Conversion from one religion to another should be a voluntary decision. Sports Minister Solomon Dalung is a liberal Christian who is passionately committed to promoting interfaith understanding. As part of that commitment to build bridges of understanding, he makes it a duty to attend Muslim Tafsir(the reading and interpretation of the Holy Qur’an) held at different Mosques during the Ramadan. By doing so he wants to learn more about Islam and its teachings. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with such brotherly visits to Mosques to listen to the Tafsir.
An incident has happened at An-Nur Mosque which seems to have dampened Dalung’s enthusiasm. During one those visits to the Mosques to listen to the Tafsir, Sheikh Isa Pantami innocently, but tactlessly, advised the Sports Minister to embrace Islam. Dalung was livid and publicly expressed his embarrassment at Pantami’s insensitivity, accusing the Sheikh of abusing his privilege.
What would have been Pantami’s reaction if, on a brotherly visit to the Church, a Pastor advises him to embrace Christianity? Wouldn’t he be utterly embarrassed by the gratuitous invitation to convert to Christianity? Some people argued that Mr. Dalung should have privately called Sheikh Pantami aside to protest the embarrassment. This argument misses the point. Interfaith dialogue and exchange of brotherly visits are not meant to convert each other. To put it mildly, Pantami shouldn’t have made that offer to Dalung. His action was tactless and you can’t defend it under the circumstances it occurred.
When Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid a goodwill visit to President Buhari in London in March, why didn’t the Nigerian leader invite him to become a Muslim? He couldn’t have done so because such move would have vitiated the essence of the brotherly visit. When Buhari also visited Welby recently, why didn’t the Archbishop suggest to the Nigerian President to convert to Christianity? He couldn’t have done so for obvious reasons. When Pope Francis visited Turkey in November 2014 and attended Muslim prayers with the Mufti of Istanbul as part of efforts to promote interfaith dialogue and unity, why didn’t the Turkish Muslim leader ask the Pope to embrace Islam? Wisdom and tact matter in every situation.