The other day I went looking for a place to get a haircut. I ended up at a shop not far from my home.
It was a short wait and as I climbed into the chair I began to realize something about the place. No one was speaking English except me. Everyone was chatting in Arabic. The more I thought about it the more I had to chuckle. What had I walked into now?
I’m going to go back. The haircut was good but more importantly it might end up being the place where I can build some relationships with Muslims in my part of the universe. And I need to do that.
We live not far from a mosque/educational center. I ride my bike in the warm months through their parking lot at least a couple of times a month. Once, right after a Muslim girl was allegedly attacked at a school and anti-Muslim graffiti was sprayed on a wall I stopped at the mosque and told some of the men sitting outside that I felt badly about all that happening. It was a short but cordial give and take.
I don’t understand the Muslim world. All I know is that I’m intersecting with Muslim people more often than I ever have before. So, I know for sure that I’m not supposed to avoid those interactions. These are opportunities. Opportunities for mutual growth and deeper understanding. Out of real relationship good things can flow.
I’d love an opportunity to have heartfelt ‘faith’ conversations with Muslims down the road. That means I should become more conversant with the Qu’ran. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I know little or nothing of its content but I know enough to know that while jihad plays a prominent role it is not the only stream of thought and action that weaves its way through its pages. And like Christians there are Muslims that cherry pick the verses and themes that suit them.
In our bigger cultural conversation it’s clear there are a good many people want to build walls and not bridges to the Muslim world. Muslim is synonymous in their minds with terrorism. And there are certainly Muslim terrorists. They’ve made their presence known in all too many dastardly and cowardly ways. But not all Muslims are terrorists.
I’ve been in developing countries where the Muslim influence is strong and a bit unnerving. In all honesty I harbor some attitudes deep inside me that are troubling and unsettling. Some of these attitudes are grounded by the reliable testimony of good people who have experienced the dark side of Muslim practices. But a lot of my ugly attitude comes only from my 'quick to judge and stereotype' habit. It serves no one well when I don't resist every temptation to stay in a judgmental posture and emotional state. My solution to ‘staying in place’ is to put my life into motion in the most positive direction I can find. With Muslims, that means moving in the direction of interaction and relationship instead of staying with my fears and prejudices.
Do I think Muslim faith is on an equal footing with Christian thought and practice? No. I am unequivocally committed to the person of Christ and am, at my core, quite unapologetically orthodox. What we believe is important. And I believe that Jesus is indeed both Savior and Lord. But I also believe that Islam is on the march. Its numbers grow. And as a person of Christian faith I need to know how to live with that reality. So do you.
For a long time I’ve believed that one ‘earns the right to be heard’. In today’s world that is especially true. We live in a time and place where people are suspicious of each other. Words are bandied about with both ease and indifference to potential harm. Lives speak. Good lives speak loudly. A life lived in love is the precursor to questions, challenges, and statements of faith.
So, in a couple of weeks I will head back to my newfound barber shop. Maybe a conversation will develop. Maybe not. But it’s a step in the right direction, I think. Out of my comfort zone and into a bigger world of possibility.