How to proselytize a muslim

By Malia Wollan

  • July 17, 2015

How to proselytize a muslim

‘‘Your appearance matters,’’ says Mario Dias, who manages the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints training center in São Paulo, Brazil, which each year prepares 3,500 young Mormons from all over the world for one-and-a-half-to-two-year missions in the country. A conservative look suits a serious message (faux-hawks and mullets are explicitly prohibited for Mormon missionaries, as are above-the-knee skirts). ‘‘Do not be intimidated or judgmental,’’ Dias says. As a door-to-door evangelist, you will see all kinds of people, from ‘‘drunkards on the road to the richest men you’ve ever met.’’ Approach them with respect and treat them with love.

Beware beginner’s zeal. New missionaries can be overconfident and too focused on the numbers. ‘‘You can’t go out thinking, I’m here to bring as many people as I can into the church,’’ Dias says. Before you start on Gospel matters, connect with people as humans. Ask about their families, their lives, their troubles.

Raised as a Catholic, Dias was baptized as a Mormon at 18, three months after he began meeting with missionaries. During his own two-year mission, he converted 70 people and talked to an estimated 3,100. He once converted a woman after just a single verbal exchange, but on average, the process took a month. If you have a personal conversion experience, talk about it. People like transformation narratives. Don’t be pedantic and don’t speak to strangers as if it’s your job to instruct them. Instead, ‘‘share the joy of your belief,’’ says Dias, who is 47.

In unfamiliar territory, carry a map so you don’t get lost or accidentally knock on a door someone has shut in your face before. Take careful notes. You might be in continuing theological or personal discussions with dozens of people at the same time. So you must remember details to be able to pick up where you left off. ‘‘Write down, for example, ‘Today I talked about the purpose of life with this guy here named John,’ ’’ Dias says. Because there is no playbook for how to approach different types of people, read situations as they arise: Decipher if someone is receptive; determine when to offer baptism. ‘‘If someone seems curious,’’ Dias says, ‘‘that’s always a good sign.’’

  • tweet
  • Share
  • link
  • email
  • print

Five years ago, I found myself sitting in an interfaith meeting. Gracious people from different religions and denominations had gathered at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s headquarters in Chicago to plan the ongoing work of congregational research. The goal of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership was to bring together participants from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, and Orthodox churches to research and compare our findings.

I was unsure whether I belonged at the meeting. In one session, the facilitator explained that the research should lead to cooperative resourcing to help all of our congregations. He suggested we could jointly create, publish, and distribute resources to help congregations in faith development and growth.

At the appropriate time, and with my best smile, I raised my hand and said something like this: “I appreciate the funding that allows us to survey our churches, and I think it is helpful to use similar questions and metrics for better research. But I am not here to form a partnership to help one another. I want to help the churches I serve, and part of the reason they exist is to convert some of you.”

I paused, smiled, and worked hard not to sound menacing (it was probably too late). Some participants in the room looked at me as if I had just uttered a string of profanities. Others nodded in agreement. Then the Muslim imam seated next to me said, in effect, “I feel the same way.”

Though the imam and I were in a minority in that group of predominantly liberal Protestants, we represented the movements among us that are actually growing in numbers. Both he and I believed in sharing and enlarging our faiths. We did not think .

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Victoria 3 – Sign up now!

The journey begins, sign up now and get a special in-game item when the game is released.

Crusader Kings III Available Now!

The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.

Crusader Kings II Expansion Subscription

Subscribe to the CK II Expansion and enjoy unlimited access to 13 major expansions and more!


  • Jun 7, 2013
  • #1
  • Isaios

    Field Marshal
    • Jun 7, 2013
  • #2
  • Yeah, but check the modifiers in the event:


    • Jun 7, 2013
  • #3
  • Yeah, but check the modifiers in the event:


    Field Marshal
    • Jun 7, 2013
  • #4
  • unmerged(281782)

    • Jun 7, 2013
  • #5
  • “Communazihippy blood traitor scum” by Capt. Kiwi

    I live at GMT+8, please remember this if you need to contact me urgently.

    “Inside Every Progressive Is A Totalitarian Screaming To Get Out

    “May Allah Continue to Shower You Love and Wisdom.”

    Fri Jul 26, 2019

    Memorial High School in New Jersey has come under fire after it allowed two Muslim students to proselytize for their religion in multiple classrooms and allowed banners invoking the Muslim god Allah and urging students to celebrate Ramadan to be hung on school grounds.

    According to the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF), an organization that does pro-bono legal work to defend conscience rights and constitutional liberties, Memorial High hung “two district-sponsored Ramadan posters” on school grounds. One of these posters exhorted students to “Have a blessed Ramadan” and added “May Allah Continue to Shower [sic] You Love and Wisdom” A second banner urged students to “celebrate” in fancy silver lettering and wished them “Happy Ramadan!” and “May this month be filled with all that is good.”

    How to proselytize a muslim

    “A public school district would never hang posters praying for Jesus Christ to shower students with love and wisdom,” asserted FCDF Executive Director Daniel Piedra. “Apparently the Left’s notion of the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ only applies to Christians.”

    The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund sent a cease and desist letter to Memorial High Principal Scott Wolhrab and Superintendent Clara Brito Herrera demanding that the posters be removed immediately. Attorneys for the school district responded just two days later, writing to the FCDF that “the poster(s) that may have been deemed legally impermissible in a public educational setting have been removed from Memorial High School.” But that was not the end of the story.

    In talking with a concerned teacher at the school, the FCDF learned that in addition to the posters, officials at Memorial High also allowed “two Muslim high school students going class-to-class during school hours, interrupting lessons, and trying to convert students to Islam under the guise of teaching them about Ramadan.” The students also created “massive bulletin boards promoting Islamic religious practices and inviting students to learn more about the benefits of being a Muslim” which were sponsored by the “Dawah Committee” of their local mosque.

    The explicit mission of the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center’s Dawah Committee, as noted on its website, is proselytizing for the Islamic religion by “sharing the guidance of the Glorious Quran and the mercy of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with our neighbors and friends” and “empowering Muslims to be advocates of the message of Islam.”

    The Memorial High students who undertook this mission chronicled their efforts in a post in an online Islamic forum. In that post, titled “Ramadan in the Public Schools,” the numerous ventures of the Muslim students to spread the word of Allah in their public school were documented and praised.

    “Jazaakum Allahu khairun – way to go! We congratulate Sr. Nour Hasan and cousin for their outstanding dawah educational awareness in the Public Schools. We pray that other students and parents will follow suit in the near future. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reward them manifold. We also thank Memorial H.S. for their kindness and inclusivity of our Muslim students.”

    The post also detailed the students’ activities to promote “dawah educational awareness” through bulletin boards and class presentations:

    “The NHIEC Ramadan in Public School Package [see above, the School Outreach Ramadan Kit 2019] was helpful. I also contacted Project Eid Awareness. Sr. Marjana sent me a banner – a white one you can see in the pictures.

    “I did the Bulletin boards which I have the presentation slides on.
    When I asked the school if I could hang a banner up the school made their own banner that they put in the entrance of school.

    “I did the presentation in 5 different classes: 3 History, 1 English and 1 French class. One was a freshman class and the rest were 10th grades. I made goody bags that had candy and I asked questions. Afterwards, I gave out the treats to whoever answered the questions. I also made some Arabic sweets for one of my classes. No one else helped in the presentations except for my cousin. She did the one about the traditional food and stuff that we have during Ramadan.”

    In the wake of the controversy, the post appears to have been removed.

    “For years, courageous Americans have been sounding the alarm about the threat of Islamic indoctrination in America’s schools, only to be smeared as Islamophobic, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists,” commented FCDF Executive Director Daniel Piedra. “What is transpiring in this school district is no doubt a conspiracy, but the blatant Islamic proselytizing here requires no theorizing—it is fact,”

    The FCDF issued a public records request to the school district in an effort to uncover further details about the unconstitutional Muslim proselytizing that was allowed to occur at Memorial High, but the district denied that request as “unclear” and “overly broad.” In response, FCDF plans to file a complaint with the state of New Jersey to force the district to hand over their records concerning the Islamic proselytization.

    “We are determined to hold the West New York School District accountable to the students, parents, and communities they are legally obligated to serve. Once we obtain this information, we will work closely with students, parents and advocates to ensure the Constitution, not Sharia law, is the final authority in the District,” FCDF executive director Piedra asserted.

    Ranking Rights: Does Protecting the Right to Proselytize Violate Religious Freedom?

    Support for the freedom to proselytize comes from human rights-oriented perspectives that see it as a necessary component of religious practice. This viewpoint, outlined most succinctly in Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), states:

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

    Conceived in this way, the right to change one’s religion is an individual one, though the practice of religion often occurs in the context of groups. The language of the UDHR set the stage for future debates over the place of proselytization in the list of rights that fall under the banner of religious freedom.

    Contemporary objections to the unfettered right to proselytize take four main forms. First are arguments that proselytization can be limited for the purpose of preserving social order. For instance, where competition between religious groups is hostile or there is a history of religious violence, restrictions on antagonistic groups being able to proselytize to each may other help to maintain societal harmony and prevent further conflict.

    Second is the argument that restricting proselytization may be necessary to protect indigenous or endangered minorities. For states with groups that have managed to hold onto ancient religious practices or with minorities that are at risk, restricting proselytization to these groups may help to maintain their cultural integrity and prevent their extinction.

    A third argument is that proselytization can (and should) be restricted if it is aimed at vulnerable populations or employs coercive tactics. For example, proselytization should not be directed at schoolchildren or prisoners, who may not be able to opt out of it. Moreover, proselytizers should not be able to use force, intimidation, threats, or material incentives to coerce individuals to change their religion.

    Fourth, some states enforce religious law (such as Islamic sharia), with interpretations that require them to place restrictions on conversion and proselytization.

    Given these different, but related, justifications for limiting the right to proselytize, how do we reconcile the position of proselytism in the corpus of religious freedom? There is general agreement that the right to proselytize can be limited in the event that deceptive or coercive methods are used to attempt to trick, threaten, or force individuals to change their religion. Many countries thus frame their proselytization legislation in language intended to prohibit these methods. For example, in 2012, Belgium passed an amendment to its criminal code providing special protection for “vulnerable persons” against physical or psychological abuse of weakness, a provision that could be used against religious groups determined to be engaging in aggressive proselytization. Yet such laws require the state (or an empowered body) to determine when proselytization is “aggressive.”

    There is less agreement on whether individual rights trump group rights with regard to the freedom to proselytize. On the one hand, the decision to follow a particular religion (or convert to a different one) is an individual one, necessitating protection of the individual right to practice, talk about, and even try to convince others to follow a particular religious tradition. On the other hand, religious groups such as the titular Orthodox churches in post-communist Europe and Eurasia have made the claim that attempts by Western missionaries to convert their populations not only threaten their chances of survival after decades of harsh repression, but also constitute a belligerent attack on the traditional religions of the region. Referring to proselytization as “sheep stealing,” these churches point to the long tradition of Christianity in these regions and view conversion as a loss of cultural heritage and group identity. These claims are closely tied to nation-building efforts in the region and cannot be divorced from political considerations.

    Finally, religious objections to proselytization raise the question of whether religious law trumps secular human rights law. One of the most common instances of this occurs with regard to Islam. Some Muslim objectors to proselytization argue that it violates the freedom of Muslims to follow the dictates of their religion, which prohibits apostasy. As a result, in 2013, at least 24 Muslim-majority states had laws or de facto prohibitions on proselytizing to Muslims and conversion away from Islam. While formally secular states also enforce restrictions on proselytization, religion tends be the most prevalent justification for it in contemporary states.

    The various arguments converge around the following question: If protecting a particular aspect of the religious freedom of one individual threatens the freedom of others to practice their religions, should it be protected? Responses will vary depending on whether one prioritizes individual or group rights, the majority or minorities, or secular or religious law. Social scientists tend to refrain from engaging in such normative debates and instead focus on examining the implications of restrictions on religious freedom. In my research, I have found evidence that restricting proselytization is associated with less competitive elections and lower levels of civil and political rights more generally. In another study, Brian Grim has shown that restrictions on proselytization tend to encourage rather than discourage religious hostilities. By focusing on the empirical outcomes of proselytization, perhaps we can forward new justifications for its limitation or protection.

    This piece was originally written for the Religious Freedom Project’s Cornerstone blog as a response to a series on the effects of proselytism and development in pluralistic societies.

    The largest U.S. Muslim Charity, which has been linked to terrorism finance, is now playing a role in helping to settle refugees from terror torn Syria.

    Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) is an affiliate of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), the largest international Islamic charity in the world, with a $240 million operating budget, nearly 300 employees, chapters in more than 12 countries with their own multi-billion dollar budgets, and operations in over 30 countries, all based in Birmingham, England.

    IRUSA specializes in refugee assistance and has a history of working with the United Nations and specifically the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the aid agency for Palestinian refugees.

    The IRUSA website specifies in detail its role in assisting incoming refugees saying:

    “IRUSA assists refugees in starting their new life in the United States. Volunteers are trained to welcome refugee families to their new communities, help them access local services, and show them around their new communities. Volunteers also can help with resume building and job searches. In some instances, refugees may receive rent assistance so they have a place to stay while looking for employment.”

    The IRUSA accepts Sadqah donations or a “voluntary charity donation” which it uses to support programs, providing patients with low socio-economics status gain access to therapy, medical devices and supplies. They will also accept Zakah (Zakat) donations.

    This raises eyebrows because under Sharia law, Zakat donations are to be expended in a number of prescribed categories. One of those categories is Jihad, as described by chief Muslim Brotherhood jurist Yusuf Al Qaradawi:

    “If war is waged anywhere to achieve this goal, namely to free the occupied lands of the laws and the tyranny of disbelievers, it is undoubtedly a case of Jihad for the sake of Allah. It thus needs to be financed from the money of Zakah, the amount of which is to be decided based on the total sum of the charity, the requirements of Jihad as well as the degree of the need of other potential recipients of charity. This is all to be decided by reliable scholars, if they are to be found.”

    The website states that it is the Zakat donations that cover expenses for refugees for things such as “rent assistance, emergency medical expenses, employment training, food vouchers, utilities and other emergency needs.”

    There are specific instances where the IRUSA has given refugees money in Detroit, Kentucky and Baltimore.

    In the instance of Detroit, the IRUSA gave money to struggling refugees and residents in the area because of the “rich Muslim community found there.” Michigan has the largest Muslim community in the entire country. They’ve also provided funds to the Kentucky Refugee Ministry (KRM) to help settle the new Syrian refugees in Louisville.

    In Baltimore, Maryland, the IRUSA reports that it is “working to financially empower refugees.” An example of that is shown in this story about the IRUSA helping a woman pay her rent in Silver Spring, Maryland. The group also created a program called Pathways Program located in D.C. to help refugees learn how to manage finances, as well as how to start a business and buy a home.

    The charity is also a large advocate for bringing more refugees into the country. It was a part of a network calling for the settlement of thousands of Syrian refugees into “rich countries.”

    It has participated in an event recently for Syrian refugees and wrote that its support calls on leaders to form a political solution to the problem.

    All of this charity work would seem charitable except that the IRUSA and IRW have many ties to Islamist terrorist organizations.

    In 1999, the IRW accepted a $50,000 check from Osama Bin Laden. In 2006, Israel arrested its project coordinator in its Gaza office, Iyaz Ali, for funneling money to Hamas. In November 2012, the British Bank UBS closed the IRW’s account and blocked its customers from donating to the charity. In June 2014, Israel officially declared the organization to be illegal and banned it from operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories due to its financing of Hamas. In November 2014, the United Arab Emirates declared the IRW to be a terrorist group.

    Legally, the IRUSA as an institution and charity is separate and independent from the IRW. However, as an IRW affiliate, it has many links to the IRW, and therefore has many links to terrorism. The IRUSA’s CEO, Abed Ayoub, is an IRW governance committee member. Its president, Mohamed Amr Attaiwa, is on the IRW’s Board of Trustees. In addition to the relationship between the IRW and the IRUSA created through shared leadership, money flows between the two organizations. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, the IRUSA sent the IRW $5 million, $6 million, and $9.5 million, respectively. Most IRUSA programs are funded through IRW grants; in 2010, the IRUSA received approximately $22 billion from the IRW.

    The IRUSA has multiple officials with direct ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

    The IRUSA’s President and Board Chairman, Mohamed Amr Attaiwa, was listed as the MB’s New England Director in a phone directory from 1991. At one time, Attaiwa served as the Vice President of the Muslim American Society, which was once described by federal prosecutors as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” An admitted MB member and convicted terrorist, Abdurraham Alamoudi, has openly said that the Muslim American Society is a part of the MB.

    The IRUSA’s Operations Manager (a point of contact and speaker at many IRUSA fundraisers) is Ahmed Shehata, who was one of the 21 Muslim brotherhood leaders arrested in Alexandria, Egypt in January 2009. Ahmed Shehata has liked at least eighteen pro-MB pages on Facebook as well.

    Hamdy Radwan, who has served on the IRUSA’s Board of Directors since 2012 said in an interview in November 2006, that he views Hamas as a group of freedom fighters, rather than as a terrorist organization.

    The IRUSA’s founder, chairman and CEO from 1993-1996, and current senior advisor to the board Ahmad Esmat El-Bendary was once the president of the Muslim American Society and currently serves on its Board of Trustees.

    In addition to many of its leaders being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the IRUSA often has Islamist speakers at its events such as Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Suhaib Webb, the former Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, and Imam Siraj Wahaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

    These connections between the IRUSA, the IRW, and terrorism raises red flags when one considers its influence on refugee resettlement both in the United States and worldwide, and brings up questions about the kinds of groups leading the push to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States.

    Muslim aggression as function of Muslim percentage of population

    Laura G. writes:

    On the so-far-unproved assumption that the car bomb in Times Square was the work of a Muslim group, I am reminded of an article by Edward Cline in Family Security Matters from 2008. It described the behavior of Muslims in various societies in relation to the proportion of the population that is Muslim. In light of the number of violent incidents and terror attempts by Muslims that have been occurring in America, it strikes me that the reality is ahead of what Cline estimated, and that the Muslim aggression is significantly more than what would be expected on the basis of numbers alone. Though Muslims are probably no more than one percent of the overall U.S. population, we seem to be moving into the situation that Cline says obtains when the Muslim population reaches ten percent, i.e., lawlessness as a means of complaining, car burning, threats when “offended,” etc.

    From Cline’s article:

    Below two percent Muslims are well-behaved citizens and cause little apparent trouble for the host society.

    At two percent and three percent Muslims begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs.

    From five percent on Muslims exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. They push for the introduction of halal (“clean” by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature it on their shelves—along with threats for failure to comply (United States, Switzerland, Sweden). At this point, Muslims work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves under Sharia, or Islamic law. (England, Netherlands, Philippines).

    When Muslims reach 10 percent of the population, they increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions (Paris—car burning). Any non-Muslim action that offends Islam will result in uprisings and threats (Amsterdam, Denmark—Mohammed cartoons, murder of Theo van Gogh).

    After reaching 20 percent of a population expect hair-trigger rioting, Jihad militia formations, sporadic killings and church and synagogue burning (Indonesia, Ethiopia).

    After 40 percent you find widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks and ongoing militia warfare (Bosnia, Chad).

    From 60 percent you may expect unfettered persecution of non-believers and other religions, sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon and jizya, the tax placed on [conquered] infidels (Sudan, Albania).

    After 80 percent, expect to find state-run ethnic cleansing and genocide (Syria, Egypt, UAE).

    Muslim behaviour is not just dependent on their relative size, but also on the character of the local population.

    For instance, in a strongly anti-Muslim nation such as China, Muslims will have to be much larger then two percent before they start to misbehave or go on Jihad.

    In a free and tolerant society, trouble starts at a much lower level. The fact that trouble in America has started at a much lower population level than predicted by the Cline formula, merely shows that America is a tolerant society.

    There has been some reticence among Muslims to start up the jihad in America as they were being held back by 9/11, as they were not quite sure what American response would be. However, they were re-assured by President Bush’s “Islam is the religion of peace” mantra, and finally the election of Obama, that America is truly a civilised and tolerant society.

    Welcome to the “Dead Nations Society.”

    “At two percent and three percent Muslims begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs.”

    This is already happening on a large scale in America. Muslims recruit from black prisoners in all the prisons, and are very successful with it. On a somewhat different note, I was at our State Republican convention the last three days. Two of the security guards on duty at the Minneapolis Convention center were Somali. This did not give me a secure feeling. We are recruiting from the enemy.

    ROME — Pope Francis told Christian high school students this weekend they should respect people of other faiths and not attempt to convert them to Christianity, insisting “we are not living in the times of the crusades.”

    Asked by one of the students Friday how a Christian should treat people of other faiths or no faith, the pope said that “we are all the same, all children of God” and that true disciples of Jesus do not proselytize.

    Francis said that his experience growing up in Argentina with its waves of immigration was a great help in learning to respect other people.

    “There is a mixture of blood, a strong miscegenation in Argentina — I am the son of a migrant — and this made for a culture of coexistence,” he said. “I went to public school and we always had companions from other religions. We were educated to coexistence.”

    “This taught me a lot, that we are all the same, all children of God and this purifies your gaze, it humanizes it,” he said. “In Argentina, there is a small group of narrow-minded Catholics who do not want Jews, do not want Muslims but this group, I never liked it, it is a fringe group, they have a cultural magazine but they do not have impact in society and when I used to teach I saw them for what they were, this is the secret.”

    The pope went on to say that a Christian should never try to convince others of the truth of Christianity, but should simply give a testimony of consistency and wait for others to ask about the faith.

    “You must be consistent with your faith,” he said. “It never occurred to me (and nor should it) to say to a boy or a girl: ‘You are Jewish, you are Muslim: come, be converted!’ You be consistent with your faith and that consistency is what will make you mature. We are not living in the times of the crusades.”

    “The last thing I should do is to try to convince an unbeliever. Never,” he said. “The last thing I should do is speak. I should live my faith with consistency. And it will be my witness that will awaken the curiosity of the other who may then ask: ‘But why do you do this?’ And yes, then I can speak.”

    “But listen, the gospel is never, ever advanced through proselytism,” he continued. “If someone says he is a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, he is not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not the way; the Church does not grow by proselytism.”

    The Church grows by attraction, by witness, he said. “Soccer teams can do proselytism, this can be done, political parties can do it, but there should be no proselytism with the faith. And if someone asks me: ‘But why do you do this?’ Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.”

    As he did last month, the pope then went on to cite the 11th-century French fictional epic poem La Chanson de Roland as an example of how Christians have tried to convert Muslims by the sword.

    “It is an ugly thing but it made me suffer so much, a passage from the La Chanson de Roland, when the Christians, the crusaders had defeated the Muslims and then all the Muslims were lined up and at the front of the line was a priest and a soldier,” Francis said. “The priest stood in front of the baptismal font and as each one approached, he would ask: ‘Baptism or the sword?’”

    “This happened in history!” he added.

    They also do it with us Christians in other parts, the pope acknowledged, “but what we did shames me because it is a story of forced conversion, of not respecting the dignity of the person,” he said.

    When the pope cited this poem in November to make a similar point, treating the account as if it were historical, a number of people offered corrections.

    One writer said that The Song of Roland was inspired in part by a historical event, namely Charlemagne’s expedition to Spain in 778, but noted that this expedition to Spain was undertaken at the request of several Muslim governors of Spain, in rebellion against the Emir of Cordova.

    Moreover, he said, the invasion was unsuccessful, and is recounted as such in the poem.

    “The memory of Pope Francis evoking the victory of the Franks over Muslims is therefore confused, because the expedition was not a victory,” the writer observed.

    “The fictitious case of the forced baptism of Muslims supposedly defeated after the capture of Zaragoza — which did not take place — is not historical, but is a pure imagination of the poet,” he added, noting that contrary to the pope’s account, there is not even a Christian holding a sword in the original work.

    “How then can he affirm that ‘this is what we Christians did’?” he concluded.

    The pope told the high schoolers Friday that since he was a boy he had dealt with people of other religions, because his father was an accountant and would bring home business clients of other faiths.

    “It was normal and it did not present a problem for me. But it should be normal. Never exclude someone because they have another faith,” he said.

    Please let us know if you’re having issues with commenting.