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Islam taking root in southern Mexico (300 evangelical Christians have converted to Islam)
Houston Chronicle ^ | 5/24/02 | DUDLEY ALTHAUS

Posted on 06/24/2002 9:22:49 AM PDT by truthandlife

In recent years, Agustin Gomez Mendez and other Maya Indians in far southern Mexico have taken yet one more sharp turn in a long quest for redemption, deciding that Jesus Christ isn't their personal savior after all.

"There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger," says Gomez Mendez, a poor farmer and father of six who converted his family to Islam in 1996 under the tutelage of Spanish missionaries.

Over the past few years, about 300 evangelical Christian Maya have converted to Islam in southernmost Chiapas state, which has been riven by spiritual struggles for centuries.

The conversions have left the Muslim Maya's neighbors and academics mystified. But their missionary guides hope the new Muslims will prove the first in a wave of converts in Mexico.

The missionaries themselves are but the latest in a long line of religious teachers who have tried to mold the Maya soul. Dominican monks arrived in these chilly highlands with Spanish conquerors nearly 500 years ago. They were followed by Presbyterians, Pentecostals, evangelical preachers, left-wing Roman Catholic priests and Mormons.

But the Islamic Spaniards are the first of their kind here.

And they have forged a small but devoted following among the Maya.

"I was looking for God," says Gomez Mendez, "I made the decision to become a slave of God."

A missionary leader, Esteban Lopez, 52, says the Maya of Chiapas had been abandoned by Mexican society and are ripe for the Islamic group's message of another path.

"They have lost their culture, everything," he says. "Islam allows them to return to their roots."

Most of the new Muslims once belonged to Chiapas' vibrant community of evangelical Christian Maya, which has been gaining thousands of converts since the first U.S. missionaries arrived 45 years ago.

The evangelicals rejected the traditional faith of their home communities, which mixes ancient Maya beliefs with 16th-century Roman Catholic tenets.

They refused to participate in or pay for festivals they considered pagan. They also gave up the heavy alcohol intake that often defines village life.

The evangelicals' defiance of the status quo and a critical shortage of farmland led to their expulsion in recent decades from San Juan Chamula, a tradition-bound cluster of villages a few miles north of San Cristobal.

Since the early 1970s, Gomez Mendez and thousands of evangelicals have crowded onto the steep mountain slopes on San Cristobal's north side. Competition for the faithful has long been fierce among the dozens of churches that dot the neighborhoods. And many Chamulan evangelicals have switched congregations frequently, going where the message is stronger and benefits better, experts say.

"They change religions like they change socks," says Abdias Tovilla, a non-Indian who heads a coalition of Protestant churches in San Cristobal. "As long as a church is helping them, they are happy."

But Tovilla and other experts say some Maya evangelicals, though fervently religious, never fully embraced their new faith. Shorn from the centuries-old traditions of their community, they keep searching for a path to God.

Lorenzo Gomez, 67, was among the spiritual wanderers.

"I didn't feel secure in the religion," says the convert now known by his Muslim name, Muhammed Ali. "I have always had in my mind that I am not good, not safe. I should know more about what is in the world, how to be right with our lord."

The Spanish Islamic missionaries arrived in 1995, amid turmoil caused by rebellion a year earlier by the mostly Maya Zapatista National Liberation Army. Starting slowly, the Spaniards began speaking about Islam to any Maya who would listen and wooing evangelical leaders.

In 1996, the Muslims offered to help the evangelicals establish a new market in San Cristobal, attracting many to the planning meetings.

Among those attending was Agustin Gomez Mendez, who then belonged to a Church of God congregation. Many people left when the talk at the meetings turned to Islam, but he stayed.

"I went to listen about the market but started to listen to the message," he says.

Like other Muslim converts here, Gomez Mendez says he was largely untroubled by abandoning the central article of Christian faith: that Jesus Christ is the son of God.

"I realized that God is only he who created everything," he says. "The creator cannot have children. Jesus wasn't God. He was a prophet."

The 300 Muslims in Chiapas join several hundred others sprinkled throughout this largely Catholic nation of 100 million, according to Omar Weston, director-general of the Muslim Center in Mexico City. That number pales in comparison to the estimated 1 million in Brazil and 300,000 in Argentina.

Today, the Chiapas Muslims are headquartered in a handful of houses and low-slung buildings along a two-lane beltway that skirts San Cristobal, a colonial city of 100,000.

Partly with financing from abroad, the Chiapas Muslims began creating businesses to employ the new faithful.

The four dozen children at their madrassa, or school, spend 90 minutes a day studying the Quran and Islamic teachings in Arabic, says Lopez, the missionary. Classes also include mathematics, geography, Spanish and other lessons. But the greater mission, Lopez says, is to forge a pure Islamic society.

Lopez and the other Spaniards are members of the Murabitun, a largely European group of converts to the mystical Sufi strain of Islam. The group hopes to return to the fundamental Islam lived by the prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic religion, and his early followers.

"We are going to the origins of when Islam first came to earth," Lopez says, "trying to purify it. There isn't a pure Islamic government in the world. That's what we hope to create. An authentic answer."

The group's spiritual leader, Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, a Scotsman, has sharply condemned democracy and global capitalism. But he also recently spoke out against the terrorism of Sept. 11, arguing that the terrorists' real aim was to discredit and destroy Islam.

Active in South Africa, Chechnya, England, Spain and elsewhere, the Murabitun have been accused of being anti-Semitic. They have also been dismissed by many mainstream Muslims as a quasi-Islamic cult.

Arriving as they have on the heels of the Zapatistas' uprising, the Muslims have spurred unease, if not outright hostility, among many in Chiapas. State and federal officials have investigated the group's finances and motives. Coverage in the local press has been largely negative.

Many academics who study the Maya view the group with a blend of suspicion and bemusement. Most Christians hold them at arms length.

In fact, some who originally flocked to the Spanish-led Muslims abandoned them with equal fervor.

"I did it for just a while," says Mateo Gomez Collazo, 42, who briefly sojourned with the Muslims four years ago. "It's difficult to leave my Christ behind."

But while they've deserted the Murabitun, the dissidents seem resolute in their new faith.

Agustin Gomez Mendez and a handful of neighbors have built their own Islamic center a few miles from the main Muslim compound.

Gomez Mendez prays toward Mecca five times a day. The Quran, in Spanish and Arabic, anchors Islamic texts on a small bookshelf in his house.

He intends to teach his children, who go by Arabic names, to live in submission to Allah.

"I am happy being Muslim," he says.


TOPICS: Extended News; Mexico
KEYWORDS: islam; mexico
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1 posted on 06/24/2002 9:22:50 AM PDT by truthandlife
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To: truthandlife
Poverty is a fertile spawning ground for cultism.
2 posted on 06/24/2002 9:27:53 AM PDT by TADSLOS
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To: TADSLOS
Good point, so is hate and ignorance. Witness the rise in prison converts to islam.
3 posted on 06/24/2002 9:30:50 AM PDT by Mike K
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To: truthandlife
Make no mistake, Islam is attempting a full blown invasion of North America. Apparently they see south america is our "soft underbelly" and the abject poverty and misery of these people as fertile breeding ground for their propaganda, false promises and anti-America hate.

Bear in mind that Islam cannot exist peacefully with its non-islamic neighbors. Moslems cannot prosper because they have no real plans before death, and they breed rapidly beyond their financial means.

Islam thinks very long term and so should we. Unless this is stopped, future generations are in for big trouble from the south

4 posted on 06/24/2002 9:30:50 AM PDT by rageaholic
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To: truthandlife
Oh great. Now there is free access for al Qaeda terrorists to walk across our borders after having emigrated to Mexico, assimilated with the population, learned Spanish and found obscurity in the midst of Muslim congregations.
5 posted on 06/24/2002 9:31:38 AM PDT by stanz
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To: rageaholic
Well put. Anyone who hasnt grasped that this conflict is is Islam against the Civilized World,better get their prayer rug out.....
6 posted on 06/24/2002 9:32:28 AM PDT by cardinal4
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To: truthandlife
Looks like they have found something to replace revolutionary communism.
7 posted on 06/24/2002 9:33:22 AM PDT by RightWhale
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To: truthandlife
Yet another reason to close our borders.
8 posted on 06/24/2002 9:35:12 AM PDT by SCalGal
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To: TADSLOS
"Poverty is a fertile spawning ground for cultism."

Are you referring to the Presbyterians, Pentecostals, evangelical preachers, left-wing Roman Catholic priests and Mormons?

9 posted on 06/24/2002 9:38:12 AM PDT by OBAFGKM
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To: OBAFGKM
Any ideology that foments hate, distrust, discontent, and uses their convert's poverty as a foundation to build it on...take your pick.
10 posted on 06/24/2002 9:45:52 AM PDT by TADSLOS
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To: truthandlife
Oh, great. BinLadenistas
11 posted on 06/24/2002 9:46:55 AM PDT by AdA$tra
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To: truthandlife
A Matter of Faith: Islam is Fastest-Growing Religion in the U.S.


Abdullah Yusuf, center, prays at the Masjid As-Salam in Sacramento
on Friday. Yusuf says he was raised Catholic but converted to Islam
because he liked the teachings of the Qur'an.

Latino Muslims

In April, California State University, Sacramento, hosted a forum on the "Islamic Presence in Latin America" before and after Columbus. One of the speakers, Salvadoran-born AbdulHadi Bazurto (President of Latin American Muslim Unity), said the more he examined his roots, the more he questioned the validity of Catholicism in his life. "Since the day the Spanish arrived, we as people have suffered a lot," he said. "Christianity's 'white God' concept was harmful to our people, who were definitely not white."

Another speaker, Daniel Denton, a Stockton elementary school teacher who was born in Mexico, said he was a hard-drinking veteran of the Gulf War when he began to explore Islam in 1994. At the invitation of Muslims at Delta College, he went to a mosque. "There was a carpet on the floor, and the walls were bare. I wondered, 'Where is everything?' and then I realized that was everything. If you go to a Catholic church, every few feet they have an image or a statue, but in Islam, there is no association between God and any image."

Denton also was impressed by the Islamic belief that each individual will be judged by their deeds on Judgment Day. That night, he took the shahada, the Muslim vow that says "There is only one God, Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger."

When he started fasting for Ramadan, "I heard my relatives in Stockton were calling my mom in San Diego and telling her I had become a terrorist and was doing drugs," Denton said. "When I went down to San Diego toward the end of Ramadan, I had lost 15 pounds and was starting to grow my beard. My mom was just in tears for days."

But, Denton said, his mother soon realized that instead of partying, he was staying home and talking to her as he had never done before.

"As she began to see the change, she came to accept it, and now she's happy. There's a saying in Islam that goes, 'Heaven lies at the feet of the mother. You have to treat her well at all times, take care of her.' "

Denton, 29, sees similarities between Islamic and Latino culture. "I've noticed that if you take away the crosses, the alcohol and the pork, the smells in my house are similar to Muslim homes. So is the behavior -- the respect for family."

Link to article HERE.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________-

California State University, Sacramento, hosted a forum on the "Islamic Presence in Latin America" before and after Columbus. One of the speakers, Salvadoran-born AbdulHadi Bazurto (President of Latin American Muslim Unity), said the more he examined his roots, the more he questioned the validity of Catholicism in his life. "Since the day the Spanish arrived, we as people have suffered a lot," he said. "Christianity's 'white God' concept was harmful to our people, who were definitely not white."

Our tax dollars at work.


12 posted on 06/24/2002 9:52:08 AM PDT by ppaul
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To: truthandlife
Jesus wasn't God. He was a prophet.

Now that bugs me! Why would anyone claim Jesus was a prophet but not God? Jesus clearly, repeatedly claimed to be God. If you acknowledge he is a prophet, you can not pick and choose which of His prophesies you will believe. Its one of those all or nothing deals. This guy has picked his side, but I suspect he is to brainwashed to see his fence sitting problem.

It is funny to me, in a very sad way, to think of the people in these poor areas converting to what ever religion is giving out the most money. Those religous groups, including Christian ones, are not doing these people any real favors. Its rather like politics in the US: promise to give all kinds of money in an effort to 'save' people. Very sad. If they really want to help, they should leave.

13 posted on 06/24/2002 9:53:19 AM PDT by mad puppy
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To: truthandlife
This is just another example of why I truly believe that Islam is the religion of Satan.
14 posted on 06/24/2002 10:00:36 AM PDT by TheBattman
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To: mad puppy
You are right. Either Jesus was who he said he was, or, he was a raving lunatic. But let's not feign respect by calling him a mere "prophet." You cannot be neutral regarding him. He was either a fake - or for real.
15 posted on 06/24/2002 10:01:37 AM PDT by ppaul
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To: truthandlife
Food for thought: how many times have we heard from the open borders, unlimited immigration pimps that "none of the 9/11 terrorists came from Mexico"? This article is proof that Islamicists are targeting Mexico for use as a base against the United States (just as Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union and Cuba did before them), and that our laissez faire, non-enforcement immigration policy towards Mexico and Mexican immigrants will bear horrible fruit someday soon.
16 posted on 06/24/2002 10:04:19 AM PDT by Map Kernow
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To: truthandlife
Great. Our own personal Palestinians to deal with. Just what we need.
17 posted on 06/24/2002 10:07:12 AM PDT by goodieD
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To: mad puppy
If they really want to help, they should leave.

The movie "At Play In the Fields of the Lord" made this point very well. Great performances by John Lithgow and Kathy Bates.

18 posted on 06/24/2002 10:07:22 AM PDT by SteamshipTime
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To: SCalGal
"Yet another reason to close our borders." Too late. Militant Muslims have been recruiting in U.S. prisons to turn U.S. gang-bangers into Islamic terrorists. Paddilla was just the first.
19 posted on 06/24/2002 10:08:18 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: truthandlife
Your title alone nearly brought tears to my eyes. 300 souls have turned their backs on God. Astonishing and sad. Once you've known Him, how is it that you can walk away--toward Satan, no less?

Satan is the author of deception . . . Islam is one of his myriad tools.

20 posted on 06/24/2002 10:10:27 AM PDT by LibertyGirl77
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To: truthandlife
OK, I have a question. When a Christian renounces his faith
and converts to Islam, is his salvation lost? I'm not trying
to start a flame war, just curious what the opinions are on
FR.
21 posted on 06/24/2002 10:18:48 AM PDT by redhawk
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To: ppaul
"Since the day the Spanish arrived, we as people have suffered a lot," he said. "Christianity's 'white God' concept was harmful to our people, who were definitely not white."

From the article above.

"There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger," says Gomez Mendez, a poor farmer and father of six who converted his family to Islam in 1996 under the tutelage of Spanish missionaries.

Sooooo Christianity is to be rejected because it was brought to them by white Spaniards but now that white Spaniards are bringing in Islam, all is well? Maybe someone needs to educated these people how the muslims treated the Spanish for 600 years.

Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.

22 posted on 06/24/2002 10:24:44 AM PDT by weegee
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To: redhawk
Don't bother asking the opposite of that question as in a number of muslim nations, conversion from islam to Christianity is punishable by death.
23 posted on 06/24/2002 10:27:22 AM PDT by weegee
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To: weegee
Yea, I'm aware of that (not much tolerence in Islam, is there?). The only reason I'm asking is that this topic came up in a Sunday School class recently. Some think that salvation can't be lost no matter what, others thought that
it could be thrown away (converting to Islam as an example).
24 posted on 06/24/2002 10:33:32 AM PDT by redhawk
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To: Mike K
It's not only poverty and ignorance...Islam is the true Communists dream ....convert to us , and every square inch of everything you see and occupy belongs to you through Islam...it's not poverty...it's age old EVIL !!!
25 posted on 06/24/2002 10:41:22 AM PDT by chemainus
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To: redhawk
When a Christian renounces his faith and converts to Islam, is his salvation lost?

Yes. I believe in Acts it speaks of believers who renounced their belief and went back to Jewish practices. And Jesus himself said if you deny him, he will deny you before his father.

26 posted on 06/24/2002 10:49:21 AM PDT by Smittie
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To: weegee
Okay maybe some one can help me with this. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Muhammad was a redhead which would mean that he was at least part white. Can some one confirm or deny this? It is going to drive me nuts until I remember.

a.cricket

27 posted on 06/24/2002 10:50:43 AM PDT by another cricket
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To: truthandlife
If the government wont protect its people, there's going to be a serious civil war. I would fight, bleed, and die before I see my wife or my daughters covered from head to toe like Islam women, or any other Islamic indignity. The America our forefathers fought and died for is being attacked daily, and now this new threat from the southern border... Will it soon be time to start loading the rifles?
28 posted on 06/24/2002 10:54:29 AM PDT by abishai
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To: truthandlife
"I was looking for God," says Gomez Mendez, "I made the decision to become a slave of God."

Mendez has been deceived by the false prophet of the false god. The one true God calls man, not to slavery, but to communion with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. By renouncing the redemptive salvation of Our Lord Jesus, Mendez condems himself to eternal slavery in the netherworld of the imposter.

29 posted on 06/24/2002 11:18:05 AM PDT by Dukie
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To: redhawk
We can speculate, but none of us has the answer.

If you convert from Christianity to Buddism, Shinto, Hindu, or even Norse mythology you would be worshipping other gods.

Islam is a rewrite of portions of the Judo-Christian texts but there are radical differences.

Islam is an antichristian (as in antiChrist, not necessarily "AntiChrist") religion because it ignores and changes the role of Jesus to a liar and prophet. It does this to lead followers to another prophet.

30 posted on 06/24/2002 11:22:15 AM PDT by weegee
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To: Mike K
good analogy
31 posted on 06/24/2002 11:22:45 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Dukie
I'm always surprised that people are willing to call themselves "slaves" to their god. I've run across a number of instances of muslims using this word.

In my religion we are all children of God; He has no grandchildren. I can find language that "the Lord is my shepherd" but this is taken metaphorically as a way of communicating that He is our provider.

The Jews struggled for a long time to be freed of slavery. I don't recall any references where they considered their bond to God to be a master and slave relationship.

32 posted on 06/24/2002 11:30:10 AM PDT by weegee
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To: truthandlife; Marine Inspector
"I didn't feel secure in the religion," says the convert now known by his Muslim name, Muhammed Ali.

LOL! Just wait till the islamicists start screwing with the drug dealers!

33 posted on 06/24/2002 11:36:58 AM PDT by PsyOp
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To: redhawk
When a Christian renounces his faith and converts to Islam, is his salvation lost?

I doubt that he was saved in the first place. We can backslide, but I don't believe we can lose our salvation.

34 posted on 06/24/2002 11:39:40 AM PDT by mombonn
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To: truthandlife
This coupled with the fact that those Red Chinese thugs are 'leasing' ports in the major naval choke points of the world ought to make our leaders wake up and realize what is really going on.

We've been fooled into a false sense of trust with the Chinese. They're on the mainland in Panama and have become the biggest benefactor for Castro--leasing the spy station in Lourdes in Cuba to listen to our activity.

Wake up, the Red Menance is making a come back and it seems no one sees it.

35 posted on 06/24/2002 11:57:43 AM PDT by CreekerFreeper
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To: weegee
I'm always surprised that people are willing to call themselves "slaves" to their god.

Islam lays claim to the heritage of Abraham through Ishmael, his illigetimate son through a slave girl. Still, the term is completely alien to the God of the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments.

Shalom.

36 posted on 06/24/2002 12:01:55 PM PDT by Dukie
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To: redhawk
When a Christian renounces his faith and converts to Islam, is his salvation lost?

Peter denied Christ 3x. You know the rest of the story.

37 posted on 06/24/2002 12:16:13 PM PDT by JesusIsLord
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To: Tancredo Fan; sonofliberty2; kattracks; sarcasm; Joe Hadenuf; 4Freedom; Meaghan; Travis McGee
Ping
38 posted on 06/24/2002 12:34:22 PM PDT by Marine Inspector
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To: weegee
I'm always surprised that people are willing to call themselves "slaves" to their god. I've run across a number of instances of muslims using this word.

That's because this is a *fundamental tenet* of Islam - that God is the Master and man is God's slave. The idea of God as a loving Father who takes care of His children, and who have a *family* relationship with Him is not an Islamic one.

39 posted on 06/24/2002 1:59:46 PM PDT by valkyrieanne
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To: mad puppy
Now that bugs me! Why would anyone claim Jesus was a prophet but not God? Jesus clearly, repeatedly claimed to be God.

Nope. Part of the deal is that the evil Jews and Christians re-wrote the Bible.

40 posted on 06/24/2002 2:32:07 PM PDT by Salman
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To: truthandlife
I don't give a rat's as*,CONVERTING TO ISLAM IS JUST AN EXCUSE TO COMMIT VIOLENCE!The 300 christians who converted to islam weren't really christians to begin with and their faith is weak and will be weak.
41 posted on 06/24/2002 2:38:00 PM PDT by INSENSITIVE GUY
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To: truthandlife
Well, there goes the neighborhood!

Imal

42 posted on 06/24/2002 4:17:07 PM PDT by Imal
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To: truthandlife
This is nothing new. In Paul Johnson's History of Christianity, he makes a good case for the proposition that a major factor in Islam's rapid spread was the mass conversion of erstwhile Christians. Christians who had a hard time grasping or accepting the Trinity found a more perfect monotheism in Islam. Oswald Spengler makes similar remarks in his Decline of the West. Thus, Islam is a kind of heretic Christianity--a Christianity without Christ except as a prophet.
43 posted on 06/24/2002 5:02:57 PM PDT by maro
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To: truthandlife
They have lost their culture, everything," he says. "Islam allows them to return to their roots."

Let me see, their ROOTS were with the loving religions of the Aztecs and Incas where human sacrifice, slavery and cannibalism were not only state sponsored but rather popular with the local gentry.

Islam, "The religion of peace TM", welcomes you home.

44 posted on 06/24/2002 5:16:14 PM PDT by usurper
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To: truthandlife
Oh great.....

Now MY neighborhood, too, can have its own taco-craving version of Osama Bin Laden...

Groan....

45 posted on 06/24/2002 7:42:13 PM PDT by gaijin
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To: ppaul
Re: White God. How sad and ignorant. God the Father is spirit. He chose one group of people through whom to send his Son to be our advocate, our pathway, our Redemption , to be able to stand before God again. That group was the Jews. Why not the Irish, the Swedes, the Bushmen, the Peruvians, the Watusi, you scream. I dont know. Ask HIM when you get there. But he chose the Jews. And that is the real source of Anti-Semitism. There is no White God. The source of that lie is Islam's envy and contempt that God chose the Jews. At the time that HE did,my ancestors were clubbing each other and worshipping trees among the Druids. Do I hate the Jews because God did not choose the Druids through which to send the Messiah? No, I am just desperately happy that HE made a way for me to be adopted into the worldwide family of Jesus the Messiah..
46 posted on 06/24/2002 9:17:41 PM PDT by linton59
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To: weegee
Maybe someone needs to educate these people how the muslims treated the Spanish for 600 years.

Awwwww.
And ruin their fantasy?
You sir, are a sadist.

47 posted on 06/24/2002 11:01:07 PM PDT by ppaul
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To: linton59
The Jews existed far before Islam. Arabs were worshiping a variety of deities (including a moon god).

After Christ and Christianity, Islam arises.

The envy is more than just about "the Jews" being God's chosen people. Rather than accept the word of God, they co-opted it an claimed the others to be reading from an adulterated text. But it's not like the muslims were paying much attention to the Judeo-Christian God before Christ's time.

How dare the Jews cast off their chains of slavery and rise up against the Egyptians. < /sarcasm >

48 posted on 06/25/2002 1:18:02 AM PDT by weegee
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To: Salman
Part of the deal is that the evil Jews and Christians re-wrote the Bible.

Was there supposed to be a < /sarcasm > on that or is it your belief that the Bible is some man-made propaganda for some evil purpose? I just want to be clear. Sorry in advance IF your humor is too subtle for me.

49 posted on 06/25/2002 11:47:47 AM PDT by mad puppy
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