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Fast-growing Religion Islam winning converts in Western world


Fast-growing Islam winning converts in Western world


April 14, 1997

Web posted at: 11:41 p.m. EDT (0341 GMT)

From Correspondent Gayle Young

CAIRO (CNN) — In the port city of Suez — and across the Islamic world
— they are celebrating the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of

“This is a joyous day and the best day in the life of a man,” said
pilgrim Hussein Suleiman Hussein. “It is as if I am being born anew.”

movie icon (1.1M/31 sec. QuickTime movie)

Millions of Muslims across the world will trek to Mecca this week
for the annual religious event. They circle the Kaaba, a shrine that
contains a black stone sacred to the Prophet Mohammed.


Mohammed decreed that every Muslim who can afford it make the Hajj
at least once. It is one of five holy duties required in Islam.

A Muslim’s first duty is to proclaim that there is only one God and
that Mohammed is his prophet. Muslims also must pray five times a day,
give charity to the poor and fast during the daylight hours of the holy
month of Ramadan.

When a cannon signals that the sun has set during Ramadan, Muslims in
Cairo break their fast with friends and family, often inviting the poor
to share their meals.

Fastest-growing religion


The second-largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam
is also the fastest-growing religion. In the United States, for
example, nearly 80 percent of the more than 1,200 mosques have been
built in the past 12 years.

Some scholars see an emerging Muslim renaissance as Islam takes root in many traditionally Christian communities.

Islam has drawn converts from all walks of life, most notably
African-Americans. Former NAACP President Benjamin Chavis, who joined
the Nation of Islam recently, personifies the trend.

“In societies where you have minorities that are discriminated
against, I think they may find an appeal in Islam,” said Waleed Kazziha
of American University in Cairo.

Many moderate Islamic countries such as Turkey and Egypt are becoming more conservative.

Two decades ago, few middle-class Egyptian women wore scarves or
veils on their heads. Now they crowd into special emporiums that
advertise Islamic clothing.

The shift toward Islamic fundamentalism worries many in the secular
world, a fear underscored when splinter groups target Westerners with
violent attacks.

Islam vs. the West

But most scholars argue that the extremists are a very small
minority and that most Muslims adhere to principles in the Koran that
teach peace and tolerance.

“The Islamic world is like any other society we have known in
history,” said Kazziha. “You might say it has the good, the bad and the

Founded in 622 A.D., Islam is among the newer major religions. But
to the non-Muslim world, it sometimes appears inflexible. Clashes
between Islamic tradition and Western influence are sweeping the globe.

In Islam, contrary to Western beliefs, the rights of the community
are considered more important than the rights of the individual. Women
are seen primarily as caretakers of the home, and religion strongly
influences schools, government and courts.

Many Muslims today are trying to find a balance between being
members of a global society and maintaining ties to a religion that
calls for strict adherence to the Koran.

A case in point is 35-year-old Hisham Hussein, a wealthy playboy who
turned to religion and swore off alcohol after an automobile accident.

He is going to Mecca this spring. “The most important thing is to
maintain the purity of the Hajj, to lead a pure life,” he said.


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