In an interview with Chris Williamson, Sam Harris was asked why so many men in the West are converting to Islam. His response was that Islam is ‘perfect for a specific audience’ (meaning young men) in that it is an ‘explicitly macho religion’:
This was also the reason Nietzsche was attracted to Islam. He wrote that, ‘Islam is a thousand times right in despising Christianity’, which he calls a ‘woman’s religion’. Islam, by contrast, ‘presupposes men’. Its origin, he says, is in ‘male instincts’.
I think that both Harris and Nietzsche are correct, but only insofar as we’re comparing Islam to Christianity. If it were the case that young men were attracted to Islam solely because of its machismo, then why are they not as interested in, say, neo-paganism (Greek or Norse), which is far more ‘masculine’ than the relatively submissive Islam (which literally means submission). It’s not as if there is no neo-paganism in our era, just that it is not (like Islam) the fastest growing religion in the world.
This means that there is probably more to these conversions than an appeal to masculinity. I think that the example that Harris gives is revealing. Andrew Tate is perhaps the most high-profile convert in a while. Because of his notoriety when it comes to men’s issues, it is tempting to conflate his conversion with his chauvinism. But I think that it is far more likely that Tate sees in Islam an alternative to the decadent lifestyle he led as part of his playboy persona. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, decadence and asceticism go hand in hand. To a lesser extent, even the young men living in less excess are fed up with decadent liberalism. Islam’s appeal is that it is the only somewhat successful alternative to the liberal ideology. As an Islamic convert writes in Houellebecq’s Submission: ‘Thanks to the simpering seductions and the lewd enticements of the progressives, the Church lost its ability to oppose moral decadence’.
I think, therefore, a major part of these conversions is a desire for prohibition. Thomas Carlyle was right when he said that:
They wrong man greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death, are the allurements that act on the heart of man