Evangelism: mosque and church

August 16, 2009 at 6:28 pm (Christianity, Islam, society)

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Sara (cairo, lusaka, amsterdam) said,

    I’ve been having this experience here in Holland. Many people will ask things about Islam just so they can criticize it, and this immediately makes me defensive, even though I shouldn’t have to be. Then there are people who are curious and interested, and they make you want to go on and on about Islam because you can feel that they are honest and want to learn.
    I think a lot of Muslims in the West are forced to constantly go on the defensive, which obviously creates tension. It’s easy to tell when someone is honestly interested, and when they are just listening for something they can attack/criticize.

    • Sarah said,

      Thanks for confirming my observations, Sara. It’s understandable that you would feel defensive, it’s an awkward and difficult position to be in. I like to think that we are a liberal, respectful, PC, tolerant bunch, but clearly not. Or at least, not all of us are. I wonder how and when this will change. I think there is a general backlash against religions of all kinds these days, but Islam is a particular target for one reason or another.

  2. susanne430 said,

    I really enjoyed reading these observations. I wish I had an opportunity like this to visit a mosque.

    • Sarah said,

      Thanks Susanne. I imagine in America it’s even harder for Muslims to make their faith understood. If you get the chance to visit a mosque take it!

  3. Achelois said,

    It’s the other way here! Yesterday a Muslim woman brought something to me, a quote from Aristotle and asked if it was from the Bible. I said no. She then said the quote was in an essay written by someone to be published in a local magazine and she just wanted to be sure because if it was from the Bible she could lose her job!

    I wondered for a couple of hours what she meant and then finally asked her and she said that no Muslim wants to read anything from the Bible because it would seem you were proselytizing and because the Bible is corrupted and because Quran is the Best Book so if one has to quote one must quote from the Best Book rather than a book that has been corrupted.

    And recently there was this row of Christians calling God Allah and Muslims didn’t like that because it would mean the “God of Christianity is the God of Islam.” On the other hand Catholics never want that either – http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,293394,00.html

    We live in a world where we all hate each other. I know I’m hated for questioning because as a Muslim woman I should know my place, shut my mouth and just listen. And I don’t. I too wish people would be “nice to me” 😀 Haha!

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