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.
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.