(CNSNews.com) - Muslims respect certitude and disdain weakness in exchanges with Christians and are more responsive to principled individuals who are unapologetic in defending their world view, according to a Catholic convert from Islam.
Addressing a seminar in Alexandria, Va., Iraqi-born Daniel Ali, who converted in 1998, discussed some of the key components of his former religion, such as jihad and Islamic views on God.
At a time when Islam is gaining strength worldwide, Ali told fellow Catholics in attendance that the "first line of defense is to know to your faith."
Catholics must be willing to speak up when their faith is under assault, Ali said.
When Christians engage Muslims, they must avoid the temptation to equivocate in their beliefs in order to appease or keep the peace.
"You cannot flush out Jesus for the sake of getting along with Muslims," Ali said. "They do not like wishy-washy people. They are much more respectful of those who stand by their convictions."
Ali advised Catholics to carefully weigh arguments about points of convergence between Christianity and Islam -- for instance, the fact the Koran affirms the virgin birth of Jesus and expresses a high regard for Mary.
"Every sentence that comes from Muslims includes a 'but,'" Ali said. "The beliefs are not the same."
Ali is co-author of "Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics," which outlines some of the distinct beliefs of Muslims and what this means for Catholics.
A key point raised in the book, co-written with Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer, concerns Islamic beliefs about Jesus. Although Muslims consider Jesus a prophet, the Koran condemns those who view Jesus as being divine. Muslims also deny Jesus died on the cross.
In his talk, Ali touched on the different meanings of "jihad" and how they relate to contemporary politics. The internal struggle individual Muslims face daily in practicing their faith is described as "greater jihad," while the combat between Muslims and enemies of Allah is called "lesser jihad."
It is this second definition that should concern Christians and other non-Muslims, Ali said.
"It is very sad that tragedy makes us pay attention to most challenging moment of our time," Ali said in reference to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. "When Muslims say they want to take the West, they are not joking. I know their minds, and I know they mean what they say."
Ali told Cybercast News Service Catholics should seek to "neutralize" Muslims by being unyielding in their defense of Christian principles.
"It is so American to stand up for what you believe in," he said. "But when it comes to Christian faith, people are so afraid to speak out."
Also joining in the discussion was Father Joseph Kenny, a professor at the Dominican University in Nigeria, a country that has seen frequent violent clashes prompted by Muslim extremists' attempts to promote Islamic law despite the existence of a large Christian minority.
The success Islam is enjoying currently is driven more by a desire to live safely and productively in Muslim-dominated regions than it is by "conviction of truth," Kenny argued.
The seminar at the St. Louis Catholic Church, entitled "What Every Catholic Should Know About Islam" attracted about 400 people.
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