US Christian leader flays attempts to malign Islam
By P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR | ARAB NEWS
Sep 12, 2010
JEDDAH: An American Christian leader has emphasized the need to stop the current wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, urging Christians to talk to Muslims rather than about them and to accurately follow the teachings of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him).
“Like the Bible, the predominant message of the Qur’an is peace, care, loving of God and care for the neighbor,” said Rev. Deborah Lindsay, minister of the First Community Church in Columbus, Ohio.
In a recent sermon, Lindsay highlighted the dangerous effect of spreading hate, referring to the recent knifing of a cab driver in New York City after a customer learned that the driver was a Muslim.
“This is a matter of life and death, and we should take it seriously,” she said, referring to the need to ratchet down the rhetoric.
The debate surrounding the proposed Park51 Islamic community center, two blocks away from Ground Zero in Manhattan, has played a large role in the recent surge in anti-Muslim speech in the US by opponents of the constitutionally protected religious and community center.
The pastor of a small right-wing church organization in Gainsville, Florida called off his threat to burn copies of the Holy Qur’an on Sept. 11, but some copy-cat incidences were reported, including an unidentified man who burned pages of the Holy Qur’an on Saturday near Ground Zero just blocks away from where families of 9/11 victims were mourning the deaths of their loved ones. Protests for and against the mosque raged on Saturday, competing for media attention with the somber, annual interfaith memorial of mourning families.
In Gainsville, police reportedly confiscated a lighter and a copy of the Holy Qur’an that a 29-year-old attempted to burn after learning that the pastor backed down from his threat while Rev. Larry Reimer, pastor of the United Church of Gainesville, told the New York Times that the bad press caused by the pastor is “frustrating” because it has sullied the reputation of the city.
In her sermon, Rev. Lindsay pointed out that attacking other faiths is not a Christian value.
“I can assure you that there is nothing in the Gospel and nothing in the teachings of Jesus Christ about burning holy texts of other traditions,” she said.
The reverend called the anti-Islam rhetoric of the Gainsville pastor “disparaging, insulting and inaccurate,” adding that Jesus Christ would never approve of the pastor’s actions and words. She praised American churches and the National Association of Evangelicals for condemning the action. In her short but poignant sermon, Lindsay gave three points on how to stop Islamophobia in the US.
“When you receive an e-mail message demonizing Islam just delete it, don’t forward it and don’t participate in this stereotyping,” she said.
“Don’t focus on this tiny group of extremists and focus on the hundreds of millions of Muslim faithful whose priorities and concerns are not different from your own.”
She also advised Christians to think about Muslim individuals rather than making sweeping, misinformed and outright false generalizations about Muslims.
“Think of a professor in Ohio State University, an engineer working on the road and an elementary teacher,” she said.
She also pointed out that so many Muslims were killed in 9/11 attacks. Tariq Amanullah, the founder of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), who worked in the World Trade Center, was one among them. It is estimated that at least 60 Muslims died in the World Trade towers including cooks of the top-floor restaurant. Many more managed to flee. The World Trade Center had enough Muslim faithful that there was a prayer room on the 17th floor of the South Tower.
The Christian leader said America needed today a healthy dose of humility in many quarters. She said many people were receiving too much publicity for demeaning other faiths, especially Islam.
“Reasonable people can express their disagreement over the plan to establish a Muslim community center near Ground Zero but that just not justify the fear that has washed across this country,” she said.
She described Islam as a peaceful religion, adding that Muslims revered Jesus and Moses (peace be upon them) as their prophets. “Most religious texts have stories of war and violence. Throughout history people used these texts to justify violence. You can see such passages even in the Bible,” she pointed out.
“In the Bible we have ‘thou shall not kill’ and in the Qur’an we read whoever kills another surely he is killing all of humanity and whoever saves a life surely he saves the whole humanity. These are words of faith and peace that can save the world if we take them to heart.”
She ended her sermon praying to God to help stand up against intolerance and hate.
The sermon is available online. (http://www.fcchurch.com/worship/broadcast/502-pecking-order-video)