Posted by: Titus Presler | May 23, 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali encourages Christians to “proselytize” Muslims

Deborah Solomon’s interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in today’s New York Times Magazine is striking for the Somali feminist’s suggestion that Christians, feminists and progressives “proselytize” in the USAmerican Muslim community:

In your new book, “Nomad: From Islam to America,” you urge American Christians to try to talk to American Muslims about the limitations of their faith.
We who don’t want radical Islam to spread must compete with the agents of radical Islam. I want to see what would happen if Christians, feminists and Enlightenment thinkers were to start proselytizing in the Muslim community.

That could be dangerous for the proselytizers.
It may be, but in the United States we have a police force and the rule of law; we can’t just say something is dangerous and abstain from competing in the marketplace of ideas.

Ali’s suggestion will be startling to Christians who feel there is something inherently unseemly and imperial in inviting others to share their faith, especially if it involves any negative comment about another religious path.  And I would want to insist that attentive listening and consistent dialogue must always be the mode of interreligious encounter.

Ali has it just right, however, in pointing out that religious discourse takes place in a marketplace of ideas, just as discourse in any other field does, and that there need be no hesitation about contributing to that religious marketplace.  Ali’s concern is with how some expressions of Islam oppress women, and this is a concern that should be shared by all of good will.

“Proselytize,” however, is an unfortunate term to use for the outreach that Ali is suggesting, for in many people’s minds it is associated with insensitive and coercive approaches.  “Evangelism” is what she means.  Moreover, as missiologist and historian Andrew Walls has pointed out, a proselyte is quite different from a convert in the New Testament.  In Jewish tradition, a proselyte was a Gentile who became a Jew through undergoing circumcision, a route that some in early Christianity thought should be required of those seeking to join the Jesus movement.  Paul and others insisted, by contrast, that Gentiles could join the movement directly as converts.  That is, the distinction of conversion is that it does not entail appropriation of the extraneous cultural accretions of those proclaiming the message.  This distinction between proselytism and conversion should be borne in mine by all interested in Christian mission, for it bears directly on the enculturation of the gospel in mission today.



  1. Asalaam alaikum!

    Islam and Christianity, are sister religions, only held apart by dogmas and technicalities which might very well be dispensed with.

    In fact, the teachings of Jesus are much closer to the tenets of Islam than some of today’s Christian churches are.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali is being funded by the American Enterprise Institute, an Iraq war pusher, leading neocons’ rampage through the Middle East with an agenda to fuel hatred against Islam in western countries. She has absolutely no interest in Muslim woman.


  2. Today many British and Americans are converting to Islam…. What sword is being used? The sword of intellect…. Islam is the fastest growing religion in America and Europe.

    Today the fastest growing religion in America is Islam. The fastest growing religion in Europe is Islam. Which sword is forcing people in the West to accept Islam in such large numbers?


  3. Asalam alaikum,

    I am an ex-Christian and embraced Islam six years ago when I was fifteen. Indeed, Christian fundamentalists have reached an all-time low! It’s a shame. I feel that they are jealous that Islam has spread across the world and has won so many converts. Once someone believes, nothing cannot make them disbelieve, and once someone disbelieves, you cannot make them believe. Islam is in my spirit, deep in my heart. You can’t take that away from me no matter what. Thank you for making more people aware of shameful attacks against Muslims in the United States.

  4. I would love for Christians, feminists and Enlightenment thinkers to proselytize to me.

    I am an ex-Christian who embraced Islam 9 years ago. Their trying to proselytize to me wouldn’t have much effect, but it would open the door for me to proselytize Islam to them!

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