Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Immigrants convert to Christianity to fast-track integration

I usually think it's good news if people leave Islam. But how can we be sure all of these people are genuine?

Immigrants convert to Christianity to fast-track integration

Many new residents in Denmark find that changing an address and speaking the language is not enough to become a part of the nation. Since the year 2000, at least 660 people have converted to Christianity, almost half of them former Muslims. Daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad reported that the newcomers are especially motivated by the expectation that their conversion to Christianity will ensure faster process for their asylum applications, help them find a job, and integrate into Danish society. Mogens S. Mogensen, lector in theology at the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, said in his book on the converts that the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘Islam’ carried negative associations in the public discourse. ‘It is a major problem that there are Danes and priests who speak in such a way that Muslims get the impression that being a Muslim disqualifies them from becoming a real Dane,’ Mogensen said. Malik Hussein, chairman of the Multicultural Association, said he agreed with Mogensen. ‘I think many people don’t know what they are converting for, but find it easier to tell their colleagues that they are Christian rather than explain why they don’t eat pork,’ he said. Arne Kappelgaard, reverend at Kingos Church in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro quarter, has baptised 12 converts: a Buddhist, a Hindu, and ten Muslims. He said conversion for many of them was not as much as matter of choosing Christianity as denouncing their old faith. ‘Many of them turned away from Islam, for example, a long time ago and seek something else,’ he said. ‘Many Iranians are not comfortable with the version of their religion that they have experienced in their homeland, and some seem to find what they’re searching for in Christianity. But the conversions are the results of many different life stories.’


At June 15, 2005 3:24 AM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

While I'm sure that there are some Muslims that convert out of conviction, given that apostasy is an automatic death sentence in Islam I find it hard to believe that a lot of them are genuine.

At June 15, 2005 4:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it believable of the Iranians, at least. In the US there have been a lot of conversions to Christianity amongst Iranian immigrants. There is a whole network of Christian churches that hold services in Parsi. One convert even became a well-known pastor -- Reverend Donald Fareed - who made headlines in California for titling his Sunday sermon "Why I am not a Muslim."

At June 15, 2005 4:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a recent article about Donald Fareed, BTw:

(Iranian Convert to Christianity teams up with Pro-Democracy Muslim to promote regime change in Iran.)

At June 15, 2005 2:00 PM, Blogger chigalum said...

"It is a major problem that there are Danes and priests who speak in such a way that Muslims get the impression that being a Muslim disqualifies them from becoming a real Dane..."

So you see it's the Danes and priests that are the major problem. Bad Danes! Bad priests! BAD! BAD! Why can't you integrate into Danish society?

At June 15, 2005 3:42 PM, Blogger Rune said...

Apparently there is talk about some 700-800 the last few years. A fairly high number in light of the relative few immigrants entering Denmark after the new stricter immigration rules. I think they are for the most quite sincere. There have been a few cases with immigrants from Muslim countries where apostasy is a death sentence, who might have tried conversion as a form of pressure not to be expelled. One hear of some cases of harassment, some stones thrown through the window and insults and threats on the street, but there have never been a case of killings on ground of apostasy in Denmark, or I think the whole of Scandinavia for that matter.

Also those mentioned in the article are only those converting in the official national church, which has all but given up on proselyting. Priest from there have even from time to time strenuously warned against trying to convert the immigrants, on the assumption that they as immigrants from societies where Christian proselyting is prohibited were, like sitting ducks, quite unprepared to put up a fair fight. Christians opposing proselyting?

There are other evangelic churches which are much more aggressively proselyting amongst the immigrants – even starting at the refugee centres, and it was my impression that those have been much more successful in attracting Muslims to convert. I talked to someone who had being active, and apparently quite successful, in a women’s shelter. The great majority of the abused and beaten women in those shelters come from a Muslim background.

Of course these numbers are dwarfed by the number of Muslims who have left Islam without converting to Christianity. And I think it’s concentrated on some specific groups. Mainly Iranians. I have met many Iranians in my work, but I have never met one who wasn’t an atheist, and demonstratively, outspokenly so.

Naturally there’s also conversion going the other way. Mostly through marriage, and in prisons if Denmark is anything like the rest of the world, though I never heard of it in Denmark.

Funny that. Islam wins converts in prison, Christianity in women’s shelter.


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