This chapter probes the context and causes of the women’s decision to become Salafis. Growing up, they were dissatisfied with the ambiguities of their childhood religion, but resolved to start genuinely practising Islam aged around sixteen to twenty-two. This transformation occurred within a post-9/11 sociopolitical context in which Islam’s profile was heightened. In south London, Muslim gangs ignited a fashion for converting that appealed mostly to Afro-Caribbean youths. The author introduces the concept of ‘delayed conversion’ to accommodate a peculiar pattern: many women embraced Salafism only after a period of experimentation with competing ‘products’ on the ‘Islam market’, often while at university. These included radical groups like Al-Muhajiroun, who seemed friendlier than the ‘hard-nosed’ Salafis. The women eventually experienced an ‘intellectual’—more than affective—conversion, having concluded that Salafism alone represented ‘pure’ Islam, free from opinion, emotion, and culture. Salafism’s clear-cut, textually anchored, and comprehensive ‘manual’ for living provided reassuring certainty and a rigorous, back-to-basics—and cheap—learning experience.
Keywords: conversion to Islam, Salafi, Muslim converts, Muslim gangs, Afro-Caribbean Muslim converts, religion market, Islam at university, Al-Muhajiroun, radical Muslim groups, intellectual conversion
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