The words are getting dangerous. Fear is winning. Some among us are becoming self fulfilling prophets, playing into the hands of those who wish us harm, instead of living out of our “better angels.” So much of what we are hearing today was exactly the talk that led to Japanese interment camps, and the concentration camps and gas chambers of Germany. It is really easy to downplay that.
Many did then too.
Recently I saw the movie “Trumbo” which is a story of the days when Sen. McCarthy was allowed to wreck havoc on many souls because of a political belief. While watching it the hair on the back of my neck stood up as I thought about how eerily familiar it sounded to some of the rhetoric of today.
It would be easy to dismiss this as something that is happening on the campaign trail, or just somewhere else. But it is happening everywhere, and with the most recent flourish of unthoughtful and uninformed rhetoric that is surely only going to get worse.
From about 2013 until 2014, there was a series of hateful events targeting the Islamic Center of Bothell. Watch here
In November of 2014, a Muslim cemetery in the Woodinville area was found vandalized with dozens of headstones smashed and destroyed. Watch here
In December 2014, Adan Gaal was beaten viciously by a man who called him racial and religious slurs. Watch here
In early February of this year, a Muslim lady in the Spokane area, was walking to pick up her kids from the school bus stop after school. She was accosted by a man who called her religious slurs, was threatening to beat and rape her, and who tried to pull off her headscarf.
About a week after this, a man in a pick-up truck drove through the Bothell temple’s parking lot screeching his tires and when people came outside to see what the noise was about, the man yelled at them, “N—gers, get out!” and drove away.
80% of American Muslim youth have reported being targets of taunts and harassment, oftentimes in front of teachers and school administrators.
When Jesus was crucified, it was easy to blame the Jews as a whole, and when that became unpopular or difficult, we blamed the Romans. Even centuries later, on Good Friday, when reading the Passion Gospel, often hoards of Christians would rush out of churches, flood into Jewish neighborhoods terrorizing, and in some cases, murdering them on account of that version of the story. This is exactly what is happening now, blaming a whole people, a whole religion, for specific acts. Acts perpetrated by evil men, not the entirety of a race or belief. These days, and these words, are no different. I am saddened by the numbers that sign up for such blatant generalization. I am even more concerned and baffled as to what it says about us as a people.
A few years ago I met Arsalan Bukhari. Arsalan is the Executive Director of CAIR-Washington. CAIR stands for Counsel on American-Islamic Relations. He is a fine man and I have always been blessed to be in his company. A few months ago, before all of this most recent tension, I asked him a simple question, “How can your Christian sisters and brothers be neighbors to you and our Muslim sisters and brothers?” That question began a dialogue, and eventually the idea of a video at my request and invitation. He and many in his organization welcomed it and graciously participated. We are in the process of finishing production on that larger presentation, but I wanted to share a glimpse of it in the video below.
So I urge a more positive response to this fear, one which might challenge and stretch you, but one that is more about “leaning into”this issue, instead of running from the unexamined and the unknown. Meanwhile, in the days ahead I plan to blog frequently on several topics which are related: Syrian Refugees and how we can help, the Seeds of Hope pilgrimage and ongoing work, and the work of our own Refugee Resettlement Office. I hope you will “tune in” and also engage this issue, in your community, and in your church. I believe nothing less than our souls and the soul of this country are at stake.
Blessings to all of you.