Fear Kills/Don’t Be Afraid: Day 20 of Ramadan

 

I find it deeply ironic that one of the stereotypes that many Americans hold about Islam is that it is a “violent” religion.

This week in America, a white supremacist walked into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and shot six people dead, wounding three others; a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned to the ground by an act of arson (the second in a month); and a mentally retarded man was executed by the state of Texas, even though the Supreme Court had previously ruled such executions as violations of the 8th Amendment.

And all this coming just a few weeks after a man walked into a movie theater in Colorado, flush with 6,000 rounds of ammunition and semi-automatic weapons, and shot twelve people dead.

Who is being violent to whom?

One of the reasons I decided to observe Ramadan was to stand in solidarity with the Muslims in my community, because I perceived a real, though hidden, threat against their place in our nation. I want to do so even more now, after this latest burst of violence. And I think it is my duty as a Christian leader to do so publicly.

Until the day comes that all American Christians are vocal in their support of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc. to practice their religion freely, then it is necessary for us to stand beside them. All religious freedom is at stake when one particular group’s religion (or lack of religion) is under attack. Clearly, there is a strain of intolerance, mistrust, and misinformation in America towards people of the Muslim faith.

The source of violence, I believe, is fear. People arm themselves when they are afraid, and when they bear arms, they find it more likely to use them. People close themselves off from others when they fear others; they build gated communities, hire security guards, and cut off access.

But this response of hiding behind a fortress does little to reduce violence – it prolongs the crisis, allowing the fear to fester, building slowly until it erupts into physical acts of destruction.

Let me speak to my Christian brothers and sisters for a moment: have we not been told not to fear repeatedly by Jesus Christ? Have we not been admonished to love with open hearts, to show hospitality to the stranger? Do we not read the words in our own scripture, “Perfect love casts out fear”? What do we have to fear?

Fear is not an adequate response for the children of God. Instead, we are called to love. And it is impossible to love while afraid.

The only way to break out of our fear is to confront it. And the simplest, most concrete way I can think to do this when we find ourselves afraid of certain kind of people, is to get to know those kinds of people!

Who are you afraid of? Muslims? People with turbans on their head? Young African-American men? Gays and lesbians? White skinheads?

The answer is simple: step out of your home and walk around your neighborhood. Take notice of the people who live near you, work near you, attend school with you. Reach out intentionally and make new friends. Get to know people you never thought you would want to know. Get to know the very people you fear.

Simple, isn’t it?

I am perfectly aware that there are people in this world who are afraid of me, because I am a member of the dominant religion of a very powerful country. I understand their reflexive fear. But I would never want someone to judge me on such a basis, or to make assumptions about my motivations, my character, or my intentions.

All I want is for the chance to be heard on my own terms. I desire that you get to know me for who I really am, that you hear from my own lips what I believe about God, how I pray, what I hope.

This is the same thing that my Muslim brother wants.

Before you cower in fear, before you rush to judgment about the nature of “those people’s” religion, before you pick up your gun and retreat behind your bunker, listen to him for a few minutes. Share a cup of coffee. Relax. Breathe deep.

Let the peace of God wash over you.

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18 comments

  1. Aliya

    mashaAllah. poignant. you are a principled man. Thank you for your powerful words and brave stance. God strengthen you!

  2. alam9blog

    Alhumduillah. Very clearly & sensitively thought through & written. Such educated understanding & tolerance is needed far & wide.
    Look at the cruel behaviour of the Burmese Buddists Monks, whose religion dictate peace, love, harmony with one another even towards the animal & plant kingdoms. Yet they are instrumental in ETHNIC CLEANSING of the Rohingya People. Burning them alive, killing, and openly shouting hatred slogans against Muslims & cleansing Burma of them.
    Plus the Human Rights Nobel Peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi writes about the ‘Freedom of Fear’, ‘ Peace & Human Rights’, what will she write about next???
    Will it be ‘ Don’t be a hypocrite & stone hearted.’
    I ask where is the Human Rights of the Rohingya’ who it’s said have migrated to Burma over recent decades, when it’s not true they are Arab settlers since the 8th Century CE, as the so called Bhuddists Monks.
    Early evidence of Bengali Muslim settlements in Arakan date back to the time of King Narameikhla (1430–1434) of Kingdom of Mrauk U. After 24 years of exile in Bengal, he regained control of the Arakanese throne in 1430 with military assistance from the Sultanate of Bengal.
    So UN, Human Rights organizations, Civillised World governments when are you going to get the world to stop the atrocious plight of the Rohingya’s??????

  3. Umm Abdullah

    Thanks… I am American woman but have been living in Kuwait for the past 20 years, and it’s so strange that Americans in general think of Muslims/Arabs/the Middle East as being so violent. Here, I can go out at night alone without even thinking about it; I don’t check inside and under my car before getting in, or have my keys ready so I don’t fumble at the door… I’ve walked around alone at night in cities in various other Arab countries and been safe. The U.S, has something like 17,000 murders a year (and the countries that have a higher rate are in Latin America and Russia – not the Muslim world). I could go on with statistics about suicide, rape, etc,

    As for the violence of war, I heard recently that the U.S, spends more on ‘defense’ than the next 17 countries combined. That’s more than China, Russia, the UK, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany. Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Turkey, and a few others – COMBINED!

    A lot of people don’t realize how slanted the media coverage is. If 50 people are killed in the ongoing Maoist insurgency in India, it’s unlikely that the average American will hear about it. If there’s a bomb in a Muslim country – especially one that’s in the spotlight, it will be big news. The 3 women who are killed every day in the U.S, by their partners rarely make headlines, but if one is Muslim and they can label it an ‘honor killing’, she might. The fact is that editors pass up thousands of stories every day because they have to choose only a few – and they choose what they think will attract readers (and thus sell ads). What they choose is certainly not representative of all that goes on in the world.

  4. Robyn

    Wes – I so admire you and what you are doing. I am VERY proud to call you my pastor!!!! I have enjoyed also reading the comments. You are doing a wonderful thing and it’s so nice to hear other perspectives from people all over the world.

  5. Rachel Elmalawany

    I do have a question. Do you think that you will carry anything you’ve taken from your Ramadan experience into your church and congregation? You mentioned in an earlier post that you don’t think your congregation would be up for planting their faces on the ground. What would you encourage your church to take away from your experience?
    Much love,
    Rachel

    • wesmagruder

      Rachel, this is a great question — and an important one. Ever since you asked this, I have been thinking about it. For one, I am preaching a sermon this Sunday about the way Christians ought to interact with Muslims. I will post it on the blog after Sunday morning.
      I am also investigating some things that our congregation can do with Muslims. A group from a Fort Worth mosque has asked to visit our church at Christmas. I am also looking into starting a Daughters of Abraham group in the area.
      Thank you for pushing me on this subject. I certainly hope my congregation will learn from this experience, too!
      Grace and peace,
      Wes

  6. djdfr

    I discovered your blog just this evening and have read the entries about your Ramadan fasting. I have a similar experience. You may or may not know that God spoke directly to a man in Arès, France, named Michel Potay. In 1974 Jesus spoke as a messenger. In 1977 the Creator manifested in a stick of light. The message is in the book “The Revelation of Arès”. The main theme is that we must change the world by changing ourselves–as you said in a previous post, not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.
    In this message God calls Mouhammad His Messenger (now that was a surprise for me 🙂 as I was raised Christian) I began reading the Qur’an and heard the same voice as in the Old Testament. Mouhammad (as you know) says fasting is good for you if you only knew. In The Revelation of Arès the Creator encourages us to build a fraternal alliance in the family of Abraham, to bring our offerings to their temples. So my husband and I fast during Ramadan as a means of doing this. We do not have any close Muslims to share the iftar. I chronicled my experiences about Ramadan on my blog (the posts are brief) http://djdx.multiply.com/tag/ramadan and when getting the link to share with you, I realized it is our 6th year.
    The people in the movement started by The Revelation of Arès pray from the Bible, the Qur’an and The Revelation of Arès, realizing that it is one continuous Word from our Creator, the Loving Father, who calls to us over and over to put our steps in His Steps.

  7. Mahmood Kara

    Peace Be Upon You. May God reward you for standing with the Muslims. If you get a chance, I highly recommend that you watch a movie that gives a positive portrayal (solidarity) of American Muslims doing a very American thing playing football while fasting in the month of Ramadan. It is called FORDSON: Fasting, Faith, and Football. You can find it at http://www.fordsonthemovie.com. Mahmood Kara

  8. Wasif

    People like you make the world a better place. I wish there were more of you.

    Also, thanks for reminding me of why I fast. Sometimes its easy to go through the motions and forget. After reading this I feel reinvigorated.

  9. dogman70

    I find that it’s not so easy to just walk around a neighborhood & get to know people. I also think a lot of the fear is the result of the right wing media who constantly serve it up on a platter….people like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, the hundreds of right wing blogs out there, that website WND.com that recently posted a story about the coming of the anti-christ being Muslim. these people have a negative influence over millions of people.

  10. Zahra

    I am from the Plano Muslim community and it really angers me how much Muslims are oppressed due to a different religion and stereotypes. You are right… Instead of jumping to conclusions people should get to know us better before taking action.

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