Islamophobia, Terrorism and Congressman King

  • A Muslim woman wearing a hijab (scarf) was recently kicked off of a Southwest flight because someone thought she said, "It's a go!" (implying the terrorist attack is on), when all she said was, "I've gota go."
  • Anti-Muslim protesters in Yorba Linda, California ranted and raved at Muslim families who were merely participating in a fundraising event by a Muslim relief organization focusing on the homeless.
  • Congressman King puts on hearings about problems of "radicalization" among American Muslims (implying that the majority of Muslims in America are radical).

What do all these events have in common? They depict Americans who equate Muslims with terrorists. But Muslims are not the enemy - extremism is.

Fear blinds us to the following facts:

Muslims are radically diverse. 1.5 billion people, in over 2000 ethnolinguistic groups. Some women wear the burqa, while others become heads of state (like the late Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and Megawati Sukarno of Indonesia). There are two major sects (Sunni and Shia) and 8 legal schools of Islam. In addition you have Sufi mystics, who long to experience God's love.

It is absurd to equate Muslims with terrorists. Yes, there is a miniscule minority of evil Muslims who are terrorists and we must deal with them. I am for national security and support our government's fight against terrorism. But this demonization of Muslims is unjust and flat out wrong.

Fear not only blinds us to the facts, fear can also crush our sense of fairness. The good news is, though, that fear is not the only response to Muslims in the U.S. A recent article from the Huffington Post rightly noted:

"Americans are animated by a fundamental sense of fairness on questions about the place of American Muslims in society. Importantly, more than 7 in 10 (or 72%) Americans agree that the [King] hearings should not focus on the Muslim community alone, but should be broadened to focus on religious extremism wherever it is found. And support for this fair-minded approach is shared by both Republicans and Democrats and across religious lines. Moreover, 62 percent of the public agrees with a belief that has been emphasized by both post-9/11 presidents: that Muslims are an important part of the American religious community. Americans are reluctant to exclude Muslims from the American family religious portrait."

Followers of Christ need to go beyond fear and fairness and respond with faith. I had the privilege of working with Muslim and Jewish leaders in the crafting of a document called, "Seven Resolutions Against Prejudice, Hatred and Discrimination." This emerged from a dinner at Imam Ahmad's home in Chandler, Arizona. The document describes people who are willing to move beyond fear to fairness. As a follower of Jesus it pushes me even further, to the response of faith - faith that expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). Read the Seven Resolutions document here, and see pictures from the event.