I was invited to comment on an article posted on the Mission of God blog, concerning the inevitability of the Arab Spring turning Islamist, and then the rejection of Islamism for Christianity. Please click here for the video post; my response (slightly edited) follows below.
I think Dr. Cashin’s core point is correct: A system that does not allow questioning of itself cannot stand. But there were a few points which lacked sufficient nuance. A great number of the Arabs in their revolution (at least in Egypt) did not choose Islamists out of love for Islam, but because they were the only viable alternative. While many others did so because they believed (or were told) it was God’s will, what is happening is not a massive choice for Islam.
Now, the MB in Egypt may well become a dictatorial force. Some signs are there as is the lack of organized opposition. Yet this is more likely to be along the lines of a Mubarak-NDP system than an Iranian imitation.
But, there are other indications which suggest the Islamism of the MB is akin to Protestantism, causing a shaking of the traditional religious establishments, such as the Azhar. I don’t predict an open, liberal system for Egypt, nor a full freedom for religious contemplation, but it could happen.
The recent Pew Survey of the world’s Muslims suggests that the level of religiosity among younger Muslims is much less than of the older generation. And while I maintain suspicion over MB promises to lead Egypt into democracy, I do imagine the economic and educational systems will improve. These factors are more likely to free the societies from the constraints of religious dogma, much like happened in European Christendom.
So, yes, if the MB seeks to impose religious hegemony over Egypt, it will eventually fail. But will this result in a massive turning to Christianity? It is fair to imagine, simply speaking sociologically – not in terms of faith claims in either direction – and as Dr. Cashin states, Iran provides an interesting case study. But the more likely result is the general turning away from religion – a process already underway among many youths. The nominal holding of a faith is far easier than the deliberate acceptance of another. The MB will bring an Islamic religious revival to many, but it will only hold if they foster freedom.
Dr. Cashin’s point is that they cannot – Islam as a religion constrains them. It is a fair point and there are examples to back him up. But Europe’s Christian culture also constrained questioning of Christianity, and if OT examples are used there are good Biblical texts that forbid religion from being questioned. Yet society moved on. Will it in the Arab world? It will be messy, but I think the answer is ultimately yes. Perhaps in this Dr. Cashin and I are agreed, but I leave open the possibility for the MB to be a partner in the process.
A very useful discussion though, and there are few certainties at all.
- Teaching Evangelism in Egypt – August 4, 2012
- Christmas Conversion Conversations – January 14, 2011