Friday, August 13, 2010

In my father's words: terrorism and the Muslim faith

In the last few days, I have received a couple of emails asking for help/action to convey a lack of support for a building to honor the Muslim faith, proposed to be built near the 9-11 site in New York and a stamp commemorating the Muslim faith. My reaction to both of these emails was not to forward the email rejecting both ideas to "all of my friends." Rather, I wanted to respond with my own concerns about what messages like this do to efforts to understand our Muslim brothers and sisters and honor their right to their own faith, as our constitution and Christianity admonishes us to do.

Then my own father said it so well earlier this week in an email response to one of the requests. He said it so well that I reprint it here:

"Today I got an email and it caused me to review my Christian faith and my understanding of Jesus' gospel. The email was about the new 44-cent stamp which the US Postal Service is putting out. The stamp celebrates a Muslim holiday.
The email continues a very negative view and encourages the public to not buy the stamp. The negative message accuses "Muslims" of terrorist attacks and names six incidents. The repetition of the word "Muslim" lumps all Muslims together with responsibility for terrorism.
I have a problem with this view.
1) I don't believe all Muslims are responsible for terrorism. The same as I don't believe all Christians are responsible for the Michigan militiamen who proposed killing a police officer to provoke a revolution.
2) As a Christian, what do I do with Jesus' command to "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:43, Luke 6:27,35)? One thing I believe I should do is not pre-judge others by lumping them all together for crimes some of them have committed.
3) Hollywood and TV have used the old Immigration saying "Coming to America." What do we say to Islamic immigrants who come to America? Do we say that we have freedom of religion, but not your religion? Do we say that you can celebrate only the Christian religion?
These words stick in my throat. I'm not sure what the full answer is for persons of different religions in America, but I am sure it is not the answers in that email. The Arabic word Muslim literally means "one who submits to God." I will submit to Jesus' command "You have heard it said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you will be children of your Father in heaven."
We are all born into our families by chance. Some are Christians, others are Bahai, still others are Muslim. Some people do change from their family's belief, but most remain of the faith they were born into. Most of my friends are Christians, some are of other faiths, while some profess no formalized religion.

When we pass on emails such as the two I referenced at the beginning of this post, we simply serve to pass on the overgeneralization that demonizes those outside our faith. Yes, a FEW Muslims were responsible for the 9-11 tragedy. But there are thousands, perhaps millions of Muslims who do not condone what was done by a few. When we espouse an exclusionary way of belief, instead of inclusionary, we are not walking the path that Christ urged us to walk. We must seek first to love and understand, and above all not generalize from the sin of a few to the faith of many.

If you agree, please pass this on through love and understanding.

No comments:

Post a Comment