As a person of faith, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the anger and vitriol being shown toward Muslims who live in the Dallas community. You may have heard of the protesters that gathered outside a Muslim conference in Garland.
Partly as a response to this, Northaven United Methodist Church recently hosted an event inviting clergy of all faiths to come together and support Muslims’ right to assemble peacefully and to worship God as they wish. More than 400 people attended, including rabbis, imams and dozens of Christian ministers.
The gathered clergy and religious leaders all read a joint statement that, among other things, said this:
“Our common message today is to stand united as neighbors and citizens, and to bear witness to the values of this nation; values that make no room for bigotry based on race and religion. We recall that many of the founders of this nation came here to avoid religious persecution. They founded a nation where all faiths would be free to worship and serve their God freely.”
These protests paint all Muslims as murderous, evil terrorists. The truth is that most Muslims are good neighbors and peaceful members of our community.
Yes, there is horrible extremism being done in the name of Islam elsewhere in our world. Bone-chilling violence that deeply disturbs all of us, including American Muslims. But it’s always wrong to paint an entire religious group with the sins of their extremists.
For example, few seem to recall that one of the most horrific mass murders in Europe in recent history was an allegedly Christian Norwegian man who brutally murdered 77 people. In a rambling diatribe, he made it clear that he believed his faith compelled him. I thank God that in the weeks and months following that attack, nobody blamed Christians for it.
And lest you say, “That’s an extreme example. Everybody knows that guy was crazy, and that he wasn’t living out a real Christian faith,” I totally agree. And this is precisely what the Muslims I personally know are saying about the terrorism being done in the name of Islam.
After the Northaven event, many of the Muslims who attended expressed their gratitude. But behind that was the real fear that they live with, that they might be blamed for the actions of extremists halfway around the world.
I invite you all to prayerfully consider the ways in which we can be gracious neighbors, friends and coworkers to the Muslims who live in our neighborhood, attend our schools and sit next to us at work.
It’s not just a belief in our system of laws that compels us to respect other faiths. Each of the three great Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) share some version of The Great Commandment.
Jesus said, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.”
In the Jewish tradition, Rabbi Hillel said it this way: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.”
And in the sayings of Mohammed, we find: “Wish for your brother what you wish for yourself.”
The very freedom that our nation gives each of us to worship God as we so choose also gives peace-loving Muslims the right to do the same. Individually, we cannot stop world terrorism. But individually, we can choose each day to treat all our neighbors and friends with love, compassion and respect.