A Muslim leader shared this morning at the mosque, as my World Religions class visited him, how supportive the Portland community has been since 9/11. Mr. Harris Zafar is the national spokesperson of the Ahmadiyyah Muslim community. He added, though, that he still gets messages from individuals (not necessarily Portland residents) on social media to “Go back home!” Then he quipped, “Tigard? San Francisco? Chicago?” He lives in Tigard, Oregon now. He lived in the other two cities when he was younger. Like many Muslims, Harris was born and raised in the United States. He is as much an American as the rest of us who are citizens here. So, how can he go back home, when he is home?
You may have seen Mr. Zafar interacting with Bill O’Riley, Wolf Blitzer, and other television personalities and news anchors. He seeks to demystify Islam, speaks out against terror and violence, coordinates blood drives, and promotes the common good, along with his movement. He is a good American, and my friend.
The United States is an immigrant country. How we easily forget our own heritage. Moreover, the Judea-Christian faith is made up of sojourners and exiles (Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Matthew 2:15; James 1:1). So, whether we are Americans or Christians or both, we should never tell someone who is a Muslim, especially a citizen of America, to go back home.
We should welcome the stranger as Americans and as Christians, and treat as strange those claims and actions that would harm immigrants and minorities in our midst. Regardless of their religious convictions, the two men who were killed and the one who was stabbed for defending the two young women attacked on the train in Portland because they looked different or ‘looked like’ Muslims acted as true American patriots and in keeping with Christian values.
Surely, nation states have responsibilities to protect their citizens from terror. But U.S. citizens and citizens of Jesus’ kingdom also have a responsibility not to terrorize strangers in their midst. In fact, whether someone is a citizen or not, we are called as their neighbors to love them as ourselves. Muslims, stay here. You’re home.