It has been interesting to observe the differences between the evangelism activities of the mosque and those of the church.
Firstly, both concentrate on presenting information, but only the church includes an invitation to participate.
The church’s structured evangelism campaigns always include open services, maybe to encourage non-believers to join in and hopefully find meaning in it, but also I think to “show off” what it’s like. The mosque exhibition includes a demonstration of prayer so I suppose that is a similar thing, but without the invitation to join in. I think inviting people to participate in both situations could make some people pretty uncomfortable, but more so for the mosque.
Which brings me on to the second point. The expected attitude of non-believers seems to be quite different between the two, and accurately so. In church, the emphasis was on combating the idea that Christianity is boring, irrelevant, and old-fashioned. Hence all the technicolour, modern music, and testimonies of joy. In the mosque, on the other hand, they seem to be keenly aware of the possibility of hostility.
In a talk I attended on women’s issues, I expected a defiant celebration of women’s rights and roles in Islam, but I found the presentation much more apologetic towards modern “equality” culture. It was almost reluctantly that the speaker mentioned, for example, that women can actually value the protection of men in some situations. The poor lady got some quite aggressive questions from non-Muslim men, the anticipation of which had clearly motivated the apologetic stance in the first place. I found myself longing for someone to stand up and sing the praises of hijab or something, but no-one took up the speaker’s invitation to chime in. I was so disconcerted I actually stuck my own hand up and asked her to comment on the fact that the majority of converts to Islam in the west are female. She then asked for input from any of the converts in the room: one woman said that she was not comfortable to comment in front of the audience but would be happy to talk one-to-one; no-one else had anything to say besides the speaker, who spoke of the appeal of Islam in general rather than anything specific to women.
In the talk on Jesus which I mentioned in my last post, the speaker took the first 15 minutes or so just to regale us with anecdotes from meetings he’d had with religious leaders of different faiths throughout the world, which were entertaining and set a relaxed tone, but more importantly, strongly underlined his initial statement that he had no axe to grind about the Church or any other religion and had a friendly attitude to all. When he finished the talk and the floor was opened for questions, he mentioned that he was not feeling well and requested that we “be nice to him”. Once again, this proved an apt expectation of hostility.
From all this I am realising that it is very difficult to speak boldly and positively about Islam here, because there are people that come along just to criticise and condemn, and I see that this mosque is actually doing quite a remarkable thing opening its doors in the face of that.