New Muslims Stages of Change

It has been observed according to Sue and Sue (2006) that minorities who are put into a foreign environment go through a series of stages of acculturation.  New Muslims often report similarly going through these stages.  The first stage according to this theory is called conformity, where individuals conform completely and whole-heartedly to the new culture that they have come in contact with.  Many New Muslims bring in a lot of energy when they embrace their new religion and begin to fully welcome and sport external symbols of being a Muslim.  Men may start to grow beards, wear Islamic garb and learn religious vocabulary.  Women may begin to wear the headscarf (hijab), face veil (niqab) or Islamic female garb (abaya).  Although, this is not a negative thing, most often people become completely immersed fairly rapidly with little understanding of the diversity or complexities of being a Muslim and the Muslim community.  The second stage is called dissonance.  In this stage a lot of New Muslims begin to question their identity, often feeling the difference between themselves and many ethnic groups of Muslims.  They begin to become confused with the difference between culture and religion and start to realize their own differences and the influence of their culture of origin on them. When such conflicted feelings intensify, they may enter the third stage which is termed resistance and immersion.  In this stage, New Muslims (often an experience of the majority) that embraced the religion of Islam, often return to their faith of origin or completely leave the religion of Islam.  They may resist Muslim communities and immerse themselves within their culture/religion of origin. If they do not entirely leave, they may have a very emotionally reactive perspective that is often seen in unorthodox views of the religion. Many may not get beyond this stage.  However, those who succeed to next stage first begin to introspect within themselves about their complete rejection of both identities and move into the final stage termed, synergistic acculturation and integrative awareness.  In this stage, New Muslims realize that they do not necessarily have to reject their American culture or identity as a Muslim and begin to carve out a lifestyle that embraces aspects of their American culture and blends well with their new faith.