Tomorrow morning at 10:00 Eastern, I’ll be hosting a free live webinar with my friend Safi Kaskas. Safi is a Muslim who has translated the Qur’an and travels the globe working for peace and a better understanding of one another.
I have mixed emotions at the moment, because every time I promote on Facebook an interview with a Muslim friend, many people go on the attack. Comments like, “Islam is a SATANIC POLITICAL CULT! JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” “Get out of the United States. We don’t want you and your Sharia law here. We live by the Constitution. You will NEVER assimilate into American culture, and we like our culture just the way it is.” And “How can randomly murdering innocent people for no reason be considered a religion?”
There are many more comments, and I responded to many of them. But I don’t know if it will do any good. On one level, the hatred, especially in the name of Jesus, depresses me. The misinformation about Islam that is spread throughout certain media platforms that foment fear about Islam depresses me. The fact that we have a president who thought a Muslim ban would be a good idea, and who is now flirting with a Muslim registry, depresses me. But I’m not sure that correcting misinformation will help.
Yesterday, I wrote about how we need different kinds of prophets. Trump’s election taught me that naming divisive language and hatred doesn’t work to soften hearts. Like the Hebrew prophet Nathan, telling a better story might be our greatest hope for fostering a better world.
Islam and Forgiveness
So, I’d like to tell you about Rais Bhuiyan. Rais is a Muslim who was born in Bangladesh. He dreamed of moving to the United States, which he finally did in May of 2001. He began working at a gas station in Dallas, Texas. Tragically, 9/11 occurred just a few months after he moved there.
On September 21st, 2001, a white supremacist entered the gas station where Rais was working. Mark Stroman held a gun up to Rais face and shot him.Somehow, Rais survived the attack and Mark was sent to death row for killing two other Muslims.
In 2009, Rais went on Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. While on the trip, he realized, “In my faith, in Islam, it says that saving a life is like saving the entire mankind.”
He knew that Mark committed heinous crimes. But justice would not be served by another death. It was his Islamic faith that led him to show mercy and radical forgiveness to the man who killed two Muslims and tried to kill him.
Unlearning Hatred, Learning to Love
Rais began a friendship with Mark. They wrote letters to each other. Mark wrote, “My stepfather taught me some lessons that I should never have learned. I have unlearned some of them, and I’m still unlearning … I don’t know who your parent were, but it’s obvious they were wonderful people to lead you to act this way, to forgive someone who is unforgivable.”
It was his Muslim parents and his faith that led Rais to “forgive someone who is unforgivable.” Rais worked passionately to save Mark’s life. He fought for clemency. But the God of Islam is apparently more merciful than the god of the American justice system.
On the day Mark was murdered, he called Rais, who continued to speak words of forgiveness. Mark ended the call by saying, “I love you, bro.”
Marks last words were words of love. He was converted from hatred to love by his Muslim brother. But Rais had options, as we all do. He could have called for retribution. But in the name of his God, he worked for mercy. He then created a nonprofit organization called “World without Hate.” Its mission is to educate “people about the transformative power of mercy and forgiveness, based on the hope that we can build a better world. A world without violence, without victims, and without hate.”
I would like to participate in that mission, which is why I will continue talking with Safi and other Muslims who are already transforming the world into a more forgiving and merciful place.
You can join Safi and me tomorrow at 10:00 Eastern by clicking this link to AnyMeeting.
Images: Screenshots from YouTube.
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