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If you can't stand the missionary heat, you should get out of Abraham's spiritual kitchen

By Irfan Yusuf - posted Thursday, 21 September 2006

Recently a famous South African died. He had become a household name across the Islamic world, travelling and lecturing widely.

His early speeches in South Africa and overseas included calls to end apartheid.

Yet the politics of apartheid wasn't the main concern of the late Ahmed Deedat. Indeed, his main occupation was to discredit Christian theology.


Despite not attending university, he was exceptionally well-read and was a fearsome debater. Some of his more crude book titles included The God Who Never Was and Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction? Charming.

I grew up reading Deedat's books and watching his debates with evangelical Christians in various countries. Deedat's style was confrontational, and he frequently ran rings around unfortunate opponents.

Deedat believed Islam was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Despite his in-your-face and abrasive style, Deedat was motivated by a desire to share his truth with others so they might benefit.

Christianity and Islam are both missionary religions. Both faiths believe they have a monopoly over the truth. Both want to share their version of truth with others. Both compete in seeking converts.

It is therefore natural that leaders of both faiths will from time to time address their minds to the faith of their competitors.

Sometimes this takes the form of criticism or of focusing on perceived weaknesses.


Indeed, one of Ahmed Deedat's last public acts was to challenge the late Pope John Paul II to a debate in Vatican Square. Thankfully the Pope had more pressing issues.

I find it strange that religious and political leaders of Muslim-majority countries are up in arms about the Pope's recent comments suggesting Islam was spread by the sword.

Perhaps their frustration is a reflection of the fact that they don't expect Christian leaders to criticise the Islamic faith. Or perhaps the leaders are concerned about some Muslims behaving the same way as they did over the Danish cartoons.

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First published in the New Zealand Herald on September 20, 2006.

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About the Author

Irfan Yusuf is a New South Wales-based lawyer with a practice focusing on workplace relations and commercial dispute resolution. Irfan is also a regular media commentator on a variety of social, political, human rights, media and cultural issues. Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published in May 2009 by Allen & Unwin.

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