My Muslim friends don't sweat the small stuff. Whether they lose a job or gain weight, whether they start a business or end a relationship -- I don't hear a peep from them. But there is one thing which instantly sounds alarm bells: the fear of their children leaving Islam.
Get this. After Denver Broncos won against the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 8th, one such friend called me, frantic. He believed that Tebow's evolution into this charismatic evangelical Quarterback posed a threat for Muslim Americans like his teenage son. Poor Tebow had no idea that his innocent 80-yard touchdown pass, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, had triggered such a panic.
The story is multilayered though. My friend's son was drifting away from Islam for a while. Partly because of some tough questions. Questions like why his Imam at the mosque did not practice what he preached, and why his father degraded women, and why the family elders refused to even acknowledge issues surrounding homosexuality and... you get the point, right? His father sent him to the Imam for answers who exercised, shall we say, unnecessary roughness. So the boy immersed himself in beer, football and his Christian friends.
Now imagine the options for this Muslim teenager. On one side was dogma, while the other side had football, friends, booze, and a touchdown pass that people were calling, divine. Ouch!
Even if the Imam was comfy cozy, his clout was no match to the status of a rookie whose name is now practically a verb. Who knew if even a 130 people subscribed to the Imam's Facebook page (that is, if he had one) in comparison to Tebow's 1.3 million fans. We knew that 23,000 people followed the first ever Muslim congressman Keith Ellison on Twitter in comparison to Tebow's 900,000 plus followers. And while neither the Congressman nor the Imam had the privilege to be showcased by a network documentary, Tebow had been the subject of one by ESPN titled, "The Chosen One."
Yikes! See how a sweet young man, who committed the sin of openly committing to God, became a threat for an entire group of people?
This limited pitched battle is a small flick compared to the proselytizing war between evangelical Christianity and Islam -- worldwide. With both sides taking pride in preaching the message, each new territory influenced is typified as a first down; and each convert, a field goal. Even though the score, worldwide, stands at 2.2 billion to 1.8 billion in the favor of Christianity, Islam is rapidly closing the gap in what appears to be the fourth quarter of human civilization.
In such a tight race for religious market share, brand Tebow could be a cause for concern.
My friend had such concerns. So he pleaded me to: "Please talk to my son and confirm that he does not look at Tebow's performance as 'miraculous,' that he does not believe God is micromanaging the outcomes of the 2011 Football season, that he is not going to convert to Christianity."
"People don't convert because of football games" I retorted since a 2009 report by the Pew Forum on religion and Public Life stated that more than one-quarter of American adults (28 percent) leave the faith in which they are raised in favor of another religion -- or no religion at all. And their reasons to leave were complex. Religious dogma, conflict between religion and science, and a desire to intermarry between religions were all factors, in addition to others, leading to conversions. Catholics and Protestants were, in fact, losing large numbers to the "unaffiliated" category -- the fastest growing group -- since three people move into it for every person moving out.
If data means anything, then Brand Tebow is not the threat to my friends' son; his own flawed understanding of Islam is. And he is not likely to lose his "market share" to Evangelical Christianity; he is likely to lose it to atheism and agnosticism.
So as promised, two days before the game between Broncos and Patriots, I asked my friend's son: Do you think Tebow's evolution into this phenomenal champion for Christianity has the potential to affect a Muslim mind like yours?
"Tebow's evolution..." he said with a wicked smile and then added, "No way. Tebow should first reconcile the concept of 'evolution' with his Christianity."
Then came Tebow's crushing defeat; at the hands of New England Patriots.
My friend was relieved -- more by Tebow's defeat as compared to his son's response.
But the reality is: Brand Tebow is here to stay; just like his son's tough questions for Islam and Christianity.
Follow Dr. Faheem Younus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FaheemYounus