America, Christians and Muslims
Last week we had an excellent gathering at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood with speakers and covered by the press. The event was organized in response to the hate and violence being promoted by the Republican Party Presidential candidates and by many others around the country. While they gave me undeserved credit, the evening was conceived and executed by the Lutheran Pastor Terry Kyllo.
Speaking at the event were:
- Opening: Lutheran Pastor Terry Kyllo
- Welcome: Church Pastor Paul Sundberg
- Lutheran Bishop Kirby Unti
- Sheikh Ismail Ahmed
- CAIR-WA Director Arsalan Bokhari
- Author Lesley Hazleton (The First Muslim and After the Prophet and many others)
- Imam Benjamin Shabazz from the WD Mohammed Muslim community
- Refugee Resettlement John Forseth
There were over 350 people present including a fair number of Muslims, it was a fabulous success!
If you would like to view the event or just listen to it, please check out the Catacombs Church link where you will also find some of the coverage from the Press. Scroll down towards the bottom to see “Audio of the event” and “Complete video of the event“.
I would like to share two thoughts with you, one about Christians and America and the other (towards the end) about Muslims…
The hostility towards Islam and Muslims is being fuelled and fanned by many people who want to score cheap and easy points on their popularity polls and who want to promote themselves as the ultimate patriots. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t know better (most have never met a Muslim personally) and they tend to believe the hate-promotion in the name of defending the nation…just as do so many other people across the world.
I have often railed hard against the anti-Muslim hate-promotion in America by political leaders, by other public leaders and by individuals seeking to rise in profile on the bodies of innocent Muslims. Yes, there is active anti-Muslim and anti-Islam promotion even in the training manuals of local Police departments, the FBI and the Military and yes, there is no shortage of gun-toting American bullies who threaten Muslims going about their business and tragically, yes, the leading parties (both, Republican and Democratic) are largely silent, happy to see their party points rise as the hate continues.
However…This country is still probably one of the very best countries a Muslim can live in. We have more freedom than we can dream of in our Old Muslim-majority countries and we have a huge reservoir of acceptance and brotherhood from the people. Yes, this country has a lot of contradictions between what the politicians are driving and what the public desires, but that is common in all countries, Muslim-majority or not.
For every act of hostility towards Muslims there are overwhelming responses against the bigotry, amongst the Christians and Jews in this country.
When Donald Trump made his hostile comments against Muslims and Islam (on Fox “News” no less!), the great activist Michael Moore ( a Jew) himself, stood in front of Trump HQ with a sign saying, “WE ARE ALL MUSLIM“. House Speaker Paul Ryan openly condemned the hate-promotion. So yes, there is plenty of anti-Muslim hate flying about in America, but there is also a greater amount of support for equal status for Muslims in America. For every American who participates in such hate-expressions, there are many more who stand up against the hate. Teachers have lost their jobs because they gave assignments to their students, to study how Islam is not that different from Christianity and hating Muslims is wrong.
For every American who watches the hate-mongering in silence, there are MANY more who take strong public positions against it.
So why do I criticize America so often and so hard?
America did not get where it is because of people who remained patriotically silent in face of wrongs committed in the country. Such stupid silence would have meant slavery, no votes for women or Blacks, indentured labor, no freedom of speech, no equal justice no protection of minorities and a lot more, flourishing today.
This brings me to a more important point. Muslims are put to shame by the upwelling of good will among Christians and Jews for Muslims as compared to the intensely hostile environment against minorities in Muslim-majority countries.
In Pakistan all minorities live in a constant state of fear from fanatical Muslim leaders AND from the government. Once a country of about 25% minorities, it has sunk to the low single-digits today, even Muslim minorities are not protected. Hindus have been driven out of Pakistan.
Even today, Hindus, Christians, Ahmediyya and Shia are treated with violent hostility in Pakistan. They are killed, imprisoned, raped; their houses of worship are routinely bombed or set on fire and there is no justice for the persecutors.
Ahmediyya are treated worse than all others, they are not even permitted to pray in a Muslim fashion in their mosques because they are considered apostates as well. Most members of the Ahmediyya faith hide their faith-identity so nobody knows who they are because they may get targeted by officials or fanatically-inclined public.
In Egypt, the Coptic Christians are a hated and persecuted group, living at the edge of survival even in the post-Muslim Brotherhood times.
in Saudi Arabia, the fanatics have official sanction and support to target and destroy minorities, principally the Shia. Arabia’s 20% Shia minority lives in a constant state of fear from the House of Saud and its destruction machine.
One can go on…
We KNOW that the public in all those countries and in other Muslim-majority countries can take open stands against such hate and we know that the public can succeed. But doing so requires a sense of sacrifice where people are prepared for the worse while standing for the best. The key is the get Muslims talking in these countries and then, to get them mobilized against bigotry.
God clearly did not sanction persecution or killing of minorities. In the Quran, a Muslim is defined as anyone who submits to the will of the ONE God, is a Muslim and is loved by God provided s-he does good works.
…Any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:62)
God also tells us that the final judgment as to who is Muslim and who is not, belongs to Him and Him alone, our only duty lies in informing those who we believe, have strayed and then to leave them alone.
There is no compulsion in religion. (2:256)
Whoso obeyeth the messenger, obeyeth Allah and whoso turneth away, we have not sent thee as a warder over them (4:80)
Had Allah willed, they had not been idolatrous. We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them. (6:108)
Say: O Disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor shall ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion and unto me my religion. (109:1-6)
and many more (3:20, 88-21-22, 42:48, 4:90, 76:29, 10:99…).
Even a basic study of faiths such as Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and many others, will show that they ALL believe in ONE God and so, according to the Quran, are accepted as Muslims (those who submit to the will of the ONE God). Yet the fanatics would have us believe that everybody who is not a REAL Muslim (part of their group) is among the “Kuffar” (Unbelievers) and therefore subject to being killed. Nothing in the Quran supports what they say, but since most of the populations are illiterate, and others dared not speak against them, the fanatics get to define a twisted, ugly, Islam…to their followers and to the rest of the world.
I know it is not easy to stand up against these fanatics so the leadership needs to come from the political leaders of those countries as pushed by the majority people of good faith. In the meantime, we can reach out to the minorities even if we cannot stand their versions of belief and greet them as equals, as brothers and sisters and protect them whenever there is an uprising against them. This Muslims can do and must do, not only “over there” in the Old Country, but right here in America.
In the US, our local Mosques are factionalized and divided among people of different schools of thought and few Mosques take the initiative of regularly (or even once in a while) inviting members of the other sects as guests in their many events.
When we start to exercise appreciation and acceptance of other Muslim groups, we can hope to give rise to an entire generation that no longer believes that we must hate all others. That would be a first step towards the emergence of Muslims as a political group that will then help our political leaders reassess their anti-Muslim positions.
When Muslims in Muslim-majority countries begin to invite non-Muslims and Muslim minorities to their Mosques for events then the hate will automatically begin to lose its support and minorities will start to feel more comfortable as being Pakistanis and as brothers and sisters to their Muslim.
Don’t wait for group action. As individuals, Muslims can and must reach out to minorities in Muslim-majority countries. Make friends with them and support them in their misery so they know they have some friends among Muslims. When I was in Sind University in Pakistan, I had the great honor and pleasure of having a Hindu as my roommate who became like a brother to me and still is.
Making friends is easy, just have your eyeballs meet with the eyeballs of “The Other” and all suspicions and hostility will disappear as soon as we understand the humanity of each other.
It really is that easy, just open your hearts along with your eyes.