The day after a man drove a truck down a busy bicycle path last week in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring nearly a dozen, I received a text from one of my sister-friends (you know a sister not by blood but by heart).
She was annoyed and frustrated because she knew her day would be filled with explaining that the man’s actions do not represent Islam or Muslims.
It’s the type of thing that she and I have experienced too often – being made to feel like we are being asked to take responsibility for every bad actor with whom we happen to share a faith or skin color.
I wonder how many white people felt that way last month, after the Las Vegas shooter opened fire on concertgoers, killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500?
I wonder how many Christians felt uneasy when they heard that the shooter who killed three people standing in line last week at a Colorado Walmart lived in an apartment with a stack of bibles?
My sister reached out to me because she knew that I understand all too well what it’s like to hear of a tragedy like the ones in Las Vegas and Manhattan and feel devastation (overwhelming grief and sorrow for those affected by the senseless acts) and trepidation (dread that the perpetrator will be identified as someone who shares your skin color or religion).
For my sister, that anxiety runs even deeper because history has shown that Muslims face backlash and experience increased anti-Muslim sentiments after a “terrorist” is identified as Muslim. I struggle with the term “terrorist” because I’m still trying to figure out the rules – the murderer in Vegas isn’t labeled a terrorist but the killer in Manhattan is.
Why does it seem so easy to selectively lash out at an entire community of people who have nothing to do with a violent act committed by one person?
Why does it seem so easy to see some people as one big homogeneous mass?
Why does it seem so easy to vilify an entire faith group because of one person’s horrific behavior?
Why should my sister have to be on high alert for verbal or physical attack because of something she had nothing to do with?
I think it’s time (in fact, it’s overdue) for all of us to take personal and collective inventory of our own views and actions toward people of the Islamic faith.
I am thankful that my sister and I can share our thoughts and concerns because it is in our dialogue that we find a healing that reduces our mental and emotional stresses.
Healing conversations are about being present for each other and connecting with each other.
And guess what happens when we connect? – We enhance our relationship and our bond gets stronger.
So, after you take that personal inventory, ask yourself “what can I do to build a relationship with someone who doesn’t share my faith, skin color, ethnicity, culture, political views, etc?”
And then do it!