Thursday, July 19, 2018

Mainstream Media Off Their Med's Again!

*******

Hannity: Worst 24 hours in history of mainstream media
Published on Jul 17, 2018
*******

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hopkins Asks: Why Do Muslims Go To Christian Countries?

*******

Hopkins: Why do Muslims always go to Christian countries?
RT UK
Published on Jun 14, 2018
*******
Katie: 'Why Do Muslim Refugees Go To Christian Countries?'
LBC
29 January 2017

Katie Hopkins spoke to caller Aman about why Muslim refugees go to Christian countries, and not other Muslim countries.
The LBC Presenter had earlier praised Trump's executive action, which severely restricts immigration from seven mainly Muslim countries.
She asked her listeners about whether they agree and if not, she urged them to challenge her.
Aman phoned Katie to give his take on the subject and was on hand to answer Hopkins's burning question: Why do Muslim refugees go to Christian countries and don't flee to other Muslim countries?
She said: "Why is it, help me understand, always help me, why is it we see Muslims running from Muslim countries to Christian countries for a better life?
"Does that not tell us something about Muslims, the religion of Islam? Why is it always Christian countries that need to save Muslim countries, help me understand."
*******
Turkey Turns On Its Christians
Anne-Christine Hoff
Middle East Quarterly Summer 2018 Volume 25: Number 3
June 01, 2018
This Turkish sign reads, “Christmas is a blow to our Muslimhood.” Anti-Christian hate speech has increased in Turkey in both social and conventional media, reaching extreme levels during the 2016 Christmas season.
While Christians make up less than half a percent of Turkey’s population, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Reconciliation Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) depict them as a grave threat to the stability of the nation. With Erdoğan’s jihadist rhetoric often stereotyping Christian Turkish citizens as not real Turks but rather as Western stooges and collaborators, many Turks seem to be tilting toward an “eliminationist anti-Christian mentality,” to use historian Daniel Goldhagen’s term. Small wonder that the recent launch of an official online genealogy service allowing Turks to trace their ancestry has kindled a tidal xenophobic wave on the social media welcoming the fresh possibility to expose “Crypto-Armenians, Greeks, and Jews” mascarading as true Turks. [1]
“The Mosques Are Our Barracks”
Persecution of Turkey’s Christian minority has long predated Erdoğan and the AKP. As it stood on the verge of extinction, the Ottoman Empire engaged in mass deportations and massacres that culminated in the Armenian genocide. The end of World War I saw the expulsion of more than a million Greeks,[2] and the position of the dwindling Christian community only somewhat improved in Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secularist republic. Yet while Kemalist Turkey paid lip service to the equality of its non-Muslim minorities, the AKP unabashedly excludes these groups from Turkey’s increasingly Islamist national ethos.[3]
An ominous indication of what lay in store for the religious minorities was afforded as early as December 1998 when Erdoğan, then mayor of Istanbul and an opposition politician, announced that the “mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers,” quoting a line from a poem by the nineteenth-century nationalist poet Ziya Gökalp underscoring the Islamist foundation of Turkish identity. And while this recitation landed Erdoğan in prison for inciting religion-based hatred,[4] once at the helm, he steadily realized this vision, systematically undoing Atatürk’s secularist legacy and Islamizing Turkey’s public space through such means as the government-operated Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), which pays the salaries of the country’s 110,000 imams and controls the content of their Friday sermons.
Things came to a head during the July 15, 2016 abortive coup when the regime ordered the imams to go to their mosques and urge the faithful to take to the streets to quash the attempted revolt.[5] Not surprisingly, this Islamist-nationalist reassertion was accompanied by numerous Christophobic manifestations (in Ayyan Hirsi Ali’s words),[6] notably attacks on churches throughout the country.[7] In Malatya, for example, a gang chanting “Allahu Akbar” broke the glass panels of the front door of a Protestant church while, in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, rioters smashed the windows of the Santa Maria Catholic church. Witnesses said the attackers used hammers to break down the door of the church before Muslim neighbors drove them away.[8] As Istanbul pastor Yüce Kabakçı lamented:
The reality is that Turkey is neither a democracy nor a secular republic. There is no division between government affairs and religious affairs. There’s no doubt that the government uses the mosques to get its message across to its grassroots supporters. There is an atmosphere in Turkey right now that anyone who isn’t Sunni is a threat to the stability of the nation. Even the educated classes here don’t associate personally with Jews or Christians. It’s more than suspicion. It’s a case of let’s get rid of anyone who isn’t Sunni.[9]
Anti-Christmas Campaigns
Anti-Christian incitement continued apace after the coup. In February 2017, Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches released its annual “Rights Violation Report,” which claimed that anti-Christian hate speech had increased in Turkey in both social and conventional media, reaching extreme levels during the 2016 Christmas season. Churches in particular faced serious terror threats with the government doing little to stop these open Christophobic displays.[10]
The ultra-nationalist Islamist group Alperen Hearths staged a forced conversion of Santa Claus to Islam, putting a gun to the head of an actor dressed as Santa Claus. This photograph was then posted on Twitter.
On December 28, 2016, for example, in the western province of Aydin, the ultra-nationalist Islamist group Alperen Hearths staged a forced conversion of Santa Claus to Islam, putting a gun to the head of an actor dressed as Santa Claus. A representative of the group explained the staging of the conversion this way:
Our purpose is for people to go back to their roots. We are the Muslim Turkish people who have been leading Islam for thousands of years. We will not celebrate Christian traditions and disregard our own traditions like Hıdrellez, Nevruz, and other religious national holidays.[11]
In the city of Van, a billboard read: “Have you ever seen a Christian celebrating Eid al-Adha? Why are we celebrating their festivals?” A group of students at Istanbul Technical University held up signs that read: “Do not be tempted by Satan. Do not celebrate New Year”; “There is no Christmas in Islam”; and “In Muslim lands, people are trying to stay alive; in their lands, it is all about festivities.”[12]
It is easy to dismiss such events as mere talk. However, in Muslim-majority states, notably Egypt, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations often form the scene of murderous attacks.[13] So it was in Turkey on December 31, 2016, when an ISIS-affiliated terrorist wearing a Santa hat sprayed gunfire at a mixed group of foreigners and Turks enjoying their 2017 New Year’s celebration at an Istanbul nightclub, killing 39 people and wounding another 69.[14] In an editorial in The Guardian on January 3, 2017, Turkish novelist Elif Shafak described the rising anti-Western fanaticism as unnerving:
Those who question the party line are labeled “betrayers” and “pawns” of Western powers. Young people are told that we are a country surrounded by water on three sides and enemies on all four. As paranoia, distrust, and fear intensify, the culture of coexistence dissolves.
Shafak recounted other recent incidents that have distressed Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey. For example, in a Friday sermon broadcast to mosques throughout the country, the Diyanet called New Year’s celebrations “illegitimate.” For weeks prior to New Year’s Eve, ultra-nationalist and Islamist groups distributed flyers on the streets claiming, “Muslims do not celebrate Christian festivals.” [15]
A State-sponsored Conspiracy Theory
The post-coup anti-Christian rhetoric has tended to follow a familiar pattern, namely that Christian Turkish citizens are not real Turks but are instead loyal to the West. The rhetoric conflates many different streams of Western thought: The secular reveler who embraces the New Year’s tradition and the pious Christian who celebrates Christmas are equally suspect. Such rhetoric would not be quite so dangerous if the Turkish media offered a counterargument, but with the government’s mass incarceration of all those remotely critical of the AKP and Erdoğan, it is unlikely that any viable alternative will be presented to the Turkish public.
According to Voice of America News, in the months following the coup, many pro-government media outlets and some government officials directly accused the West, Christians, and Jews of having played a role in it. For example, at a pro-government “Democracy and Martyrs” rally in August, attended by more than a million people, speakers linked religious minorities to the coup plotters, calling them “seeds of Byzantium,” “crusaders,” and a “flock of infidels.”[16] Human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz said pro-government media have:
embraced an alarming narrative of scapegoating Turkey’s religious minority and connecting the coup plot to them … Particularly pro-government media outlets have taken an anti-U.S. and anti-EU attitude, which I can call a xenophobic attitude, in which they attempt to demonize the West and accuse it of the coup attempt. And this narrative targets and harms non-Muslims in Turkey.[17]
The Islamization of Turkish Institutions
While the idea that Christian Turks are collaborators with the West is nothing new, the uncritical mass acceptance of such a narrative has exacerbated the coup’s effect on Turkey’s Christian minority. According to American anthropologist Jenny White, the educational system in Turkey has for years promoted a distrustful view of Christian Turks and the predominantly Christian West. This perception of Christian Turks as the “other” can best be understood by reviewing the curriculum of security courses that were mandatory for all high school students from 1926 until January 2012. Taught by active or retired military officers appointed by the local military base, such courses articulated the idea that Turkey has no friends and that no country in the world wants it to be strong. Security textbooks often presented non-Sunni citizens as divisive, internal elements supported by Turkey’s enemies.[18] A similarly stark picture is painted by anthropologist Ayşe Gül Altınay. Having observed classrooms around the country, Altınay found almost no discussion of peace, coexistence, dialogue, or nonviolence. Instead, students were taught to fear differences and to treat their non-Muslim friends as decidedly the “other.”[19]
The educational system in Turkey has for years promoted a distrustful view of Christian Turks and the predominantly Christian West. Students are taught to treat their non-Muslim friends as the “other.”
Turkey’s school system has been used as a political arm of the state ever since Atatürk founded the Turkish republic in the 1920s, and the AKP has gradually shifted the system away from its secularist roots. In July 2017, for example, Education Minister Ismet Yılmaz declared that Turkish public schools would no longer teach Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Instead, the concept of jihad would be added to the religious teaching curriculum beginning with the 2017-18 academic year, and schools would be required to teach the concept as patriotic in spirit. As Yılmaz told reporters:
It is our duty to fix what has been perceived as wrong. This is why the Islamic law class and basic fundamental religion class will include [lessons on] jihad. Loving your nation is the real meaning of jihad.[20]
According to White, not only the education system but also government organizations and the military perceive Christians as a threat to Turkish unity. For example, until recently, both the official website of the army chief of staff and the Diyanet listed missionary activity as one of the main threats facing Turkey. In 2001, the National Security Council identified Protestant missionaries as the third-largest threat facing the nation. Three years later a report by the Turkish armed forces accused Protestant missionaries of planning to pass out a million Bibles and to convert 10 percent of the Turkish population by 2020, and urged cooperation among governors, mayors, and security and education personnel to counter the danger. In a 2005 article in its monthly magazine, the Diyanet warned that while missionary activities appeared innocent, their object was to divide the country, undermine its unity, and make Turkish citizens tools of their dark ambitions.[21]
In a further indication of this trend, the Syrian Christian co-mayor of Mardin was asked to step down from her post by the Turkish government in November 2017. Likewise, the Turkish authorities removed an Assyrian sculpture from a public square in front of the local council building in Diyarbakir. No explanation was given for the removal of either the sculpture or the co-mayor, who was replaced by an official appointed by the government.[22]
In reality, the alleged threat that Turkey could become a Christian nation is readily belied by the country’s demographics, especially when looking at changes in domestic religious affiliation over the past century. According to the Ottoman census, Turkey’s Christian minority was just under 20 percent of the population in 1914. By 1927—a mere thirteen years later—Christians made up less than 2.5 percent of the population. Today Christians make up less than 0.2 percent of Turkey’s population of 80 million. (Included in that number are an estimated 45,000 Christian refugees fleeing ISIS persecution in Iraq and Syria.[23]) In fact, even the puny 0.2 percent estimate may be a little high. The official census puts Islam at 99.8 percent of the adopted religion of Turks and 0.2 percent as “other” (mostly Christians and Jews).[24]
New Obstacles to Worship
Like other Islamic-majority states, the rights of Christians in Turkey have never been the same as those of the Muslim majority—not in the Ottoman Empire and not today. Modern-day laws remain biased in favor of Muslims. Church buildings are not allowed to be taller than certain heights while enormous mosques are built on the highest hilltops. Christian worship services are only permitted in “buildings created for the purpose.” Turks who openly discuss Christianity face harassment, threats, and imprisonment. Most churches are surrounded by high walls and protected by 24-hour guards.[25]
Even so, Turkish Christians and other minorities noted a qualitative change in the tenor of the Sunni majority’s attitude toward them after the 2016 coup. According to Ian Sherwood, the chaplain of the British consulate and the priest of the Crimean Memorial Church:
There is a rising undercurrent of intolerance toward Christians and other non-Muslims in Turkey and this goes further than boys standing on the walls of [the] churchyard shouting “Allahu Akbar.” We Anglicans have been here since 1582 and yet we’re not able to build churches except for a short period in the nineteenth century. And now it’s very rare that you hear of a Christian community being able to build a church.[26]
Added to such obstacles is the threat of Islamist extremists targeting churches, which increased dramatically after the coup attempt. According to Umut Şahin, secretary general of the Union of Protestant Churches and a pastor in Izmir, “Some people sent death threats to the mobile phones of 15 pastors. They used the same terms and arguments as ISIS in their text messages. They sent the pastors propaganda videos of ISIS.”[27] Protestant church leader Ihsan Ozbek revealed that some churches have canceled Sunday services because of fear of an ISIS attack. “This has created deep fear and panic in our community,” he said.[28]
Turkish authorities have appropriated the church property of Christian Turks. The 1,700-year old Armenian Surp Giragos Church, one of the largest Armenian churches in the Middle East, was seized by the government in 2016.
In some cases, the government or local town councils have appropriated the church property of Christian Turks. In April 2016 for example, the authorities seized all the churches in the majority Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir. The historic Armenian Surp Giragos Church, a 1,700-year old church and one of the largest Armenian churches in the Middle East, was seized by the government.[29] And while the government justified the move by the need to rebuild and restore the city’s historic center after ten months of bitter fighting against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan), many within the Christian community were skeptical of the explanation. The Diyarbakir Bar Association, representing Christians worshipping at one of the churches, filed an appeal over the action.[30]
The Turkish government also recently seized multiple properties in the southeastern city of Mardin belonging to Assyrian (Syrian) Christians and transferred them to public institutions: Dozens of churches and monasteries were reassigned to the Diyanet; cemeteries were transferred to the metropolitan municipality.[31] This seizure of church property is one of many indications that the government does not view Christians as part of the broader Turkish community.
A New Genocide?
For some religious minorities, these confiscations bring back bitter memories. A little over a century ago, in 1915, the Ottoman Empire’s Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) passed legislation authorizing the deportation of “persons judged to be a threat to national security.” Deportees, many of whom were Armenian Christians, were instructed not to sell their assets but rather to provide a detailed list of what they owned:
Leave all your belongings—your furniture, your beddings, your artifacts. Close your shops and businesses with everything inside. Your doors will be sealed with special stamps. On your return, you will get everything you left behind. Do not sell property or any expensive item. Buyers and sellers alike will be liable for legal action. …You have ten days to comply with this ultimatum.[32]
The exact extent of confiscated properties during this period of mass extermination of Armenian Christians is unknown. But according to the private documents of Talaat Pasha, the Ottoman interior minister and chief architect of the confiscation legislation, a total of 20,545 buildings and 267,536 acres of land were confiscated by the government as well as agricultural land: 76,942 acres of vineyards; 703,941 acres of olive groves; and 4,573 acres of mulberry gardens.[33] During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, an Armenian delegation estimated the worth of material losses suffered by the Armenian Church at $3.7 billion (about $51 billion today).[34]
A century later, Turkey’s civil codes still give the executive far-reaching powers to confiscate property on the basis of protecting “the national unity” of the Turkish republic.[35]
Conclusion
Under Erdoğan’s leadership, especially after the 2016 coup, Turkey’s religious minorities find themselves marginalized and isolated from the Sunni majority. Anti-Western and anti-EU rhetoric often morphs into rabid anti-Christian incitement with the clear message that the country’s Christian citizens are not true Turks, a message that the state-controlled media and government officials have either actively promoted or refused to denounce. Exacerbated by government policies such as the addition of jihad teaching to the school curriculum, these measures place Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities in an increasingly precarious situation.
Anne-Christine Hoff is an assistant professor of English at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas.
Notes
[1] Fehim Taştekin, “Turkish genealogy database fascinates, frightens Turks,” al-Monitor (Washington, D.C.), Feb. 21, 2018.
[2] Renée Hirschon, ed., Crossing the Aegean: An Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey (Oxford: Berghan, 2003), p. 6.
[3] John Eibner, “Turkey’s Christians under Siege,” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2011, pp. 41-52; Daniel Pipes, “Dhimmis No More: Christians’ Trauma in the Middle East,” danielpipes.org, Jan. 2018.
[4] Deborah Sontag. “The Erdogan Experiment.” The New York Times Magazine, May 11, 2003.
[5] The New York Times, July 17, 2016; al-Monitor, July 25, 2016.
[6] Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World,” Newsweek, Feb. 6, 2012.
[7] The New York Times, Apr. 23, 2016; World Watch Monitor (London), Feb. 7, 2018
[8] The Express (London), Apr. 22, 2016.
[9] Ibid., Aug. 1, 2016.
[10] Turkish Association of Protestant Churches Human Rights Violations Report, 2016, South Hadley, Mass.
[11] Hürriyet Daily News (Istanbul), Dec. 29, 2016.
[12] Elif Shafak, “The Reina atrocity shows how deeply fanaticism has taken hold in Turkey,” The Guardian, Jan. 3, 2017.
[13] See, for example, “A Gruesome Christmas under Islam,” ryamondibrahim.com, Jan. 18, 2016; “Death and Destruction on Christmas: Muslim Persecution of Christians, December 2016,” raymondibrahim.com, Mar. 13, 2017.
[14] The Guardian, Jan. 1, 2017.
[15] Shafak, “The Reina atrocity shows how deeply fanaticism has taken hold in Turkey.”
[16] The National Herald (New York), Sept. 28, 2016.
[17] Voice of America News, Sept. 25, 2016.
[18] Jenny White, Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), pp. 80-101.
[19] Ayşe Gül Altınay, “Human Rights or Militarist Ideals? Teaching National Security in High Schools,” in Gürol Irzik, Deniz Tarba Ceylan, and Ismet Akça, eds., Human Rights Issues in Textbooks: The Turkish Case (Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yayınları, 2004), pp. 76-90
[20] The Independent (London), July 18, 2017.
[21] White, Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks, pp. 80-101
[22] Uzay Bulut, “Turkey Uncensored: The Fate of Assyrian Christian Churches and Monasteries,” The Philos Project, New York, July 13, 2017.
[23] “Attacks hint that Christians may fare worse in post-coup Turkey,” Iraqi Christian Relief Council, Glenview, Ill. Aug. 23, 2016.
[24] “Turke
[27] Burak Bekdil, “Red Alert! Protestant Couple ‘Security Threat’ to Turkey!” The Gatestone Institute, New York, Oct. 22, 2016.
[28] Voice of America News, Sept. 25, 2016.
[29] The New York Times, Apr. 23, 2016.
[30] The Express, Apr. 22, 2016.
[31] Agos (Istanbul), June 23, 2017.
[32] Uğur Umit Ungör and Mehmet Polatel, Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011), p. 69.
[33] Taner Akçam, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), p. 86.
[34] Vahagn Avedian, “State Identity, Continuity and Responsibility: The Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey and the Armenian Genocide,” European Journal of International Law, 2013, no. 3, pp. 797-820.
[35] Mehmet Polatel, Beyannamesi: Istanbul Ermeni Vakıflarının el konan mulkeri (Istanbul: Uluslararası Hrant Dink Vakfı Yayınlari, 2012), p. 69.
*******
Why Do Muslims Flock to The "Evil West"?
by Burak Bekdil
September 17, 2015
  • Millions of Muslims are trying, through dangerous ways, to reach the borders of a civilization they have historically blamed for all the world's evils, including in their own countries'.
  • Muslims in this part of the world view the Christian West as "evil;" yet they know Christian lands are the most decent places to live economically and politically. Wealthy Arab states rigidly turn their back on the plight of fellow Muslims who are in need of a helping hand; and Islamist hypocrites blame it all on the West.
  • Sadly, no one questions why "West-hating" Muslims go West... or why non-Muslims should pay the price for exclusively intra-Muslim wars and the wave of migrants they create.
"The tragedy of the Palestinians," Jordan's (late) King Abdullah wrote in his memoirs, "was that most of their leaders had paralyzed them with false and unsubstantiated promises that they were not alone; that 80 million Arabs and 400 million Muslims would instantly and miraculously come to their rescue."
Decades later, Syrians fleeing the civil war in their homeland make up the backbone of the world's refugee tragedy.
Officially, Muslim Turkey is home to the largest number of Syrian refugees (1.9 million). Lebanon hosts 1.2 million Syrians; Jordan, more than 600,000; and Egypt, over 100,000. That makes nearly four million predominantly Muslim Syrians.
But curiously (or not), the refugees risk their lives trying to cross into the predominantly Christian West, which probably most of them have viewed as the "evil." Hundreds of thousands have made their way into Greece via Turkey, or Italy via Libya, and thousands have drowned in rough crossings as their rubber dinghies often capsize in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
Migrants set sail on an inflatable boat from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, August 25, 2015. (Image source: Reuters video screenshot)
European Union officials say the refugee crisis "could last years," while European countries work day and night to settle hundreds of thousands of Syrians in their countries. Even faraway non-Muslim countries such as Brazil, Chile and Venezuela have said that they would volunteer to take thousands of refugees.
Tragic? No doubt. But who is to blame? According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is the West. In March, Erdogan criticized the West for having taken only 250,000 Syrian refugees. And, according to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, not Syria's neighbors, but the United Nations Security Council's five permanent members (the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China), should pay the price.
In reality, millions of Muslims are trying, through dangerous ways, to reach the borders of a civilization they have historically blamed for all the world's evils, including in their own countries'. Turkey's leaders are blaming non-Muslims for the tragedy. But they do not speak a single word about super hydrocarbon-rich Muslim countries in their own neighborhood: Not a word about Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman (all of which employ large numbers of Asian workers) has taken a single Muslim Syrian refugee.
There is a history showing which hemisphere of the world's political map has treated Muslims refugee problems with relative affection, and which side with visible cruelty. While most Muslims immigrants in the West have successfully integrated in countries like Britain (mostly Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh), France (mostly Muslims from North Africa) and Germany (mostly Muslims from Turkey), Arab host countries in the past abstained from giving, for instance, Palestinian refugees full citizenship and other civil rights.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when Saudi Arabia faced a labor shortage, it recruited thousands of South Korean and other Asian workers to fill job but refused to employ Palestinian refugees.
Until the First Gulf War, Kuwait employed big numbers of Palestinians but refused to give them citizenship. After the war, Kuwait expelled 300,000 Palestinian refugees.
After the downfall of Saddam Hussein, Palestinian refugees in Iraq faced systematic attacks by Muslim Shia militias. They were denied even medical care. In 2012, at least 300,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon. Human Rights Watch found their social and economic conditions "appalling." But the Lebanese government persistently ignored their demands for broader property rights.
And before the summer of 2012, Egypt maintained a restrictive travel policy for Palestinians who cross into Egypt from Gaza. They had to be escorted by security officials and were sometimes detained.
The Syrian refugee crisis in lands stretching from the Middle East into the heart of Europe is another episode in a grandiose, multi-faceted Middle Eastern dilemma: Muslims in this part of the world view the Christian West as "evil;" yet they know Christian lands are the most decent places to live economically and politically. Wealthy Arab states rigidly turn their back on the plight of fellow Muslims who are in need of a helping hand; and Islamist hypocrites blame it all on the West.
Sadly, no one questions why "West-hating" Muslims go West; why their fellow Muslim Arab nations do not raise even a helping finger, let alone a hand; or why non-Muslims should pay the price for exclusively intra-Muslim wars and the wave of migrants they create.
That is always the easy way out.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
*******
Where in the world is the worst place to be a Christian?
Persecution of Christians has increased dramatically in parts of the world. Here we list the top 25 most anti-Christian countries
Kate Lyons and Garry Blight
Mon 27 Jul 2015
Go To:

*******
Muslim Strategies to Convert Western Christians
Uriya Shavit and Frederic Wiesenbach
Middle East Quarterly Spring 2009 Volume 16: Number 2
March 01, 2009
Many convert narratives depict Islam as a remedy to the growing secularization of Western life that Christianity fails to fill. Former pop star Cat Stevens gave up a highly successful career in music and converted to Islam. He has since opened several Muslim schools in the U.K.
The conversion of Christians in Europe and the United States to Islam has become a matter of debate in some Western countries. Muslim scholars have called on immigrant Muslims to become involved in summoning non-Muslims to their faith. Indeed, the call on Muslim migrants to proselytize has become central in contemporary Islamic writings, not only in books, but also in sermons—many online on YouTube—and others on DVDs, and Islamic websites. The strategies that the global Islamic media uses to promote conversion of Christians to Islam illustrate both the perceptions of Islamists and can expose themes to defend and promote in cultural and public diplomacy.
BACKGROUND
The history of Muslim-Christian relations is to some extent that of two civilizations championing a universalistic message and competing for world domination. In the early phases of this struggle, as demonstrated by Bernard Lewis, Islam was more tolerant: In Muslim lands conquered by Christians, Christianity was imposed by force, and Muslims were sooner or later forced to choose between conversion, exile, and death; in Christian lands conquered by Muslims, Christians were tolerated alongside Jews as "People of the Book." One reason for this difference in attitude was that Muslims considered Christ a precursor while Christians considered Muhammad an impostor. In Muslim eyes, Christianity had some truth in it; in Christian eyes, Islam was completely false.[1] Today, the balance of tolerance has dramatically reversed: In the West, freedom of religion allows for people of all faiths to convince others that theirs is the one and only truth; on the other hand, in some Muslim societies, non-Muslims are prosecuted, and promotion of other religions is a punishable offense.
Exact data on the number of converts to Islam in the West is incomplete because conversions are not always recorded. While the data do not suggest a massive wave of new believers, there are enough to matter. In Germany, statisticians estimated that several thousand Christians convert to Islam every year.[2] In Spain, the number of converts reached around 20,000 in 2006,[3] and in the United Kingdom, perhaps 14,000 had converted by 2006.[4] In the United States, perhaps 20,000 to 25,000 people a year convert to Islam. The number of converts significantly increased in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack, although it is not yet certain that the conversion surge in the United States has continued.[5]
While the data do not suggest that conversions can fundamentally change existing European demographics, they do highlight the challenge of conflicting values for Western democracies. Freedom of religion guarantees every person the right to convince or be convinced that a different faith than his own is true; however, some Muslim converts reject the very liberal foundations that allow them to operate freely. And the same Muslims who accept conversions to their faith may not accept conversion away from it. When even a very small percentage of converts to Islam turn fanatic, there is a very real security risk, not only in the state of residence but also in every country with which that state enjoys reciprocal visa-free travel. Indeed, this is a major reason why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security now requests pre-screening even for travelers from countries not requiring visas prior to travel to the United States.[6]
IMMIGRATION FOR PROSELYTIZATION
Many Sunni scholars urge their co-religionists in the West to spread the word of God actively. The call to convert, which increased along with the number of permanent Muslim immigrants to Europe, is part of a larger framework of identity and duties constructed by Sunni religious scholars in the Arab world since the 1970s. Islamic scholars found that to ban or ignore mass Muslim migration would only alienate immigrants. Instead, they focused on strengthening the immigrants' Muslim identity while using them in the service of Islam. They called upon Muslim immigrants to consider themselves part of a global Muslim nation; to legitimize their presence in non-Muslim lands by acting as ideal Muslims; to build Muslim institutions such as mosques and charity organizations; to serve the political interests of Muslims worldwide; and to proselytize.[7]
Writing about the "duties of Muslims living in the West," Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, perhaps the most influential contemporary Sunni jurist, wrote:
Muslims in the West ought to be sincere callers to their religion. They should keep in mind that calling others to Islam is not only restricted to scholars and sheikhs, but it goes far to encompass every committed Muslim. As we see scholars and sheikhs delivering khutbas [sermons] and lectures, writing books to defend Islam, it is no wonder to find lay Muslims practicing da'wa [spreading Islam] while employing wisdom and fair exhortation.[8]
Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917-96), a renowned Egyptian religious scholar, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood movement and the head of da'wa for Egypt's ministry of religious endowments, expressed the hope that the hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants "will not only maintain their religion, but become pioneers in spreading it, if only the Muslim umma (nation) wished for that and worked for that to happen."[9]
Hamdi Hassan, a professor of media studies at al-Azhar University in Cairo, wrote that the Muslim presence in Europe is an example of Muslim proselytizing turning from the defensive mode that characterized it during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to a new mode of expansion.[10]
In Saudi writings, these notions of proselytizing acquire a militant, confrontational tone. One source of these writings is the Saudi scholar Safr al-Hawali, who has invoked the need to conquer the West with da'wa, using terms unequivocal in their combativeness:
And if one would ask: Why should we not invade Korea and Japan [as the Muslims have] human resources for da'wa? … to this someone else would answer: No, we should direct [the human resources for da'wa] to Europe and America. Who is right? The one who says the West. Why? Because [the West] is the enemy whose depth we must penetrate … It is the enemy who will attack us and is more dangerous to us.[11]
The call on Muslim immigrants to Islamize Westerners finds resonance in some works by Western Muslims. Muhammad al-Qadi al-'Umrani is a Sunni Muslim living in the Netherlands, who wrote a Ph.D. dissertation at King Muhammad I University in Morocco on migration. He invokes the conversion of "a considerable number of Westerners" to Islam as one positive result of migration and contends that migration for the purposes of commerce and da'wa has been proven throughout history to be a constructive contribution to the spread of Islam.[12]
ISLAMIC INTERNET PROSELYTIZING
Internet sites operated by Muslim scholars and organizations play an important role in encouraging the conversion of Christians. This role is part of an embrace and use of the Internet as a medium in the service of Islam. While policymakers have focused most attention in recent years on jihadi websites, these attract comparatively little traffic.[13] While the most widely viewed Islamic websites are not jihadi, they do, nonetheless, often include hateful depictions of the West.
Muslim scholars traditionally reacted to new technologies—especially those developed in the West—with skepticism, fearing that such new innovations could bring more harm than good to Muslims. Printing machines entered the Ottoman Empire three centuries after they were first introduced in Europe. Scholars regarded them as bid'a, an unlawful innovation, and it took the Napoleonic conquest of Egypt in 1798 to allow acknowledgment of their merit. While liberalizing forms of interpretation have allowed more flexible approaches for some Muslim scholars since the late nineteenth century, this has not been the case in Saudi Arabia. During the 1920s, Saudi scholars protested King 'Abd al-'Aziz Ibn Saud's decision to use wireless communication, claiming it was devilish.[14] The introduction of television broadcasts in the 1960s also caused outrage.
The attitude towards the Internet has proved quite different. Even the strictest Wahhabi scholars have legitimized the Internet—and launched their personal websites. Clerics understand that the Internet is a crucial arena in the fight for the souls and minds of the younger generation, and also that the Internet can be better controlled and screened compared to other media technologies. Using the Internet for Islamic purposes was not only permitted by scholars, even strict Wahhabi ones, but even encouraged.
Ja'far Sheikh Idris, a Sudanese professor of theology, wrote in 1999 that new technologies allow Muslims to spread da'wa more easily and are, indeed, proof that Islam is the true religion (for only God could have known fourteen centuries ago that the day would come when the world would turn into one global village, needing only one global prophet—Muhammad). However, these new technologies also allow non-Muslims to do the same with their ideas; indeed, at this point in time, the West enjoys better capabilities in making use of these technologies and might weaken Muslims' beliefs through them. But these risks, argued Idris, do not deny the merits of the Internet; they only emphasize the need for Muslims to further utilize these technologies in the service of Islam.[15]
ANALYZING CONVERT NARRATIONS
Some Internet sites created by Muslim scholars and organizations reserve significant space for literature on Christians converting to Islam. Conversion efforts are promoted also by print media,[16] books,[17] and DVDs,[18] but the Internet shines as an especially effective medium.[19]
Islamic Internet sites promote conversion in several ways: basic introductions to Islam; basic information for non-Muslims who wish to convert; news celebrating Islam as the world's and the West's fastest growing religion; and guides instructing Muslims in the West on how to bring others to Islam. Such guidelines are at times detailed and have the ring of marketing expertise.
A key method Internet sites use to promote conversions is through the testimonies of former Christians who have converted to Islam. Perhaps the most famous conversion narrative is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the American black nationalist, who described his early life as one of gambling, doing drugs, and dating many women amid crime-ridden neighborhoods in Boston. After conversion, he headed the Nation of Islam and then, after pilgrimage to Mecca, found true Islam. What the Internet has done is replicate and mass produce the genre, allowing Islamists to bombard the audience with narratives, each with enough variation in personal stories so as to allow a greater opportunity for readers to identify with one narrative or another.
These narratives play a dual role: To a potential non-Muslim audience, they serve as apologia celebrating different aspects of Islam's superiority over Christianity. They aim to prove that any difficulties faced during the process of conversion may be overcome. The other role narratives play is to reassure Muslims that their religion is the true one and to educate them on tactics of persuasion in bringing non-Muslims to Islam.
A connecting thread for many narratives on conversion, suggested directly or indirectly, is the concept of reversion: the idea that everyone is born in a natural state of Islam—a state of submission to the will of God—which is corrupted by family and society and that rather than converting away from something, coming to accept Islam is reverting to that original human state.[20] The way to Islam is thus depicted as natural, almost obvious, rather than rebellious or exotic.
STRATEGIES OF PERSUASION
It is one thing to make conversion a goal. It is quite another to fulfill it. Studies on conversion to Christian sects found that only one of a thousand approaches by proselytizers resulted in conversion.[21] Eighty narratives of converts to Islam appearing on the most widely-accessed global Muslim Internet sites and two other Islamic web sites of lesser popularity, analyzed for the purpose of this study, demonstrate several arguments and strategies. While it is difficult to quantify narratives as they appear continuously, they do not differ significantly, and these eighty are representative.
There are several Islamic interest web portals involved in catalyzing conversion, among other activities. Islamway.com, launched in August 1998, is the world's most popular Islamic website, according to the web traffic-ranking company, Alexa.com,[22] and offers content mainly in Arabic and in English from the 'Asir region in southern Saudi Arabia. Its vast fatwa (religious edict) bank suggests it is dominated by the Wahhabi school. IslamOnline.net, one of the world's most popular Muslim websites, launched in June 1997 and offers content in Arabic and in English. Yusuf al-Qaradhawi serves as head of the supervising committee. The Islamic Garden, launched in March 2001 and operating from Cairo, is a basic English-language site focusing on introductory contents; and diewahrereligion.de, a German-language site operating from Cologne, associated with the mass-converter Pierre Vogel, who studied Islam in Saudi Arabia, has some resonance with young German Muslims.
The narratives associated with these four websites divide generally into three sections. First, the narrator explains why he was discontent with Christianity or with his life in general; then, he depicts how he first came to learn about Islam; and, finally, he glorifies the merits of Islam. Narrations seem to depict real life experiences, emotions, and convictions and are rich with biographical details, some of which relate to sensitive personal issues such as crises in marital life. This creates an impression of authenticity and generates empathy, allowing the reader to forget that the confession is part of a larger project to persuade that Islam is a true religion.
Scholars studying conversion find that spiritual poverty is a frequent condition prior to conversion, and a sense of closing the distance to God is the result of embracing a new religion.[23] The online narratives by converts to Islam, much like the autobiography of Malcolm X, reflect this. Converts commonly begin with depictions of the agonizing lives they had before they found Islam. In narrating their religious affiliation prior to conversion, two main story lines are common: that of converts who were Christians either because they were coerced or because of opportunistic consideration, and that of converts who were strictly practicing Christians but developed grave doubts about their faith.
While an uneasy relationship with Christianity varies in its consequences and reasoning, all narrators describe practicing Christianity in their early life as a result of their social background, rather than from a self-made spiritual choice. Asserting the concept that every person is born a Muslim and only society corrupts him serves to rationalize the conversion process. The former relation to Christianity is depicted as having more to do with culture, tradition, and society than with true personal faith.
While secularism, and even atheism, is an option in Western societies, it hardly finds resonance in these narratives. Lacking empirical evidence, it is impossible to determine whether this background of religiosity reflects the overall reality of converts or an editorial decision made by site managers. However, because a wider spectrum of backgrounds would support the claim of these sites regarding Islam's universality, there is reason to believe the common religious background is not an editorial manipulation.
In detailing doubts that clouded them, often from an early age, converts whose relation to Christianity was profound describe how they gradually developed an understanding that Christianity is an inherently irrational religion. They invoke a variety of disagreements with several Christian dogmas: the concept of God as a human being; the concept of the Trinity; the concept of sainthood; and the concept of original sin. Discrepancies in the Old and New Testaments are also mentioned by several narrators.
CONVERT NARRATIVES
On IslamOnline.net, convert Abu Mohammed Abdullah Yousef offers non-Muslims a simple challenge: "You Are a Muslim, You Just Don't Know It Yet." Abu Mohammed describes a post-World War II, English childhood in a strictly Catholic home. Religion was one of his favorite subjects in school, and at the age of eleven, he earned a scholarship for a Jesuit boarding school. However, at school he began to notice "the inconsistencies between what was taught in religious lessons and what was taught in history classes." He could not understand how the infallibility of the pope was commensurate with the changing of old rulings by new popes. [24] Of course, such changing interpretations are not unique to Christianity. Within Shi'i Islam, followers must find new sources of emulation when the Grand Ayatollah whom they follow passes away; this might mandate revision in the interpretation followed. And, of course, while Sunni leaders may not claim infallibility, Sunni scholars dispute among each other the authenticity of hadiths (narratives of the Prophet).
Another depicts Islam as a remedy to the growing secularization of Western life, which Christianity fails to fill. Hayat Anne Collins Osman, an American whose age is not specified, writes in "Could I Speak with God Directly" on IslamOnline.net that she was raised at a time when "Americans were more religious than they are now." Her parents were involved in a church community, and they often invited priests to their home. In junior high school, she attended a Bible study program for many years. However, the more she learned her Bible, the more she doubted it. The idea of original sin did not make sense to her: "I had a baby brother, and I knew that babies were not sinful." The concept of the Trinity also troubled her: "How could God have three parts, one of which was human?"[25]
Converts to Islam describe a range of circumstances for their conversions. They mention hostile Western media portrayals of Islam that encouraged them to further their knowledge; Muslim friends, colleagues, and neighbors who introduced them to Islam; falling in love with Muslims; incidental meetings; and traveling to Muslim countries.
While circumstances differ, four themes are repeated:
First, the converts knew nothing, or almost nothing, about the true foundations of Islam before embracing it.
Second, converts were not drawn to Islam because of any material benefit or social pressure.
Third, narrators present the path to Islam as an individual quest and never as a group experience.
Fourth, converts say that they were introduced to Islam by individual Muslims, most commonly ones without formal religious training but with a simple desire to share the truth with others.
In describing how negative press and social prejudices had the counter-effect of introducing Islam as the true religion, the narratives turn weakness into strength. It is God's will that Islam spreads; thus, attempts to dishonor it in the West are bound only to promote it. Such is the narrative of David Pradarelli, whose age is not mentioned and whose story appears on IslamOnline.net under the title "Finding the Truth." He testifies to having been raised as a Roman Catholic, who always had "deep fascination with the spiritualities of other cultures." Spending some time in the Catholic Franciscan order, Pradarelli was disappointed in what he describes as the order's arrogance and hypocrisy. Once he had left the order, he began searching for a way to find God. Then, "I decided to research Islam for myself and draw my own conclusions. What I found paled all the negative images that the satanic media spewed forth. I found a religion deep in love and spiritual truth, and constant God-mindfulness."[26]
THE ROLE OF THE 9/11 ATTACKS
Several narrators describe the 9/11 attacks as awaking their curiosity about Islam, which led them to embrace the religion. An anonymous female narrator on Islamselect.com, accessed through IslamOnline.net, wrote about a "Journey of a Lifetime: My Way to Islam," explaining that, after 9/11, she wanted to examine whether Islam was really about killing and hatred. She Googled with an open mind the words Islam and Qur'an. It so happened that her search came at a time when, at seventeen years of age, she had began to question her Roman Catholic faith. Two years later, she moved to another city where she met Muslims at the university she was attending; they gave her books and DVDs about their faith. Joining her new friends in the mosque, she felt at home as she never had in church. That experience, she said, completed her journey to the true religion.[27]
It is not a coincidence that these narratives emphasize personal friendships with Muslims as essential to brining about conversion. Many studies have found that friendship and kinship networks facilitate conversion.[28] Religious scholars such as Qaradhawi, who emphasize the duty of the lay Muslim migrant to bring others to Islam, understand that while new media is powerful, it is no substitute for personal relations. Indeed, an emphasis on personal relationships underscores Fethullah Gülen's movement and Tablighi Jamaat as well.[29] Islamic websites seek to encourage such relations by offering testimonies that demonstrate their efficiency. Muslim acquaintances are mentioned in several narratives as a bridge between complete ignorance and embracing the truth. They are depicted as particularly kind and warm people whose grace transforms the narrator's prior prejudices against Muslims. While saving no effort in bringing others to Islam, these lay Muslims do so in a non-imposing, gentle manner. Their happiness, inner peace, devotion, and hospitality serve as the best incentive for others to embrace Islam.
Another account refers to Muslim friends and shows how they played a similar role in the conversion of Omar Faruq (formerly Thomas Ordinius), a 48-year-old German convert of thirty-one years who appears on diewahrereligion.de. He describes having a friend of Turkish descent in school who introduced him to other Turkish Germans. Through this group of friends, he was introduced to Turkish culture and embraced its warmth and hospitality. He started to learn Turkish and developed an interest in Islam. Visiting his friend's village in Turkey, he was invited by a local imam to a Friday prayer. At the time, he still feared Islam, but he became increasingly involved in the religion. Back in Germany, a friend told him about a Turkish mosque in Mannheim, thirty kilometers from his home. He went there with the friend and officially converted. Three years after converting he traveled to Medina where he studied Islam and Arabic.[30]
"ISLAM'S TRUTH IS INESCAPABLE"
Other narratives also echo the idea that the personal conduct of the individual lay Muslim migrant is crucial to bring Christians to Islam. When Muslims meet with Christians, narrators hint, patience and courtesy can make the difference. When Hayat Ann Collins Osman finally decided she wished to convert, she called a mosque, but the brother who answered the phone told her to "wait until you are sure." However, that only further encouraged her, to the point that she "became obsessed with Islam" until some months later, while working in the kitchen, she "suddenly knew, knew I was a Muslim."[31]
Selma Cook explains in a narrative, "Why I Became a Muslim," on The Islamic Garden, how after moving into a new apartment and meeting Muslim neighbors, "I thought I would try out some missionary work on them. They listened to me patiently, and then I, too, listened to them. They didn't try to explain any complicated issues to me; they just read to me from the Qur'an."
This, it turned out, was enough: The beautiful sound of the Arabic language touched the narrator's heart, and the plain and direct language of the English translation struck a chord within..[32]
Narratives also suggest that Muslims can bring people to Islam even without intending to. This again serves to emphasize the concept of reversion: Islam's truth is inescapable, and therefore, the mere introduction to its tenets can open the process of fully embracing it. Here, a subtext is directed to Muslims reading the narrations: Interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims should not be feared; they will eventually serve the interests of Islam.
Sebastian from Kassel describes how falling in love with a Muslim was instrumental in his finding the true religion. While the relationship led him to the righteous path, conversion was not necessitated by a need to please a spouse but rather by deep belief. Sebastian testifies that at the time of developing a relation with a Muslim woman, he thought it was a sign from God that he should convert in order to be able to marry her. Two months later he ordered a copy of the Qur'an. His girlfriend noticed his transformation but apparently did not appreciate it. They broke up. However, his interest in Islam only increased. He read more and more of the Qur'an, and several months later he converted.[33]
Another narrator, Anna Linda Traustadottir, a native of Iceland, raised in Canada and the United States, mentions her Muslim spouse whom she met while working in Damascus: "To be honest, when I married Mohammad, I married him because I loved him, even though he was Muslim. Over time, I realized I love him because he was a Muslim. A good Muslim [emphasis in original]."[34]
In a narrative mentioned above, Abu Muhammed Abdullah Yousef says that he encountered Islam when he left the United Kingdom in 1976 for a Muslim country to teach electronics to commissioned and noncommissioned air force officers. Nothing in the behavior of his Muslim students impressed him: they neither prayed; nor did they have a religious attitude, and some were even drinking and womanizing. He started to read the Qur'an for two reasons: First, he wanted to be a good instructor and hoped reading the Qur'an would help him understand his students' mindset; second, he wanted to prove Islam was wrong. However, the result of his endeavor was quite the opposite. Once the students found he was reading the Qur'an, they brought a sheikh to the classroom to speak with him. After questioning Abu Muhammed about his beliefs, the sheikh told him: "You are a Muslim. You just don't know it yet."[35] For several months Abu Muhammed continued to read the Qur'an, and the more he read, the more he was impressed by its logic, consistency, and purity. Several months later he converted.
WHY ISLAM?
Converts invoke several reasons for embracing Islam: that, unlike Christianity, it makes sense to them; that Islam is commensurate with modern science; that Islam is an egalitarian religion, blind to the racial prejudices so common to Western culture; and that one betters himself upon embracing Islam, doing away with adverse personal and social behavior. In some narratives, a rather more emotional attitude is suggested, depicting a defining metaphysical moment of peace and understanding in which Islam was embraced; in some, this emotional attitude is preconditioned with a logical acceptance of Islam's truthfulness. Many of these may sound doubtful to those not susceptible to conversion or familiar with the nuances of Islam, but they nonetheless illustrate the view which Islamists wish to convey.
One notion suggested directly or implied by almost all narrators is the complete transformation Islam brought about in their lives. Where there was a void, Islam brought meaning; where there was disorder, Islam brought harmony; where there was despair, Islam brought hope. After embracing Islam, all hesitation and confusion faded away. Each found peace with himself, with his surroundings, and with God.
In "Why I Came to Islam?" Susie Brackenborough advances as an ultimate proof for Islam's truth that the Qur'an prefigured science in discoveries made by scientists only hundreds of years later. She suggests: "These 'miracles' have been discovered by scientists (such as the study of embryology) and explorers (such as the world is indeed round and not flat) many years after the revelation, and many more miracles are still to be found as our society develops and progresses."[36] Her words echo a theory rooted already in nineteenth century Muslim scholarship, which remains resonant today in many Islamic books and websites, especially those directed to a Western audience. Still, this train of argument, while common, is ironic given Islamic societies' contemporary deficit in science.[37]
Invoking science as proof for Islam's truthfulness, Amina Islam, an Austrian scientist, contends that "the holy Qur'an confirmed not only my idea about God and the world, but all his statements, e.g., about natural sciences, did obviously not contradict the reality."[38] Mosa Rigani contends that the Qur'an's assertion that there exists a "partition wall between fresh water and salt water" fascinated him as a miracle, proving the holy book's truthfulness.[39]
In some narrations, the egalitarianism of Islam is invoked as a reason for embracing it. Here, an incentive is offered for people of all colors and social strata to embrace Islam without fear of prejudice, but the subtle reference to Western society, where such differences still matter, is also clear. An anonymous narrator, depicting her conversion under the title, "Dressed all in white—the coward within," recalls how on her first visit to a mosque she was impressed by seeing that "every country or race you could imagine was represented in these rows of people, all standing, bowing, and prostrating before the maker of all. No intermediary—just the individual and the Creator."[40] John Pugh, a Catholic-born Australian, writes: "It is known in Islam that an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab."[41]
Some narrators depict the transformation Islam generated in their lives. Fabio Mosa Rigani claims that embracing Islam was the best decision he has ever made: Islam changed him into a better human being; now he is punctual and has stopped smoking. Steven Krauss (Abdul Lateef Abdullah), an American from New York born in 1973, who embraced Islam at twenty-eight, explains that after converting to Islam, he understands why so many people who do not believe have so much fear inside them: Life can be frightening without God. Finding Islam, he has acquired the ultimate "self-help" program; a path that puts everything in its proper place, that makes sense of life: "Now, life is order. Now, I know why I am here."[42]
Several narrators tell of an emotional experience that drew them to Islam. The anonymous "Dressed all in white" recalls that before going to the mosque for the first time, she felt her inner light was burnt out, but in the mosque, she found "a feeling of peace, inner solitude, and quietness that I'd also found in reading the Qur'an and pondering over its meaning and trying to practice what it tells us."[43]
Other narrators combine an emotional occasion with prior rational acceptance of Islam's truthfulness. Jennifer A. Bell tells how when her marriage was in trouble, she was losing faith in Christianity and found no comfort in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Shintoism, and other religions; she went on the Internet and visited chat rooms to escape from reality. There she met a man who was different from all the other men she talked to although she could not quite explain why. Only in their third or fourth meeting, did the gentleman tell her he was a Muslim. Then he started to explain to her what Islam was about and sent her e-mails with verses from the Qur'an that supported everything he told her. It "all felt right." Nevertheless, Bell was still not convinced that Islam was the true religion. When her marriage finally broke apart, and she became depressed, she contacted the man again: "He seemed to know so much about everything." He told her to take a bath, clean herself from head to toe, sit quietly to clear her mind, and concentrate on God. It sounded bizarre to her, but nevertheless, she did it. Then, "the most amazing thing" in her life happened: she started shaking, but as quickly as the shaking started, it stopped. Calming peace filled her heart and soul. That peace "was so absolute. I felt God enter my heart, and I accepted what he had to offer. Between this experience and what this friend has been telling me about Islam, I had finally found a religion that matched my feelings on theology."[44]
CONCLUSION
Muslim religious scholars envision Islam as a universal religion and the Muslim nation as a global political-religious entity. In constructing a framework of identity and roles for Muslim immigrants in the West, they assign them a task: to bring non-Muslims to Islam. Islamic Internet sites are part of that effort. They offer introductory contents, practical information, guides for those converting, and the narratives of new Muslims.
Narratives from converts to Islam are dichotomizing: They depict Christianity as irrational and Christian life as empty; in contrast, they depict Islam as a rational religion that provides a connection to God, personal peace, and social harmony. Westerners may interpret these narratives as assaults on their culture. But perhaps their more important target is the Muslim immigrant: The narratives of converts offer these immigrants reassurance about their roots and task them with a spiritual mission, one that compensates them for the daily hardships many of them face and rewards them with honor and dignity. Some Muslim immigrants—especially young ones—obtain their knowledge on Islam and its relation to Christianity through immensely popular Islamic websites such as the Saudi Islamway.com; lacking access to other sources of information—for example, national programs for multi-faith dialogue, or more moderate Islamic media—might encourage these young Muslims to adopt views scornful of the societies in which they live.
The right of any person to proselytize, or the right of any person to convert to a religion of his choice, is a basic tenet of Western liberal societies. The unique context of some Muslim conversion efforts should not be ignored, though: They do not envision two civilizations living in harmony, but one, Islam, gaining world domination. There is some irony in the fact that the most vocal and popular proponents of efforts directed at the Islamization of the West and de-legitimization of values it holds dear either operate from within the boundaries of, or are inspired by, Arab regimes which officially preach for multi-faith dialogue and are dependent on American support for their survival.
Uriya Shavit is a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, and author, most recently, of The New Imagined Community: Global Media and the Construction of National and Muslim identities of Migrants (Sussex Academic Press, 2009). Frederic Wiesenbach is a graduate student at Frankfurt University, currently studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
[1] Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe (New York and London: W.W.Norton and Company, 1982), pp. 90-2; pp. 297-8.
[2] Khalil Breuer, "Debatte: Warum Islam?" Islamische Zeitung, Mar. 2007; Martin Spiewak, "Meinungssstark aber ahnungslos," Die Zeit (Hamburg), Apr. 19, 2007.
[3] Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 11, 2006.
[4] International Herald Tribune (Paris), Aug. 8, 2006.
[5] The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2001; NBC News, Mar. 11, 2008.
[6] "DHS Reminds Visa Waiver Program Travelers of ESTA Requirements Effective Today," Department of Homeland Security, Jan. 12, 2009.
[7] Uriya Shavit, "Should Muslims Integrate into the West?" Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2007, pp. 13-21.
[8] Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, "Duties of Muslims Living in the West," IslamOnline.net, Mar. 24, 2008.
[9] Muhammad al-Ghazali, Mustaqbal al-Islam Kharij Ardihi: Kayfa Nufakiru fihi? (Amman: Orient Public Relations and Translation, 1984), p. 104.
[10] Hamdi Hassan, "Taf'il an-nishat al-I'ilami fi d'am Surat al-Islam wal-Muslimin fi Uruba," in Al-Muslmun fi Uruba (Cairo: Dar al-Bayan, 2002), compilation of presentations given at an international conference on Islam in Europe, Vienna, May 12-14, 2000, p. 312.
[11] Safr bin 'Abd al-Rahman al-Hawali, Al-Muslimun wa Risalat al-Mustaqbal (Alexandria: Dar al-Iman, 2000), p. 41.
[12] Muhammad al-'Umrani, Fiqh al-Usra al-Muslima fi al-Muhajar (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiya, 2001), p. 50.
13 For example, James Brandon, Virtual Caliphate: Islamic Extremists and Their Websites (London: Centre for Social Cohesion, 2008); Souad Mekhennet, Claudia Sautter, and Michael Hanfeld, Die Kinder Des Dschihad (Munich: Piper, 2006), pp. 156-84.
[14] Douglas A. Boyd, "Saudi Arabia Broadcasting: Radio and Television in a Wealthy Islamic State," Middle East Review, Summer and Fall 1980, p. 20.
[15] Ja'far Sheikh Idris, "Al-Da'wa … wa wasa'il al-Itisal al-Haditha," Al-Bayan (Dubai), no. 148, Apr. 1999.
[16] "Al-Muslimun al-Judad," Asharq al-Awsat (London), Mar. 18, 2001.
[17] For example, Yasir Hussein, Al-Islam Mustaqbal Uruba (Cairo: Dar al-'Amin, 1997); Muhammad Haneef Shahid, Why Women Are Accepting Islam (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2002); Ibn Ahmad Rasoul, Bruder Johann Ibn Goethe (Islamische Bibliothek, 1419, h.); Murad Wilfried Hofmann, Religion on the Rise: Islam in the Third Millennium, Andreas Ryschka, trans. (Belysville, Md.: Amana Publications, 2001).
[18] Zakir Naik, Why the West Is Coming to Islam, Islamic Dawah Centre International, Birmingham.
[19] For an overview, see Lewis R. Rambo, "Theories of Conversion: Understanding and Interpreting Religious Change," Social Compass 46 (3), 1999, p. 262.
[20] Lamman Ball, "God, If You Exist Then Guide Me," IslamOnline.net, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[21] Lewis R. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 87.
[22] "Top Sites in Islam," Alexa.com, accessed Jan. 19, 2008.
[23] V. Bailey Gillespie, The Dynamics of Religious Conversion: Identity and Transformation (Birmingham: Religious Education Press, 1991), p. 79.
[24] Abu Mohammed Abdullah Yousef, "You Are a Muslim, You Just Don't Know It Yet," IslamOnline.net, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[25] Hayat Anne Collins Osman, "Could I Deal with God Directly?" IslamOnline.net, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[26] David Pradarelli, "Finding the Truth," IslamOnline.net, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[27] Anonymous, "Journey of a Lifetime: My Way to Islam," accessed Jan. 2, 2009.
[28] Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion, p. 84.
[29] Alex Alexiev, "Tablighi Jamaat: Jihad's Stealth Legions," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2005, pp. 3-11; Rachel Sharon-Krespin, "Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambitions," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2009, pp. 55-66.
[30] Thomas Ordinius, "Warum Islam/Konvertiten/Faruk aus Köln," diewahrereligion.de, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[31] Osman, "Could I Deal with God Directly?"
32 Selma Cook, "Why I Became a Muslim," The Islamic Garden, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[33] Sebastian, "Warum Islam/Konvertiten/Sebastian aus Kassel," diewahrereligion.de, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[34] Anna Linda Traustadottir, "An Icelander's Journey to Light," ReadingIslam.com, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[35] Yousef, "You Are a Muslim."
[36] Susie Brackenborough, "Why I Came to Islam," accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[37] Aaron Segal, "Why Does the Muslim World Lag in Science?" Middle East Quarterly, June 1996, pp. 61-70; see also Toby Huff's review of George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), in Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2008, pp. 77-9.
[38] Amina Islam, "An Austrian Scientist Discovers Islam," ReadingIslam.com, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[39] Fabio Mosa Rigani, "Warum Islam/Konvertiten/Mosa aus Frankfurt," diewahrereligion.de, accessed Mar. 19, 2008.
[40] Anonymous, "Dressed all in white—the coward within," The Islamic Garden, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[41] John Pugh, "An Australian Man Finds His Way Home," ReadingIslam.com, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[42] Steven Krauss (Abdul-Lateef Abdullah), "A Martial Art Led Me to Islam," IslamOnline.com, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
[43] Anonymous, "Dressed all in white."
[44] Jennifer A. Bell, "Looking for the Truth Since the Age of Eight," IslamOnline.com, accessed Dec. 16, 2008.
*******