Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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MIDDLE EAST: No place for preaching

February 25, 2008 |  7:46 pm


The Muslim Middle East tolerates religious minorities practicing their rituals to some extent. But the tolerance doesn't extend to  so-called "infidels" attempting to convert "good Muslims"  to another faith. Missionary activities are illegal in many Muslim countries, as illustrated by several recent controversies.

In Jordan, last week, authorities expelled a group of Christians accused of trying to convert  Bedouins from Islam. The eight foreign missionaries were allegedly distributing fliers that promote Christianity and were acting under the cover of charity work.

This comes amid reports by Compass Direct News, an organization that documents the persecution of Christians in the world, that Jordan has deported expatriate Christian families over the last year partly for "working with local churches or studying at a Christian seminary." The kingdom has dismissed these reports as unfounded.

In Algeria, a Catholic priest was sentenced to a year in prison a few weeks ago. He was accused of praying with a group of Cameroonian immigrants outside an institution authorized for religious worship. The sentence, which was later suspended, came under a 2-year-old law prohibiting proselytizing, which is viewed by authorities as a growing threat.

Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: Palestinian Christians pray during a mass service at the Latin Holy Family Church in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Credit: AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen