By now everyone knows about the travel restrictions or "ban" imposed by President Trump's executive order, restricting travel from a handful of Muslim majority countries. And now courts have ruled against this executive order. I'll leave the legal experts to discuss this (check the link). But I want to discuss the greater fear of Islam. Part of the reason, I think, that Barack Obama refused to put "Radical Islam" in front of terror acts committed by people who call themselves Muslim is the fear of a stereotype being attached to all followers of the faith. It doesn't take more than a quick perusal of social media to find out that many people actually believe that all Muslims (or at least most) are indeed dangerous terrorists. Not going to link it here, but twitter and facebook searches will show you people that you follow, have friended and maybe even relatives believe that all Muslims are inherently bad people and that their religion is one that seeks to kill "infidels" (infidel becomes a complex word, much as their are different sects of Christianity, the same complexities are true in Islam).
I wonder how many people who make these stereotypical claims actually know Muslim people. A great podcast I've listened to is the story of Daryl Davis, a traveling African-American jazz musician who has befriended members of white-supremacist groups like the KKK. I've shared this story and I advise checking it out. Perhaps there is a way to talk to people who are different and there's something to be learned from Davis's approach. And in the case of Islam, it's worth taking the time to learn the basics of the religion, submission to Allah, pillars of faith, but also knowing, just like Christianity, that people practice Islam in different ways.
In my typical "snarky" way, I want to make a statement like "you probably shouldn't comment on Muslim as a group if you don't personally know as many as you have fingers on your hand". I highly doubt anyone who personally knows this many Muslim people would have the same stereotypical beliefs. So I'm going to list some Muslims I know personally who are not just "non-terrorists" but good, productive members of society.
- I worked with "S." at NASDAQ in my first real job out of college. He was a practicing Muslim who would pray in the break room in accordance to Islam tradition. I sat the cubical across from him when the planes flew into the towers on 9/11. As we heard of all the operational failures resulting from this horrible act, the stockmarket was quickly closed and from our suburban Connecticut operation center we were all excused for the day for safety reasons. "S", just like all of us, was devastated by the terrorism of 9/11. We discussed it among co-workers the next few days. He mentioned that those who committed the acts were not real believers in what he believes in. We stayed in touch a bit through the years. I'm pretty sure he voted for Romney and McCain, for that matter, if that defeats another stereotype.
- "John" Hussaini has been the owner of the Subway in Clinton for over 20 years. When I was in high school, Subway was a 3-4 time weekly destination and I befriended John. He was excited to hear I was dating a half-Pakistani as he is from Afghanistan and we had many talks about this. John has been very active in the community in Clinton involved in many fundraisers. If you've met the man, I don't need to explain his kind and warm personality any further.
- In my previous blog I've discussed a Syrian family which goes to school with my children.
- "A" was a coworker of mine at another job. "A" was from Indian, like many of the people in his group, however he was a Muslim, unlike the others who were Hindi or Christian. I did not know he was a Muslim until months after having met him and having "lunch" with him during his fast. None of the other people in his group from India seemed to treat him any differently than the others and his work was always solid. He was on a work visa and dreamed of becoming a US citizen.
- "Dr. K." is an endodontist who worked with my mother. Her family fled Iran during the turbulence in Iran in 1980. She and her husband practiced "loose Islam" (her words). I remember helping her family move to a new condo in town and them gifting us with what have been a year's supply of saffron. "Dr. K"'s boss was Jewish and all the people in the office jokingly referred to the "Iranian working for the Jew". It was just that, a joke in an office full of ball-busters. I remember her being kind and softspoken and being known as a good endodontist. I've befriended two other Muslims in the medical profession, one a young woman at a party who I didn't find out was Muslim (nothing in her dress or behavior would have pointed it out) until we'd already talked in a group for an hour and another from Egypt who practices dentistry in the South.
I've met other Muslim people in passing and I have to say that I've never met one who filled the hateful stereotypes I've read on social media or fear-mongering "news sources". So, I advise you take the time to learn the people before making blanket statements. With the people I've pointed out above, all of them are from different parts of the world, some from countries where the "ban" was enacted, some not. We should not let "Christians" who commit acts of terror or violence stereotype all Christians anymore than we let radical terrorists who are Muslim create our view of all of Islam.