Missionary Polemics

Sent On: 
Thu, 2019-03-14
Newsletter Number: 

Both Islam and Christianity are missionary religions. They like to see others come to their faith. If this happens that is freedom of religion. Problematic, however, are the polemicists. People, often for religious purposes, depicting another religion in a negative way and their own beliefs of course in a positive way. They deliberately do not apply one standard. Often these are missionary minded people. I remember Muhammad Emara [Muḥammad ʿImāra] using Western criticism on the text of the Bible to criticize Christian faith but ignoring that similar criticism is possible on the Qur’anic text.


This is why I worked in 2006 with Elizabeth Yell on our polemics discussion paper. Lots of examples were given and the paper served as a warning to those who engage in such practices.
To read our paper please click here.


Missionary work and polemics often go hand in hand but fortunately not always. An example was Mrs. Annemarie Graf who has been living for many years as a missionary in Cairo but steered away from any negative comments on Islam, yet she wanted to live a Christian live to the fullest, living according to the Gospel


“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

(1 Peter 3: 15).


For our in-memoriam of Annemarie Graf please click here.


Between June 13, 1997 and July 11, 1998 I collected articles from al-Muslimoon, a Saudi English language publication, of which we bought paper copies in the newsstands in Maadi, Cairo. I have not seen al-Muslimoon in the newsstands for a long time and do not know if they still exist. Al-Muslimoon was an example of a Muslim publication that was deeply critical and suspicious about any Christian missionary activity. And….I could not blame them. The examples of polemical Christian missionary work exist and Muslims are very aware of them. The articles were written during the Yugoslav civil war during which Serbs have massacred Bosnian Muslims and of course also such atrocities trigger polemical responses.


Articles in Al-Muslimoon are an example of Muslim polemical responses to injustices and polemics against Islam. This is very typical for polemicists: polemicists of one religion encourage polemicists of another religion. It becomes almost like tit for tat.


German intern Melina Aboulfalah, who studies Islamic Studies and Political Science at the University of Muenster, analyzed the articles we have collected in these years and summarized the reoccurring topics and attitudes. Melina wrote “some of them such as a strong skepticism towards Israel and anti-Semitic resentments or an emphasis on the moral supremacy of Islam are highly distinguishable in Al-Muslimoon’s articles in the database. Politically speaking, the articles enforce the importance of Saudi Arabia in the Islamic world and the victimization and discrimination of Muslims all over the world. The mentioned elements are somehow timeless, as we also see this in recent discussions about Islam, which makes it so interesting to read these articles today. However, as for every analysis, it remains important to pay attention to the political circumstances and events at the time and to put the content of these articles in context, in this case the Yugoslav civil war, 1991-1999. Moreover, the database covers articles from only 1997 to 1998. So unfortunately, it was not possible to see how the newspaper evolved over the time of its existence.”​


All of Melina’s work has been very thorough and I can recommend you reading her report.

To read the full report please click here.


We could not find any evidence on the internet that al-Muslimoon is still existing. If you would know about al-Muslimoon we would most appreciate if you could let us know.



Cairo, March 14, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report