What do you think about the label “Muslim evangelical group”?

A news report last week used that label for an organisation which calls itself Multiracial Reverted Muslims (MRM).

MRM was in the news because it distributes translations of the Quran and has been mistaken for the Islamic Information Service (IIS).

IIS was in the news because it had irked the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST): after IIS patron Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched a plan to raise RM20 million to produce translations of the Quran with interpretive notes for distribution to non-Muslims, MCCBCHST urged non-Muslims not to accept the Qurans.

Perhaps as a result of the MCCBCHST response, people became more alert to the distribution of Qurans.

Last week MRM was noticed distributing Qurans.

Then, someone put out a message on social media which falsely said MRM collects personal data from those who accept the translations and uses the data to “make them Muslims”.

It’s a pity MRM was mistaken for IIS.

IIS is tainted by its association with Isma – a group which some label fascist – and with Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department, Jakim, which is not famed for respecting non-Muslims. IIS is also muddied by its claim that “misinterpretations of Islam” can be corrected by educating non-Muslims.

IIS responded to MCCBCHST by saying its translation and distribution effort was not a sneaky way to persuade people to become Muslims – I won’t comment on the tone of either’s responses.

It’s a pity MRM was mistaken for IIS because MRM can’t be accused of sneaky conversion attempts: MRM says its goal is to persuade people to become Muslims.

When I’m scolded for trying to persuade people to become Christians, I quote the evangelist D.T. Lines: “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.”

My becoming a Christian transformed my life and I want to share the best gift I received. Therefore I well understand why those who feel similarly about their faith want to persuade others to join them.

So, I don’t object to missionaries – though I object to the methods some of them use. But that’s for another day. What I want to focus on are the words “evangelism” and “evangelical”.

Evangelism is what Christians do when they tell others what they believe and why they believe it, with the expectation that others will follow Christ like they do. I became a Christian because I was the target of the evangelistic work of others.

The Bible says some people are “called to be evangelists”. This means God’s plan for their lives is for them to attract and convince people to become followers of Christ.

Christians often say the first four books of the New Testament, known as Gospels, are written by evangelists. By this they mean that the authors are messengers of “good news”, for that is the meaning of the word “gospel”, an alternative word for “evangel”.

Christians borrowed the word “evangel” (Greek: evangelion) from the Romans. When the Romans had good news (evangelion) such as the appointment of a new Caesar or the birth of a “divine” heir to the throne, they sent out heralds (angelos) to proclaim the evangelion.

Like Allah, the Arabic name for God which was used before the Prophet of Islam appeared, the word evangel was used before the Messiah, Jesus, came. Evangel is not a word which belongs to Christians. Even if it were, I doubt any Christians would object to Muslims using the word.

I commend Muslims who choose to use a Roman/English word instead of an Arabic word to describe their missionary activity. It shows they can think outside the box.

However, I advise Muslims to think carefully about using the word “evangelical” to label Muslims who seek to persuade others to become Muslims.

I offer that advice because some Christians object to being labelled evangelicals. Also, some Muslims use the label “evangelical” for Christians who try to persuade others to become Christ-followers.

There’s no commonly accepted definition of “evangelical”, though some people claim – I think wrongly – that evangelicals are those who oppose abortion and homosexuality, favour Israel, hate Islam, bribe people to become Christians and think non-Christians will go to hell. It’s a wrong assessment, but it’s common. I’ve even heard Christians say “I’m not an evangelical!”

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has this entry for evangelical: “of or relating to a Christian sect or group that stresses the authority of the Bible, the importance of believing that Jesus Christ saved you personally from sin or hell, and the preaching of these beliefs to other people; having or showing very strong and enthusiastic beliefs.”

What do you think about the label “Muslim evangelical group”? – March 5, 2015.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

About the writer :
Rama Ramanathan trained to be an engineer, retired as a global quality leader and now works to catalyse change in society. He blogs at write2rest.blogspot.com

Original source : Malaysian Insider