I’m fourteen days or so away from moving to Morocco as a Peace Corps Trainee, a country that is around 98% Islamic. While there, I will be learning Moroccan Arabic and immersed into a community of people undoubtedly devoted to their faith. My responsibility to love and to serve this community includes the obligation to respect their religious customs and traditions. To be honest, I couldn’t be more excited about that. Having studied religion for ten years or so, I still feel ignorant about Islam, largely because no book or television program can compare or do justice to living with a people and learning about them firsthand. If that’s not enough reason to encounter Islam on its own turf, the current political climate here in America is rather sickening with regard to how it treats this religion, and it’s time that the truth was told.
Here in Tennessee, the Jackson Sun recently published a poll where 69% of its readers believe that Barack Obama is Muslim. I’m not going to rehash the facts, especially since most people who believe that don’t care about facts anyway. I’m more interested in pointing out the absurdity of the poll in the first place. When you ask, “Do you believe the President is Muslim?” I think there are three big assumptions embedded in your question: first, you’re essentially asking whether or not you think the President has repeatedly lied about his deeply personal faith; second, there’s an underlying assumption that anyone other than an evangelical Christian won’t be able to adequately serve as Commander-in-Chief; and finally – and most worrisome for me – there’s something deeply negative being placed on Islam as a religion.
So, of course, I don’t think Obama is Muslim. But what if he was? Why should that be such a big deal? Is it about morality? That doesn’t make sense. As a future Peace Corps Volunteer, I expect to meet and encounter many wonderful people who are Muslim, many of whom are probably more “moral” than some of my Christian friends. In fact, I’m certain to meet many of whom are more “moral” than me. So, is it about Jihad or September 11 or Al Qaeda? As I’ve said before, that makes about as much sense as judging Christianity via the Crusades or the Ku Klux Klan. I don’t understand why that kind of sweeping generalization can stand any ground.
I came across this graphic a day or two ago and thought it was brilliant. It depicts the size of Islam vs. the size of America and asks, if Islam were truly a violent religion, why has America not been obliterated yet given the population difference? Further, the graphic makes an excellent point regarding the size of Al Qaeda vs. the Muslim world – the two should not be equated.
All that said, the media here in America is so obsessed with sensationalizing and entertaining that the true story about Islam goes untold. That’s why I’m writing this and why I see one of my major responsibilities as a volunteer (and as an American Christian) is to educate people. As I’m immersed into this culture and meet these people and their faith face-to-face, I hope I’ll be able to make a tiny dent into the bigotry and idiocy that currently consumes our country. At the very least, it’ll be nice living in a place where I don’t have to hear Glenn Beck brainwashing the country anymore.