Pastor Rudy's Blog - Islamophobia: What are you afraid of?
My encounters with racism and intolerance came early in life. When I wanted barbecue, I would have to go to the widow at the rear of John Davis’ Barbecue on Shepherd Drive in my hometown Houston, Texas to place my order because the dining room was reserved for “whites only” (did I mention John Davis was African American?). When I wanted to drink from a public water fountain I would have to choose the fountain marked “colored.” When we traveled by car, my father would have to carefully choose the places we stopped because of the prospect for mistreatment in unfamiliar towns. When I was 7 years old I attempted to use the rest room at a W.T. Grants Department Store. The “colored toilet” had a coin-operated device on the door requiring a dime in order to gain access. I used the free “whites only” toilet nearby only to be confronted by a white customer who yelled and challenged my using that restroom. When I was 9 years old, my aunt and I were refused service at Wolf’s Drug Store in my old neighborhood because we sat at the wrong end of the soda fountain counter reserved for “whites only.” I understand fear. I have experienced fear. I have been paralyzed by fear and I know today that racism and intolerance which originate in fear are limiting, paradoxical, self-negating forces designed to keep the human family suspicious of one another and apart from one another.
America has always been a land prone to fear. From a time prior to its inception as an organized union of states, the driving force behind development has been a form of fear. Whether it was the fear of losing power, the fear of being overcome by another people group, or the fear of dying at the hands of others there has been a consistent theme of fear permeating both politics and policy for centuries. So maybe we do have a phobia. The word phobia originates from the Greek word phobos which simply means “fear.” In psychiatric terms phobia is defined as an abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object. There are approximately 530 known phobias making fear an inclusive experience. There is one phobia Americans don’t have in large numbers and that’s Chrometophobia. Its is an exaggerated or irrational fear of money where sufferers experience undue anxiety that they might mismanage money or that money might live up to its reputation as “the root of all evil.” (A Thought: What would happen if we began to fear the misuse of money as much as we fear each other?)
The August 30th issue of Time Magazine asks the question: “Is America Islamophobic?” The answer is an easy yes thanks to the recent attention drawn from politicians who are intent on making the building of mosque a wedge issue designed to divide communities. According to Muslim-American commentator Iftikhar, there have been increases and decreases in anti-Islamic sentiment over the years. He states in the article “the first wave of anti-Muslim outburst” came after September 11, when two high profile Christian leaders “openly questioned whether Islam was a religion at all” launching an ongoing series of misinterpretations the Islamic faith. Even Franklin Graham, son of evangelical icon Billy Graham told Time recently that Islam is “a religion of hatred. It’s a religion of war” and “Park51 should not be allowed…” In other words, thanks to nineteen hijackers who rose to infamy on 9/11, “six mosque projects across the U.S. have faced bitter opposition” and 25% of Americans still erroneously think President Obama is Muslim. How can the twisted actions of nineteen people create fear in 46% of 280 million Americans and cast inequality on the lives millions of Muslims without the help of the extreme marketing and promotion of fear? The same phobic mindset of fear by association would make me guilty for the actions of every crazy Christian or corrupt clergy person in America.
I have often wondered since becoming a Christian (as an adult) whether or not the people who advocated for separate water fountains, rest rooms, and entrances during my childhood were Christians and what were they afraid of? I have also wondered how Christian devotees could know the effects of religious oppression and the suppression of religious freedom, yet advocate for the suppression of rights for Muslims or any other faith practitioner who desires to worship freely? Regardless to how this matter ultimately plays out in media, I believe the people who consider themselves Christians must defend the rights of others to worship in freedom. Walter Wink puts it this way; “When the church refuses to live out the costly identification with the oppressed it is like saying to the lion and the lamb, “let us mediate your differences,” and the Lion replies, “sure you can mediate my differences with the lamb after I finish my lunch.”
How would Jesus respond to Islamophobia? Don’t ask someone for the answer to the question; look into your own heart and respond accordingly.