October 4, 2006
The term “masuk Islam” is given to those who convert into Islam (in Malaysia anyway). I assume the term can be translated for conversion into Christianity. What does “convert” really mean? Is it about donning a gold cross around your neck? Holding a Bible in hand? Attending church on Sundays? No. But we face a different issue.
Farish Noor wrote: A recent media report has noted that all over North America this Ramadhan, Evangelical Christians will embark on a 30-day ‘Muslim Prayer Focus’. Supported by right-wing evangelical conservatives like the American National Association of Evangelicals and Youth With A Mission, evangelical Christian leaders all over the USA will ask their followers to spend the next 30 days praying for Muslims to see the light and to find a place for Jesus in their
Farish argues that in this day and age where Muslim-Christian tension is at its peak, Christians praying for 30 days for their fellow Muslims to accept Jesus into their lives – is an absolute no-no. After all, what worse action than blatantly fuelling paranoia and reinstating the barriers between religions? He concludes by saying it is an act of lunacy, arrogance and hypocrisy.
I certainly see where he is coming from. In fact, this has been on my mind recently. Christian missionaries have always been condemned as proselytising. They impose their views and beliefs onto others, not taking into consideration the culture and religion of those they preach to. Such dogmatic theories can only be taken as proud and patronising.
However, I offer two points of view. First, if this is the argument used to criticise Christianity, I would say that Islam is no different in its practical sense. Where Christianity preaches a solitary truth, so does Islam. And followers certainly hold strongly to something they perceive as truth. I cannot fault either religion for wanting to share their gospel with as much conviction as life can carry. Why not? It’s the truth, to each. Similarly, implementing Islam Hadhari in Malaysia reeks of the same spirit in which “proselytising” Christians carry out missions. Islamic principles can be viewed imposing onto a nation where 40% of its citizens are hardly Muslim. How then, can we condemn theological missionaries and yet practice policies that similary impose their religious views onto others?
My second response is that there is no such thing as a person who converts. If there is a God (and I certainly believe in one), then the converter is Him. Muslims or Christians, with however much strength they muster within themselves, will never be able to do the actual act of forcing a person to believe in one thing over the other. Sure, talking and preaching contribute to the process, but unless it is really a God who convicts, you cannot attribute it to a human’s doing.
My response to the article is that I don’t in fact believe that Christians on their 30-day prayer war are lunatic in any way. In fact, it seems that they are merely abiding by the truth by which they stand. Any Muslim would pray the same prayer for another to “masuk Islam”. Two sides of the same coin, brother. I shall have to think a little bit more about imposing religious principles on others – something people in power and position need to consider – in another post.