Monday, November 14, 2011

Response to Warrick Farah's questions on conversion and the word 'Christian'

Warrick Farah at Circumpolar, a blog on the topic of mission to Muslims, asks some interesting questions about converts from Islam to Christianity. In a nutshell, he is wondering if avoiding words like ‘Christian’ and ‘conversion’ in Islamic countries (like Somalia, if you can even call that a country anymore), would not lessen persecution. He poses three questions. Here they are, with my answers.
  1. People can be persecuted for Christ, or they can be persecuted for Western Christianity by calling themselves “Christians.”  Of course the difference between the two is really difficult to discern, and I don’t pretend to know in Musa’s case here.  But some persecution is unnecessary and more a result of association with the immoral West than with the glorious Jesus.  I do wonder about Sayed Musa and this Somali MBB- what if they chose not to call themselves “Christians”?

Abu Daoud’s answer: I think it is a bit unfair to ask Muslims who decide to follow Christ to not call themselves Christians. They know the language of Christian and Christianity, and they find it in their history and in their book, the Qur’an. The concept of following Christ from within Islam is a Western, modernist construct—it represents an attempt to renegotiate boundaries traditionally considered as immutable and objective. Not to be confrontational, but it is akin to same-sex marriage in this respect. All of this to say, these are not 21st Century Americans who can deconstruct and reconstruct terms in order to fir their picture of how reality should be, and we should not expect them to act in such a way. (Anyone interested in further exploring this critique of modernity should read Peter Berger’s important book The Heretical Imperative.)

  1. The language of “conversion” is politically loaded, and whenever persecution hits international headlines there are always other factors involved, as the article clearly shows.  The NT language is really rich and diverse in describing the concept of conversion.  Is there a better English word?

Abu Daoud’s answer: This is an interesting question, and I think there is more room for discussion here than with the word ‘Christian’, which, I think, need not and can not be tossed out (with the possible exception of Jews). The key word used in the NT to talk about people deciding to be disciples of Christ is repentance. But that is a technical word that will not make sense to people who do not know the NT well (including most Christians I think). How would we say that? He repented and decided to follow Christ? It lacks the concise nature of the word ‘convert’ that people in all fields understand to mean a significant turning away from something and to another thing, in this case away from Islam and to Christianity. So is there a better English word? For internet material meant for a wide audience of non-specialists? I don’t think so. Is there a better word in Somalian? I have no idea.

  1. Public advocacy for the persecuted usually puts governments in very awkward situations with the end result usually ending in deportation.  How should we stand for religious freedom without shaming Muslim governments into overreacting?

Abu Daoud’s answer: I think this is the most complex question, and all I can say is that it needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately the West needs to wake up and realize that Human Rights and Islam are, I am sad to say, irreconcilable. I mean, the Prophet very clearly said, ‘whosoever changes his religion, slay him.’ That does not leave a lot of room for creativity, does it? This problem has been around for a while, and it led Kenneth Cragg to the conclusion that Christian mission to the Muslim world must contain a strong element of advocacy for religious freedom.

Please chime in, either here or over at Circumpolar. I enjoy this sort of conversation, just keep it civil ;-)
--Abu Daoud

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Albion Land interviews Abu Daoud

Some time ago I had the privilege to be interviewed by Albion Land, founder of the blog The Continuum. I think I mentioned it a long time ago but I recently re-read it and I think you might find it quite interesting.

Here it is:

Albion Land interviews Abu Daoud

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Abu Daoud, now on Scribd

Hi All,

I have opened a Scribd account, so for those of you who use that fine service, please feel free to follow me there, and I would also like to follow your activity.

It is also a convenient place to see all my published articles, which I am in the process of uploading:

--Abu Daoud

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

St Francis Magazine, Vol 7:4 (October 2011)

Hi All,

Well, the new issue of SFM is out a few days late, but better late than never. I have not read the whole thing yet, but so far there are two articles that are noteworthy I think.

The first is Jeff Morton's harsh review of the missiology and theology of Carl Medearis. I have not personally read Medearis' book Muslims, Christians, and Jesus, but I have heard several people speak highly of it. So it is interesting to find such a critical review of his work. Here it is:


Second, I actually put together a complete bibliography of SFM's first five years. Do check it out. I guarantee you will find some interesting articles that you will want to read. Also, you will most certainly enjoy my intelligent and penetrating insights into the journal's strengths and weaknesses ;-)

St Francis Magazine: A Complete Bibliography of the First Five Years by Abu Daoud

Or by all means, just download the entire issue if you prefer.

--Abu Daoud

Monday, April 25, 2011

Part XXIII: The myth of Islamic religious tolerance through the ages

Part XXIII: The myth of Islamic religious tolerance through the ages
by Abu Daoud

A reader of the blog asked this good question:

Abu Daoud,

I've heard various Western historians say that Islam has historically been more tolerant than Christianity. They point out the treatment of non-Christians, particularly the Jews, in Europe and compare that with the treatment of Christians in the Middle East. It is true that even after the Arab conquests, there was a substantial Christian population in the Middle East for many centuries. The Muslim overlords needed the jizya, so Christians were tolerated. I believe it was only after the Crusades and Mongol conquests, when Christians sided with the Mongols, life for Christians got tougher. Now, of course, with the rise in Muslim fundamentalism things have got a lot tougher.

What do you say? Has Islam been historically tolerant, more tolerant than Christianity? Or has Christians always had it tough since the days Muhammad blazed on the scene?

Here is my answer: Islam does, in general, tolerate religious groups like Jews and Christians, but in such a way that Christians and Jews (called dhimmis) have curtailed religious, political, and economic freedom. They are doomed to a long slow decline. For instance, they cannot in general build new churches, convents, or synagogues, and can only repair existing ones with government permission. Their women can be married off to Muslims (or enslaved) in which case all the children will be Muslims, but they themselves cannot take Muslim wives (who would then produce Christian children, as per the father's religion). Dhimmis must pay something called the jizya or the poll tax, which fluctuated throughout Islamic history, it could be a crushing burden or something rather light. Once a Christian converted to Islam they were no longer obliged to pay that tax. Certain positions in government and military were, at times, limited to Muslims only, which provided another incentive for dhimmis to convert to Islam.

Outbreaks of anti-Christian violence likewise occur to this day. But the Christians cannot really do anything about it, can they? If they defend themselves then they are guilty of fighting against Muslims, and all will be punished. The Islamic government will sweep it under the rug and rarely are those responsible punished. The violence occurs. It is ignored by the government. Christians have no choice but to accept the injustice. If they call for justice they will be punished. It is a long, slow strategy of elimination. It has worked well over the centuries, leading to massive emigration of Christians and Jews from Muslim lands.

In other words, Islamic countries have the inhumane system of dhimmitude which is the Islamic equivalence of 'tolerance'. There never has been, and never will be, in an Islamic country genuine religious freedom. The key test in this area is simple: can a Muslim convert to Christianity (or some other religion) without being persecuted or resisted by the government? There are a very few Islamic countries where a person can indeed legally convert (Turkey is the only one I can think of, and maybe Lebanon?). It is legal in Turkey because Ataturk felt Islam was outdated and antiquated, in Lebanon, if indeed it still legal, because of the historical predominance of Maronites.) As the Prohet said, "man baddala diinahu, fa'aqtaluuhu"--Whosoever changes religion, slay him.

Regarding Muslims in Christian countries, they enjoy genuine religious freedom, something Christians in Muslim lands never have and never will experience because religious freedom and Islam are, in esse, incompatible. Historically, we don't have examples of large numbers of Muslims in Christian countries until recently. The expulsion of the Moors from Spain was more political than religious. Many of the Moors (Muslims) were explicitly treasonous and sought to overthrow the current political order, Europeans are glad to let such people remain in Europe nowadays, but in previous days Europeans had a bit more common sense and realized that you can't have a substantial population in your country that wants to overthrow the government. Europeans then realized what they seem incapable of understanding now: that Islam is not a 'religion', it is rather an imperial political movement sanctioned by theological myth.

Regarding the Jews in the lands of Christendom, there is a mixed bag. Certainly there were times when the Jews of Islamdom were better off than the Jews of Christendom. That was not always the case, and Christendom never totally purged itself of Jews, which is indeed what dar al islam today has done. So when we are talking about getting Jews out of your lands, at least as it stands today, Muslims have been more successful than Christians, even taking into account the Holocaust, which is viewed favorably by many Muslims today.

Hope that answers your question. When people toss out these slogans it is worthwhile to do some good historical research, something most Muslims will not do, as it inevitably leads to the conclusion that the Qur'an is wrong and Muslims are by no means 'the best of all people'. It is also sad that some contemporary authors (non-Muslims) perpetuate these myths (Armstrong? Menocal?), but it is very PC to do so, and leads to grants, published articles, and cushy positions at Oxford. And in Western academia today, these things are much more important than trivial things like truth.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New issue of St Francis Magazine

Well, issue two of volume seven of St Francis Magazine has now come out. I'm not surprised it took a while longer than usual, given the tumult in the Middle East where several of the editors are. But that having been said, I'm really excited about several of the articles. Here they are, and let me share why I think they are worth your scrutiny. (Though let me admit that I have not yet read all of these, though I have read some of them.)

John Damascene in context: An Examination of “The Heresy of the Ishmaelites” with special consideration given to the Religious, Political, and Social Contexts during the Seventh and Eighth Century Arab Conquests, by D. Bryan Rhodes

I'm a big fan of church history, as long-time readers will know. I am looking forward to detailed analysis of the first documented commentary of a Christian on Islam.

What is the Qur’an? A Moroccan intellectual’s critique of the Qur’an’s ethical teachings, by Bassam M. Madany

Madany is a great source for translating and interpreting Arabic-language documents. Also, he's been doing ministry for longer than I've been alive.

‘Your swords do not concern me at all’: The liberation theology of Islamic Christianity, by Duane Alexander Miller

I love the idea of combining liberation theology and ex-Muslim Christians doing theology!

Enjoy the reading! And let me know what you think about the various articles.

--Abu Daoud

Friday, January 28, 2011

On the recent unrest in countries like Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen

by Abu Daoud

Well, what can I say?

I have been surprised by the outbreak in massive riots in Egypt, and lessed such events in Yemen and Jordan. What really seemed like the moment when 'the levee's gonna break' was when folks in Egypt started calling for the resignation of Mubaarak.

You see, you can have riots, even violent, destructive ones, in the Middle East, for certain causes, like Islamic stuff (of course), and anti-American and anti-Israel stuff (of course), and even maybe for rather pragmatic things like the price of bread or sugar of tomatos. You can even call for new elections or a new parliament or a new group of ministers (the new boss...same as the old boss), a la Jordan. But you can't call for the top guy to be replaced, or to leave, or to step down, or anything. In fact, you should not even mention him, unless you are saying, hey this guy needs to save us from these corrupt jerks. Then it's ok.

Well, that's not what is happening in Egypt. The police are out of play, widely despised by people in general. Now the military has been called in, and what of that? Even if one or two main commanders tell their troops, you know, we're here to defend Egypt from Israel and Libya and fill-in-the-blank, so we're just not going to get invovled in this, either way....well, that will end up being decisive. If a couple of influential commanders do that, then a new regime in Egypt is not impossible.

But if the military by and large obey their orders (which seem illegitimate to me, but then again I'm American), then sooner or later, perhaps after much bloodshed, the iron will of the Mubaarak Dynasty will be enforced upon all.