What do you think when you hear the word “Islamophobia?” This is a new word, and it refers to prejudice and dislike of Muslims. Recently, in Canada, the government held a summit on the topic of Islamophobia.
I should give a disclaimer here. The conference was about the religion of Islam, and I am a Christian. I remember a song when I was younger, with these words: “Jesus is the answer, for the world today. Above him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.” That is a good description of what I believe. I will give a link to that song, below.
The old saying is ‘If you don’t play the game, you can’t make the rules.’ That applies to me. Imagine if I gave advice about what Jewish people should have done to resist their persecutors.
That would be offensive. I am an outsider looking on from a distance.
So, what can we say about Islamophobia? The conference came and went quickly, and most people missed the information.
There was also a conference just before, on antisemitism; hatred of the Jews. It all looks like politicians were trying to get attention just before an election. If there is something important that we should know, we could easily lose the message.
The organizers of the conference had a message, if you want to know:
When I was a boy, I remember religious persecution. I was walking home from church on a cold and dark winter night. I walked because the family car was too crowded, and I liked walking outside. I remember that my mother made me wear a bow tie to church, and I carried a Bible in one hand. It was a rough neighborhood and that made me a target.
I walked by some boys, and one of them lunged at me and shouted something. I think he swore.
I was startled and I jumped, but mostly I was confused. I thought I was free in my own neighborhood. I know now that I will have enemies if I believe something. There are always other people who don’t believe.
Before you think that I was a helpless victim of an assault, I was a big boy, and that was my neighborhood, and my ancestors came from Glasgow. One thought that went through my head, at the time, was ‘Don’t hit him.’ The only thing in my hand was a Bible, and I could have smacked him down hard.
Sometimes it’s good to listen to those inner voices.
On the Islamic side, we had an incident in my neighborhood a few years ago. We came home one night and the police were everywhere, with guns, and tactical uniforms. We saw them in the alley near garbage dumpsters, which are good shelters in a gun fight. I am not making this up. They told us all to get off the streets.
We live close to where I grew up, and it’s still not a good neighborhood.
The problem that night, was a young Somali Immigrant, a Muslim, who was trying to injure and kill people with a rented U-Haul van. He lived close to us, and I believe he was driving in the direction of home. The police also expected him at home. I waited by our front window because we live in a good spot for a take-down, with an empty park across the street.
The end was less dramatic. The weapon of choice was an unstable van, and it flipped onto its side, on a tight corner, several blocks away from our window.
I missed all the action.
So, how does that fit in a discussion about Islamophobia?
I strongly disagree with violence and terrorism, but I respect that some people want to be strong, and they struggle with a good way to express their opinions. My suspicion of the politicians, is that they prefer victims who need their help.
There are people who want help, and we should respect them, but I believe that most religious people with strong beliefs don’t see themselves as victims. That is my experience with friends and neighbors, including Muslims and that message could be lost.
As a follower of Jesus, I made a hard decision and I live with the consequences.
We are told “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
When people are bullied in our communities, I hope they get all the support they need. And when strong people struggle to say what they believe, I hope they find a good way without compromising their values. Most of all, I hope that we all find God who made us. My experience is that we are lost in this world, until we make a personal connection with God.
I hope we all find that, whatever the world does to us.
Those are my opinions, looking on from a distance.
How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31: 19 to 24)