Before you read this post, please go here and read the first three paragraphs.
(You can read the whole article, too, but the first three are the most important for this post.)
This story made it to The Daily Show Wednesday night, and as I watched Jon Stewart opine on the story, I became furious. And sad.
When I first arrived in the Canada Montreal Mission in March 1997, my companion and I spent a lot of time going door to door, asking people if they would like to hear our message about Jesus Christ. Christian faiths didn’t want to hear from us because their pastors told them we were a cult. Orthodox Jews would peek at us through windows and just not answer the door. Atheists laughed in our faces.
But Muslims loved to talk about God and prophets.
They invited us into their homes, would agree with us about God and prophets (what many of them told us Jesus was–a prophet, not the Son of God), and we would often have lively banter about what our faiths had in common and not-so-much in common, almost always while they stuffed us full of Middle Eastern cooking.
About three months into my mission, we were told we could no longer talk to Muslims. That if we ran into them while going door to door, we were to tell them to have a nice day, that God loved them, and then leave. We were told that some Muslims endangered themselves by talking to Christian missionaries (not just us), for when they might travel to their homeland, they could face severe consequences.
This broke my heart, because I loved talking to Muslims about faith.
So when I see pervasive hatred toward Muslims, I get defensive.
I’m not unsympathetic to those whose lives have been ruined by extremists, but to apply that anger to an entire faith tradition would be like me hating all Baptists because of Westboro Baptist Church, or hating Christians from the South because of the Ku Klux Klan.
Not all Baptists protest funerals. Not all Southerners burn crosses. Not all boys named Caleb are demon spawn (one kid can really ruin a name for a teacher). Not all Muslims are terrorists.
We hate what we fear, to paraphrase Yoda, and we often fear what we don’t know. So if you’ve never actually had a conversation with a Muslim, maybe hold back on the stereotyping.
After all, I’ve been told more than once, “I’m surprised how normal you are. You know, being Mormon and all.”