The Muslim Next Door
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and our continued military presence in the Middle East, curiosity and confusion among Americans about the religion of Islam has reached an all-time high.
Yet for Muslim-turned-Christian brothers Ergun and Emir Caner, this challenging period comes with treasured opportunities. For more than ten years, these American-raised Turkish brothers, who teach at separate Baptist seminaries and have coauthored two books on Islam, have spoken at churches, conferences, and universities nationwide about their Muslim upbringing and conversion to Christianity. Their hope is to win Muslims to Christ and to share how Christians can lovingly yet courageously present the gospel to their Muslim coworkers, neighbors, and friends.
"We've seen Muslims reconsider their faith in ways we've never experienced before," Emir says. "They're confused with what the Qur'an says about jihad, and how they're supposed to interpret it, for instance. Because of this, I truly believe this is the most open opportunity we've had to share Christ with Muslims in the past century."
According to Emir, more than 34,000 Americans convert to Islam each year. "Because many are marrying Muslim men, 80 percent of these converts are women."
Yet because traditional Muslim beliefs about the separation of men and women still influence many Muslim families, the Caners believe Christian women hold the exclusive opportunity of reaching Muslim women with the gospel.
We spoke with Emir and Ergun to find out how we can reach out to the growing number of Muslim women in our communities.
What misconceptions do we have about Muslim women?
Emir: One is that a Muslim woman isn't approachable. A Christian sees a Muslim woman wearing her traditional attire and thinks, I can't speak to her; she's too different. Some Christians also believe that since Islam traditionally is a male-dominated religion, a woman either won't want to speak about her religion or isn't knowledgeable about Islam. But the reality is, a Muslim may be quite open to sharing what her faith means to her.
Ergun: Muslim women also can have misconceptions about American women. Some feel Americans hate them or believe all Muslims desire war. They're cautious of Christianity because they associate it closely with Western culture. They see women on television wearing revealing clothes or sleeping around, and believe all Christians act this way. It's important for Christian women to establish friendships to break down these stereotypes.
Corrie Cutrer is a writer who lives in Tennessee with her family. She's also a former assistant editor of Today's Christian Woman and recipient of several EPA writing awards. She is currently a regular contributor for Today's Christian Woman.