ISLAM is growing rapidly in Papua New Guinea, converts finding Muslim customs have more in common with their traditions than Christianity.
Melbourne University academic Scott Flower says all 73 Muslim converts he interviewed in PNG for new research had cited an affinity with Muslim practices as the main reason for their switch from Christianity.
The Islamic Society of PNG, the first Muslim body in the country, was founded in 1981, and recorded that by 1986 four Papua New Guineans had pronounced the “Sahadah”, the Act of Faith, to become Muslims.
The Islamic Society estimates the number of Muslims has risen to more than 4,000. PNG’s only substantial mosque, built with Saudi Arabian help, is in the Port Moresby suburb of Hohola.
Dr Flower said “globalisation factors, especially missionaries and media”, also contributed to increased conversion rates.
“Transition from traditional life to modernity is sparking a range of social and personal crises, leading people to search for new religions,” he says in his paper, published in Nova Religio.
Catholic priest Franco Zocca, based at the Melanesian Institute research centre in Goroka, said Islamic leaders explained to him that “Islamic beliefs and practices are more compatible than Christianity with traditional Melanesian values”, especially as perceived by some Highlanders.
“They cited Islam’s acceptance of polygamy, the separation of men and women, avoidance of menstruating women, male supremacy, not walking behind women, and men’s wearing beards and moustaches,” he said.