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22 Nov, 2021 09:10

Is it wrong for Christians to convert Muslims?

Is it wrong for Christians to convert Muslims?

It’s a relevant question, after a ‘converted’ Muslim killed himself in a bomb blast in Liverpool. But perhaps Christianity and Islam working together in the struggle against the excesses of a secular society is a wiser idea.

Good news for flagging Anglicanism! The Church of England’s sad, empty pews will soon be filled… with zestful young Muslim men. They eagerly seek baptism and confirmation – and refugee status. Shameless self-seeking and cheapening of the Sacraments? Well, the Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

Emad al Swealmeen, from Iraq, embraced the Cross in Liverpool Cathedral. On Remembrance Sunday, he blew himself up outside a city hospital. Too much muscular Christianity, perhaps? Or the effect of a carefully planned strategy? Catching two birds with one stone: finding safety and opportunities in the land of the hated Crusaders, as well as paving the way for his lone-wolf jihad? Possibly.

Converting Muslims isn’t easy. Blessed Charles de Foucauld, whom the Pope will canonise as a martyr next May, spent many years among the nomadic Tuaregs in the Sahara. A priest, a hermit and a mystic, his spirituality was such that all who met him were touched and impressed. Eventually, the Tuaregs shot him. During his time in the desert, Charles made one convert: a blind beggar woman who, after his death went back to Islam. In the eyes of man, the martyr was a dismal failure. In the eyes of God? A religious community has sprung up after his example – and that’s something.

When I was chaplain at the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, a stream of young men knocked on my door. “Father, I want to be a Christian!” they’d say. Some were obviously agents provocateurs from MIT, the not-so-secret Turkish police, and I fobbed them off. Others openly aimed at getting a UK visa and I discouraged them too. A few appeared genuine and I told them to discuss it first with their imams. Those who stuck it out I dealt with appropriately (embassy rules prevented me from being ‘a missionary’, by the way). I still know one of them: a strong, admirable evangelical Christian. 

The Islamic doctrine of taqiyyah, or prudence, is relevant. It is a dissimulation Muslims are allowed in the face of persecution. That includes outward denial of their faith. There’s nothing secret about this – a Muslim preacher at Speakers’ Corner once mentioned it proudly. Does it mean Muslims can’t be trusted to tell the truth? Well, the Catholic Church has a similar teaching, that there are people to whom you don’t owe the truth. Protestants hate that, but it makes a lot of sense. Anyway, the Liverpool bomber was no Catholic. Did he practice taqiyyah? Looks that way.

Is it wrong to convert Muslims? They do convert Christians – why not the other way round? After all, what’s sauce for the goose, etc, etc… It would be perfectly understandable if the Church of England, confronted with its declining faithful, might wish to take advantage of the growing number of asylum seekers and baptise them. 

But why not prioritise the reconversion of England instead? There are millions of natives of this country who have virtually forsaken their Christian roots. Embracing a practical neo-paganism, they dance around the golden calf of materialism, consumerism and immoral filth, as if Christ had never lived and died for them. Methinks they are the real challenge. Actually, Muslims and Christians could be allies, rather than rivals, in the common struggle against the evils of secular, ungodly society.

Alfred Guillaume, a Christian scholar of Islam, wrote that you could regard Islam not as another religion, but as a heretical version of faith in Jesus (though Muslims wouldn’t care for that...). I once gave that idea a go and wrote a quirky, autobiographical book about it. It gave me a particular appreciation for the Prophet. It has enriched me spiritually ever since. And that can’t be bad, surely?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.