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27 March, 2005

Mission impossible

The UAE - unlike Saudi - is a country that allows freedom of worship and religion: as well as mosques there are many temples and churches here, and people of other faiths are welcomed and respected.

The only restriction is that one should confine preaching to within a religious building, which - given the religious conflict that affects much of the region - is a wise and useful law.

This tolerance of other faiths in an Islamic country is something to admire and respect. So it is frankly offensive and an abuse of hospitality when people arrive in the UAE and start witnessing:

"74-year-old V.G. and 55-year-old M.B., were questioned for allegedly distributing Bibles and illegally promoting Christianity in public.

"The two women were on a missionary trip with the Tom Cox Evangelistic Association when they were arrested and taken to Bur Dubai Police Station. Sources said 26 CDs and 19 Bibles were found in their possession."

We live in this Islamic country as guests of the rulers; they allow us pork, alcohol and nightclubs (Sharjah excepted), is it really too much to keep ones bible indoors?

Perhaps what is most offensive is the perception these missionaries undoubtedly have that Muslims are some sort of pagans that need "saving":

" Voice of the Martyrs' Todd Nettleton thinks rather than let the arrests drive believers underground, it should spur them to action. "What I would like to see be the message of this is a new sense of boldness for American Christians. [...]

"Christians are permitted to practice their faith in their own homes and churches in Dubai, but Islam is the official religion, and evangelism is illegal. For that reason, Nettleton says prayer is still needed."

These evangelists are probably too arrogant and too ignorant to have ever bothered to find out that Islam recognises Christianity - including Jesus and Mary - has the same God, the same testaments and prophets, and a very similar moral code in terms of obedience and respect to God, family and neighbours.

Likewise the offensive idiot expats displaying Jesus-fishes on the back of their Prados. If anyone deserves to be tailgated into the central reservation it is these Christocretins.



Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Well, they often proselytize in the United States as well... But, "when in Rome, do like the Romans" do - or at least observe its laws. If you don't want to face the consequences of breaking a law, don't go to Rome (or Dubai, in this case!)

27 March, 2005 02:21  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Yes - they were lucky to have been in Dubai. In Saudi, for example, they would have been much more harshly dealt with.

27 March, 2005 13:41  
Blogger portuguesa nova said...

When I go to your second paragraph where you say "preaching should be confined to a religious building", the first thing I thought of was how useful a law like that would be for American Christian fundamentalists thorughout the world. I was not surprised to see, as I continued reading, that it was just that group causing problems.

They are like cockroaches--annoying, unpleasant, offensive, everywhere and impossible to get rid of.

I worked as an English teacher in a very rural Japanese city, and there were even these types there...luckily, since I am a woman, they pretty much ignored me.

Everytime I would see them riding around on bikes and stopping to talk to someone, I wanted to run over and scream to the Japanese people, "Nooooooo! Stay away!!! You'll never get them out of your life!"

The Japanese are so reserved and friendly, that of course, they just can't tell them to go away.

27 March, 2005 22:06  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I read the blog of an expat in Hong Kong, and it seems groups like the Mormons are well entrenched there with their witnessing.

27 March, 2005 23:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess when other governments oppress, it's an acceptable part of the culture. Yet were something similar done in America, it would be declared the onset of Big Brother at his worst.

Religion isn't something you leave in the church or a book kept hidden in a drawer. It isn't a quaint hobby for lemmings either. If you have the capacity for faith, it's part of your life. That you may be so into your faith that you want to share the message should not be a crime, no matter where you are. Furthermore, unlike Islam, Christianity (and most other religions) hasn't forced anybody to convert since the middle ages. Coincedentally, this was about the same time Islamic societies regressed into a downward spiral of anti-intellectualism, misogyny and vehement intolerance, where a large part of the faith remains today. Comparing the two religion in their current form is classic apples and oranges. A more accurate comparison would be between Islam and modern extremists.

28 May, 2005 19:55  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Furthermore, unlike Islam, Christianity (and most other religions) hasn't forced anybody to convert since the middle ages.
Islam has pretty much never been spread by forced conversion: one of the most interesting and impressive aspects of its history is how many conquered peoples took it up willingly. As I understand it, it is somewhat similar to Judaism in this respect: there isn't a duty to proselytse like there is in certain branches of Christianity.

Whereas Christianity has, regrettably, had forced conversions, and coerced conversions, and blackmailed coercions, in far more recent times.

29 May, 2005 22:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christocretins is an offensive word. Rephrase it.

04 June, 2005 08:43  
Blogger secretdubai said...

If you are offended, then go elsewhere. I certainly will not respond to curt and anonymous comments. Had you written something like: "I am J Smith, a member of that church, and we do regret our members' actions. Please could you consider changing the term xxx as we are uncomfortable with it." I probably would have changed it.

As it is, I won't.

04 June, 2005 16:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I weren't a Christian, I would almost certainly find Christian evangelism offensive and conceited too. However, looking at it "from the inside out", I MUST point out that there is another very important angle to consider. IF it is true that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, IF it is true that He died to save ALL mankind, not just some Europeans and Americans(funny, I thought He came from the Middle East.....!), IF He is the only way to the Father and to eternal life, and IF He has commanded his followers to make the truth known to all nations, what sort of people would we be who kept such a message to ourselves? What sort of people would we be who feared the governments of man more than the commandment of God? What sort of people would we be who safely sailed into eternity without a thought for those under restrictive governments? Nobody is saying that Islam is a pagan religion! But we are saying that muslims deserve to hear the gospel message like anyone else. Saving faith is a matter of the heart, not simply a verbal confession alone, so we are not forcing anyone! Let me tell you, Christian witness can and should be done only in a spirit of love and deep respect! After all, the gospel is not the invention of man, so nobody has anything to boast about.

27 August, 2006 01:25  
Blogger Norm said...

I look forward to the day when religious people who feel the need to inflict their mythology on the neighbours in every country will be taken in by the police for questioning...

21 January, 2007 12:02  
Blogger Ben said...

I am personally a Christian. I would not consider myself a fundamentalist however, more along the lines with neo-orthodoxy.

One disturbing trend that I see happening in the fundamentalist church is that they have no regard for culture. There is no understanding of what "evangelism" might mean in other cultures than their own.

Take for example Japan. In a country so reserved and private, it is only natural that a Christian religion would be one that is more reserved and private. Private, personal relationships that show christian virtues such as charity, love, and respect are more proper and also more effective in certain cultures.

There are cultures where public evangelism may be effective (think largly open/pluralist Rome, Greece, and the US, up until the mid-20th century.) but Christians must also remember that Christ became a man within a culture, and he used that culture's understanding and practices to bring forth his Way. We should do the same.

06 December, 2007 00:44  
Blogger cat said...

I don't see why this rule should be respected or why it is offensive to break it. Freedom of religion includes the right to speak of pne's religion in public, no one has to listen, and this law would not be upheld in the EU, US and indeed in many countries less 'developed' than the UAE. I don't see why we should baby Dubai and hold it to a lesser standard, or that pork and alcohol is a fair exchange for fundamental rights

01 April, 2009 00:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, I for one will be going elsewhere. There's no excuse for your inane offensivess, or for your lack of recognition of the danger that this curtailment of freedom is. I only hope you understand better the importance of free speech now that your blog has been banned in Dubai.

02 May, 2009 18:28  
Blogger Mik Harewam said...

I remember this. I was living in Dubai when this happened. You could say they were stupid or you could say that those women were very brave to risk their liberty for Jesus.

02 June, 2009 09:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

every religion has its pros and cons, we as human try to understand god, and that is not possible.
I myself am a christian and i have a lot of islamic friends in the usa, i just dont see why cant we get along.

i like what katherine said, i also see the points that secretdubai made, , oh another thing kath, it is good to spread the gospel and not be afraid of man but of god like the bible says, but the bible also says that we as christian cant brake the law set by man, we as christian have to uphold to a higher standar.

08 November, 2009 01:20  

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