Muslims in the House! And They’re Girls!

My Post (50)Here in America, we’re still decompressing from one of the liveliest mid-term elections in memory. My apologies if you were feeling happy to not think of politics for a bit and then this email drops into your box!

I’m not very politically sophisticated so when I read that two Muslim women had been elected to the U.S. House, my reasoned and philosophical response was, “Hey, that’s cool!” And I stand by that!

Rashida Tlaib is a mother of two and the oldest child of Palestinian parents. She was born and raised in Detroit. She’s been serving politically in Michigan since 2004.

Ilhan Omar was born in Somalia. When she was ten her family fled the civil war to a refugee camp in Kenya then to the US when she was fourteen. At seventeen, Omar became a US citizen. She served in various capacities before being elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016.

Since being female and Muslim are only two facets of who these women are, we shouldn’t tokenize them or expect them to speak for all Muslims. Their constituents put them in power based on their track records and in hopes of what they will accomplish in office.

I might not share all of their political views or religious beliefs but I think they have something to say and that we’d be wise to give consideration to their voice. And I’m happy to live in a place where things like this can happen and where we now have a Congress that looks a little bit more like the country. (Tweet this.)

What do you think? Is it a good thing that Michigan and Minnesota put Muslim women in the House? Does this raise concerns for you? Please weigh in below.

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What Would Jesus and Mohammad Dress as for Halloween?*

My Post (47)

We lived in England for exactly one Halloween. Based on some bad intel involving the fact that London is ten cultural years (decades?) ahead of our beloved Bradford, we let our kids trick or treat in our thoroughly Muslim neighborhood! I don’t remember what they dressed as, but I’ll never forget the first house we went to: It was our next door neighbor, a first generation immigrant from Pakistan, a grandma and a wonderfully dear soul. She was also apparently clueless about Halloween. Somehow my little beggar children got through to her, she retreated to the kitchen and returned with a juice box and banana for each kid. I told them we’d go buy some candy and we packed it in.

Quite like Christians, Muslims in the U.S. (and I suppose wherever else Halloween is celebrated) struggle with whether or not to participate. And interestingly, much of the reasoning, both pro and con, is similar.

I’m not sure my Facebook friends generally represent Christians, but you can see what several of them think of Halloween here. You can read some thoughtful comments by Muslims here (con) and here. (pro).

Muslims deal with the “we already don’t fit in” factor more than most Christians do. So going dark on Halloween might feel internally alienating, while being seen from the outside as further evidence of not culturally integrating. It’s tricky.

Three things I hope we can agree on:

  1. Diversity of opinion should strengthen, not divide, us.
  2. Halloween might provide the socially accepted window in which to meet a neighbor, Muslim or not, whom God has been nudging you toward.
  3. It’s a bad idea to dress as a terrorist!

*Oh, please, please, please let it be a Muslim and a Jew!

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And Now What?

My Post (44)

Here’s something that’s been rolling around in my mind recently: Muslims don’t believe in the doctrine of original sin. That is, that we’re all born sinners because of Adam and Eve’s sin. Turns out Jews don’t believe this either and a good portion of Christians, including most who followed Jesus in the days before Augustine.

I don’t have the space here to fully deal with this doctrine. (I sometimes say that when I actually just don’t know how!) But I’d like to point out three things:

  1. It’s interesting that Muslims believe people are basically able to follow God’s purposes if they only will. If you want to look into this, here’s a Muslim talking about “Original Mercy.”
  2. I think most Muslims would say, as would most Christians, that they all too often, even regularly, sin. This reality makes John’s words in his second letter so deeply good and helpful: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
  3. This could be a good thing to kick around with your Muslim friends. Are people born sinful? What do you think sin is? Would you say you’re a good Muslim? What hope do we have against sin?

This line of conversation leads pretty directly to talking about Jesus. What did he say about sin? What does he do about it? Even this, “You know what his best friend said?” Then quote John from the passage above.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment below. If you enjoy Muslim Connect, please share it with a friend.

Prayer update: If you prayed for our daughter Anna after her crash two weeks ago, thank you. She’s still sore, but doing better. And she bought a replacement car a couple of days ago! 

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Halal in the Family: Muslim Comedy Made by Muslims

My 19 year old daughter and I had a fun chat driving home today. We batted around a number of current issues, including immigration and kneeling NFL players. We pulled into the driveway before we got to 2nd amendment rights! She tends to be more conservative on these issues than I am, while I tend to be, hmmm, balanced, I think you call it!

We both agree that it’s good, but challenging, to hear the ideas and opinions of people who are different from you, who think differently from you. Since it’s human nature to find comfort in having our thoughts and perceptions reinforced, rather than challenged, humor can sometimes serve as a good container for alternative perspectives.

With that in mind, I want to cautiously invite you to check out a very short, made-for-the-web TV series called Halal in the Family. Its four episodes of campy parody aim, “to combat bias and challenge misconceptions about Muslims and communities associated with Muslims.” (Tweet this.)

Halal in the Family sheds light on issues of, “surveillance and spying in Muslim communities; online bullying and hate networks; media bias; and the use of anti-Muslim prejudice for political gain.”

You might find the shows funny, but also a little painful. It hurts that people must deal with suspicion, misrepresentation and abuse. Honestly, it’s a little hurtful to find those things in my own heart.

There is some course language in the out takes that follow the show’s credits and a slight bit of off-color humor. That said, I think Halal in the Family merits watching. It’s good for us to see things about Muslims by Muslims.

Before I go showing these at church or something, I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the comments, please tell us what you think and where you might show Halal in the Family.

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Where Can You Find a Muslim Friend? Here’s an Idea.

My Post (42)I haven’t said this in too long: I really appreciate you reading Muslim Connect. Now, if you’ve been reading it for awhile and occasionally say, “Quit telling me to meet Muslims! I live in the middle of a 50 mile wide Muslim-free zone! There’s no one to meet,” I don’t blame you! My neighborhood here in Southern Colorado doesn’t exactly remind you much of Karachi, Mecca or Dearborn.

So, what can we do? There’s always the fallback, prayer. (You’re right: God does not see it that way!!) It’s possible that the very contribution God has designed you for is prayer. You can also wisely and winsomely advocate for better ways to think and talk about Muslims. You can help fund people involved in strategic ministry.

But if you actually want to have a Muslim friend, here’s an idea: International Students. There are over 100,000 students currently in the US from Muslim majority countries. (Tweet this.)

That means there are likely some at the school nearest me, which Google maps says is a cool 38 minutes away. I suspect there are some at the closest university to your home.

It’s still going to take some effort. . . and gas. And there are probably a dozen good things that will need to get deferred, but I think we could find Muslim friends among international students. I know from experience, although quite limited, that lasting relationships can be formed. I’m still in touch with a Saudi friend I met in Indiana somewhere around 2007!

If God’s nudging you, let’s do this. I’m personally feeling some leading in this direction. Check out this article, just published yesterday, for practical tips and pitfalls in initially connect with international students. May God give us some friendships that are wonderful blessings all around.

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“Come with Me and Ask Forgiveness. . .”

My Post (40)

In her wonderful new book, Across the Street and Around the World, my friend Jeannie Marie tells an amazing story:

“I had never met a Muslim before this moment. I’d left the suburbs and driven into the city on a personal quest: to practice global compassion in my local context. I swallowed hard and dragged myself into the modest refugee resettlement office.” 

After brief introductions, the administrator, Ayisha, asked Jeanne why she was there.

“Someone told me that Iraqi refugees were coming to Phoenix. So I looked it up online and found your name. It sounded Muslim. I thought it would be good for me to actually meet a Muslim. You also said on the phone that you’re helping refugees, so I thought, well, maybe I could help somehow.” 

“Yes,” Ayisha said. “You can help.” 

Jeannie imagined collecting food or clothing, distributing it into the grateful hands of refugees. Everyone would smile at each other. . .and then they’d all go home.

“Instead, Ayisha said, ‘I just met a young widow with three small children, who arrived last month from Iraq as a refugee. If all that you are saying is true, then I would like you to come with me to her apartment tomorrow.’ She paused before continuing. ‘American soldiers accidentally killed her husband. I would like you to come with me and ask forgiveness for the American people.’”

Serious stuff, eh? Can you put yourself in Jeannie’s shoes? What would you think about this request? How would you answer Ayisha? What would you do?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’d like to know what Jeannie Marie did, pre-order her book here. If you do so now, you’ll get the first three chapters of the book in PDF format, 20% of the audio book, a phone lock-screen set and an exclusive bonus chapter. I’d love for you to get this important new book. Please check it out.

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What if a Muslim Does Something Right?

My Post (38)

I had a troubling chat at church last week. A good guy I’d never met before, who’s recovering from a stroke, told me some of his story, including a move the day before. He shared with gratitude and delight how the local Mormon church had rallied to help him and his wife, “They brought trucks, a bunch of people. It was great. Within a few hours everything was out of the old place and into the new one.”

Well, yay for this guy. But this kind of bugged me and I’m not sure why. I don’t think it’s because our church should have done the helping and we dropped the ball. We didn’t know they were moving.

I’m concerned that I just don’t want Mormons doing good things because I have them in a category of “people who don’t believe correctly.” So what happens when people who don’t believe correctly actually act correctly? Should we celebrate it? Or is it maybe a risky thing because others might be drawn into their incorrect beliefs?

I think maybe we do this with Muslims too. You probably saw on the news last week that a young Muslim man near Paris stabbed his mom and a sister to death. This is evil. It also fits in with a general narrative that Muslims do that kind of thing. What didn’t make headlines here was the Eid Al Adha related contributions of maybe thousands of Muslims to flood victims in Kerala. There are other reasons, to be sure, but I wonder if we don’t see what doesn’t fit our narrative.

Do I feel the same dissonance when a Muslim does something good. If they’re wrong, can they do something right?

You may have some helpful thoughts on this. If you can spare a minute to comment below, the rest of us would like to hear them.

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