Posted by: minnow | November 23, 2016

“I am a Muslim”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, recently promised if the United states began a registry of Muslims he, “a proud Jew”, would register as a Muslim.  A FB group I follow ran the article and the comments filled with others making the same pledge.  I wanted to.  I even started to add my name.  Then my brain began playing scenarios–what if someone held my son or daughter at gun point and insisted if I was a Muslim my child must also be.  I tried to reason with my brain telling myself, “I would just say I converted but my child did not.” It didn’t matter.  In that moment I knew their threat engaged my fear and trapped me.  Only when push came to shove would I know my true character. As much as I wanted to add my name to the comments, I didn’t actually know what I would do.

My thinking quickly turned to history.  I thought about all the Christians who were fed to the lions and the Romans who  converted to Christianity under Constantine rather than be crucified.  I thought about the Crusades and about how Native Americans were treated by whites as settlers “expanded” the West. Over and over through out history people groups have been told, “convert or die.”  Eventually, I returned to the original post. The idea of converting in order to line up with those slated to die was pretty novel. (And please, don’t insult my intelligence; we all know registration was simply the first step to Hitler’s gas chambers). The more I thought about it, the more I was struck by what an amazing feat it would be if enough non-Muslims registered as Muslim to put a wrench in the whole plan.  But, who would line up?  I was certain I could name people from history–Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Martin Luther King–people of faith and principle.  But what about now?

Surly some would come forward, modern day men and women of faith and principle who would stand with Mr. Greenblatt.  I thought about Larycia Hawkins, a Wheaton College professor who wore a hijab not long ago as a symbol of support for Muslim women. She took a stand, lined up on the side of compassion and justice and was summarily fired from Wheaton, a Christian institution.    Then I thought about other religious voices, like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson.  I remembered their defense of Trump even in the wake of his blatant racist and sexist remarks.  I thought about all the name calling, finger pointing, and hat speech reported about Trump’s followers since the election. And I thought about the stunning silence of these same Christian voices.

Just to be clear, we have had plenty of opportunities to speak out since the election.  The most recent update from the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Hatewatch lists over 200 anti-immigration incidents of harassment or intimidation since November 8, with over 50 directed specifically against Muslims.  If we add other targeted groups, such as Blacks and people from the LGBT community, the incidents number over 700.  These are staggering numbers, especially when you consider for every reported incident, we can expect a dozen or more that go unreported.

Back in high school in my world history class I used to wonder about the German people.  How could they allow Hitler to commit such horrific acts against 6 million Jews?  In my naïve self-righteousness I over looked the fact that Hitler also killed 5 million non-Jews in his camps and gas chambers.  These deaths included: half a million Gypsies who were also seen as inferior to the pure German race, 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses for refusing to pledge their allegiance to the Nazi cause, between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexuals labeled deviants, thousands of mentally ill and disabled people, nearly 3,000 Catholics many of whom were priests, and as many as 3 million who were merely part of the resistance.

SO, what’s my point?

To begin with, today we can see how easy it is to ignore the hate inspired violence and  intimidation occuring right before our eyes. Fear and self preservation kick in and we choose to keep our heads down rather than step forward or speak out.  Secondly, by ignoring the fact that multiple groups were targeted by Hitler, we  can tell ourselves that what happened in Germany can’t possibly happen again, especially in the United States. Besides, we don’t hate Jews.  Yet.  Although President-elect Trump, his advisors, his future cabinet members, and his faithful followers have already begun to advocate policies such as the registration of specific people groups, rescinding the civil rights of certain citizens, conversion therapy for “deviants”, and racial segregation, we are cautioned by Republicans and evangelicals alike, that comparing Trump to Hitler is hyperbole bordering on hysteria.  Sadly, most will listen. They ‘ll temper their objections and take a let’s wait and see what happens with the real issues.

Meanwhile, brave men like Jonathan Greenblatt, who have drawn their lines in the sand, are left to wonder if others will recognize push has come to shove.  The time to choose between our fear and stepping forward is now.  Greenblatt’s declaration of solidarity with the Muslim people is not for those of us standing on the sidelines, a now or never challenge.  But, it is a warning shot across the bow of our indifference toward the injustice, oppression, and evil perpetrated on our fellow Americans.  At some point the rest of us will be called on to draw a line in the sand or turn our heads in shame.

I know what it is like to make a vow I cannot keep, so I will not sign my name to a pledge that might cost me nothing now but could cost me everything later.  I will, however continue to speak out.  I will continue to advocate for justice, inclusion, and equality.  And I will pray that when history and my Maker are ready to judge my witness, I will not be found wanting.



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