traditional male/female dichotomy, such as intersex, trans male, trans female, and non-gender conforming to name a few. One respondent reports that she is a, “trans* male,” but adds that she presents as female, which explains her choice of “female” on the survey.
The demographic data below is a sampling, which focuses entirely on the socio-demographic data of 257 anonymous American female converts to Islam who chose to respond to the survey Feeling Muslim: An Intimate Portrait of Identity Cultivation among American Female Converts to Islam. As previously stated, recent polls show that many Americans now fear Muslim Americans due to media misrepresentation and lack of knowledge. An accurate representation of Muslims and particularly Muslim Americans will provide the American public a view of the incredible diversity of Muslim Americans. By providing fresh socio-demographic data on 257 American female converts to Islam, the American public will see an accurate portrait of American female converts to Islam that may remind them of themselves, thus lessening the degree to which they may fear Muslims, and particularly Muslim Americans, and increasing the likelihood that they may begin to view Muslim Americans as potential friends and neighbors. This survey reflects a wide range of diversity among American female converts to Islam and includes socio-demographic data regarding: gender, identification as an American convert to Islam, race and ethnicity, belief prior to conversion to Islam, branches of Christianity prior to conversion to Islam, age at the time of conversion, marital status at the time of conversion, branch of Islam, current marital status, length of time as a Muslim, and highest level of education completed.
For the purposes of increased validity, a majority of the following tables are direct imports from Qualtrics with few exceptions.  These exceptions arose from qualitative or open-ended questions, which necessitated quantification of the data. The manually quantified charts include charts on race/ethnicity, belief prior to Islam, and branches of Christianity prior to conversion to Islam. The purpose of making some quantifiable questions qualitative or open-ended is to allow the respondents to self-identify race/ethnicity and belief prior to Islam rather than forcing respondents to fit into fixed categories, which in many cases would not produce accurate representations. By giving respondents the opportunity to input their own answers, a truer representation of the diversity of the respondents unfolds.
1] Qualtrics is an online survey and data collection tool.
Click here for a list of scholarly references on American converts to Islam, American Muslims, Muslim Americans, Religious Conversion, and Spiritual Transformation. This list is constantly growing, so check back often.
The material on this site is exclusively the intellectual property of Karla Nicole Kovacik, M.A. Fair use applies with proper citation of this site and my M.A. thesis, Feeling Muslim: Prolegomena to the Study of American Female Converts to Islam, The University of Georgia, 2015.
use of material
For citation purposes
Karla Nicole Evans, Feeling Muslim: Prolegomena to the Study of American Female Converts to Islam [Electronic Resource], by Karla Nicole Evans (2015).Bibliographies. Theses. Non-fiction.
Do You Associate Yourself with any Particular Branch(es) of Islam?
Check All that Apply.
Figure 14 is a representation of the branches of Islam in Muslim American society with respondents identify. The respondents chose from the five possible answers, with the option to select all that applied or write in their answer. The five answers were the following: Sunni, Shi’a, Sufi, Nation of Islam, or Other.
 In the future, Muslim, Salafi, Progressive, and others will be included as options.
 Those respondents classifying themselves as ‘Other’ listed the following: Not associated with a sect; Progressive; Quranist; Reformist; Salafi; Student of Imam W.D. Mohammed (ra); Philosophy of Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl; Other; Orthodox Islam; The Prophet Muhammad (saw) advocated unity; None; Non-denominational; Just a believer; Muslim; No particular branch; No need for labels; Islam; I do not know; I am learning
How Long Have You Been Muslim?
Figure 13 is a representation of how long the respondents have been Muslim, or how long since their conversion to Islam. The respondents chose from the six possible answers: 0-3 years, 4-7 years, 8-11 years, 12-15 years, 16-19 years, or 20+ years. Of the 257 respondents, 25% identified 0-3 years as the length of time they have been Muslim, followed closely by 22% who responded with 4-7 years. Therefore, 47% of the respondents have been Muslim for between 0-7 years. Another 13% report being Muslim for between 8-11 years with 14% identifying with the 12-15 year range, which means that around 27% of respondents have been Muslim for between 8-15 years. Next, 8% said that they have been Muslim for 16-19 years, and 18% said they have been Muslim for 20 or more years.
 In the future, the inclusion of more age ranges would almost certainly provide a greater historical context to go along with the conversion narratives afforded by the respondents.
What Is Your Current Marital Status?
Figure 12 is a representation of the respondents’ current marital status, as self-identified. As with the corresponding question regarding marital status prior to conversion, the respondents chose from the same nine possible answers: single – never married, single with children, engaged, married without children, married with children, divorced, divorced with children, separated, or widowed.
Branches of Christianity Prior to Conversion to Islam
Figure 9 is a representation of branches of Christianity the respondents self-identified as prior to the conversion to Islam. As previously mentioned, this table represents a further breakdown of the 76.3% who identified as Christianity as their belief prior to conversion to Islam. Having such a large percentage of respondents who identified within one category prompted further analysis to identify whether the participants had specified a particular branch or branches of Christianity. The results in Figure 9 are the representation of that breakdown. Of 196 respondents who self-identified as Christian prior to their conversion to Islam 2.55% self-identified as Anglican, 0.51% as Jehovah’s Witness, 1.53% as Mormon, 63.26% as Protestant, 29.6% as Roman Catholic, 1.02% as Seventh Day Adventist, and 1.53% as Unitarian Universalist. This breakdown shows that the largest percentage of American female converts to Islam come from a Protestant or Roman Catholic Christian background, which merits further research.
What Was Your Religion/Belief Prior to Islam?
Figure 8 is a representation of the religious affiliations held by the respondents prior to their conversion to Islam. As previously mentioned, this table represents one of the three that include manually quantified data from open-ended responses. This question was qualitative or open-ended to allow respondents to self-identify their belief prior to Islam, rather than forcing them to choose a fixed category, which in many cases would not produce an accurate representation. Of the 257 respondents, 5% identified as Agnostic, 2.7% self-identified as Atheist, and 1.2% self-identified as Buddhist. Of the 257 respondents 76.3% self-identified as Christian and 3.9% self-identified Judaism as their prior belief. Lastly, 3.9% self-identified ‘None’ for their belief prior to conversion and 7% self-identified as ‘Other’. This breakdown prompted further analysis of the respondents identifying as Christian and the development of a table corresponding with that breakdown.
 This is a combination of Protestant Christianity and Roman Catholicism. However, due to the large number of respondents identifying as Christian, Table 5 is a breakdown of branches of Christianity identified by the respondents.
 See Figure 9 for a further breakdown of Christianity.
What is the Highest Degree or Level of School You Have Completed? If Currently Enrolled, Highest Degree Received.
Figure 7 addresses the highest level of education the respondents completed. The respondents chose from nine possible educational levels, with the ability to choose more than one where applicable. The levels the respondents could choose from are as follows: K-8th grade, Some High school no diploma, High school graduate or GED, Some college credit no degree, Trade/Technical/Vocational training, Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, or Doctorate degree.
Are You an American (U.S.-born) Convert to Islam?
Figure 4 is a representation of responses to the question of whether the participants self-identify as American converts to Islam. For the purposes of this study, analysis is only of those responses in which the participants answered a majority of the quantitative and qualitative questions and self-identified as American converts to Islam. There were a total of 459 responses to the survey. However, of the 459 only 281 were complete responses, and of those 281 responses, 257 self-identified as U.S. female converts to Islam. This thesis focuses on the 257 female respondents of who self-identified as American (U.S.-born) converts to Islam. The remaining 24 respondents answered ‘no’, that they were not American converts to Islam and identified as citizens of other countries and/or born Muslims. The analysis of the 178 partial responses as well as the 24 full responses from participants who did not identify as U.S. female converts to Islam will occur at a later date.