On not taking one for the team

25 Apr

My heart goes out to all who are feeling the pain in the aftermath of the Boston bombings. It is gut wrenching to see all of the heartache as it continues to spread into the lives of countless people. A particular focus of prayer and love on this day are the parents and family of Sunil Tripathi, whose body was discovered in the Providence River yesterday. Sunil disappeared on March 16, the day after the bombings, and was for a while the focus of fierce online speculation. He was misidentified as the suspect in the picture that turned out to be Dzhokhar Tsaraev.

That misguided witch hunt for someone who was obviously not involved in the bombing, but deeply distressed turns my mind to a painful truth. Among those to whom my heart goes out these days are our sisters and brothers of the Memphis Islamic Center, and all like minded and big hearted people of Islamic faith and heritage.

Again, someone in the name of Islam has committed a horrible atrocity. Again, the eyes of a lot of people in American will look with suspicion at, and hold angry thoughts about those they guess might be Muslim. In order to be exonerated in the courts of popular opinion (social media, some public media outlets and many personal conversations) people of Muslim faith will be expected to take a stand against what was done in the name of their faith, or by their silence be considered to give their tacit approval. They will feel pressure to take one for the team.

I hope they do not. All of the Muslims it has been my joy to come to know, to a person, have absolutely no sympathies toward those who use their faith to spread hatred and violence. The character of their lives is on display everyday in their places of work, in their interactions with their neighbors, in the ways they reach out with love to those in need. Why should they have to take one for a team they do not play on?

When someone claims the name of Jesus and does something hateful and violent I don’t feel any need to distance myself from them by making a public statement. I don’t play on the same team as them, no matter how strongly they claim the name of Jesus. The Jesus they pledge allegiance to is someone I do not recognize, and one not worth knowing. And I don’t get stares or suspicious glances or feel that people are looking at me as if I’m just like the one who stepped so far off the love path in the name of Jesus. You may think that such a thing does not happen to our neighbors across the street, but let me assure you that it does.

It is not fair for them to have to distance themselves from these hateful atrocities. We should not expect that of them. The lives they live in communion with all of us in this community are plenty statement enough. My hope and prayer is that with enough open hearts and minds, and in time, the majority of us in this dear country will realize that whatever name someone claims who does cowardly, hateful and violent things, they are actually doing it in the name of the evil one, and they will be seen as acting on their own misguided understanding, and not one shared by loving people of any faith.

#lovingourneighbors #faithfulMuslims #fairness #Bostonbombings

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3 Responses to “On not taking one for the team”

  1. Nadeem Zafar April 29, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Steve- these are very soothing words for people who are caught between a rock and hard place. We have nothing in common with these misguided men from Boston or those who hurt all of us, American Muslims more than anyone else besides immediate family members of the deceased, on 9/11. Gradually we are getting to a point where we are internally asking our institutions to do more for and with the community. We will consider every sincere advice from any American but will not be held hostage to hate, in the name of patriotism or a religion that we deeply respect and a messenger whose love is deeply entrenched in our hearts and genes. Thank you! Please feel free to share my words with my heartsong family.

    • susan berry May 1, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      I recall many years ago when Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses, He received a death threat from the Ayatollah Khomeni in Iran. I worked in a bookstore, and the times were tense. We had a regular customer whom we all enjoyed immensely. He happened to be from the Middle East. He came in the store and immediately came up to me and felt obligated to tell me that he did not believe like the Ayatollah. I felt crushed and a little sick. i said to him that it deeply saddened me that he felt he needed to say something to me; that somehow I would treat him differently if he did not. Why would I associate the Ayatollah with him? We talked for awhile and I assured him that no one in this place would ever treat him differently. How sad. I am glad we were able to talk; however, I wish he had come in happy, business as usual.

      • stevestonesr May 1, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

        Yes, Susan. That is the heart I am trying to convey. The default judgement has to be that the people in our lives share our common decency and willingness to love their neighbor. Otherwise, we demonize people for no good reason and our neighborhood, our communities, our nation and this dear world is much the poorer-and much more dangerous-because of our negative and suspicious pre-judgment

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