Friday, April 29, 2005

Why I got a copy of the Koran

I did a crazy, rash thing last week. In fact, it's not that crazy but if the old me could see me now... gee.

Last year I started reading history in earnest. Not just Christian history, history full stop. I believe you can only really understand the present when you understand at least some of the past.

So while I was reading history, and pondering how the west has largely gone "post-Christian" while Islamic fundamentalism has remained strong, even revived, I thought "Y'know, it'd be good to read the Koran for itself sometime."

Last Saturday the chance came. I was idly channel surfing early on a Saturday morning, and started watching Voice of Islam.

I was puzzled, because a woman was teaching a group of guys. That makes you sit up and notice, particularly given the image we're often given of Islam around the world.

Then there was a documentary about the Nazis of all things, linking their ideology with that of Darwin, Marx and Engels. I see where they're coming from, and I think most Christians would've been able to agree with this doco.

Meanwhile, across the bottom of the screen, a message said if you want a free copy of the Koran in English, email this address. So I did!

And on Wednesday it arrived, along with several other books presumably aimed towards Christians or those raised in a Christian household.

Turns out the man behind Voice of Islam was raised Catholic and became a Muslim after a long search, disillusioned by the hypocrisy he found in institutional Christianity.

It just made me think we really are so much more influenced by what we see in someone's life than what they say. The Muslims this man met were sincere people, and he could see them living out their beliefs.

So am I likely to become a Muslim? No. There's no other belief system like Christianity that deals with the problem of sin.

But I did appreciate the opportunity to hear what Islam is about from a Muslim. I've read about Islam from a Christian perspective and heard a little bit about it from a Jew (the day after 9/11, in fact, which was when I first became interested in Islam). But each belief deserves to be explained by someone who really believes it.

Otherwise, we fall into the trap of creating an indefensible argument - a straw man, as they say - and setting ourselves up for a surprise when we hear the more plausible version that is believed by many around the world.

I like how Roy H Williams describes it: If you can explain your opponent's ideology in a way that they can agree with, you've really understood it, and they're more likely to listen - really listen - to your point of view.

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