Conversion of African Americans to Islam : a sociological analysis of the Nation of Islam and associated groups
'Conversion of African Americans to Islam: A Sociological Analysis of the Nation of Islam Associated groups' is an empirical study of the religious experience of people who had/have distinctive features in terms of race, ethnicity and historical experience. The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate how African Americans' (AAs) conversion experience in general, and the Nation of Islam associated groups' conversion in particular, differ from the studies of recruitment and conversion in the sociology of religion and New Religion Movements (NRMs). More specifically, their recruitment and conversion experiences to Islam diverge from those who converted to mainstream Islam. The study investigates how AAs' historical experience, soci-economic difficulties and the racism they encountered shaped and influenced their religious understanding. Research methods involved participant observations, a survey questionnaire, interviews, conversations, personal communications and correspondence. To collect ethnographic data eleven months field research was conducted mainly in the Chicago area and on two short visits to Detroit, and three years continued communications with Muslim officials and academics in the area. During the field research and afterwards through personal communication 181 survey questionnaire responses were received, and 23 Muslim officials, academics and ordinary Muslims were interviewed through semi-structured, unstructured interviews, conversation and correspondence. The thesis begins with a brief history of Islam and Muslims in general and the African American Muslims (AAMs) in particular. More emphasis is given on the historical development of the Nation of Islam (NOl). Then in Chapter III, discussions of schisms in the history of the NOT are examined from sociological perspectives of social and religious movements. In Chapter IV I aimed to formulate my own perspective to analyse and study the conversion experiences of AAMs to Islam. I used a multivariate approach, considering selectively widely held conversion and recruitment theories in the sociology of the religion. I consider in Chapter V the predisposing conditions for AAMs that influence their decision-making to join in the NOT, for example, political and nationalistic sentiments and socio-economic deprivations. In Chapter VI I have applied different terms to describe their religious experiences, such as conversion, alteration and reversion. I have analysed further their encounters with the NOT, the methods of recruitment they used and their major motives for joining the NOT and converting to Tslam. In the concluding chapters (Chapter VII VTTT) I describe the different responses of AAMS to Islam following the death of Elijah Muhammad. It is found out that the Islamic appeal has polarised. While Farakhan's NOT appeared to continue the tradition and style of the old NOI with the emphasis on nationalistic and socio-economic factors, Tmam W. D. Mohammed's community turned more to the religious and spiritual aspects of Tslam. These different approaches led to a polarisation of the appeal of Tslam to AAMS. This thesis contributes to knowledge in four key areas; the sociology of religion and religious movements, the sociology of social and nationalistic movements, religious and Islamic studies.