Over the weeks, I’ve seen a lot of inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims in general. People make various general statements about the Muslims being this or that. I’ve addressed this on a previous post and I believe I ought to address it a bit more.
“Muslims are terrorists.” “Muslims are unbathed goat smelling extremists.” Of course, I just gave the most extreme statements I see, but there’re many such statements all over social media. Now imagine saying that to your friend, “Peter, you’re a terrorist” or “Jane, you’re an unbathed sour milk smelling extremist.” Well, that doesn’t sound good, does it? Most people say stuff like that because they really don’t know a single Muslim friend, let alone a bunch of them.
My first Muslim friend was a university roommate whose father was a Jordanian airforce general. He was finishing his engineering degree at the time. Of all my friends, he’s one of the best at keeping in touch after his graduation (which happened before mine). He would check up on me even after he landed his first job somewhere in New York City and often called me. I found him interesting because we both have habits that annoy one another. We’re culturally different, but we don’t hate each other. To my surprise, he did know the Bible fairly well and would often challenged my belief. He was often curious about the differences in our respectful faiths. We didn’t get along perfectly, but we did get along most of the time. I certainly can’t envision myself saying the above statements to his face because first, the statements aren’t true and second, we have a relationship.
On my weekends, I help run a soccer meet up where a group of soccer enthusiasts of all levels get together to play pickup games. Most of the time, we have a great time. Within this meet up, I’ve gotten to know quite a number of Muslims not just of middle eastern descent but from all over the world. It’s fascinating to befriend such diverse people from different culture, all saying that they’re Muslims. Now, I certainly don’t see myself saying those statements above to them. Why? It’s because we have a relationship and from what I’ve observed, they aren’t terrorists.
This leads to the real point of this blog post. We don’t say extreme and general (or often misinformed) statements to our friends because we have a relationship. We don’t just cite statistics and somehow think that those stats represent my friendship with my friends. When we make such statements, it’s mostly because we don’t have a relationship with these people. Quite often, due to the fact we have no relationship with such people, we make such statements out of ignorance or partial truth rather than the whole truth. Many of us refuse to make friends with them simply because our ideology tells us that they’re unworthy of our friendship. Somehow we think we’re better than they are. As a Christian however, I don’t believe I have that choice of choosing ideology over relationship. My Facebook friendship is quite varied. The reason why I don’t unfriend my ideological opposites is because I always value relationship over ideologies. I hope people will learn to build more relationships and hold on less to their ideologies because ultimately, relationships make us better people.
The final question to ask is, “Can your ideology survive your Christian relationships?” I have a feeling that many of us have to honestly answer “No.”