Christianity

Christian pamphleteering at Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference [Canada]

by Sadat bin Anwar, MDI Canada

The annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference in Toronto, Canada is the second largest Muslim gathering in North America after the annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference in Chicago, U.S.  Due to its stellar speaker line-up and the organizers and attendees being made up of mostly young (ie. under-40s) professionals and students, RIS is arguably the new flagship Muslim convention in North America.  As a result, it has begun to attract attention from Islam’s opponents.  Last month (December 2012), the conference attracted, for the first time in my memory, a group of evangelical Christians outside of the Metro Convention Centre.  I am reproducing below some of the pages from a “calender” that was being distributed free of charge to the Muslim attendees.  The majority of the recipients took the calenders happily, expecting them to be Islamically-themed.   See the cover image below and you might understand why.

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The title of the calender states, in Arabic, “In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”   I am not sure whether the publishers of this tract/booklet (which is basically what it is, as we will see) actually consider “Allah” to be a legitimate name or word for “God” in a Semitic language, or whether it is just one of those Paul-like “compromises” that they felt was necessary for the greater good– ie. hoodwinking Muslims into being “saved”.  Paul, the prophet of Christianity, famously stated: “I am made all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22), in a passage in which he is explaining why he follows Jewish ritual observances while in the presence of Jews, but not at other times.   Could the publisher(s) of this “calender” have the same deceptive strategy in mind?   Who is/are the publisher(s) of this calender anyhow?   Even the answer to this question is not given without the ingredient of deception.   See below and I will explain further.

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At the end of the December page (above), we are left only with some words of praise for “Allah”, plus the website address which is presumably of the person(s) who printed this tract:  “thegreatdawah.com”.  When I visited this site for the first time about a month ago, it offered a link to the Answering Islam website of Jochen Katz, however that link appears to have been removed now, which suggests that perhaps thegreatdawah.com is not in affiliation with Jochen Katz’s site after all.   At the present moment, thegreatdawah.com only offers reproduced images from the distributed “calender” and nothing more– a rather redundant thing to do, I think.

Anyhow, what offended me the most was not that some Christians flattered the RIS conference and its attendees by standing outside of the convention centre in the middle of a Canadian winter, during the Christmas holidays, for three cold mornings in a row.  Not at all.  After all, they could have shown up with a pig’s head on a pole, which is more the style of American evangelicals who turn up to preach Christian “love” at the Dearborn Arab Festival in Detroit (I hope I didn’t give anyone any ideas there!).  Rather what offended me was how the publisher of this tract insulted the intelligence of the Muslims.   Notice how, on the December page, there is zero mention of Christianity, Jesus, the Bible, etc.   Presumably, the dumb Muslim recipient would have kept this calender up on his fridge for the whole (or remaining) month of December, not suspecting a thing.   The same may apply to January, since it only contains statements in apparent support of the Qur’an’s message.   Heck, even a hadith is thrown in for good measure.

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February is the month in which the naive Muslim might raise an eyebrow.  It is the first month in which a bit of shirk-ish terminology is introduced to the Muslim.  It’s sort of like the “snowball effect” of a growing Christology in the Christian gospels, except it’s in a calender format and it grows over the period of twelve instalments instead of four.  In February, reproduced below, we are gradually introduced to the language of God as “father”.  But it starts with “father”– that is, with a small “f”– and only hints at Trinitarian language near the end, where it is spelled “Father” with a capital “F”.  Even then, is it capitalized because the word “Father” occurs at the beginning of a sentence, or because we are supposed to be addressing “God the Father”?  In other words, is “Father” capitalized for grammatical reasons or for theological reasons?  And was this calender originally penned in Koine Greek, by any chance?   February, just like the weather of February, is ambiguous and unpredictable.

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Notice the local Toronto phone number given at the bottom of the calender page for February.  Don’t get excited; it’s just another wild goose chase.  No one ever picks up the phone.   Believe me or not, but I still give credit to the author for not being even more deceptive than he has been so far.  At least he didn’t say his name is “Reza” and that he’s the son of a great and influential Muslim scholar from Iran who was well-known and respected by everyone in his city (but who of course must remain anonymous for the sake of safety).  Then again, maybe that script has been used one too many times.  In any event, a phone number is given, but with no contact name.  The phone number, however, is even more useless than the website, since nobody picks up.  I am beginning to think that this fellow’s goal was not to convert Muslims, but rather just to frustrate them and waste their time.

Have you also noticed by now that this is not much of a calender?   Out of “Islamic calender”, not even one of these words is true; it is neither Islamic, nor is it much of a user-friendly calender.  One actually has to struggle to see the months’ names on the pages, since the printed dates are in such a small font.  This plays into my “If you can’t beat them, frustrate them” theory of the publication.

Moving on, March and April are sort of like the Gospel of Mark, whereas the previous two months were more like the hypothesized “Q Source”.  You can see some Christian terminology and themes beginning to appear here and there, but we’re still a very far cry away from the deity of Jesus.   It’s sort of like a Unitarian Christian speaking.   This itself begs the question of whether the “calender” had one author, or whether there were multiple authors, each one with his own Christology.  I will let you decide.   March and April are reproduced below.

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In May, the imagery itself shifts from an Islamic one to a more “Christian” one.  The picture is that of what appears to be a kidnapped ram, although the imagery is still being linked back to a Qur’anic ayah about sacrifice.  This month basically continues with the themes of sin, sacrifice, and redemption.  It is also the first month (almost halfway through the year!) that we actually see the words “Jesus” and “Christ” occurring, although they appear separately from each other, not together as “Jesus Christ”; that might just sound too Christian at this point.   Also, it is still pretty “Markan” in flavour– nothing yet about the divinity of Christ.  See below.

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June, exactly mid-year, is when the tract comes out of its theological hibernation, and presents the Christian program for redemption clearly.  Muslims must pray to Jesus (or is it through Jesus?; there is arguably still some Unitarian wiggle room here), whose name is interestingly explained as meaning “Allah saves”.   We are now given a biblical verse, in which Jesus says “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”– although the source of the quote is not identified.  The dumb Muslim, it is supposed, will probably just digest it as some spurious hadith that he has never heard before and roll with it.   Still, even mid-way through the year, Jesus is only described as “close to Allah”, and not Allah Himself.   And I thought took a long time to get to the point!   Below is the June page:

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I will spare you the rest of the months.  In case you’re curious, it is only in the month of September that the divinity of Jesus is mentioned, and even then it is only hinted at.  The tract quotes Surah 5:110 of the Qur’an, in which Jesus gives life to a clay bird “by Allah’s permission“.  The author rather predictably misses the point and asks, “Is this an implied admission by the Quran about the divine nature of Jesus?”   At this point, I guess the Muslim is supposed to be rhapsodically nodding his head in agreement.  I don’t blame the Christian author for using what he could find, though.  Using the synoptic gospels to try to prove Jesus’ divinity is an equally daunting task; one may as well try it with the Qur’an.  In both cases, it is what we would call “grasping at straws”.

I find it interesting that it is the very same group of people (evangelical, born-again Christians) who accuse Muslims of taqiyyah (as they understand it) and deception, who employ this method the most themselves.  Muslims across various parts of the world have tonnes of these types of stories to share.

The Qur’an 2:11-12 states:

And when it is said to them, `Do not cause mischief in the earth’, they reply by saying, `We are actually the peace-makers.’  No, they are actually the mischief-makers, but they do not realize it.

On a political level, I have always found the above verse to be very fitting for American foreign policy in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South America.  On the religious level, however, I have always found this verse most applicable to the proselytizing methods employed by evangelical Christians.  Indeed, it is the same group that accuses Muslims of “lying” and “deception” that most employs deceptive tactics themselves.  This tract, for example, is presented in the form of an Islamic calender, yet it is neither Islamic nor is it even much of a calender!  It is actually an exercise in deception, from January right all the way until December.

In a way, the redundant website and the obsolete phone number provided in the tract are symbolic and indicative of Christianity itself.  Christian theology, with its focus on Jesus as God, is itself a “wrong number”.  When you dial the wrong number, there is no one to answer your call or to return it.  It is a belief held in vain, accompanied by prayers and petitions that may be well-meaning but which are misaddressed, like letters mailed to the wrong place.  If Christians truly wish to return to the teachings of Jesus, they should “phone” or connect with the One that Jesus himself connected with in the Lord’s Prayer, and that is God Himself.  That is the right “address” and the right “phone number” to connect with.

The final image in the “calender”, in the December section, ends with a Qur’anic verse that I could not have found more fitting and appropriate.  Sometimes, God makes people testify against themselves.  What do you think?

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If the printers and distributors of this false and misleading “calender” believe that it will impress or convert anyone, they are truly lost in their own web of delusion and they have fooled no one but themselves, even though they may not realize it.  The money spent on these tracts would have been better spent on hot coffee for all the attendees.

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What are your thoughts on such Christian tracts?   Should they be used as a means of reaching or influencing Muslims?  Or are they cheap stunts that are likely to be counter-productive and influence people negatively towards Christianity?   Please share your comments.

20 replies »

  1. WOW. I have never seen such deception before. I didn’t know that they will resort to this level to somehow slowly install ideas in Muslim head regarding Sacrifice, Cross, Father etc. Although I am 100% their effort were useless as nobody reads anything on the calendars except use them as calendars but the fact that they went to this length of using subliminal messages (that they used to accuse musicians of using) to somehow convert people is simply fantastic. As always, an eye opening article; you can write. Also, a great discovery; I used the edge-walk to go to RIS and didn’t see anyone there (or perhaps didn’t notice) and even if I did; I must admit, like average Muslim, i wouldn’t read it to find out.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, brother.

    I think you meant the “Skywalk”, though, and not the “Edge-walk”, unless you were walking around the rim of the C.N. Tower!! 😉

    • Oh ya; I don’t remember having a helicopter ride from home to the CN tower Edge-walk and then parachuting down to Metro Convention Centre. So yes, I stand corrected…..I meant to say “Skywalk”. 😉

      Based on why I mixed them up and come to think of it….Skywalk..is on the edge of the city and on the edges of train tracks and Edge-walk is pretty high up in the sky….so may be Toronto should swap the two names.

      Just on a side note; I do not know any better blog/news-paper that deals with debates or even day-to-day Muslim issues here and abroad. You are a good writer and if there is anything better plz do share what that is and perhaps consider writing for them.

  3. Wow, if it weren’t so expensive to call from the States, I’d give that phone number a try – really love to find out who’s behind these. Can’t be a very traditional/conservative group, because that’s totally unlike the methods my old church/family uses to try and convert me back – they’re all “preach the Gospel! down with the satanic Qur’an! (astaghfirullah)”. This is way too ambiguous and vague – I think you’re right – sounds Unitarian or something. Let us know if you ever reach the number🙂

  4. Excellent article and embarrassing to say the least for those who distributed the calender – what a mockery of their own efforts. Indeed the last verse from the Qur’an was fitting – sort of like Divine intervention and a slap in the face for their efforts. You also summed up very well the following:
    “I find it interesting that it is the very same group of people (evangelical, born-again Christians) who accuse Muslims of taqiyyah (as they understand it) and deception, who employ this method the most themselves. Muslims across various parts of the world have tonnes of these types of stories to share.
    The Qur’an 2:11-12 states:And when it is said to them, `Do not cause mischief in the earth’, they reply by saying, `We are actually the peace-makers.’ No, they are actually the mischief-makers, but they do not realize it.”

    Their hypocrisy never ceases to amaze – yet another example of their definition of “taqiyyah” illustrated in calender format indeed. Pathetic. Thank you for keeping the Muslims informed and updated on the antics of those who are obviously threatened and uncomfortable by Islam and it’s revival through events such as R.I.S.

  5. Thanks for the feedback. A friend has informed me that the authors were probably a group of local Coptic Christians, but the evangelical type, not actually belonging to the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church. They are frequent attendees at interfaith debate events at the NAMF mosque in Toronto.

  6. Assalaam alaikum. May Allah reward you immensely for bringing this to attention. This calendar is probably the work of a man called Alex Kerimli or his group consisting of Egyptian Christians (Allah SWT knows best), whose websites are http://www.lovingmuslimstogether.org/index.php/11-speakers/44-alex-kerimli and http://torontooutreach.webstarts.com/index.html . These people attend the interfaith events fervently at NAMF and elsewhere and are also friends/acquaintances of Mr. Neil Bullock. They are juvenile in their thinking and quite capable of taking this cheap shot. Recently they held a conference titled, Canadian Network of Ministries to Muslims (http://www.cnmm.ca/) in Toronto in October 2012 (the day of Eid Al-Adha). Surprisingly, they did not publish a single audio tape or a picture of the event so far. Was it a flop?

  7. Followers of Paul at work here ,they probably got their inspiration from this verse

    “But what does it matter? Nothing matters except that, in one way or another, people are told the message about Christ, whether with honest or dishonest motives, and I’m happy about that. Yes, I will continue to be happy.” (Philippians 1:18)

    Paul will be happy with them ! keep it up . But unfortunately they are dealing with Muslims not Hindus , Buddhist , Jews or anybody else .

    They themself will acknowledge that Muslims are the most resistant to Christian faith unlike others . A 2000 yrs of missionary effort to proselytize Muslims went into tatters as no place in the Muslim world they got converts .

    Which Muslim will buy the nonsense illogical shit of Trinity , hypostatic union and the penal substitution ? that to from a corrupted scripture .

    • You have called it shit and illogical yet it has taken someone sleepless nights to try and white wash it. The truth is that this is a real hit because those muslims who never knew that truth cause they are not exposed to it can access it in the simplest means. If it did not tickle you then you wouldnt write in that ruthless tone actually you are more annoyed.

  8. Its not new , the New Testament itself is an anonymous and forged document to deceive masses

    Lets see the New Testament

    -Gospels … all scholars agree that they are anonymous and have insertions , myths , lies
    to achieve theological motives .The 4th gospel is wholesale lies attributed to Christ

    -Acts… scholars acknowledge it is anonymous

    -Pauline epistles…. Pastorals epistles are presented as if written by Paul but are not ,they are
    thought to be pseudepigraphic by the majority of modern scholars

    Hebrews is anonymous , all scholars agree

    Scholars divided on Ephesians,Colossians and Second Thessalonians

    -General epistles… authorship disputed.

    -Book of revelation… authorship disputed.

    So nobody knows who wrote majority of the New Testament . Scholars agree that they are not genuine reports but a theological propaganda which many a times uses deceit to try to convey some motive.

    Bart D. Ehrman in his latest book ‘ Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics ‘ brilliantly exposes all the deceit which early Christians practiced to drive their theology .

    Andrew Jacobs, Associate Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Scripps College writes the following in review of the book

    ” Ehrman has produced a learned and engaging survey of early Christian controversial literature from the vantage point of authorial identity and rhetorical deceit, asking why Christians lied about themselves when writing polemical works and why scholars are so resistant to acknowledging their forgeries. ”

    What a striking example of the deceitful purpose for which New Testament was written and the purpose of distribution of the misleading calenders .

    ITS THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH IS GUIDING THESE CHRISTIANS RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING TO LIE AND TO FORGE AND TO DECEIVE .

    • Yesterday after afternoon prayer in the Mosque on Markham Rd & Lawrence Ave, I noticed a bunch of these calendars sitting on the table near the exit. I recognized them instantly and brought it to the attention of the management. I took them away and now I am in the process of distributing them to various Mosque managements and bringing it to their attention.

      Secondly, I would like to remind myself of what Allah SWT says in the Noble Qur’an, Surah Al-Moo-minoon (#23), verse 96, quoted below, regarding what our conduct should be, especially in matters like these and in these forums.

      IDFA’A BIL-LATEE HIYA AHSAN –US-SAYYIA; NAHNOO ’ALAMU BIMA YASIFOON. Translation: Repel evil with that which is best; We (Allah) are well acquainted with the things they say.

      No doubt, we have to be assertive, but also courteous. As brother Saadat bin Anwer’s main article above has pointed out very wisely, perhaps the best advice to the producers of this calendar is the Qur’anic passage quoted by the producers themselves on the December page, namely: “They deceive not, except themselves”.

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