Sunday 24 August 2008 (23 Sha`ban 1429)

                  Terrorizing people in the name of dawa
                  Hassna'a Mokhtar I Arab News
                  JEDDAH: A missionary campaign entitled "The Protective 
Shield" recently organized by the missionary summer camp in Taif has sparked 
controversy among women participants and visitors, Al-Watan newspaper reported 
last Saturday.

                  Corpses were displayed inside a dark tent and visitors were 
allowed to enter only after sunset - so that it was pitch-black inside. The 
religious objective of the episode was "to bring to life dead hearts" as the 
supervisor of the campaign, Balgees Al-Ghamri, explained.

                  This type of dawa (missionary work of Islam) will certainly 
terrorize and antagonize people through a focus on death, punishments and 
hellfire in the afterlife. It has become so common these days that many Muslim 
converts living in Saudi Arabia say they are happy they did not learn about 
Islam here.

                  "Sheikhs (preachers) and society in general make people feel 
that you should be stiff. I'm very happy I learned about Islam abroad. I know 
other expatriates who feel the same way. They tell me if they had learned about 
Islam after coming here, they would have never converted," said Aisha Mohammad, 
a 34-year-old American teacher.

                  Hassan Hathout, an Egyptian-American medical doctor who takes 
active interest in monotheistic religions and dawa work, said that people 
should not miss the total picture of Islam. "It is simple to conclude that 
anything which conflicts with mercy does not run parallel with the mission of 
the Prophet (peace be upon him). I see Muslims do know the rules and 
regulations, but they miss the element of mercy, which is the essence of 
Islam," said Hathout.

                  Allah has made it abundantly clear in the Qur'an that He sent 
Prophet Muhammad "not but as a mercy for all creatures." He also said: "It was 
by the mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if 
thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round 
about thee." 

                  Muhammad An-Nabulsi, a well-known Syrian scholar and author 
of the "Encyclopedia of the Beautiful Names of Allah" and the "Encyclopedia of 
Scientific Miracles of the Holy Qur'an and Prophetic Sunnah," said, explaining 
the verses, that if a person were well educated and had command of his 
knowledge yet was rude and hardhearted, people would turn away from him and 
avoid him. "You can't convince people unless you're following the right path. 
You've got to be a role model. You can't be influential in your dawa work 
unless you treat people with kindness," said An-Nabulsi.

                  Positive persuasion 

                  Then why do many insist on working and spread the divine 
message in a frightening way instead of mercifully, lovingly and warmly 
inviting people to Islam? A Saudi woman working in dawa - who preferred not to 
be named - says people think that intimidating others will encourage them to 
adhere to the rules and principles of Islam and avoid sinning. She believes 
that positive persuasion, convincing and encouragement come first in Islam. 
"Many books and incidents from the life of the Prophet emphasize leniency in 
presenting Islam, whether to Muslims or non-Muslims. When people love their 
religion, gradually they are able to develop self-discipline. Punishment, death 
or hellfire are reminders so they don't stray or become weak in the face of 
temptations," she said.

                  In her article "Dawa By Any Means Necessary," American writer 
and author Pamela Taylor, 44, said that mosques had become frequented by droves 
of unsolicited advice at every possible time, more often than not in an 
argumentative, rude, self-righteous, or ill-timed manner that serves only to 
provoke anger and antagonize and drive away the target audience.

                  "How did the idea that dawa is to be accomplished by any 
means necessary, or possible, ever gain such popularity in the face of so many 
Qur'anic and Prophetic injunctions and examples to the contrary? When did 
focusing on minor issues become more important than taking care of the 
fundamentals? The irony, of course, is that those who practice dawa by any 
means are almost completely unsuccessful in changing anyone's opinion," she said

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