If you need me, I’m currently in my internet bunker ready for the inevitable responses to this one. This is a sensitive topic, but with the political and social issues surrounding us at this moment, it’s a good time to discuss this stuff. And I mean you and your kids having a discussion about Islam.
With the refugee crisis still strangling Europe, Islam is a huge issue worldwide. Daesh (IS) is still fighting for control in the Middle East. Islamophobia is gripping the US through political candidates continually bringing up how they will end the threat, often using strong language to make their point. We are in a position where we should discuss this with our children.
Why would you discuss Islam with your kids? Honestly, because if you don’t know someone who is Muslim, your child probably does. Your child is hearing about Islam, about terrorism linked to Islam, about kids in their class who are Muslim. Your child is encountering people from other faiths, why wouldn’t we discuss it with them?
One thing I have found that the church struggles with is actually having open discussions about other religions and even other Christian denominations. Often, Christians are more likely to demonize fellow Christians who belong to another denomination than we are to discuss the tenets of Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. I find this distressing and a little odd, especially since we’re supposed to be agents of unity and known by the love with which we treat one another.
That aside, what about Islam? What should we say about it? Well, it’s a monotheistic religion that grew out of visions of their chief prophet Muhammed in the 7th century (600s AD). Most Muslims also trace their beliefs through Muhammed and Ishmael to Abraham, meaning that belief-wise, Muslims are close cousins with us and Jews. The history of Islam is long and varied including persecution, war, kingdom, and diaspora. The religion rests on a belief in one deity – Allah – that has revealed himself through the prophet Muhammed. The practice of this religion includes belief/faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage.
We can also attribute a lot of good to Muslim culture. Their refinement, culture, and record-keeping partnered with Western culture, and Catholic monks, to create the environment necessary for the scientific explosion that followed the Medieval period. And, not to be glib, but they also have some delicious food that has become flavorful and diverse based on dietary laws. Constraint is often the catalyst for creativity.
Lately, though, Americans in particular and now Europe have come to see Islam and its adherents as a threat. But, for their part, the majority of American and European Muslims want many of the same things we do: safety, prosperity, and peace.
The following analogy has been used before… but it bears repeating. Consider that judging the entire Muslim community by their extremists is as if the world judged Christians by Westboro Baptist Church. Yes, Christianity has its own extremists and most of us cringe when we hear what they’re up to.
Regardless of your thoughts on this issue, please consider this: if we read our Bibles honestly, are called to treat others with love. Love does not equal attraction or fondness. Love is a commitment to the good of others. We are called to look out for those around us.
Understand, I am not advocating for one political stance or another. I am advocating for us as individuals to rethink the way we speak and act toward those around us. Muslims in our country are becoming worried, concerned, and frankly a little scared. Violence against Muslims is growing, and that should concern us.
Remember, children pick up on the way you speak and act. If they hear you speaking angrily or with fear about another group of people, they will pick it up. They will internalize it, and they will continue the cycle of fear. When we are afraid, we lash out. When we lash out, others become afraid and do the same. Someone has to end the cycle – maybe it’s you. Maybe… just maybe it will be your child.
How have you talked about Islam at home? Have you read about the religion and its adherents? Do you speak calmly and directly about these issues at home?