Last Wednesday, I shared an op-ed from the Washington Post with a message about Islamophobia, fear, hatred, and/or bigotry against Muslims.
The author referred to a joke by popular comedian Aziz Ansari about how to stop it. I included a video clip from an old Saturday Night Live where Ansari delivers the joke in his comedic monologue.
One of my dear friends in the Prayables community wrote me to express her outrage at the feature being included in the Daily Prayables.
We exchanged a couple of thoughtful emails about it. Me explaining my purpose in sharing a message about prayer and an insightful perspective on the Islam religion, and my friend insisting that though she doesn’t know any Muslims personally, she finds it to be a religion of “fear and violence even against their own. Beheadings, burning people alive.”
And then something else happened.
I live in a small city with hi-rise buildings, offices and residential. At around 9:00 pm Saturday night, one of my neighbors was on her balcony looking out over the city when she saw an enormous Nazi swastika on the side of the AT&T building with a streaming message of anti-Semitic hate against Jews, so vile, it can not be repeated.
Police were called to the scene and found two masked men in a truck projecting the words and images from three blocks away.
Because there was no physical damage to private property, there was nothing the police could do.
Hate speech won that night, but our community was prepared.
Shortly after the incident, hundreds of people gathered for a rally with the police chief, clergy, the mayor, and the state’s attorney to denounce religious hatred and to stand together against the slithering cowards who perpetrated the hate crime.
We lit candles against the darkness of evil, and our clergy inspired us, and our public officials vowed to close the loophole that allows technology to speak for hatemongers.
A child of Holocaust survivors spoke at the rally, and he quoted Martin Niemöller, a Christian pastor who wrote this poem while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp.
“First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Prayables is about prayer, and God, and the Bible. It’s about gratitude and blessings, and it’s about religious plurality. You have a right to believe what you choose to and to practice your religion freely, peacefully, and without fear.
I am speaking up now against bigotry, racism, and hate speech. Don’t be a victim of the media who glory in reporting only the extreme views of religious groups. All religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam included, have a history of extreme factions within their communities. Take the time to understand your “cousins” of the Abrahamic faiths. Read, research, and make new friends. Honor our holy Father by showing loving kindness to all of God’s children.
Oh, and one more thing. If you don’t speak up for the oppressed, they could come for you.