Last year in London alone 1,400 people converted to Islam. The average Londoner converting Islam last year was a white woman aged 27 years. According to a second study, conducted by Kevin Brice of Swansea University in Wales, the main reasons cited by converts for turning to Islam were drunkenness, "lack of morality and sexual permissiveness," along with "unrestrained consumerism." Perhaps the highest profile recent convert to Islam in the U.K. is Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former prime minister Tony Blair, who himself converted to Catholicism after he left office. Unlike her brother-in-law, who shortly after becoming Catholic proceeded to lecture the church on sexual morality, using the tired trope of urging us to get with the times, Ms. Booth seems a humble adherent to her new faith. Since she converted in Iran, she presumably identifies as a Shi'ite Muslim, whereas the most of her fellow U.K. converts are Sunni.
For a long time now sociologists have been able to demonstrate that when it comes to religion the higher the level of commitment, at least up to a point, the more attractive it is at drawing and keeping people. This is one reason why watered down forms of Christianity that takes its cue from society stands no chance of being sustainable.
On that note, back in 2003 Eamon Duffy delivered the Cardinal Hume Memorial lecture in Newcastle, an extract of which, on corporately doing away with the discipline of fasting after Vatican II, was published in The Tablet. This extract begins: "The renewal inaugurated by the Second Vatican Council sprang in large part from the liberating discovery of the depth and variety of Catholic tradition. Yet paradoxically the post-conciliar reforms were sometimes implemented in a spirit of philistine dismissal of 'tradition' as nothing more than the dead hand of the past. In shedding a past perceived as sterile and oppressive, much that was profound and life-giving was also lost." This goes some distance to explaining the phenomenon of younger Catholics reviving many of these life-giving practices, often to the consternation of an older generation, which strikes me as a variant of the same dynamic leading many young people to embrace Islam in the U.K. and elsewhere. Another indication of this movement is the success of traditional women's religious orders, especially ones with active apostolates, like the Nashville Dominicans.
Oddly, it does not seem to me that the embrace of Islam and more traditional Catholicism by an increasing number of young women, albeit ones with some experience of the society that claims to have liberated them, to be a rejection of women's liberation, but a recognition that the liberation promised, at least as it is generally conceived, is not much of a liberation at all, but a reduction. One young woman, Lynn Ali, who is highlighted in a box in the Daily Mail article (taken from an earlier article in which she was featured), who is now 31 and who converted to Islam some twelve years ago, strikes me as fairly typical of such young women. Prior to her conversion she used to DJ in clubs and at parties. She describes going out with friends, getting drunk and wearing "tight and revealing clothing" in order to attract the attention of young men. She says now that "underneath it all, I must have been searching for something." It was her honesty about what she was searching for that ultimately caused her to recognize that she wasn't finding it in her partying lifestyle.
Lynn, as do many female converts to Islam, wears a hijab (i.e., Islamic head scarf, the Mail gets this wrong, calling what she wears a niqab- see my post Islam and the West: the wearing of the burqa for the differences and also for a good take by Peter Hitchens on some of the downside of this phenomenon) when she leaves home. She describes wearing her headscarf as "liberating." By living her faith, which includes covering her head in public, she proclaims that she is "no longer a slave to a broken society and its expectations."
It might interest people to know that very few of those who convert to Islam are radicalized, which means they do not convert for ideological reasons, Brice's study aptly demonstrates this. Somehow, I think there is a lesson in evangelization to be found in all of this.