The Battle of spreading the Holy Books is more intense than anyone would've thought.
The combination of globalisation and rising wealth is proving to be
a bonanza for both religions. The most prolific producer of Christian
missionaries, on a per head basis, is now South Korea. The biggest
Bible publishing houses are in Brazil and South Korea. An interlinked
global network of 140 national or regional Bible Societies pools
resources to reach its collective goal of putting a Bible in the hands
of every man, woman and child on the planet. The American Bible
Society, the biggest of the lot, has published more than 50m Bibles in
Saudi oil wealth is supercharging the distribution of the Koran. The
kingdom gives away some 30m Korans a year, under the auspices of either
the Muslim World League or individual billionaires, distributing them
through a vast network of mosques, Islamic societies and even
embassies. Go to FreeKoran.com and you can have a free book in your hands in weeks.
Saudi-funded dissemination of the Koran, along with literature
promoting the stern Saudi understanding of Islam, may not have much
direct effect on Christians, or the unchurched. But it does increase
the relative weight, within Islam, of teachings which tend to sharpen
the Christian-Muslim divide. For example, traditional Muslim teaching
stresses those passages in the Koran which affirm the Christian Gospel
and the Hebrew Torah as valid revelations of God and paths to
salvation. But there is a harsher, Saudi-influenced view which insists
that since Muhammad delivered the final revelation, Christianity and
Judaism have lost their power to save.
And that is the branch of Islam that I have the biggest problem with. The Saudi view's prevelance has grown to such a degree that you can never get a straight answer from Imams now on whether or not Jews and Christians are infidels or people of the book. It's kind of like the Milk question and nutritionists: Does any of you know anymore whether Milk is good or bad for you?
I rest my case.
The distortion is of epic proportion, and so is the intolerant attitude. Long gone is the Islam of tolerance and respecting the religious rights of the country's christians and jews. Can any of you name a middle-eastern country where the christian inhabitants don't feel prosecuted by their muslim counterparts? How about a generally Islamic country. Does that work? No? How about we ignore christians and jews, and stick to islamic branches: How about a country where the sunnis don't oppress the shia, or the shia don't screw over the sunnis? I couldn't find one either. Whether we like it or not, Islam has developed a reclusive, closed ghetto mentality, mimicking those who have spent lots of money to turn it this way. But this may end up being their own undoing in the end…
The third big advantage is the West's belief in religious
freedom—guaranteed in America by the constitution, and in Europe by an
aversion to religious persecution caused by centuries of it. The
heartland of Islam, by contrast, is theocratic. The Saudi Ministry of
Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call and Guidance employs 120,000 people,
including 72,000 imams. Saudi Arabia bans non-Islamic worship and
regards attempts to convert Muslims to another faith as a criminal
offence. Pakistan has witnessed the attacks on Christian missionaries.
Sudan punishes “religious deviation” with imprisonment.
Christian Evangelists complain that this creates an uneven playing
field: Muslims can build giant mosques in “Christian lands” while
Christians are barred from distributing Bibles in Saudi Arabia and
Iran. But uneven playing fields tend to weaken the home players. Open
competition is a boon to religion: American Evangelism has flourished
precisely because America has no official church. And theocracy is
ultimately a source of sloth and conservatism. “The Book and the
Koran”, by Muhammad Shahrur, which tried to reinterpret the Koran for
modern readers, was widely banned in the Islamic world, despite its
pious tone and huge popularity.
The stagnation in Islamic thought, fueled by the strict and stringent wahabbi interpretation, has been bearing fruit for the past few years, and we are seeing this in the Fatwas being released by so called islamic scholars. Hell, the majority of the current AlAazhar Ulamaswere previously hired and indoctrinated in Saudi Islamic Universities, which led the majority of them to adopt the more conservative Wahabbi interpertation, instead of Al Azhar's more moderate Al Ash3ary one, which is dying in the institution as we speak. This is why we are now getting Breast-feeding fatwas. Liberalization of Islamic thought and modus operandi may be essential now, but soon enough, with the direction it's been taking, it will be crucial for the religion's survival.