Monthly Archives: October 2021

“Muslims Are Trouble”

My friend Martin Brooks recently recommended an amazing TED talk by Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie in which she “warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

I’m toying with the idea that Americans mostly hear a single story about Muslims. That being: Muslims are trouble.

Of course the “trouble” part of this one story has several facets with varying degrees of reality: Muslims shoot at our sons and daughters. Muslims migrate to our country and don’t follow the rules. Muslims want to take over the world. Muslims are backward and oppress women. Muslims threaten Israel.

My intent is not to debate these individually, but to be honest about what messages are usually conveyed and consider that their aggregate, Muslims are trouble, ends up being the single story Americans have about Muslims.

And sadly, I think the subset of Americans who’d call themselves Christian would have the same single story. Certainly not all of them, but too many.

I’m wondering about this and would hugely value your input. I know you’re busy and I’m thankful you even opened this email. But can I ask you for two minutes to answer these questions:

  1. Does this observation jive with what you see?
  2. If so, what other facets comprise the single story: Muslims are trouble?
  3. What do we miss out on when this is true?
  4. What can we do about it?

You can reply in an email or comment on this post at Either way, I’d be so grateful for your input. Perhaps together, we can add other stories. Maybe we’ll find to be true what Chimamanda says at end of her TED talk, “. . . when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”


Filed under Uncategorized

Where Did the Taliban Come From?

Nate Bargatze is my current favorite comedian. When his baby daughter didn’t cry at her first inoculations, his wife thought she was very brave. He wondered if she was pyscho! “Who doesn’t cry when they get a shot?!?” He hilariously imagined two possible futures, “Either we’ll be at her graduation saying, ‘Honey, we are so proud of you,” or we’ll be in front of tv cameras in our yard saying, ‘We love you dear. Turn yourself in.’”

Some blend of pride and longing shame likely characterizes the leaders of the seminary in India that catalyzed the early thinking, who shaped the early minds, of the group of Muslims we’ve come to know as the Taliban.

Pride in how they stood up to two of the world’s great powers. Shame that they diluted the teaching which had formed the genesis of their movement.

In the late 1860’s, just a few years after the British had taken over the Muslim leaders of India, a new movement was born to call Muslims back to a pure form of faith. It became known as Deobandi Islam.

After Indian Partition in 1947, Deobandi seminaries began to grow across South Asia, in particular along the Pakistani/Afghan border. It was there the early leaders of the Taliban were educated.

In a classic example of global play-making, Saudi Arabia began advocacy in South Asia in the 1980’s and their ultra-conservative Wahhabism increasingly influenced Taliban thought.

Although this is oversimplified, the Wahhabi thinking contributed to the “domination through violence” modus operandi of the Taliban. In contrast, Deobandis in India have mostly lived at peace with other Muslims and the vast Hindu majority.

Is it possible that India might have a voice in helping the Taliban build a civil society in Afghanistan? They’ve plowed vast sums of money into the country in recent years. Could original Deoband Seminary offer fresh reform? An 80 year old cleric there says, “I’m weak and old. But if given the chance, I would go to Afghanistan.”

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What Happens at Friday Prayers?

You’ve seen the news, right? Another suicide bombing today at a Shia mosque in Afghanistan. Dozens killed and more injured. How many families reel in despair as you read this? Their lives will never be the same.

These attacks usually come on Friday, mid-day because that’s when the mosque is most crowded. Strategic wickedness, eh?

But what’s with Friday at the mosque? Here’s the most basic look at Friday prayers.

Friday prayers are mandated by the Quran in a chapter called Al Jumah, which means the day of congregation, but also is the Arabic word for Friday!
Muslims will tend to bathe, dress up and present their best selves for Friday prayers.
Men are required to attend and women are given the option. In many mosques there are special, separate areas for women to pray.
Muhammad reportedly said that gathering for Friday prayers was equivalent to a year of praying and fasting alone, and prayers prayed at Jumah would be answered and sins forgiven.
Friday prayers start with the normal pre-prayer ritual washing.
Worshippers line up as usual (though more crowded than usual!) in the mosque for a shortened prayer service, followed by a sermon and another prayer service.
The Friday sermon is called khutbah and is usually focused on how to live as a good Muslim. (You may recognize Christian counterparts in this humorous article depicting different types of khutbah speakers!)
In a Muslim-majority country, Jumah services may be followed by greeting time then enjoying a day off from work. In other places, at least some attendees will rush back to work.
Friday prayers bear many similarities to Christian Sunday worship. Let’s thank God we don’t have to fear fellow believers blowing themselves up in our churches, even as we remember in prayer those who lost their lives today, the injured and their families.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Yay for the Vaccine!

No! Wait! Not that vaccine! Don’t unsubscribe!

Rather, I’m cheering for Mosquirix, the malaria vaccine the W.H.O. just yesterday gave a thumbs up to. It stands to make a huge difference as it rolls out across sub-saharan Africa. Hopes are high, even though its efficacy is pretty low.

If you’re like me and haven’t thought much about malaria the past week, it’s no surprise. There are only around 2000 cases each year in the US and most of those are in travelers who’ve returned from infected countries. (Maybe missionaries we love!)

According to the New York Times, “Malaria kills about half a million people each year, nearly all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — including 260,000 children under 5.” You can bet most moms and dads in that region of the world are thinking about it a lot! Even when it doesn’t result in death, the multiple episodes children often experience yearly limit their ability to thrive and make them susceptible to other disease.

Mosquirix is a milestone because it’s the first vaccine developed for a parasite. The science is above my pay grade, but apparently it’s far more difficult to prime the human immune system to fight a parasite than a bacteria or virus. (Can we pause for just a second to thank God for smart women and men who’ve worked long and hard to bring us to this point?) At a 33% efficacy rate, Mosquirix is no slam dunk. But it helps. And better vaccines are in early trials. One with an early effective rate of 77%!

As you would imagine, poor kids tend to take the hardest blows from malaria. When kids can’t go to a hospital, they far too often go to Heaven. And despite the common images of Saudi sheiks and terrorists with briefcases full of cash, in many countries Muslims are the poorest of the poor.

Is it too much to say this vaccine is a gift from God? 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized