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Examples of Christian Missionary Treatment of Islam

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    Examples of Christian Missionary Treatment of Islam

    Assalamu 'alaykum wa Rahmatullah.

    The earliest Christian reactions to Islam were much the same as they have been in modern times. The approach often takes a severe attitude in condemning whatever a Muslim believes, including the whole of what he believes about God and, in particular, what he believes about Jesus Christ.

    Regarding some of the early authors who wrote against Islam, Normal Daniel asks: "It is natural to ask how authors whom we can neither patronise as foolish nor condemn as unscrupulous could consistently have misrepresented facts, regularly crediting ridiculous fantasies. This applies particularly to their treatment of the events of Muhammad's life, but to some extent also to the whole of their attitude to Islam. We cannot just excuse them as ignorant." (Norman Daniel, Islam and the West, Oneworld Publications 1993, p.255)

    The methodology used by these authors is further described by Norman Daniel elsewhere in his book: "All writers tended - more or less - to cling to fantastic tales about Islam and its Prophet... The use of false evidence to attack Islam was all but universal." (ibid, p.267) He goes on to explain: "At the worst there was the assertion of the fantastic, and its repetition without discrimination; at the best there was the selection of only those facts that served the purpose of controversy." (ibid, p.268)

    "Islamic institutions," Daniel continues, "were treated as selectively as the life of Muhammad... in that actual facts were manipulated by selection and omission, by exaggeration and invention and misapplication." (ibid, p.269)

    A further passage from Islam and the West will help to shed more light on the treatment which was being meted out to Islam: "The Christian canon of Muslim behaviour, that is, the received Christian opinion as to what Muslims actually did, was partly formed by the tendency of misconceptions to snowball, and to confirm as well as to add to one another. Mere repetition is enough to bring unshakeable conviction; and once it had been asserted that Islamic teaching was sexually lax, every example of laxity would be noticed from that moment, and, once notified, attributed to the doctrine. If we suppose that there were an equal number of similar offences committed by Christians and by Muslims in any given time, in the former case they would be seen as having occurred in spite of the doctrine, so that each individual case would be an exception, and in the latter it would be assumed that doctrine was the cause of whatever happened." (ibid, p.270)

    This is a very acute observation that is still valid today. Whatever a Muslim is seen to be doing, reflects upon Islam itself: terrorism, murder, violence, wherever these occur with possible Muslim involvement, the automatic response is that it is because Islam permits it, rather even encourages it. This invariably contrasts with what the other party - Islam in this case - actually believes and what they say they believe, but by this stage this has little effect in changing people's preconceived ideas.

    Norman Daniel goes on to say: "Not only in treating the life of Muhammad and the sexual institutions of Islam, but in all aspects of that religion, facts were exaggerated, sometimes out of little or nothing, and were often distorted almost beyond recognition; sound information was regularly discarded for unsound. Only in matters apparently favourable to Christianity was a very high degree of accuracy achieved, as, for example, in treating the Qur'anic beliefs about Christ and his mother." (ibid, p.270)

    Iqbal

    (adapted with slight modifications)
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