“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 shanebennett.com. 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.”

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3 Responses to “Muslims Are Trouble”

  1. Jeremy Landes

    I miss seeing Martin Brooks – it’s been too long.
    Answering question 1. I don’t actually see with my eyes Muslims being trouble, and I know that the media is not in the business of reporting positive and uplifting news, but they report bombings, wars, and humanitarian crises – several of which involve Muslims. I think many Muslim families face too many troubles, including poverty and religious sect conflicts.
    3. If people lump 1.7 billion Muslims into one “trouble” category, they’re making a serious mistake. I understand that most Muslims don’t speak Arabic, so that means most of them never read the Qur’an (just like most Christians have never read the whole Bible). There are fanatics in every religion willing to twist ideas to justify their crimes.
    4. Christians should avoid judging Muslims and act as peacemakers (Christ on Earth in the form of His church) among Muslims who have gained a large # of reasons to distrust Christians. Prejudice can be a real killer, but a lot can start being solved when we invite people into our homes, accept invitations to come over, and try eating each other’s foods to start communicating.

  2. Dee (Lee) Fitzpatrick

    Shane, I love reading your insights and the wise counsel that you so generously share on Muslims. In answer to your questions–my husband and I have been involved with international student ministry for years, so my answers spring from this perspective mostly. Also, on occasion, we do interface with Muslims in the marketplace in the greater Los Angeles area.
    1. The observation “Muslims are trouble” does not accurately describe what we observe.
    2. Because we know different stories of who Muslims are, I will share the facets that we do see. We see individuals that have dreams for their lives and are in pursuit of those dreams. We see folks that identify strongly with family and work to fulfill their roles of son, daughter, mother, and father in an effort to maintain integrity in their families and in their personal identities. We see folks that desire to be accepted and to accept in the name of common interests.
    3. When we enter any situation involving Muslims with the prejudice that “Muslims are trouble,” we look for evidence that would verify that idea; we miss out on authentic connection that brings about positive and shared experiences. We miss out on understanding who individual Muslims and their families are and what they are bringing to the table of community life that affects us all equally. We miss out on an ability to appreciate the beauty and strength of Muslim individuals and their unique community. The story does affect our interactions with Muslims. They seem anxious about how they are perceived and we are also anxious about the stereotype of how we are perceived as well. It causes a need for us to employ extra intention and effort to break through relational barriers in order to experience what is on the other side of the “us and them” chasm.
    4. Learning about individuals is the best approach we have found to guard our hearts from “sitting” in the counsel of ungracious conclusions. We have found that the most powerful way to do this learning is over a shared meal in a home setting. If a meal is not to be had, we make an effort to engage in authentic conversation with an intention to bless.

  3. Tom Langebartels

    1. Yes and no. I’ve had two facebook feeds with anti-Muslim stories. Both were found to be false on Snopes.com and both were posted by followers of Jesus. I challenged both by sending the links to Snopes. Both responded that the story may be false but the intent of the story was still true. In one case I wasn’t surprised but in the other I was dumbfounded. I think it my lie under the surface more in some than others but its very clear to me that there’s at least a fear of Muslims among some Americans even in the church.

    2. Another facet is just the fact that they are different. They look different, they act different and for goodness sake, they eat on the floor!

    3. Incredible hospitality. Deep abiding relationships. Some of the best food on the planet. The opportunity to offer Light to those who still “dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

    4. Love our Muslim neighbors as Jesus does. Invite others into our relationships with Muslims. Be an example for our Christian and non-Christian friends to follow. Share stories of hospitality and deep friendships with Muslims.

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