A Little More About Muslims and Angry Mobs: The Longform Sign

So, a few days ago, in the wake of what happened in Libya, I came across this article:

I don’t know any of those people, and I don’t know that they’ll ever see them, but we posted these pictures in response.

J and I posted them as our profile pictures on Facebook, and there were some…well, some reactions. A lot of people liked them. Some people didn’t. That’s okay. We don’t have to be everyone’s best friend.

But there seemed to be some misunderstanding about what was meant.

Here are some of the comments:

“The picture is suggesting that americans hate muslims… which is not true for the most part. It is true that many americans are incredibly misinformed about islam and couldn’t tell you one thing about it, but the small percent of muslims that hate america do so for what I would consider a very good reason.”

“tiny percentage of muslims mainly in the middle east that have directly been impacted by western imperialism and wish to avenge all the awful things the american government has done to your countries,
I do hate you, and I hope you rot in hell for all the bombings, shootings and terrorizing of innocent people that you have done. I would not care if you were shot dead, but I would prefer it if you were simply incarcerated. You give your religion a bad name and with it, an awful stereotype that ignorant, uneducated Americans are willing to believe simply because they are to stupid to realize that Islam is not a terrorist organization. You assisted in ruining an entire region and causing numerous wars and global conflicts. You caused the demise of several of your own countries, and increased a global hatred towards your race. to the other 99 percent of muslims, you should try as hard as possible to make sure that these few people do not define your religion as a whole.”

“and hes (referencing the above commenter) right. If she is infact trying to talk to the “muslims” who i think she means the ones who are extremists and rioting then we all should hate them. How is that wrong hate people who have terrorized Americans and others for years and years”

“I don’t hate muslims, nor do I blame all muslims for what happened. Unlike those criminals, I know words or actions of one man should not be used as the death warrant of another. Maybe they don’t teach “sticks and stones…” there, but they should.”

Here is my response to that:

“Dear Muslim brothers and sisters (as we are all human beings and therefore related in some really important way), I am saddened by the violence taking place in the name of Allah, and the backlash being associated, wrongly, with living the life of Jesus in the world. I can’t speak for your religion, but I can tell you that Jesus is in no way honored by unexamined hatred of an entire people group. As angry mobs of rioters do not represent every Muslim person, neither am I represented by a despicable movie designed only to ignite more violence. Most Americans don’t hate most Muslims, and vice versa. I don’t want to hold on to hatred of anyone, as I don’t think that helps anyone. It does not bring back the murdered, and it does not even really do anything to the murderer. If I hate, the worst damage is to my own soul. To turn back hatred we need stronger stuff. Oil doesn’t clean itself off the kitchen counter…you must flush it with lots of water. Sometimes very hot, sometimes with soap, but just adding more oil will never, ever make there be less oil.” 

Would have been hard to fit on a sign.

Here are the rules I try to follow for myself when reading the news:

1. Avoid sweeping generalizations. Something that is true of one person may not be true of another single person, let alone a whole people group. “Muslims, I don’t hate you,” is not a bad sweeping generalization because even though I was very general in whom I addressed, I was stating something that should be true anyway. We, as Christians, are commanded not to hate people (whatever we think about their actions) because they are created in the image of God. I have been given the gift of understanding how to not hate them (I wonder occasionally if I was related to Chris Stevens whether I would still understand and still be able to forgive. I hope so, but that is not what my life is).

2. Reserve judgment about what someone is thinking, or why they are acting in a certain way. The person writing the article may not be completely objective, or have all the information.

3. If the thing I am about to say starts with, “Over there,”  “Those people,” or something like that (especially about a place I have never been and know very little about culturally),  then it is often not worth saying.

4. Ignorant and bigoted people usually don’t know that they are ignorant or bigoted, and will make fun of other people for being what they are. I have noticed this a few times with hardcore fundamentalist christians who condemn the rest of the world for not meeting standards that they can’t meet either, as well as with angry atheists who assume that any kind of faith makes you weak-minded and are so blind to the way that they generalize “Those Morons in Churches” that they will make ridiculous declarative statements without even thinking them through all the way. Use caution when engaging in debate in this setting. If someone is more interested in belittling what they don’t understand, it is very hard to get past that to actual productive conversation. I have made copious use of the “hide” and “unsubsubscribe” buttons so I don’t get sucked into circular arguments or end up saying like J does in these circumstances, “I have to go! Someone was wrong on the internet!”

5. React emotionally, but realize that is what is happening and then try to think critically about it.

I find myself, sometimes, falling into the “silent majority.” The lack of exclamation points, Caps Lock, and words that are more inflammatory than substantive does not mean there is a lack of thought, passion, or meaning. I don’t always feel like screaming helps, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say.

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