• Tabea Scharrer

New Article 'Creating an Atmosphere of Intellectual Superiority. Islamic Missionary Work in Kenya'

'Creating an Atmosphere of Intellectual Superiority. Islamic Missionary Work in Kenya as Staged Competition in a Climate of Religious Diversity‘, Journal of Contemporary Religion 37(2): 203-222. DOI: 10.1080/13537903.2022.2073029.


ABSTRACT

This article deals with a very visible form of Islamic missionary work in Kenya: the public comparison of the Bible and the Qur’an. The argumentative structure of these public debates share many similarities with highly standardised narratives about becoming Muslim in the East African region, told by both converts and non-converts. I argue that these public debates (mihadhara), organised by groups following the ideas of the South African Ahmed Deedat, such as the Wahubiri wa Kiislamu (Preachers of Islam) and Islamic Propagation Centres, resemble staged spectacles or ritualised competition, aiming to demonstrate the superiority of Islam. These public representations take place in a climate of religious (and also political and economic) competition between various Christian and Islamic movements, in a country where Muslims form an influential minority which, however, perceives itself as marginalised. Thinking along these lines also explains why the audience for this ‘narrative of superiority’ is not necessarily the ‘other’ but often the own group, no matter whether the narrative is told by converts as an enactment of their conversion or by both converts and non-converts as a medium in this competition. Mihadhara and conversion narratives are part of the same style of Islamic missionary work, creating an atmosphere of ‘intellectual superiority’.


KEYWORDS: Kenya; Islam; missionary work; Christian-Muslim relations; religious conversion; religious competition; religious aesthetics

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