Monday, May 12, 2014

Is Islam the World’s Fastest Growing Religion? (My Humble Plea to Islam)

Foreignpolicy.com reports that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and so does Wikipedia.1 No doubt this indicates a trend. But how is this growth achieved?

Foreign policy.com attributes Islamic growth to its presence in the world’s fastest growing countries and the influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe, “The worlds [sic] largest Muslim populations are in fast-growing countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Egypt, and Iran. Islam also happens to be the fastest growing religion in Europe, where an influx of Muslim immigrants from North Africa, Turkey, and South Asia has sent shock waves into a mostly Christian and secular population whose birthrates have stagnated.” 1

I lived in Bahrain (Arabian Peninsula) for a good number of years. But I do not recollect anyone evangelizing me into Islam. Even when I walked into the office of “Discover Islam” in the Island, I was greeted politely and courteously, but not one word was uttered to convert me.

All I am asserting is that Islam does not seem to me as an actively evangelizing faith from a one-on-one standpoint. I have had people from “Jehovah’s witnesses” knock at my door to convert me, but not once did I encounter anyone trying to convert me into Islam in India as well.

If my limited personal experience is an indicator to the extent of Islamic evangelization, how then does Islam manage to grow at a hectic pace from within the absence of a focused personal one-on-one evangelization?

However, I do not deny the presence of active evangelization in any worldview, let alone Islam. Influx of Muslim immigrants and the subsequent growth of Islam in Europe do seem to indicate an active evangelization on the part of Islam.

This illustration would lead me into the first point I wish to present. During my stay in the Kingdom of Bahrain, I once encountered a young couple from a highly conservative Islamic State. They were dressed in their traditional Arabic attire.

We were travelling to an Island resort in a boat. As soon the couple settled in their seats, the man removed his headgear and the lady uncovered her face.

Upon reaching the Island resort, we went into the lobby of the hotel reserved for our stay. At the lobby, the lady was without her burka (she cannot venture out without her Burka in her country). Burka is generally worn over the most preferred attire of the individual. This lady was now in her jean and a swanky top.

Later, at the restaurant, the couple was in shorts and t-shirt – obviously more preferred than their traditional Arabic attire.

At the swimming pool, the woman was in her bikini. During the entire course of our stay in that tiny island resort, I never once saw them in their traditional Arabic gear. Obviously, when we left this island resort, they returned to their traditional Arabic attire.

This leads me to assert that if the woman was free to choose her attire in her own country, she would not have preferred the traditional Arabic attire that only exposes her eyes.

Bahrain is more tolerant towards attire, religion and even certain vices, such as alcohol. Visitors from neighboring Gulf States are a common sight in Bahrain during weekends and holidays. They arrive to indulge in alcohol and maybe even some multinational womanizing, which is strictly forbidden in much conservative Islamic countries.

This is an interesting practice - where people from authoritarian countries enter the more tolerant and inclusive society to freely and openly indulge in their desires. They may even indulge in certain vices in their own country, but in strict secrecy. They indulge at the cost of imprisonment or severe punishments, if caught.

Had the authorities been tolerant of any decent attire in the couple’s native country, they would have discarded the traditional Arabic attire for a preferred outfit. Had the authorities allowed liquor, Bahrain would not witness tourism to the extent that’s prevalent.

My point is this. People are forced into doing things that they really do not want to do.

My question now is this, how many would voluntarily embrace Islam if the strict yoke of religious enforcement is removed by Islam? Religious conversion of Muslims is forbidden by Islam.

Many countries offer their citizens the much required freedom to pursue what they want to do. This is good. A free society is the most desirable society. By freedom, I am not advocating lawlessness, but I am advocating for the individual’s freedom to choose the attire he wants to wear and the religion he wants to subscribe to.

Progressive mindsets of Islamic states such as Bahrain ought to be praised and encouraged.  

My first humble plea to conservative Islam is this. Please offer freedom to your people to either freely choose or reject Islam.

I love the God of the Bible for this very precise reason. HE has given us the freedom to either freely choose or reject HIM. This is love in its purest form. There is no slavery in this form of love.

Man should freely love God. If man is unable to love God for whatever reason, then it’s upon the Almighty God to do all that’s possible (in love and justice) for man to love HIM. But if God has done everything for man to love HIM and if man still rejects God, the ball is certainly in man’s court. It’s definitely not in God’s court.

In this context, when man rejects God, God cannot be blamed for man’s failure to love HIM, especially when God has done all that it takes for man to love HIM. No one loves being a slave to anything they don’t love. I am not saying that no one loves being a slave to anything they hate. But no one loves being a slave to anything they do not love.

I am not implying that all Muslims hate Islam. I am only asserting a good possibility that Muslims’ adherence to Islam, in many cases and contexts, is forced. They are forced to subscribe to Islam since they are forbidden to reject Islam. They are forbidden to question Islam.

So when I see a statistic proclaiming that Islam is the fastest growing religion, I find it very uncomfortable to believe knowing that the yoke of religious bondage is upon many who profess faith in the Islamic worldview. 

If growth of Islam in Europe is the result of Muslim immigrant influx, then evangelization by Muslims is probably the greatest reason for Islamic growth in Europe. So my second humble plea to Islam is to encourage other worldviews to proclaim their tenets to anyone who may want to explore the other worldviews.  

In other words, just as Europe does not restrict the presence of Islam and its evangelization, Islam should not restrict other worldviews to establish their legal presence in countries under Islamic governance. Moreover, Islam should offer freedom to other worldviews to proclaim their tenets to anyone who may want to explore these worldviews.   

To summarize, my plea to Islam is two-fold:

1. Please offer Muslims the total freedom to choose or reject Islam.

2. Just as Muslims take advantage of the freedom for evangelization offered by other countries, please offer similar freedom to other worldviews to proclaim their faith in your countries.

I will definitely believe in the stupendous growth of Islam, if religious freedom is available to all Muslims and if all worldviews are free to proclaim their faith in all Islamic countries. Until this happens, I am forced by Islam to not take the growth statistic seriously.


Endnotes:

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Raj, if I can address you this way...
.
I must say that I found your article quiet tempting to continue reading maybe due to some commonalities we share.
I totally agree with your observation that residents in gulf countries like Bahrain n Dubai ( where I too have my 28 years of experience) have never come across anyone preaching Islam to me or forcing me to adapt.
Originally from India and a mumbaite you can proberly gage my open outlook to life.

As much as I agree to your above point I also disagree with your attempt to state the statistics false.
For the mere fact being just as my India has its divisions n restriction in each district whereby a non Mahrashtran is forced to learn Marathi since they have no choice to reside in Mumbai to fit d Norms, and despise it totally. IT doesn't mean the citizen being Christian, hindu, muslim is being forced by their holy books to be hypocrites.
my point here is that u have very conviniently pointed out the hypocrisy u saw n experienced but dint go deep in to ask d question Does Islam force you to do what you are doing?
As per record in d bible you are not permitted to flaunt your skin n are respected to dress like d nun just as in islam anything transparent, revealing yur physique and attracting d opposite sex is not permitted.
Now the abaya is the national dress of the Arab region apart from it being the garment of cover up.
Just coz you noted few black sheeps being hypocrites it doesnt mean that the whole system is a wrong.
A system is made in d school for everyone to follow but if few dont and abide by it and choose to walk differently doesn't mean the system was wrong.
Everyone will face there verdict on THE DAY.
Its not that every muslim is a muslim by merely being born in a family.
You have to find your purpose and n prove your truthfulness.
I am a convert to Islam with my own free will. With no force n no pain.
Its when you are convinced that you want to cover up for your only soul mate for his eyes to only glance you , one makes the decision to start covering up.
I know of many muslim friends who till date don't cover up but do walk out go r convenience sake in an abaya.
Raj,
Its only when u feel from d heart will you take the first step to know the details.
And one more thing, Islam has no restrictions, it has guidelines to meet salvation. if you follow it, GOOD FOR YOU N IF YOU NOT THE CONSEQUENCES ARE CLEARLY STATED.
it for us to decide.
its because of these clear guidelines n logic explanations I chose to convert and many more like me are.
So dont doubt the statistics on petty observations, if you have it in you to state the falsehood in the holy Quran , GIVE IT A SHOT. For your satisfaction.
Knowledge Is Power and Islam asks you to never stop asking!

Suhaila Husein said...

A good read...though I must say full of misconceptions about Islam. My suggestion for anyone who wishes to know what Islam is that you read and understand the Holy Quran rather than judge how the so called Islamic countries conduct their government and their laws or whatever...becuz at the end of the day, NOT a SINGLE person can ever claim to be the ultimate flagbearer of Islam or Christianity or Judaism or any other religion-not even the highest mullah,or reverend or rabbi.
So Mr Richard, my plea to you as a muslim is not to look into Islam, not Muslims, because Islam is not about force, its about questioning.If some people are not following it right, its not fault with the Conceptuality of Islam, its because they dont wanna follow it right.

Sofia Shamim said...

Wat a horrible article written.im sorry to say.please don't blame religion. You probably have a lesser knowledge of Islam. May God enlighten you with depth of knowledge n clarity of concept. Islam is the most righteous religion I hav ever seen .I'm in america. The most Christians here have broken all rules of morality. But did I blame your religion ??

Naz S said...

A v interesting article...however plenty of mistaken notions
Peoples adherence is subjective...nd is a matter of piety.. not a matter of religious rigidity ...Muslims; humans in general; r NOT perfect , however Islam is .. Islam is abt submitting yourself to Allah....Infact it is a v logical religion...as we say ..there is Allah's 'hikmah' behind everything...

Born again muslims and converts..are attracted to the beauty of Islam...mainly the teachings...
That is the Quran and the Prophet Muhammed (sws) Sunnah...infact the vast majority of people who accept it are women...if Islam was about force,subjugation,male domination and oppression..this wouldnt b the case.

Islam from day 1 of its existence encouraged people to question nd seek knowledge...infact from my own personl experienc...d more i questiond d teachings of my religion...d more i learnt...nd dts wt made me respect and love islam more..

Islam is d fastest growing religion in d west
..yes ...but we muslims in the other parts of the world hv takn our religion for granted, we hv been influencd by odr faiths nd diluted our religion makin it our culture rather than faith...m sure if we stepped out of d comfort zone..esp in d gulf...nd find for ourselves d beauty of this divine religion...ther wil b a huge wave of born again muslims and converts here too....If Allah Wills..

Raj Richard said...

Thank you all for your comments. Apologies for my delayed response. I will publish my response in form of another blog tomorrow (Monday the 19th May).

At this point in time, it may be an easy task to address the points that you have pointed out....so please excuse me for not responding person-to-person.

In case, I have missed out responding to some of your points in my next blog, then please be kind enough to point them out to me. I will surely respond....

Thank you for your patience. God bless.