Growing up in the Epicenter of all known culture in Georgia,
Douglasville to be exact- I learned a lot about the world. I learned a lot about taxidermy, camouflage, and the King James Version of the Bible. My mama told me that Jesus loved the little children, red and yellow black and white. We sang the song in my small Sunday school classroom. Although, racial slurs came from every direction outside of the church. It seemed that the baptiscostal hills of the Piedmont had not fully discovered the Love of Jesus for those outside of European descent. And mostly, their source of news came from the television. The television was always right. Folks wouldn’t ride Marta because they saw everything that happened on the local news. Folks didn’t travel much to College Park, because of the Fear spread by the news.
I heard a lot of stereotypes growing up- and even the local media perpetuated these false ideas. These false ideas create fear. Media induces fear. There is a war going on for your mind.
People in West Georgia often didn’t understand the difference between southern Asian culture, Eurasian culture and Middle Eastern Culture. And people reacted to the violence witnessed on the television- with more violence, and fear.
Even my childhood was not free from fear. Nor the church. Early memories remain of polyester-clad preachers screaming red-faced about the demonic influence of Islam or other world religions. These sweaty charismatics
spit fear into the orange foam covered microphones,
while telling bloody, horrifying, and bigoted stories. I can remember crawling under the pew from fright, and grabbing my mother’s ankles. It was almost as if we were to fear all foreign people- except of course Israel. I heard more sermons about the end times and the book of Revelation than I did the sermon on the mount. Fear. Fear. Fear.
Fear of brown people. Fear of others. Fear of different religions.
Yet, Jesus was a brown man. And Christ was not christian. The historical Jesus, or Issa, may have looked a lot more like Osama Bin Laden than any of the white Jesi parading around at the TBN Holy Land amusement park in Orlando or somewhere in Branson.
Sadly, fear moved over West Georgia again in the days following September 11, 2001.
Every pew packed tightly with the faithful and less-than-observant fearing Armageddon and the dispensationalist’s charts of Revelation. My friend Krish cleaned graffiti from his garage weekly. Every gas station in Douglasville experienced a rash of vandalism. And fear dumped its holy terror upon the minds of the conservatives, from the right-to-life-marchers to the testosterone filled country boys in their jacked up trucks bearing rebel flags.
But Perfect Love casts out all Fear.
I think Perfect Love casts out islamophobia as well.
I think hate and fear both stem from ignorance.
Now during the age of information, we could hope that fear is crushed under understanding and love, yet Media still perpetuates stereotypes by sensationalizing events and by focusing on the negative .
I asked several of my friends to chime in on fear and mistreatment people of Middle-Eastern descent and even their thoughts on the media. Here are some of their words:
Kelly- Changing Stereotypes:
“I work every day with people from the Middle East (Muslims and non-Muslims) and Muslims from around the world who are striving for human rights for everyone. They fight, sometimes giving their lives, for the ability of everyone, not just people from a particular group, to live safely and freely. These people won’t make the news because they don’t fit a stereotype that “sells papers”, but they don’t give up and they do make a difference.”- Kelly. Kelly Wentworth is the Secretary of Muslims for Progressive Values, an organization that advocates for egalitarian expressions of Islam, for women, and for LGBTQI rights. MPV does this by creating inclusive spaces for religious discourse, the arts and social activism.
“…The Spanish Inquisition had it…The Salem Witch Trials, offered it…The Holocaust…the plight if the Tibetian Buddhists Monks…the Members of the Afro-Carribean practice of Vudun (Voodoo) to the recent sexual misconduct of those leaders in the Catholic Church, religious persecution has gone on for centuries. Now, the plight of the Muslim is no different….I believe it’s just our turn to be tested of faith! But it’s not what they call you…it’s WHO you answer to as to how you fair in this trial…”- Dr. Ameena Ali Dr. Ali is a social justice advocate for mothers and children, the homeless, the incarcerated, and the religious in Atlanta . She currently works as an Ombudsman/Maternal Diplomat at N.U.B.I.A.N Pregnancy She is the Owner/Founder at GRRACEE (GA Reproductive Resource Alliance Center for Education and Empowerment and the Founder and Lead Diversity Chair at CARE (Cultural Awareness & Responsibility of Educators) Dr. Ali is also an amazing Midwife; and Maternal Support Educator at A Mother’s Peace.
E-On challenging the media:
“My daughter knew many Muslims who died in 9/11. Yet their faces weren’t put on the front news. Nor were they remembered in monuments. I wonder why we don’t hear about that. Why does the media always want to push people towards hate and fear”- E. E is a man experiencing homelessness in Atlanta, originally from Brooklyn, and is a Muslim.
As for my own stereotypes, fear, and ignorance all I can do is seek understanding, pray and act in love. I’ve had the opportunity to visit mosques in Springfield, Missouri, Atlanta and Chicago. I witnessed women praising God. I also saw teenagers busy texting and facebooking. They looked a lot like me, except for the hijabs and the burkas. But not much different. So I prayed with them, and bowed before God.
As I went through the prayers, I recall thinking that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness there of.” I also recall thinking about the scripture from Isaiah 19; 23″ In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25 The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
God’s people aren’t one mere race, or just one religion. They are everywhere. I enjoyed the hospitality of the women each time I visited the mosque. I talked about their love for God. I shared my own heart’s love for Issa. I have also traveled to Buddhist temples, and Hindu holy places. I did not feel fear anywhere. Or sense a vile hatred in the places I visited. I felt peace resting in each location.
As a Christ follower, I pray thy kingdom come several times a week. In that kingdom, fear is destroyed by love, and isms like racism, nationalism, and bigotry are squashed. I try to tell others about stereotypes that cause ism’s to destroy our lives. I pray that we can think beyond what the media tells us. I pray we can walk in a perfect love.
How has your community challenged racism, nationalism, and islamophobia? How have you in your community worked towards perfect love? How have you cast out all fear induced by the media?