Religious and charity “muggers”

Anyone who’s lived in London for a while knows about “charity muggers” - people who approach you in the street to get you to sign up to make direct debit donations to their charity. They are extremely irritating, because they often take much effort to get them out of the way, and you can make sure not to look at them and they still get in your way, quite deliberately.

I haven’t had much experience of the religious variant, but one of my Muslim female friends, who lives in a provincial town, reported that she had been accosted in the street by someone trying to sign her up for their church, asking her if she believed in Jesus (peace be upon him). It tends to be evangelical Christians who do this, partly because they (unlike other branches of Christianity) regard proselytising as important, but also because other religions either don’t believe in attracting converts (eg. Hinduism) or simply because the UK is a Christian country, by heritage, and other communities don’t really feel that they have the right to spread their religion so aggressively. (Some groups do attract people of their own minority religion at home or in the street, like the Lubavitchers among Jews or the Tablighi Jamaat among Muslims, but they do not approach others, usually.) It is irritating because we should not have to justify our beliefs to a hostile, total stranger. They can also be quite intimidating and often seek out “don’t know” answers. They often promote a harsh, simplified version of the religion.

My view is that one should deal with these people by sticking your palm out towards their faces. They have no right to interrupt you as you go about your business. I particularly resent the charity representatives (mostly, I’m told, out-of-work actors) because I could not afford to sign up for a direct debit as I don’t have the income. Also, some of us have charities we donate money to or give of our time to, so nobody has the right to pressure us to sign up for theirs too; we often just can’t. Also, I don’t want to end up face-palming someone, thinking them to be a charity mugger, and discovering them to be a friend or relative. I do wish they’d find a better way of raising money.

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