Islamophobia

There is a lot to say right now about what is going on in the world. “Refugee crisis” and “terrorism” are a few major buzzwords circulating in the news and social media. I won’t go in to a long discussion of my own personal thoughts, but I’d like to share a few highlighted sections from a couple of articles that I found particularly intriguing lately. They are dealing with a different, yet related keyword/issue: Islamophobia.

(I don’t necessarily claim I agree 100% with either of these articles. I’m sharing these to offer food for thought as you’re forming your own perspective on this topic. Also, when you click on the article links, there may be a pop up box that invites you to subscribe to their website with this tag line: “Do Justice. Love mercy. Read Sojourners.”  The intention with which this Micah 6:8 verse is used rubs me the wrong way. I’d rather read the continuation of the verse, “And walk humbly with your God!” Nevertheless, I have found several articles on this site very worth my time to read and consider.)

The first article was written this past summer and refers to the tragedy in Chattanooga, TN, but it remains relevant today.

3 Reasons Christians Shouldn’t Ask Muslims to Condemn Terrorism
by Todd Green, 7-20-15

The following are excerpts I’d like to highlight. The article spends time expanding on each of the three points listed:

Given our nation’s troublesome script when it comes to responding to acts of violence carried out by self-identified Muslims, one way Christians can help end Islamophobia is by refusing to join the chorus of voices calling for Muslims to condemn [violent acts] committed by Muslim extremists.

Here’s why:
1) Asking Muslims to condemn terrorism assumes an inherent link between Islam and violence.
2) Asking Muslims to condemn terrorism ignores the many condemnations Muslims have made against terrorism.
3) The question masks our own violent past and present.

The real question we should ask is why do some Muslims and Christians find inspiration to carry out despicable acts of violence from their scriptures, while many others find inspiration to work for peace and justice from the same scriptures? How can Islamic texts inspire ISIS to behead its enemies and also inspire Malala Yousafzai to fight for girls’ education? How could slaveholders in nineteenth-century America find justification for slavery in the Bible while abolitionists found justification for eliminating slavery from the same book?

Whenever we ask Muslims to condemn terrorism, we divert attention away from our own violent past and present. The question enables us to project our sins of commission and omission onto the Muslim “Other” so that we need not take seriously our own complicity in a violent world order.

It’s time to stop asking Muslims to condemn terrorism; asking this question keeps us in bondage to hostility and fear. But as Chitwood writes (see article below), the One who liberates us from fearing Muslims is the same One who invites us into fellowship with Muslims. If this is true, then our friendships and not our fears must drive the questions we ask about Muslims in the future.

This second article is written by Ken Chitwood, the religion scholar referred to in the article above.

A ‘Radical’ Response to Islamophobia
by Ken Chitwood, August 2015

While education and instruction are good, ending Islamophobia will also require relationships, interaction, and experiential exchange between U.S. Christians and Muslim Americans. Not only are Christians compelled to do something by the commands of scripture and the example of Jesus, but we are liberated to do so as well.

For followers of Christ, our identity is not wrapped up in our culture, our creed, our country, or our carefully constructed conception of the “religious other.” Instead, our identity is founded in Christ, and Christ alone. Indeed, it is an essential aspect of Christian faith that we, who were once far off—strangers, aliens, and outsiders—have now been brought near in Jesus. As the apostle Paul put it, “the dividing wall of hostility” has been broken down in Christ, “who is our peace” (Ephesians 2:11-22).

This message is immensely liberating. We, who are not defined by our animosity to God or our alienation from God’s family, likewise no longer need to identify ourselves by our opposition to the other. We are no longer enslaved to cultural constructions of antipathy such as Islamophobia.

Looking to the example of Jesus who sat with Samaritans, ate with tax collectors, and became friends with other groups who ranked low on first-century public opinion surveys (see John 4, Luke 7, 14), Christians are called to take up Jesus’ cue and pursue radical relationships in the face of Islamophobia. Indeed, in such an environment of hate and bigotry, friendships can be downright revolutionary. They can toss the world on its head.

The problem with Islamophobia, said Jon Huckins, co-founding director of the Global Immersion Project—an organization that “cultivates everyday peacemakers through immersion in global conflict”—is that it “forces people to pursue a different set of questions about safety, security, and persecution and not about hospitality, collaboration, and faithfulness.” And when we are preoccupied with our own safety, he explained, this “removes any ability to see the humanity and dignity in the situation and plight of many Muslims throughout the world.”

Huckins encouraged U.S. churches to move from a posture of defense to one of hospitality, to foster peacemaking in “the fertile soil of relationships.” “The move to eradicate Islamophobia has to be 100 percent relational,” he explained, “with the individuals around the table not being identified as Christian, Muslim, or whatever, but as friends.