Editor’s note: The following was written for RaymondIbrahim.com by an anonymous American teacher living in the Muslim world
While living as a Christian in the Islamic world, one should expect the occasional conversation with a local Muslim regarding Christianity being a religion of idolaters, and as a result of our idolatry, Jesus would be more in line with Islam than modern Christianity. Since a response by Christians could get them fired (or worse), they either sit silently and continue listening, or find an excuse to leave the surroundings.
A few weeks ago, I had to deal once more with such arrogance (third time in three years). While I was preparing for a class, a Muslim co-worker entered the teacher’s lounge, smiled, and asked me about my recent trip to Thailand. The conversation was cordial until I asked him if he was interested in going to Thailand to which he responded, “Not really. Thailand is a bad country because its women are loose”, thus insulting my wife and twenty year old daughter. (Some Muslims like to tell Westerners that European and North American women are easy as an indirect way of insulting our mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters.)
Following that insult, I knew what he was up to and as expected, he brought up the topic of Christian idolatry. Still angry that he referred to my wife and daughter as loose women, I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine and deal with the consequences later on. The following is a summary of our conversation on Christian idolatry.
Him: “By the way, are you a Christian?”
Me: “Yes, I was baptized into the Catholic faith, but I also find other Christian denominations appealing, which is why I feel comfortable attending different Churches within the Christian family.”
Him: “Don’t you think it’s strange that there are so many different Christian groups that base their beliefs on The Bible? Doesn’t that mean The Bible, with its different authors, is full of contradictions?”
Me: “No more contradictory than the Koran with its single author and the Shia-Sunni divide.”
Shocked by my answer, he said: “But Christianity is a religion of idolaters? Most Christians worship the Cross. And you Catholics, don’t you pray to Mary and have statues of her? Isn’t that idolatry?”
Me: “I call it respect. The same respect Muslims have for Mohamed, your prophet, or the crescent I see on top of each Mosque. So, I am not more conflicted than any Muslim out there.”
Him: “I don’t understand why you aren’t conflicted. Christians pray towards a Cross. Catholics pray towards a Crucifix.”
Me: “As a Muslim, do you pray five times a day?’
Me: “In what direction do you pray?”
Him: “Our religion requires us to pray towards Mecca.”
Me: “That’s what I thought. The second Pillar of Islam. Have you ever been to Mecca?”
Him: “Yes, last year.”
Me: “Good. Fulfilling the fifth Pillar of Islam. So when you were in Mecca, in what direction did you pray?”
Him: “The Kaaba.”
Me: “The black box.”
Him: “We call it the Kaaba.” [Muslims dislike the term ‘black box’.]
Me: “I’m sorry. The Kaaba. What is in the Kaaba?”
He didn’t answer, so I continued, “In the Kaaba, isn’t there some kind of black stone that Muslims revere and try to kiss?”*
Nothing came out of his mouth and I did not push further for I knew I made my point. Also, accusing him of revering a black stone the same way he accuses Christians of revering the Cross could have gotten me into serious trouble.
So I smiled, stood up, and politely said, “I have a class in five minute, I gotta go.”
I could see in his eyes that he knew I was implying that a billion and half Muslims worship a black stone five times a day in the same way he implied Christians worship the Cross. He finally understood why I wasn’t more conflicted than any Muslim out there.
So, if Muslims are prepared to accuse Christians of idolatry either because we pray towards a Cross, a Crucifix, or a statue of the Virgin Mary, then don’t we have the right to accuse Muslims of idolatry because they pray towards a city (Mecca), the Kaaba, and the black stone five times a day?
*While in Mecca, Muslims circle the Kaaba seven times, and if possible, they will enter it and try to kiss the black stone seven times (once for every time they circled the Kaaba).