A video hit the web like a brick last week: Orange County residents rallying outside of a Muslim fundraising dinner, shouting “go home,” “why don’t you go home and beat your wife?” and “Muhammad was a pervert.” (The actual video has been removed from YouTube on copyright claims, but here’s an informative blog entry with a screen shot)
Equally astounding are the public officials shown speaking at events related to the protests – encouraging the voices of intolerance, billing it as American patriotism.
And while there are claims that some of the speeches were taken out of context, it doesn’t detract from the severity of this demonstration. This is a demonstration of hate.
At one point in the video, a demonstrator yells: “never forget 9/11!”
Yet the faith of the Muslim Americans I know is no more similar to the faith of Islamic extremists than my faith is to that of Eric Rudolph or to other terrorists who have killed in the name of the God of the Bible. And consider the children who are subject to the jeering–children who are American, who have never known another home but Orange County, California, USA, and who were now being called terrorists by their neighbors.
On the other side of the country, we watch as Peter King prepares to stage “radicalization hearings” on Capitol Hill, putting an entire faith community on trial.
Last Saturday, I attended a dinner hosted by Muslim Americans in my community to talk about love for God and love for the neighbor. Tomorrow, I will go to work in a lab with Muslim Americans – a lab where we are investigating health technologies to benefit people all over the world. I will attend class with Muslim American medical students who are studying hard in order to heal, not destroy. And when I drive home, I will pass a mosque that is one of the strongest voices in Champaign-Urbana for helping those in need and unifying our community.
Yet on Capitol Hill, they are being investigated for terror.
So what is the Christian church to do? What is our response?
We follow a God who not only said “love you neighbor” but also “love your enemies“. Yet so many have chosen to take hate for the enemy and project it on to their neighbor. Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, yet so many have turned in fear on those who would build dialogue and peace.
I am reminded of the words of President George Washington to Moses Seixas, warden of the Jewish synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island (actually echoing Seixas’ words from an earlier letter):
For happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
As my Muslim friends reminded me at last Saturday night’s dinner, it is the love of one’s neighbor – as Jesus preached – that compels us to make the words of Washington a reality more than 200 years later.
How will you respond?