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Launch of Ethical Guidelines Organised by Muslim Christian Forum

Launch of Ethical Guidelines Organised by Muslim Christian Forum

Issue 59 August 2009

Review by Somaiya Khan-Piachaud

Launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with an aim to foster understanding between the two faith communities, the Muslim Christian Forum has now been running for three years. At Islamic Relief’s Head Office on the 24th June, the bilateral network made an important announcement: it was publishing a statement on the mutual commitment of both Muslims and Christians to the practice of conversion. Speaking at the event, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra recognised this as a controversial and sensitive area: “Islam and Christianity are two world religions that are missionary, and constantly vying with each other for converts. We must speak of our faith honestly and with conviction without demeaning or ridiculing others. There is no place for coercion or manipulation and when a person does convert from either faith that decision should be respected.” Ameen, Hallelujah!
Another speaker at the launch, Dr Andrew Smith, has been active in promoting his own faith for an evangelical organisation in inner city Birmingham for the past 14 years. He spoke of the rewards of seeking to listen to and understand his Muslim neighbours: “Speaking with local Muslims and sharing my faith has been stimulating, but at times it has become aggressive and left a nasty taste in my mouth. Talking to others, I realised that this was a common experience, so we decided to create a set of principles that would help both faiths avoid this.”
The proposed list of “ethical guidelines” that followed was simply common sense in being good neighbours, yet there were those at the launch who objected to the guidelines, arguing it was against Islamic principles to accept familial conversions, and that respecting such a decision would be impossible. The best anyone could hope for was tolerance. Though intended for conversion in the UK, the example of the Ethical Guidelines may bring hope to communities struggling for religious freedom worldwide. “There is no compulsion in religion” Qur’an 2:256. In the zeal for converts, it is wise to remember this: the Forum’s guidelines are a concrete example of Muslims and Christians working together for the common good, and doing so despite their differences.

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