Converts to any religion (or for that matter, any belief system, regimen, or “ism”) tend to be more fanatic than the people who were born and raised that way. As to why, I am not a shrink, so I cannot issue definitive pronouncements.
However, earlier today I was intrigued by the story of a Guantanamo military prison guard who converted to Islam, and now demands the release of those he guarded. A young Arizonan, he says he was horrified by mistreatment of the inmates, but that did not strike me as a logical reason for converting to their religion, so I was puzzled. I read that he came from a family of drug addicts, and had turned to the military. But finally, out of his own mouth came what seemed like the most likely explanation:
Searching for structure, order, and discipline certainly seems more mundane (and more socially acceptable) than searching for violence.
What worries me is people who would seek structure, order, and discipline externally, rather than finding it within themselves. It strikes me as the epitome of weakness to look to outside forces to discipline yourself.
If you want to understand this sort of thing, it well behooves you to read Eric Hoffer’s magisterial work, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.
Racial and religious minorities, particularly those only partly assimilated into mainstream culture, are also found in mass movements. Those who live traditionalist lifestyles tend to be content, but the partially assimilated feel alienated from both their forbearers and the mainstream culture. (E.g., “The orthodox Jew is less frustrated than the emancipated Jew”.)
A variety of what Hoffer terms “misfits” are also found in mass movements. Examples include “chronically bored”; the physically disabled or perpetually ill; the talentless; and criminals or “sinners”. In all cases, Hoffer argues, these people feel as if their individual lives are meaningless and worthless.
Which brings me to my contention that violent men are called to violent movements because such movements not only offer them subsumption of their imperfect self into the perfection of the movement vision, but also not only forgives, but actually encourages innate tendencies toward violent response against the hated “enemy.”
It doesn’t matter who the enemy is, it is sufficient that there is an enemy that is an acceptable target for violence. The young man who now condemns Guantanamo once served there as a guard. Formerly a member of a mass movement (the military) that offered him Muslims as an enemy, but latterly, after expulsion from that movement, now a Muslim who doubtless views that military as an enemy.