Back in high school, one of my closest friends was Muslim. I fasted with her through Ramadan, and she fasted with me through Lent. While the years, and raising children on different continents, have caused us to drift apart, we still talk several times a year and I chat with her parents on Facebook whenever they see me on.
Last week, I was messaging with her father, and I asked about the turmoil with ISIS. He’s from northern Iraq and his wife is from southern Turkey, so these madmen are rampaging across their childhood homes. He agonized over what is happening there, and begged prayers for the distant relatives who haven’t been heard from in months. Added to that heartbreak is the distrust he’s now seeing from colleagues and neighbors he’s known for over 30 years. The people who used to greet them warmly now eye him and his wife with suspicion.
I asked him what he would want my readers to know about his family – “What do you want me to tell them about the Muslims here in America?”
He sighed deeply and said, “That we are not them. We are not the animals with knives and bombs. Many, like my family, fled to this country in the 70s and 80s to escape from such people. Just as your people (the Catholics) ran from the insanity of Elizabeth I’s England and her butchery, so we have run from people who have tried to pervert our faith. Henry and his daughter took your religion and twisted it for the purposes of power, greed, and political gain. The butchers of ISIS have done the same to mine. We are as different from them as your Catholics were from those who burned priests for sport in England. It is madness and blood-lust, and we are now guilty-by-association of what we ran to escape.” (He’s a history professor who’s always been strictly anti-Reformation. I love that about him.)
“What we are facing today is not so different from the distrust that your Catholics faced here in America in the 1840’s. All those Irish were ‘ruining things’ with their different religion and their Latin. Rumors abounded that you wanted to build a new Vatican on the Mississippi River. You ‘plotted to bring the Pope here to crown him king of America.’ The ‘nativist’ movement called you violent and warned of the horrors of the Roman Church. They burned your property, condemned your faith in their laws, and voted to bar you from their towns and from settling huge swaths of the West. How is that so different from what the Muslim Americans are facing today? It isn’t.”
“Those of us who fled so long ago have made our homes and our lives among you. We are American, and so are our children. We don’t want to see Sharia be imposed here. We don’t want women to be chattel. We are proud that our wives and daughters are educated and independent. We find that strong women make for stronger men. We do not want to make over here like over there. We came here for a reason.”
“That’s what I would have you tell them. We came here for a reason.”