Thursday, July 24, 2008

Missionaries Targeting Muslims

I was browsing through a list of "referrals" for my blog, as I sometimes do when I'm bored to see if anyone is writing about me... lol. Anyway, a neat feature is if someone found me through a google search, I can see their search query. And today I saw someone had visited my blog who was looking for "witnessing to muslim women." In fact, there is a whole book devoted to that topic, which I actually started a (now rather defunct and rarely updated) blog to address.

Nonetheless, I was curious to see what this person's (I imagine a woman) search would reveal, and I found a website that was a brief overview of Islam for Christians who were intent on 'witnessing' to Muslims. By the way, in case you're wondering what this 'witnessing' thing is, let me explain. That's the Christian way of giving da'wah so to speak. Telling you their story (witnessing) of finding Christ (pbuh) and trying to guide you towards Christianity--what they call a personal relationship with Jesus. I find this more among Protestants than Catholics though, just as a point. Anyway, I don't mean to mock at all--the Christian missionaries tend to be rather nice, polite, and sometimes well-informed (about Islam, I mean.) They take their religion seriously on a spiritual level and sincerely try to emulate Jesus (pbuh) in their behavior. And for what it's worth, I think they tend to be pretty genuine as well, in wanting the blessings they get from their spirituality for all their brothers and sisters (in humanity).

Contrast them with some other aggressive "missionary-types" like you might find on a Catholic web forum--armed with Spencer-style bigotry to launch at Muslims, they are actually happy when a person chooses atheism over Islam. So their goal is to get people to abandon living a righteous, spiritual life--not to lead people towards the beauty of Christianity or the Church or anything, but just to get them away from Islam, and I really think some of them would prefer a person just leave Islam than find Christianity.

Now, I don't mean this to classify Protestant missionaries and Catholic missionaries as two different groups--in fact, there are polite well-intended missionaries in both, and aggressive islamophobes in both.

Overall, after dealing with some people who really have to smear Islam by slandering the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions, seriously twisting and distorting historical facts, and demonizing modern-day Muslims, it was really refreshing to see a site that was devoted to preaching to Muslims, but by providing them with a relatively balanced and informed view of Islam. Seriously, they made an effort to go to some English sources written by Muslims about Islam, which is kind of impressive. At least, I was impressed until I stumbled across some of the conversion stories (Muslims to Christianity) which included Jesus (pbuh) driving a bus at hajj, a man who had a seizure upon hearing the beginning of the book of John and converted while unconscious, and a boy who saw visions of Jesus and could predict the future for his friends.

Something I love about being a Muslim is that the Muslims I know who are committed to Islam all at some point embarked on a search for truth, they rationally analyzed the religious and spiritual options in front of them. They approached the Qur'an with questions... and found their questions answered. Their conversion wasn't based on bizarre supernatural phenomena, visions, or dreams... but prayers for guidance, reasoning, and logic. It's just an interesting distinction between converts on both sides, I suppose.


Grégoire said...

Heh Heh. I can attest to the veracity of your underlying point. I think it's incomplete though.

You left out everyone's favorite annoying dinner interrupters: Mormon missionaries. Cats and Prods got nothin' on us. The Scientologists and Jehovah's Witnesses can't even catch us. We're all over you, before you can blink.

Comparing the style of proselyting is interesting. Mormons, Catholics, Atheists and (yes) Muslims tend to assert that they're possessed of some intrinsic, irrefutable truth which can not be denied. It's common for members of these ingroups to insult the intelligence of their opponents (usually in a thinly veiled fashion).

Protestants don't seem to do this as much. For the most part, their spiel amounts to: 'this worked for me, and it can work for you too', rather than 'this is the way the world works, and if you can't see the world this way then you're inherently defective'.

Amy said...

I did leave out Mormons... but I've not really had much personal experience with them, I guess. Except for maybe one but I just ignore her entirely so that doesn't count. The only Mormon missionary I have personally known is really one of the nicest people I've ever met, but I still wouldn't qualify myself to say anything about Mormon-style missions since I'm so totally unfamiliar with it.

I disagree about your assessment of Protestants though... just a little bit. They often seem to try to not just show what worked for them (that's definitely a big part) but also just try to show overall how wonderful their perception is, with this guaranteed salvation and persistent divine love.

And if the other groups attest to indeniable (undeniable?) truths, perhaps Protestants don't because deep down they know it doesn't make sense? I don't like to see anyone insult another's intelligence--and perhaps I'm biased but I think I see it far less often from Muslims than say Catholics and Atheists. Atheists just (in my opinion, no offense) feel a need to assert and establish their own superior intelligence, while the Catholics I've talked to insist that Mustlims are brainwashed. Just personal experience. I never had a Muslim tell me I was stupid when I debated them (before Islam.) But once I became a Muslim, Catholics especially were pretty quick to lob insults. And that's just my impression of a few rotten eggs, I think.

Thanks for your comment. :-)

mezba said...

It's an interesting comparison you make. We get a lot of Mormon preachers in the Toronto area and they seem to be well versed in the religion of Islam and Arabic. They even quote from the Quran to "prove" they are right. With catholic preachers I just ask how come their religion doesn't allow divorce (a basic practical neccessity in some cases, let's say abusive marriage, and you will see a whole glut of excuses) . Mormons, in my experience, hope that the person who answered the door recently had a tramautic experience and is "vulnerable".
- Mezba

Anonymous said...

I'm a member of another religion targeted by Christian missionaries and find such behavior to be extremely insulting. The nearest to a conversion attempt I ever had with a Muslim was just encouragement towards learning about their faith and that was it. While I am 100% at peace with my faith, that person's approach said volumes and impressed me a great deal.

Grégoire said...

No offense taken. Atheists are some of the worst offenders when it comes to in-your-face preaching and acerbic denunciations of anyone who disagrees with them. I attribute this to the fact that many of the most obnoxious unbelievers are simply reacting to bad experiences in childhood. There's a certain amount of displacement that's going on in most cases. All the same, it's very common.

As far as Muslims go, I've had similar experiences. Vocalizing the opinion that gays and lesbians should be left alone rather than targeted for violent crime is enough to get one called gay, for example (I'm a married man with children, but who's counting?). Many Muslims seem to use comparisons with scientific theory in order to attempt to 'prove' Qur'an, and this is counterproductive when it's placed before someone who might be familiar with the topics of physics and cosmology (most of these arguments rely upon outdated theories, and end up suggesting Qur'an is actually false, rather than true, in context).

In the end, I think we all reflect upon our own traditions best when we simply work for peace rather than fight among ourselves. You're an example of someone who attempts this (perhaps instinctively) but I think you're the minority.

Amy said...

Grégoire -

I was mortified when I saw the particular insult which you just mentioned. I was really astonished that someone could act like that in such a situation, where that very attitude was considered the problem.

And I agree with you, that many Muslims try to use scientific theory (or theories) to prove the Qur'an... personally, I don't like that approach. I do believe that the Qur'an is absolutely 100% compatible with science--no question about it. But I believe that human understanding of the Qur'an is not 100%, and neither is human understanding of science.

So it may be that a person's understanding of a scientific phenomenom is inaccurate, and they try to use that to prove the Qur'an. Or maybe their understanding of the Qur'an is flawed. And as far as science goes, we are constantly exploring and learning more. So I do think that the two are fully compatible, I wouldn't really say one proves the other--our information is too flawed to make those kinds of conclusions anyway. :-)

But for me the Qur'an is really marvelous. I didn't read it with the impression that it is a manual on astrophysics or microbiology. I read it as a deeply moving, persuasive, powerful rhetorical argument for faith in God and righteousness. I believe it was revealed by God, whose knowledge encompasses all things, while we are limited in our vision, and our understanding.

Aaminah said...

Asalaamu alaikum.

I'm very interested in how you and commentors have broken down the different styles of prostelyzing.

Unlike you, and Gregoire, I have only seen the exact opposite of Protestants - whether they are actively missionaries or not. My extensive experience with them is that they are very quick to say anyone not like them is going to hell, and that any difficulties one faces in life are the direct result of not being right with the Lord (something I can honestly say I've never personally heard any other group say though I imagine some do). About half of our local charities are Catholic, and the other half Protestant. The Catholics serve for the love of God; the Protestants do not serve you if you don't pray with them their way and go to a Bible study and testification meeting first. In my experience, Protestants are first and foremost about aggressively converting everyone, and they do so in a particularly offensive manner. I may be somewhat ignored by the Catholics, but at least I am not openly derided and disrespected.

And yes, I find it amusing that atheists are actually just as forceful in trying to convert people as any other religious person is. It's very funny actually, and I think they have essentially created their own religion out of it.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam Aaminah

I definitely was overgeneralizing in my post/comments, and you made a good point.

My personal experiences with Evangelical *missionaries* have generally been calm and pleasant. Whereas I have definitely seen the behavior you described among lots of people who would identify themselves as non-denominational.

So for sure I guess there are bad apples in both groups (i.e., Catholics and Evangelical/Protestants.) Thanks for pointing that out.