The New York Times ran a story last Friday on a dispute among (conservative) Southern Baptists about the appropriateness of selectively quoting from the Koran as a form of 'overture' or outreach intended to convert Muslims to (the fundamentalist version of) the Christian faith. This approach plays down the differences between the Koran and the Bible, highlights texts within the Koran that point to Jesus and Mary, loosely applies the terms 'Muslim' and 'Allah' to Christian believers and the Christian God, and uses all of this as a kind of wedge or cover for proselytizing a conservative Christian faith narrative.
This method is often known as the 'CAMEL' method - I won't explain it here; you'll need to read the article to understand why.
The Times opinion columnist Robert Wright subsequently pointed out that rather than representing openness to a shared Abrahamic faith and deity, the CAMEL method is in effect a Trojan horse strategy using eerily familiar fundamentalist proof-texting methods (only this time with the Koran, not the Bible) in an effort to persuade Muslims that Jesus is superior to the Prophet Muhammad...
"But a more apt etymology would involve the “camel’s nose under the tent.” The “overture” — the missionary’s initial bonding with Muslims via discussion of the Koran — is precision-engineered to undermine their allegiance to Islam.
"These missionaries start out by noting that the Koran depicts Jesus and his mother, Mary, in a favorable light. Indeed, they point out, the Koran depicts Jesus as a great prophet and a miracle worker who can even raise the dead. In contrast, the Koran doesn’t show Muhammad himself doing that sort of thing. Hmmm … kind of makes you wonder who the top prophet is, doesn’t it?
"In some cases even the “camel’s nose” image doesn’t do justice to missionary wiliness. “Trojan Camel” might be better; some Christian missionaries call themselves Muslims — or at least muslims — because, after all, “muslim” literally means one who surrenders to God. A few have gone way undercover, growing beards and abstaining from pork.
This is clearly deceptive and should be abhorred by all Christians who believe in ecumenical dialogue and mutual respect among adherents to the major Abrahamic faiths. Tricking people into conversion is not a sound basis for fruitful long term engagement between Christianity and Islam. As Wright points out, a lot of effort and money are being poured into similar initiatives across the Muslim world, and this is cause for concern that some groups of professed Christians may in fact be doing more harm than good to world peace and intercultural dialogue - something we can ill afford in the current environment.