THE "greatest turning of Muslims to Jesus Christ in history" is
taking place across the world, the author of a new book, on tour in
the UK, suggests.
A Wind in the House of Islam, by Dr David Garrison, a
missionary pioneer with the Southern Baptist International Mission
Board, documents a Muslim "movement to Christ" in more than 70
places across 29 countries. Converts, it says, now number between
two and seven million.
Dr Garrison defines a "movement" as being at least 100 new
churches started, or 1000 baptisms, within a 20-year period in one
people group. He estimates that there have been 82 "movements"
across the centuries, of which 69 began, or are continuing to
unfold, in the 21st century.
He said last week that there was a "cocktail of elements" behind
the trend, which is underpinned by a "tremendous amount of prayer".
The elements include a "yearning for something different" arising
from violence within the Muslim world; the power of the internet;
and the translation of the gospel and missionary materials
(including videos) into the "heart languages" of Muslim people.
Dr Garrison also points to the post-colonial context: "Today,
when Muslims in Algeria consider the gospel, it doesn't mean [they
think] 'I am becoming a Frenchman.'"
"We do not have to be afraid of the light of the Qur'an," Dr
Garrison says. Translating the Qur'an into local languages has
"backfired", he suggests. "It reveals to Muslims that there's no
assurance of salvation in there, when it's so clear in the gospel."
Muslims can learn about Jesus through the Qur'an, and can contrast
what is said of him with what is said of the Prophet Muhammad.
Although Dr Garrison writes early on that the book is not "a
triumphalist account of Christendom's victory over the Muslim
world", he does use the language of "contest". "If you believe that
people's eternal destiny is related to their relationship to God,
obviously there's an element there in which you are saying, 'This
is vitally important; it's not an insignificant or inconsequential
In one passage he writes: "Wherever Islam has triumphed, dissent
has been silenced, and conversion to the Christian faith, or any
other faith for that matter, has been punished by death. Islam, as
both a religion and an ideology, is a threat."
Is there a danger of demonising the faith?
"I'm a historian, and at the end of the day, the facts speak for
themselves," he says. "Muslims are some of the most wonderful,
kind, gracious people I have ever known.
"We are not demonising individuals. But as an ideology, Islam
has been incredibly effective at doing those very things I mention
in the book. . . When I talk about people's lives being threatened
or being abused, I am letting them tell that story rather than
imposing it upon them."
The author interviewed more than 1000 Muslims while researching
the book, but says that it would be "a gross exaggeration to
describe the results as 100-per-cent accurate portrayals of the
Among those people he interviewed was Rafiq, a Berber who wrote
a musical about Jesus after his dreams were filled with Christ; and
Ahmed, a Pakistani man who killed a baby when he was a member of
the Taliban, but after meeting a missionary ended up converting his
family to Christianity.
Western missionaries are needed "more than ever", he says; the
numbers quoted in his book represent "only a fraction" of the
Muslim world. Dr Garrison's book tour was funded by Hope for
Muslims, Mahabba, Youth With a Mission, and Operation
He does not want to offend Muslims, Dr Garrison says, but to
inform and encourage them, and "perhaps awaken within them a
realisation that God loves them, and [that] he is extending to them
the gospel of Jesus Christ uniquely, in this day and age."
He reports that one Muslim man who read the book while in a
plane in mid-air had decided to become a Christian by the time he
A Wind in the House of Islam, by David Garrison; is
published by Wigtake: www.windinthehouse.org
Critics say . . .
A FORMER director of the Christian Muslim Forum, Julian Bond,
confesses to being "troubled" by the message of Dr David Garrison's
book. "We should celebrate whenever someone finds a fulfilling
spiritual path," he said. For Christians, this would mean rejoicing
when Christians became Muslims or Hindus.
"Only rejoicing when other people become Christian is partisan,
and not a good example. The longer we talk competitively, and use
the language of threat, the further away we push more constructive,
The Diocesan Interfaith Adviser for St Albans, the Revd Bonnie
Evans-Hills, also expresses unease: "Where I have an issue is when
any single person or group or tradition claims to have the absolute
truth, because God is greater than anything we can know. Salvation
is in God's hands."
The Vicar of St Andrew's, Fulham Fields, in London, Canon Guy
Wilkinson, a former national adviser for inter-faith relations,
describes the book as "a serious attempt to survey the history and
literature of this subject". He says: "Of course, from a normative
Christian perspective, there is every reason to celebrate when a
person voluntarily decides to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. .
. Islam has much the same perspective, and devotes huge energies to
dawa around the world.
"And why not? In the West, we have a core understanding that
free debate and argument leading to changed minds and perspectives
are at the heart of a free and flourishing society. It's what we do
par excellence in politics, and in science, for
So, in the context of a society that is overwhelmingly Muslim,
it seems to me to be not a matter of 'targeting', but of addressing
individuals - who are likely to be Muslims."
Dr Ataullah Siddiqui, a reader in religious pluralism and
interfaith relations at the Markfield Institute of Higher
Education, said that Dr Garrison's approach "seems to be rooted in
the past mode of mission rejoicing to see that the 'unoccupied
field' is gradually 'conquered'. The 'house of Islam' - if there is
such a thing - is going through a terrible typhoon, and I am not
surprised that Dr Garrison finds a soothing wind.
"As far as conversion is concerned, if one is convinced that
another faith is for him or her, that person not only has the right
to accept the other faith, but also to move into that faith. I
believe, today, we are not simply living in a situation of
plurality of religions and multiple identities, but also plurality
"To see the mission through the lens of conversion alone would
Anjum Anwar, dialogue development officer at Blackburn
Cathedral, described the book as "disturbing" and "divisive".
She said: "Thank God that Muslims have got Jesus in their lives.
If we didn't, we could not possibly be Muslims."