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The American public continues wrestling with its understand of Islam. The wrestling makes sense. We can understand the confusion. Islam and Muslims are not a monolith. Just by way of example, The Washington Post published an op-ed today encouraging people not to express solidarity with Muslims by wearing the hijab. The same article references other Muslims who advocate such expressions and created “World Hijab Day.”

People can’t be blamed for asking, “Which is it?”

But we can be blamed if we fail to express solidarity with Muslim neighbors and friends–not primarily because they’re Muslims–but because they, like us, bear the image and likeness of God and are worthy of dignity and fair treatment. The call for solidarity rests on a firmer foundation than mere cultural pluralism. And because it does, the call to solidarity actually requires greater shows of understanding and compassion.

Here are a few simple suggestions for showing solidarity with Muslim neighbors and friends:

1. Oppose All Bigotry

Can we be honest? A good deal of fear and bigotry toward Muslims comes from Christian quarters. Many Christians feel justified in these sinful attitudes. They point to terrorist attacks, the worse representatives of Islam, and their favorite hate-peddling political pundits for “proof” that their animus is justified. But it’s not. Not when our Lord says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:43-44). The Savior’s words leave no room for His disciples to hate. Solidarity requires we reject such attitudes.

So let’s oppose bigotry that can creep into our own hearts. And let’s speak a word of correction to others in our circles who express hatred toward Muslims. Let’s avoid the hysteria of social media. Instead, let’s speak what edifies (Eph. 4:29) and offer a word of grace for those made in God’s image (Jam. 3:9).

2. Pray for Muslims

That’s there in Matt. 5:44 as well. “Pray for those who persecute you.” We show love-motivated solidarity when we pray for our “enemies.” Our prayer should be for their salvation, yes. But we should pray for so much more. We should pray for mutual understanding. We should pray for peace and justice in predominantly Muslim countries.We should pray for just and fair laws toward Muslims in our own country. We should pray for the health and well-being of Muslim people and neighbors. We show solidarity best when we bow our heads and bend our knees to God to intercede for others.

Some may be asking, “What about praying together at inter-faith services?” I would not commend that. Prayer is a covenant activity we share with others in covenant with God. Inter-faith prayer meetings blur some important distinctions about the nature of God and about the worship He finds pleasing. They confuse more than they clarify, and we’re left wrestling with the question, “Don’t we all worship the same God?” We don’t. Solidarity can’t come at the expense of clarity.

3. Protest Injustice

We’re not at our best when we burn Qu’rans, desecrate mosques, or curtail religious freedom. Some Christians feel like they’re “losing” when they see Muslims making “gains.” They oppose the building of Islamic centers in “their back yards.” They don’t want accommodations to be made so Muslims can pray or wear traditional clothing in driver’s photos. Far too often we’re on the side of differential treatment of our Muslim neighbors. I get it. We’re trying to protect ourselves and “hold the line.” But it seems to me that loving people made in God’s image requires us to let go of our “winning and losing” (i.e., die to self) to champion the cause of the mistreated.

If our Muslim neighbors gather to lament the destruction of a study center or mosque, we should find a way to join them in their lament. If our Muslim neighbors believe a law prevents “the free exercise” of their religious faith, we should consider their point of view, study the issue, and “take their side” (which is taking the side of our Constitution) when we think righteousness and the law require it. “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That applies to our Muslim neighbors, too.

4. Show Hospitality

Perhaps the oldest, time-tested, culturally-respected for of solidarity is hospitality. It’s a “language” our Muslim neighbors from the Middle East understand. More importantly, it’s a command Christians who honor their Bibles must obey. It’s a qualification for church leadership and a means whereby some have entertained angels. Love for strangers creates oneness with them. You may not be the marching type, so you won’t join a protest. You may be the quiet type, so you’re not likely to reprove someone verbally. You may perhaps struggle in prayer; join the club. But you cook and eat everyday. Ask a Muslim friend to join you or go out to a meal. Forget the pork products that day. Receive them in your home and your heart. That neighborly love may do much to express solidarity with God’s image bearers. It may do much to create a context for seeing them come to know Jesus as He offers himself in the gospel.

Conclusion

We’re living in an age of extremism. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think we have extremists on “our side.” It’s possible for everyone to go too far. So we need a tight rein on our hearts and out mouths. In an age where some people find it easy to separate over ethnic, cultural, religious and political differences while some other people blur those differences in the name of solidarity, faithful and thinking Christians have an opportunity to model loving solidarity while disagreeing. It’s a marvelous opportunity for the kingdom and the gospel. May the Lord help us seize it.


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30 thoughts on “Four Simple Ways to Stand in Solidarity with Muslims”

  1. Ryan Williams says:

    Thank you brother Thabiti for these words of wisdom and clarity.

    I’d encourage everyone who interested in this topic to go read Thabiti’s book: “The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence” to learn more about sharing the good news of Christ with Muslims. Blessings!

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Bless you, brother! May the Lord draw you close this Christmas season and bless your entire family with the joy of salvation!

      Thabiti

  2. Simple, wise, kind. Thanks for keeping it so.

    I’ve found that conversations with Muslim co-workers and neighbours have always been interesting and good. In every single one of my experiences they’ve wanted to talk about God and Jesus and the Gospel. We’ve often disagreed, sometimes vigorously, but then I’ve been thanked for disagreeing! Respectfully asking them about where they’re coming from goes a long way too.

  3. Joel says:

    Some good advice (showing hospitality – YES!!), but there is also some very poor advice. You think we should lament the closing of a Mosque? I would celebrate it just as I would the closing of a Planned Parenthood building. Mosques are centers designed to facilitate and propagate a series of beliefs that keeps people in bondage to sin and send them to Hell. No Christian should intentionally support or defend the propagation of false religion. This is the exact opposite of love!
    American values seem to be overriding good theology here. Just because religious expression is free does not mean that we should support or even stand in solidarity with false religious expressions. You argue for solidarity based on common humanity (and the Image of God) but in doing so you overstate our commonalities. We cannot yoke with Muslims because light has no fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Our ministry must NOT be one of solidarity (Def: unity or agreement of feeling or action) but one of calling those from darkness into light and from death to life.
    You suggested that we should pray for their salvation, “but for so much more.” This is a form of prosperity gospel. I do pray for the conversion of souls (I don’t just use words. I give each month to a missionary family in a majority Muslim country) but I do not pray for peace, justice, or anything else in those countries in ADDITION to the gospel. Only the gospel brings peace. Physical peace in the Middle East (or anywhere else) is a burning hell without Jesus. The issue isn’t physical peace or justice (although those are in themselves good things); the issue is Jesus.

    1. Juli says:

      AMEN to Joel!!!! This article is foolishness.

      “They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” Exodus 23:33

      1. Amy says:

        Loving your neighbor is foolishness?? Praying for your enemies is foolishness? So when my family took in a foreign exchange student who was Muslim and prayed to Allah and wore a hijab was foolish?? Guess what happened? We didn’t worship her god. We weren’t led astray. She, of her own volition, came to church with us every Sunday. She listened, she asked about our amazing God and hopefully she saw us live out the Gospel in our home and daily lives. So just because there’s a Muslim next door or in your school, that doesn’t mean they’re here to snare us as you point out with your Exodus reference.

    2. Michael says:

      1. I think whether or not the closing of a mosque should be lamented clearly depends on why it was closed. In the context of the article the author was clearly talking about mosques which were closed due to being burned down or shut down by the authorities. Both of these should be lamented because of what they portend for religious freedom in this country. The same power that closed the mosques could very easily be turned on conservative Christians who also hold unpopular beliefs. If on the other hand the mosques were closed because everyone had converted to Christianity it might be another story, but that is not what is being talked about in the context of the article.

      2. In order for us to have freedom of religion we must defend it whenever it is threatened, even if it is a religion we believe is false. That is the very essence of the freedom and to allow it to be tainted without speaking up is to place the freedom itself in jeopardy.

      3. Standing in solidarity with Muslims for religious freedom is not being yoked to them in the context of 2 Corinthians 6. Also one must be cognizant of the Ancient Near East penchant for hyperbole. For instance, Paul asks in the passage, “What does a believer share in common with a unbeliever?” Of course even a cursory thought could come up with many things. For instance we probably both agree that the sky is blue. To use this verse as a reason not to stand in solidarity with Muslims against religious persecution is to miss the point Paul was making.

      4. “This is a form of prosperity gospel”

      Apparently you do not have a good grasp of the prosperity gospel or at least the aspects of it which are objectionable.

      4. If we are supposed to “bless those who persecute [us]” it would seem that our prayers and actions towards them should go beyond simply praying for their salvation. Furthermore, if full acceptance of the gospel by all was necessary before praying for peace and justice, one would never be able to pray for these things prior to the second coming.

      1. Joel says:

        Michael,

        In point 1 you confused a lament for arson with a lament for a closed mosque. Arson is lamentable but the closing of a mosque is not. You then made a ‘if it can happen to them then it could happen to us’ argument. Do you really wish to support false religion in order to avoid Christian persecution?

        In point 2 you made the same mistake as Anyabwile, which is confusing American values with Christian values. I will never defend the exercise of a religion that puts people in bondage. It is a great American value and important in our temporal society but strictly speaking, it is not Christian. I am glad we have that freedom (thank you troops!) but it is not the engine that drives the church and it is not the protector of the church, both of those roles belong only to God.

        In point 3 you also overstate commonalities between Muslims and Christians. It is totally irrelevant that we both are human, see the sky as blue, or have noses. These are not the category Paul is using. I DID use that passage correctly and it is not hyperbole. He was not talking about being human (or other such things) but the differences between believers and unbelievers, light and dark, and Christ and Belial. We can have solidarity with PEOPLE who happen to be Muslims but we cannot have solidarity with Muslims (in regards to their faith). This is a category issue. In the category Paul is using (faith/righteousness) there is NO commonality. This is not hyperbole.

        Regarding point 4. There is no joy, prosperity, peace, or happiness apart from Christ. To pray for peace in ADDITION to the gospel is to suggest that there is peace found outside of Christ. This is a form of the prosperity gospel. There is a temporal value to earthly peace without Christ but there is no eternal value. Because I am concerned with eternal value I pray for conversion, which brings with it peace that surpasses understanding.

  4. Curt Day says:

    This is an excellent post. Will have a link to it on my blog’s Facebook page.

    We should note another reason for standing in solidarity with Muslims. If we don’t it could very well be because we are playing the role of the pharisee from the two men praying. And if that is the case, our biggest problem, according to the parable, is not even our bigotry.

    Being a leftist activist, I’ve been on several protests with Muslims. And, it is as Thabiti wrote, Islam is not a monolith. I’ve been on protests where the talking between us is warm and cordial, and there have been times when some have been standoffish. But this is what we should note, Islam is not a political religion. Islam is a religion about justice. Mohammad from the beginning opposed injustice. Now, from our perspective, we know that he was not without fault, but he was interested in justice.

    Thus, when we see Muslims opposing something, even if it terrorists opposing something, it is most likely because they perceive injustice is being done. And it isn’t that we have to always agree with that perception or support the method of protest, it is that we need to investigate the injustice to see if they are, at least in part, correct. Then we can descide whether to stand with them or stand apart, depending on how they are opposing injustice, as we protest the same injustice too. I remember one such protest where we could stand together and what united us was our conscience. Thus we were called ‘people of conscience.’ That can label can unite all who stand to oppose injustice regardless of their religion.

  5. Mike Steele says:

    This article is a mixed bag of agreements and not.
    We most certainly ought to be praying for our Muslim friends and neighbors but we should also rejoice for any mosque that shutters its doors.
    I have worked among Muslims prior to 9/11 and became famalier with the Quran and the Hadith. Islam is dangerous both spirituality as well as physically.
    We ought to thank God that many Muslims are not devote.

  6. One Truth says:

    You are forgetting that Islam is a political Ideology that is about one mans vision that he received from the evil one. Moderate Islam is an oxymoron. Islam has no place in western culture. So they will overwhelm us because we will let them. “I have come in my fathers name and you do not receive me but he who comes in his own name, him you will receive” John 5:43

    1. Michael says:

      Not all Muslims see their religion as having political implications (Sharia is subject to vastly divergent interpretations both in substance and in application). Likewise many Christians see their religion as having political implications when Christ eschewed political power at every turn.

    2. Curt Day says:

      To say Islam is a political religion is imprecise. Islam is a justice religion that does contain some political approaches. But because Islam is not a monolith, it is difficult to say that its stance on justice issues imply specific political solutions.

      We should also note that with every approach to justice with which we could disagree, what Mohammad did observes were legitimate instances of injustice. And while Mohammad wrongfully associated polytheism with injustice, he correctly observed that materialism was the corrupter of religion. That is something we need to note with regard to our faith Christianity here in the West. For our society and political-economic systems are built around the love of money. And we know how well the Scriptures speak of that kind of love. We should also note that our love of money has led to vast Western interventions into the heart of Muslim nations. So if you wish to say that Islam has no place in Western culture, a position not supported even by some of our founding fathers, especially those from Virginia, then turnabout is fair play. The West has no place in Islamc culture and thus we should remove all vestiges of Wester political and economic intervention and control of Middle East nations.

      BTW, your note basically misses the point of the article above. And your note contains unsubstantiated claims along with a misuse of Scripture..

  7. Dennis MULLEN says:

    A very thoughtful article, and biblical. It seems to me that the the tension revealed in the comments above points to the problem that we face in this present day. I have tried to engage people who have “CO-EXIST” bumper stickers in conversation by asking them, “How do we co-exist if I, a Christian, live next door to a Muslim, and I live by the belief that I am to love my neighbor, to turn the other cheek and to even forgive 7 times 70. But, my Muslim neighbor believes that they must convert me to their faith, and if not able to, cut off the head of the infidel. An untenable position for the Christian is quite obvious. That is where the rubber meets the road, that is where the ultimate conflict becomes a point of contention that leads to conflict. This is the root of the political reality of the world we live in, as well as the eternal reality of what God is doing in His Providence. (Absolute truth is claimed by both,( relative truth for all it’s polite political niceties (tolerance, at all costs) is revealed for what it is – a nonsense statement). Herman Bavinck wrote this in his Dogmatics: “Religion is more deeply rooted in human nature than any other power. … Only religion breeds martyrs.” Therein lies the rub.

    1. Curt Day says:

      Dennis,
      What exposure to Muslims do you have? I remember while standing at an anti-war protest, a driver stopped her car to tell me that all Muslisms want to kill us. To which I replied that I have friends who are Muslims and that has not been my experience. In addition, it would be against their religion to do what you say they are suppose to do.

      1. R M Shivers says:

        You remind me of those naive people who become fellow travellers with muslims and then are surprised to see a video of their head getting sawed off on youtube.

  8. R M Shivers says:

    This article is outrageous. Islam isn’t merely some odd religious cult like Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons. It is a comprehensive ideology which commands the how society is ordered including the legal system, financial system, marriage and divorce, foreign policy, etc. In almost every case, these strictures are inimical to those of traditional W Christendom. That is why Islam has waged an intermittent war against the West for 1300 years; as a satanic counterfeit religion, it can do no other. Whether or not your muslim neighbor down the street supports terrorism or not is not the point; terrorism is a tactic used by a minority against an overwhelming majority. Once muslims gain the majority or a large plurality, they will no longer need terrorism, they will simply impose dhimmitude. The only sane solution for the west is to keep muslims OUT of our countries. The very presence of a permanent muslim population in the West should be an outrage.

    Do you think that when Britain was under siege in 1940 – 41, prominent church leaders were counseling people to witness, communicate and show hospitality to Germans? Does “love thy neighbor” apply when you neighbor is a member of a group that is actively working to undermine all that Christians have built up over the past 2000 years? At least in that example, the Brits had the advantage of the sea which “serves it in the office of a wall”. We don’t have that advantage as there are now muslims who now dwell amongst us, in ever growing numbers.

    Pastors have a responsibility to be good shepherds to their flocks, and that does not entail encouraging the sheep to show cordiality to the wolves who have crept in. Islam and the West are at war and after having the upper hand for most of the modern era, the West is now losing, badly. Some Europeans countries will have large muslim pluralities, if not majorities in the population by the end of this century, or earlier. America is not yet in danger of falling into the same spiral, but we need pastors will are willing to sound the fire bell, not lull people into complacency.

    I utterly rebuke the author of this article for his careless, even reckless dereliction of duty in counseling complacency and/or cordiality towards Islam . I have no desire to see Europe and America succumb to the fate of once Christian strongholds like N Africa and the Levant.

    1. Curt Day says:

      R.M.,
      Actually, it is the West that has waged war against all nations with desired resources. For example, how many Islamic nations have orchestrated coups or supported dictators in the West in order to have better access to resources? The answer is 0. Would you like to know how many times a Western nation has done that nations in the Middle East in order to have better access to resources?

    2. R M Shivers says:

      Yes, I realize the extent and length of meddling in the Middle East by Western nations and generally deplore it, particularly the US track record over the past 15 years. However, that is no justification for embracing an “Invade the World, Invite the World” policy with regard to muslim immigration. You can’t atone for a crime against a foreign nation by committing a crime against the people of your own nation.

  9. Hugh McCann says:

    I commend this to all: http://www.muslimreformmovement.org

    “Muslims and neighbors dedicated to reform for values of peace, human rights and secular governance.”

  10. Hugh McCann says:

    It’s an OK article, but it fails just as do liberal commentators or right-wing fundamentalist Zionists (Christian or Jew): Thabiti fails to differentiate between liberal (“apostate”) Muslims and Islamists.

    The Left lumps all Muslims into a “they’re nice people” pot.
    The Right tends to see them all as terrorists (and not w/o good reason).
    And yes, the religion itself is problematic on levels Anyabwile didn’t address.

    But politically, we must also support and lend voice to those like Asra Nomani, Raheel Raza, and Zudhi Jasser. (I include Ayaan Hirsi Ali, though she is not a practicing liberal Muslim.) Those defending western freedoms and constitutions, while decrying sharia, abandoning literal Quran interpretations, and denouncing jihad, need to be promoted.

    1. Curt Day says:

      Hugh,
      Haven’t you done to both the left and the right what you claim they have done to Muslims?

  11. Hugh McCann says:

    Not all would agree that fallen man is still in the image of God, given Eph. 4:24 & Col. 3:10.

  12. Rockey Chan says:

    I have read your comments on the TGC website and the numerous posts on FaceBook. Comments range from loving your enemies to honestly hating Muslims because Islam “all muslims” are trying destroy western civilization. Nativism, American excellence pride, and xenophobia of people not like us Western Christian Evangelical stereotype people going around the media. The question I have is this. Is xenophobia, nationalism and nativism biblical? I have been googling, wiki, and going on my seminary’s library for resources. I cannot find much about these topics in context of Scripture. Can anyone suggest Scripture passages in proper theological, historical, and cultural context where nativism, nationalism, and xenophobia is godly?

  13. Doug says:

    America was initially a divinely fortified network of Christian commonwealths. It was progressively weakened beginning around the time of Independence as a result of being seduced by an Enlightenment-based theory of government emphasizing the rights of man, as opposed to the traditional emphasis on our duty to God. Preachers and politicians all played a part. As a consequence, preaching stressing the exclusiveness of Christ as the only way to the Father, and stressing the Lord’s command to have no other gods before Him, gradually fell by the wayside. The emphasis shifted instead, to freedom for men to believe whatever they wanted. Thus the gate was swung wide open for any and every enemy of our blessed Savior to enter in and tear down our cities. It should therefore be no surprise that our nation has come to its present state of being naked and overrun by every enemy of Christ. If we would wish to recover the divine ambition of being a city set on a hill, we must first recover the divine power of preaching Christ as Lord.

    1. Curt Day says:

      Doug,
      Really? So while the Puritans persecuted Quakers, that was from being seduced by the Enlightenment? When we had state churches that persecuted those who didn’t belong, that was from the Enlightenment? When our forefathers began to ethnically cleanse Native Americans from the land, that was because of the Enlightenment? When our forefathers began owning slaves, that was because of the Enlightenment? I ask because all of these things occurred way before the move to independence.

      Was having a Christian nation or Christian state where Christians enjoy a privileged position over nonChristians to keep the nation or state Christians is what the New Testament taught?

      1. Doug says:

        Curt,

        Not sure what your point is. If I understood the post correctly, it was discussing how to deal with the ramifications of an increasing presence of Muslims in our nation. As Christians, how do we respond? Obviously, this is a relatively new phenomenon in our nation. My comment was meant to provide perspective on how this situation came about. In no way was my comment meant to gloss over disturbing issues of the past as a Christian people. Nevertheless, it was the infiltration of Enlightenment concepts at the time of Independence that set in motion a weakening of our commitment to preaching the exclusiveness of Christ, and emphasizing Him as Lord of all. It was shortly after this time that we see political correction evaporate from the pulpits as an effect of the “wall of separation” mentality taking hold. The preaching of God’s Word has a preservative effect, not just on individuals but whole nations. When the preservative is taken away, it opens wide the door for spoiling.

        1. Curt Day says:

          Doug,
          But the content of your comment did more than glss over the sins of Chrsitians from the past. In addition, to eliminate all that came from the Enlightenment would be to continue with the religious intolerance practiced in the past. To stop that infiltration from the Enlightenment into society could only happen under some type of theocracy. To stop all infiltration from the Enlightenment into the Church would be to assume that the Church had everything to teach those in the Enlightenment and nothing to learn.

          1. Doug says:

            Curt,

            The answer to denominational intolerance in the colonies was in God’s word. Paul addressed it specifically in 1st Corinthians 3. There was no need of Enlightenment help. The problem with colonial governments is each allied itself with a particular denomination. A non-sectarian commitment to Christ is what was needed. As for theocracy, do you not agree that this is the goal of history concerning Christ?

            And to Him was given dominion,
            Glory and a kingdom,
            That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
            Might serve Him.
            His dominion is an everlasting dominion
            Which will not pass away;
            And His kingdom is one
            Which will not be destroyed. — Daniel 7:14

  14. Curt Day says:

    Doug,
    You can state the obvious, but isn’t it possible that we learned some of the same lessons, regardless of how accidental, from the Enlightenment?

    As for theocracy, it will come when Christ returns as the lion. But as for now, we are to imitate Christ who came as a suffering servant.

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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