Islam Does Not Hate Us. Muslims Want To Be Our Friends.

I can’t help but feel sorry for Donald Trump. But he’s not the only one for whom I feel sorry.

Donald Trump may be the loudest voice in politics right now, but his recent bombastic quip, “I think Islam hates us,” no doubt ineloquently utters what many others must think. For all the talk about the need to separate terrorists and extremists from the vast majority of Muslims, untold numbers of whom are active peacemakers, United States policy toward Muslims has been marked by suspicion at home and genocide abroad. Surveillance of mosques, closing Muslim charities on “secret evidence,” and racially profiling Muslims are regular courses of action here at home. And in at least 8 predominantly Muslim countries, drone strikes based on “patterns of behavior” —  without even knowing the identities of the targets —  obliterate human life. Up to 90 percent of the strike victims are not the intended targets, but, as long as they are military-aged males, they are obscenely deemed guilty unless posthumously proven innocent. Drone strikes are just part of a military policy that prioritizes profit over human life and is genocidal at heart, as it demonizes and denies the humanity of its victims. The treatment of Muslims as enemies must lead many people to believe that Muslims hate us. After all, if we wish to see our violence as noble, honorable and righteous, we must believe our enemies to be malicious, evil, and filled with hatred. And if United States policy does not make more than a lip-service effort to distinguish between most Muslims and terrorists (drones and missiles are certainly incapable of making such a distinction), then it stands to reason that many must believe the delusion Donald Trump himself seems to be under, that there is something about Islam that engenders enmity.

And I can’t help but feel sorry for anyone under such a delusion, because it is clear that anyone who believes that “Muslims hate us” is not blessed, as I and many others are, with wonderful, compassionate, inspirational Muslim friends.

To know Muslims like the dear sisters who have been among my closest friends for over 20 years is to know that Islam at its best is a faith that brings out compassion, mercy, thirst for justice, and love in its adherents. It is a faith that encourages kindness and respect, one that seeks peace and forbids compulsion. It has pacifist as well as militant interpretations, with most believers falling within the middle of the spectrum, but the vast majority of Muslims site the Qur’anic prohibition of war except in matters of self-defense. To know Muslims is to know that they are just like everyone else, and to understand that there is nothing about Islam that renders it incompatible or hostile to modernity. And to have good Muslim friends, for whom faith is an essential part of their identity, is to have friends who value mercy and compassion, as these are the two attributes of God most frequently cited in the Qur’an. Friendships like those I have with my Muslim friends are rare, nurtured by values we share generated by the same God, worshipped differently but mutually understood to be the author of compassion, forgiveness, and love.

To have good Muslim friends is to understand not only how wrong Donald Trump is, but also how very much he is missing out upon when he mistakenly says that “Islam hates us.”

And to have good Muslim friends is to understand that there are now unprecedented levels of Islamophobia sweeping the nation, higher levels than there have been in the 14 and a half years since the September 11th attacks. To have good Muslim friends is to be unable to ignore the devastation being wrought against Muslims at home and abroad. It is to understand the tragic counter-productivity of our violence, which, in the name of defeating terror, creates more terrorists out of desperate, drone-orphaned children or grieving, enraged parents. And it is to recognize the counter-productivity in policies and rhetoric and bullying and vigilante violence here at home that play directly into the hands of the leaders of ISIS.

ISIS uses the chaos and desperation wrought by over a decade of war to convince Muslims that the world is against them and spur violence. Islamophobic attitudes and policies that isolate Muslims do far more to help than harm ISIS, which feeds off of the isolation such policies engender. For the frontrunner of a political party to claim that there is something inherently hateful about Islam is to further marginalize and isolate Muslims. And the message that America hates Islam will be easier for ISIS to sell to Muslims who are shunned, insulted, and assaulted, as well as Muslims who have lost their dreams, their futures, and their loved ones. As Donald Trump expresses desire to mirror the tactics of ISIS to fight ISIS, he ironically mirrors the recruiting techniques of ISIS – spreading fear and hatred which will result in individual violence and support for institutionalized violence. And while he recruits against Muslims, he also recruits for the very extremists he wishes to defeat.

And in spite of all of this, the majority of Muslims in the United States and worldwide shun the recruitment efforts of ISIS and other extremist organizations using the veneer of religion to claim legitimacy for their violence. The majority of Muslims do not hate America, because they distinguish between the people and the policies, value our common humanity, and wish above all for peace. Muslims make an effort to distinguish American citizens from the leaders who call for indiscriminant bans on immigration, heartless deportation of refugees, and “making sand glow in the dark” from bombs that will kill civilians along with ISIS. (Yes, I know that was Cruz, not Trump. The point is that multiple leaders are ratcheting up the violent rhetoric.) Claims that it is hard to distinguish between peaceful Muslims and those with hostile intentions are as dangerous as they are lazy, because Muslims are among those who must be most vigilant against hate crimes, and they are still willing and able to befriend their non-Muslim neighbors.

In fact, Muslims around the nation are actively reaching out to befriend us all, in an effort to quell Islamophobia, show hospitality, and build bridges to peace and mutual understanding. I recently attended an event in DuPage County, IL, “Know Your Muslim Neighbor” which drew a crowd of over 1000 people, nearly evenly divided between Muslims and non-Muslims. Speakers included Dr. Larycia Hawkins, who spoke of the need for human solidarity across division. Illinois Institute of Technology Muslim Student Association president Mohsin Ishaq (pictured above) expressed the love his parents had for the United States and their faith in the American dream when they immigrated from India before he was born. And Rev. James Honig of Faith Lutheran Church exuded gratitude to the many Muslim friends who prayed for his newborn grandchild. Muslims and non-Muslims were seated side-by-side in order to come to know each other, just as the Qur’an stipulates (49:13). The event was a testimony to solidarity and peacemaking. And it is just the beginning. In my county alone there are at least 6 upcoming “open mosque events” to foster interfaith friendship. It is worth looking to see what kinds of similar events may be taking place in your area.

I hope Donald Trump and anyone who has yet to experience the joys of friendship with Muslims will take advantage of such events. Friends of all faiths and no faith at all are blessings. Friends who open us to new perspectives, through a different race or religion or culture or ideology, are treasures. Freedom from fear of the “other”—freedom to realize that there is no “other,” is the beginning of peace.

Muslims do not hate us. They are a part of us. We are incomplete without them. May we all come together in our common humanity, for the sake of this fragile world so desperate for love.

Image: Screenshot from Youtube: “We the People: Stand Together With Your Muslim Neighbor” by s khalil.

12 replies
  1. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    I appreciate the desire not to fan the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment. But I also remember after 9/11, when some tried to honestly understand what would inspire such hatred. Turns out there were a few things. Some, not all Muslims, were angry about continued, unquestioning support for Israel on the part of many in the US. Some, not all Muslims, were bitter about US support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. In other words, there was some real content — it wasn’t simply blind hatred. Maybe it isn’t completely unreasonable to ask ourselves why our enemies resent us rather than deny we have enemies? Maybe there is something there that would cause us to reflect on our own behavior.

    Reply
    • Lindsey Paris-Lopez
      Lindsey Paris-Lopez says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, Tracy. There are indeed policies that have made Muslims frustrated, angry, and disappointed. I mentioned several in my article. My point in saying that Muslims do not hate us is not to say that they have no reason to for anger. And there are those for whom hatred of our policies translates to violence. A majority of Muslims do distinguish between people and policies, but not all. Many are reaching out in friendship, but not all. The point, though, is to see those who are reaching out and embrace them, and cultivate bridges of peace. We can be more reflective and effective as peacemakers when we are in relationship with Muslims, and Muslims are actively seeking to create those relationships. And I agree that denial isn’t good… but we don’t have to treat anyone as if they are our enemies, even if others declare us to be enemies. I’m especially worried about people who assume enmity that isn’t really there, though. Or assume that disappointment, frustration, or anger necessarily translate to enmity. There is a difference between wanting us to change our policies and seeking us personal harm.

      Reply
  2. cken
    cken says:

    I do believe most Muslims are good people, but “shunning” ISIS recruiting is not enough you have to be proactive and even fight them. You choose to turn a blind eye to the problem and remain silent which casts a cloud of suspicion on the whole Muslim religion. It is certainly well documented the Koran considers all non-muslims as infidels, which by definition makes them malicious evil people.

    Reply
    • Sheima Salam Sumer
      Sheima Salam Sumer says:

      Dear Cken,

      The word infidel reflects a bad translation of the Koran. A better translation would simply be “Non-Muslim”. And no, Islam does not say that non-Muslims are by definition evil people. The Koran teaches that we should show kindness and justice to all people, as long as they are not forcing us out of our homes/trying to hurt us. “God does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.” (60:8). A Muslim man is allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, which is the most loving relationship one can have. We are allowed to eat the meat of “the People of the Book”. So it isn’t as black and white as some people unfortunately make it.

      Reply
  3. cken
    cken says:

    One more thing. The Koran advocates that “Muslims around the nation are actively reaching out to befriend us all, in an effort to quell Islamophobia, show hospitality, and build bridges to peace and mutual understanding.” The Koran also states Muslims should maintain this type of deception until the infidels can be overtaken peacefully. I have actually read the Koran to see if these things are true and they are. I also know you can find similar sentiments in the Old Testament. Fortunately the Christian world doesn’t follow those sentiments any longer, most of them being outlawed.

    Reply
    • Sheima Salam Sumer
      Sheima Salam Sumer says:

      Dear Cken,

      As a Muslim I would have to say that your statements are not Islamically correct. The Koran teaches fighting in self defense only (i.e. when we are being attacked and our lives are at stake) . The word “infidel” is a wrong translation. There are many verses in the Koran that encourage Muslims to seek common ground with people, especially “People of the Book.”

      Reply
  4. Frances Fuller
    Frances Fuller says:

    Thank you, Lindsey. I too am very concerned about this problem. Being old I remember when such fears caused us to mistreat Japanese-Americans. I believe it is true that we have given the Muslim world reasons to dislike us. We need to take responsibility for some abuse of our power. Living in the ME I experienced that people differentiated between policies and people and respected America’s ideals, only to be disappointed when we did not live up to them. That does not add up to hatred. As for scriptural justification of suspicion that the entire Muslim community is play-acting to trick us (as cken seems to say) I need the opinion of Muslim scholars. I know Christians who can use isolated texts to prove things that seem opposite to the central message of our scriptures. Finally, we must not let anything, fact or fear, cause us to again do something we will be ashamed of in the future.

    Reply
    • Lindsey Paris-Lopez
      Lindsey Paris-Lopez says:

      Thank you so much, Frances. Your last sentence, “Finally, we must not let anything, fact or fear, cause us to again do something we will be ashamed of in the future,” is spot on! I’m glad that my assertions about people differentiating between policies and people was also the experience you lived for 30 years.

      Reply
  5. Sheima Salam Sumer
    Sheima Salam Sumer says:

    Dear Lindsey,

    May God bless you and the Raven Foundation for writing this unifying article. As a Muslim I have been blessed with many Christian friends such as you and have learned so much from you and them. I am also a proud American, thankful for the opportunities that America gave me while growing up.

    Reply
    • Lindsey Paris-Lopez
      Lindsey Paris-Lopez says:

      How different the world would if those fanning the flames of Islamophobia had had friends like you growing up, Sheima! I love you!

      Reply
  6. Ron
    Ron says:

    I agree about Muslim friends, of whom I have a several, and others I have met and enjoyed greatly. Unfortunately, if only 0.1 percent of Muslims were to actively support or participate in violence against the US, that is well over a million people fighting us, which is almost the size of our active military. Some do so purely out of political opposition, but many seem to do it and justify it on the basis of the religious tenets of the Quran as well, and do see it as self-defense and/or war in defense of Islam. It is also obvious, sorry to say even among my friends, that there is deep incompatibility of Muslim belief and practice with liberal democratic values, especially as regards equality of the sexes, treatment of homosexuals, freedom of expression, etc.

    Reply
    • Lindsey Paris-Lopez
      Lindsey Paris-Lopez says:

      Thank you, Ron. I understand the point that even if a small percentage seeks us harm, etc… But the idea that that small percentage would be able to congregate inside the United States is also minimal, as you are drawing from the Muslim population from all over the world, and the idea of them banding together against us from all corners of the globe is far-fetched. We do not have that many people actively fighting us. We may have that many people wishing we would stop being arrogant, violent, and imperialistic (in fact, I think far more wish that). And there are those who would want vengeance against our policies and be indiscriminate about whom they take that vengeance out upon. But far more people do discriminate between the policies and the people. And far more Muslims protest against groups like ISIS and other extremist groups than Americans protest deadly military policies in Muslim countries! The United States military, larger than the next 6 largest militaries combined, is still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. And yet, for most Muslims, faith compels rejecting the desire to seek vengeance indiscriminately. You are, unfortunately, correct that for many Muslims, practice and interpretation of Islam can lead to discriminatory treatment of women and homosexuals. I have found that there are interpretations that are less patriarchal and even anti-patriarchal, and my best Muslim friends happen to be incredibly strong women for whom Islam pioneered women’s rights. I find that the American Muslims I know are outspoken about women’s equality, but I know that feminist Muslim scholars like Amina Wadud, for instance, are probably not considered mainstream according to Muslims around the world. And I have had disagreements with my Muslim friends over homosexuality, as well. But I also have Muslim friends who are accepting of homosexuality, and even my friends who are not have grown more understanding and tolerant over time. As have many of my Christian friends. My own understanding has evolved from wondering if God finds homosexuality sinful (and hoping God doesn’t) to believing wholeheartedly that God does not. Sometimes, interpretations or understandings of scripture that seem inflexible do evolve along the lines of mercy and compassion… this is as true for Muslims as for members of any religion.

      Reply

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