Thursday, March 04, 2010
The Empty Mosques of London
Arab Orthodoxy links an interesting interview with a former Muslim preacher who recently converted to Orthodoxy in Great Britain. The story is a bit counter-intuitive, as one is so accustomed to reading of Europe's empty churches and creeping Islamization. From the perspective of the newly-illumined Daniel, a different story emerges. Not that Western European Christianity is not anemic--it is, but rather that the supposed Islamic community is far weaker in faith than generally understood.
Daniel was born in the U.K. and has traveled and studied throughout the Islamic world, engaging in Muslim missions in a number of countries. Oddly enough, he claims he first desired to study the New Testament while standing in front of the Kaaba in Mecca. Even with the strict prohibition against Christian literature in Saudi Arabia, Daniel maintains that with modern communications, "it is not difficult for those who are looking to find the Word of God." He was encouraged by the strength and conviction of Christians he talked with secretly in Saudi Arabia.
Daniel first encountered the Orthodox faith in Sarajevo. After waiting for a group of Imams to pass by, I went into the Serbian church and I felt the astonished look of the Serbian priest when I made the sign of the cross in the Orthodox way and I made a prostration onto the ground. Then I knew that Orthodoxy was, of all the Christian confessions, the closest to me.
Daniel maintains that the Christian West does not understand the true status of Islam.
Muslims of today are rather less religious than people in the Christian world believe. In Muslim countries, there are many mosques and they say prayers there five times a day, but besides on Friday no one goes to the mosque.
In Muslim countries, many people search for truth and it’s because of this that the Christian mission will grow....In general, many Muslims distance themselves from Islam and this is especially visible in Western countries. In Great Britain, many Muslims have converted to Christianity. In the Anglican Church, Muslims who have adopted Christianity are estimated at a hundred thousand people. Many of them are Pakistanis. They have their own Christian churches and are forced to hide because of the danger of reprisals from the Muslims.
Most Muslims won’t ever go to a mosque. The young people have effectively left Islam, even if they say that they’re still Muslims.
...it is to the advantage of certain people to present Islam as an immense force. If one takes the list of mosques in Muslim publications, for example, in West London, we find that there are twenty mosques and much free space in each of these mosques, even though the number of people of Muslim origins in London is such that they would need even more mosques if a majority went....In general, believers are very rare in mosques and most are children who bring their parents. When they grow, they disappear. Christianity offers a free choice, thus it is much better adapted to life in a climate of tolerance, and Islam is unable to pass this test.
I was a part of the Islamic mission to the British and I can say that the number of converts is minimal. At Friday prayers in the center of London, the number of British Muslims at the mosque is maybe one percent. Outside of London, they don’t even reach this number. All the Muslims know the real number of converts to Islam.
When some Muslims say that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, London imams say that this growth is primarily because of the fertility rate, but there is no real mission. I do not doubt that Christianity is much stronger in terms of mission.
...there are very many [converts to Christian faith.] This happens without any publicity.
...many Muslims simply abandon their faith and become unbelievers. Unbelief is an illness common to all. Certain Muslims try to present atheism and the absence of religion as characteristics of Christian civilization, but Muslims themselves, even more than Christians, lose their faith in the Western world.
However, there is the very good example of Russia and the other Orthodox countries where the Church is growing, even with freedom of choice. I hope one day to go to Russia, but in the meantime I need to rebuild my life as an Orthodox Christian.
In Turkey, at least, one sees many near-empty mosques, even on Fridays. And I would not say that the situation was markedly different in Syria. And Daniel does have a point, even in Islamic countries, mosques are not chock-a-block in the way churches once were in Christian countries. But here is where I would draw a distinction: I do not believe that an empty mosque has the same meaning for Islam that empty churches do for the Christian faith. Empty churches speak ill for Christianity. Poor mosque attendance does not necessarily mean that its adherents are any less loyal to its teachings.
But maybe I am wrong. I would particularly like to hear from Muslims in regard to Daniel's claims.