Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Takes One to Know One

“Beware of this Christian group which coats poison with sugar.” was a warning sent by a Saudi student to all Portlander Saudi’s as a response to an earlier email that announced a trip to Seattle organized by FOCUS. She quoted a professor who is an active Islamist in Portland and included the group’s website address.

As unsurprising as it was, the email saddened me. Focus did present itself as a faith based group since orientation day at PSU. It also distributed pamphlets about its message, and web address. It is not cooking up an evil potion in the dark.

Even still, some active Islamist would condemn a Christian group for what they themselves do: social activism, and the presentation of good example in the hope of influencing others to join the Islamic faith.

I am losing track here.

Since when did the betterment of society become a sugar coat and not a dynamic? And is a religion that encourages social activism ever a poison? When will this hypocrisy stop, if we do “it” we are good, if others do “it” they are manipulative and bad?

10 comments:

أبو سنان said...

It depends on what the social activism is and whether or not they are open and upfront about their real goals.

I am not a fan of missionary work, whether it is Islamic or Christian. Hacing said that, you need to be aware that many of these Christian groups have far right agendas.

It just isnt Christianity they are into, but support of Israel and the far right political groups here in the USA.

Many of these people would see you as following the devil, a pedophile as a prophet, you name it.

So whilst I agree with you that there is nothing wrong, per se, with a missionary group and social activism, one must look a bit deeper into the group to see what else is going on.

This goes for Christian as well as Muslim groups.

ChrisLA said...

The warning about FOCUS came from a Saudi. KSA, per Mohammed's last will, is off limits to any religion other than Islam, and a particular expression of Islam at that. I would think that, of all people, Saudis should take advantage of the opportunity in the U.S. to learn about other religions from those who practice them. Not only will it broaden their thinking, but it may actually get them to delve deeper into the Quran.

The Quran calls on believers to vie with other religions in good works (Surah 5:49). I'm sure most of the Chrisian faiths represented in the U.S. are up to the challenge.

effendi said...

I would think that, of all people, Saudis should take advantage of the opportunity in the U.S. to learn about other religions from those who practice them. Not only will it broaden their thinking, but it may actually get them to delve deeper into the Quran.

Nah. That might lead to scrutiny of the Wahabi version of Islam being propagated by the Saudi-funded mosques. We can't have that within Islam, now can we?

Here's the thing. Some Muslims fear the Love spoken of within Christianity. It's disarming and incompatible with their world view and they know it.

anglogermanicamerican said...

Surely you must know how much I enjoy reading your observations and ruminations, given the number of times I "hit" your site. Of course, its not all enjoyment, some of it is struggle - struggle to form comments that accurately communicate the thoughts your post and the prior comments generate in me. This post was no exception.

Rather than "letting go" as a result of my losing the "struggle," I would instead pose a question.

Since when did the betterment of society become a sugar coat and not a dynamic? And is a religion that encourages social activism ever a poison? When will this hypocrisy stop, if we do “it” we are good, if others do “it” they are manipulative and bad?

What does one have to believe to accept this statement (quoted above) without reservation or qualification? I do.

Aysha said...

Abu Sinan,
Well said. You tend to have objective, thorough approach to matters and I like that...

chrisla,
I believe that being abroad for a while ( 2 year plus), and indulging with other nationalities and religions is a great way to go through the zoom-in zoom-out process of understanding what religions say about themselves, and how religions look in terms of their practices/their similarities/and their relations to each other...

Cairogal said...

I agree w/ Abu Sinan-I don't like it when the activism is cloaked. I don't like it when a group extends friendship, but with the strings of evangelism attached. Latter Day Saints are found in countries around the world. When I lived in Spain, they offered free English classes. You just didn't realise what you had to discuss in these free classes. Does anyone know if FOCUS is pushing a right-wing agenda?

All of that said, if this group is open about their intentions, then I don't see the problem. I actually would hope that the invitation to Muslim students on campus might be an opportunity to bridge gaps rather than be about conversion. I know of many Saudi students living and studying in Oregon. Many(most) of them are not involving themselves in local culture opting to spend more time w/ other Saudi students. Campus groups can be a great opportunity to understand the host culture a bit better (and improve their language skills).

Aysha said...

effendi,
I have to say, that 2+ years in the States, plus many documentaries about reigions, history of religions, making personal connections with students and some teachers in school, etc etc-it has all shown me that it is as hard to say "christianity" as it is to say "islam". They seem to both be categories under which similar patterns of human behavior is listed. No matter what the religion is, people end up portraying a rainbow of behavior calling it: the true version of religion... However, I do feel that tolerance of the other is lower in SA. It makes sense, with Saudi being a newly born compared to the history of America.

Aysha said...

anglogermanicamerican,
And I do very much enjoy the sophistication with which you explore a sujbect matter.
Could you please elaborate your questions some more?

Aysha said...

Cairogal,
I do think that too much fear could prevent some Saudis from truly experiencing the other at a true/indepth level. The way we are brought up, culturally more than religiously, already invented too much fear in the youth towards other cultures and beliefs. This causes many to leave home and come back with only surface level experience of the other.

AngloGermanicAmerican said...

I apologize for the delay. Work and family, when both fire up at the same time, leave me with insufficient energy and time; the latter having passed more quickly than I had realized.

My thought was that your post had made a point, a universal, even handed point that assumes a certain quality or capacity posessed by all humans. Your focus was on a positive aspect of humans or humanity, and you asserted that this positive aspect was at work in both "our groups" and "other groups." Your point, at least as it struck me, was almost a "fear not for those others are like us, and it is riduculous to condemn them for doing what we do with the best of intentions."

On the other hand, one or more of the comments contain words of caution. Their words do not, to my ear, call upon a shared aspect or condition of us humans, though it necessarily is shared for the warning to have persuasive effect. Rather, they sound to me to be a call to fear the other based upon otherness, either of the shared, worrisome nature or the diabolic capacity that "we" do not acknowlege in our midst.

But, of course, I could be reading too much into things as I often do. In any event, those were my thoughts, and so, I asked a question, "What does one have to believe to accept this statement (quoted above) without reservation or qualification?"

In other words, what must a person believe who can both make the statment while at the same time appreciating but disregarding as irrelevent the warnings contained in the other comments? Now that I reflect upon it, perhaps a more interesting question is, what must such a person genuinely desire?