Today, I Stand with My Muslim Neighbors

groundbreakingToday, I stand with my Muslim neighbors. As a pastoral leader in the Christian tradition and of a Christian congregation, as a leader in my community, I speak out publicly that I stand with my Muslim neighbors and colleagues.

Over the weekend, I’ve seen and read too many stories of Muslims being persecuted, being frightened to go out for fear of harassment, and of church and civic leaders making discriminatory statements about all Muslims on the basis of the horrible actions of radicalized people.

I should note as an aside, that though the perpetrator in the Charleston Mother Emmanuel Church shootings last June was a member of an ELCA Lutheran Church (the denomination in which I serve as a pastor) never once was I called on to defend my faith over against that killing or to distance myself from the shooter. It grieves me to know that my Muslim neighbors are now called on to do that thing they should not have to do.

Over the past 10 years in our broad-based community organizing work (DuPage United) here in DuPage County, Illinois, Muslim mosques and associations and people associated with those institutions have been valued colleagues and partners in our work. I have gotten to know many of my Muslim neighbors; they are people of peace who are concerned with justice and who are loyal fellow citizens of the United States.

We have worked together on concrete issues that matter to our community: government accountability, workforce development, mental health, accountability in our local community college administration, and affordable housing, to name a few.

On several occasions, a Muslim brother or sister has spoken in our congregation, either in worship or in our adult faith formation. They have participated reverently and appropriately in our worship, demonstrating a respectful curiosity for what we believe and how we practice our faith. When they spoke to our adult group, my colleague Ahmed did not avoid the difficult questions some of our folks asked about the treatment of women in Islam, the notion of jihad, and questions about Islam as a religion of peace.

In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, we launched a project to fill a semi-truck trailer with food and other supplies needed by those displaced because of the hurricane. While we received a consistent trickle of support from local Christian congregations, it was the Muslim girls’ school in Lombard who appeared one afternoon with a rented van and a couple of minivans filled to the brim with supplies they had collected from their institutions.

In late 2011 and early 2012, MECCA, an association of Muslims, purchased land and made plans to build a mosque and community center in the southwest corner of our county. In response, the County Planning and Zoning Commission began proposing a number of restrictions that would have prevented the construction from going forward. Several Christian congregations — partners in DuPage United — appeared before county meetings on behalf of MECCA. In the end, the restrictions were not enacted, permits were granted, and construction was able to begin. As a sign of their gratitude, they asked me to be the speaker for their groundbreaking ceremonies. It would have made so much sense to ask one of their own to speak and for me to attend as an honored guest.  Yet, they asked me to speak. That was an extraordinarily generous gesture.

I could go on with story after story of my own life and ministry being enriched by the gift and blessing of being able to work together with Muslim partners. The relationships I have formed have been meaningful and mutual. I am a better person and pastor for having had the opportunity to work with them.

I am saddened, disappointed, and angry that these fellow American citizens are experiencing persecution because of misunderstanding of Islam and the fear of the other. I cannot control what others do or say. But I can make sure that my voice of support, admiration, and respect is heard in the public square.

Today — and every day — I stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters.

21 thoughts on “Today, I Stand with My Muslim Neighbors

    1. Jim Honig Post author

      Thank you Tabassum. I still remember with great fondness and delight the Sunday morning when you came and spoke to our congregation. It was a transforming moment for us. I’m grateful for our partnership.

      Reply
  1. Norman Brockmeier

    God’s Peace to all our sisters and brothers — as the Angels have announced 2000 years ago — and to all humans of Good Will ! Thanks for your enlightened words, Pr. Honig!

    Reply
  2. Mary Hason

    Thank you for eloquently stating what I am feeling. I have shared this with our rabbis and many in my congregation. I think some kind of unity with the Muslim community if they would like it would be very good. Mary >

    Reply
  3. sammerzehra

    Hello pastor James

    It was so heartening reading your beautiful message of mutual cooperation and working towards goodness in our communities. When bombs, pain and hatred are becoming louder each day, I pray that messages like yours and the partnerships that we forge can be louder.

    Looking forward to working together for more generations to come!

    Reply
  4. Lawrence R. Kearney

    I stand beside you. We must ALL see one another as loving brothers and sisters, children of one God no matter what name we give to that God.

    Reply
  5. aficn

    Dear Pastor,

    I have no words to express my gratitude and thanks for your kind and courageous words. Everyone in Muslim (and to a large extent non-Muslim community), with whom I shared your message is highly appreciative of your message.

    May GOD bless you, your family and your congregation.

    A BIG THANK YOU from the Muslim Community of Napervile and Islamic Center of Naperville.

    Reply
  6. Asif Khan MD

    Dear Mr. Honig,

    My name is Asif Khan and I am an immigrant son of my father, a retired psychiatrist. He uprooted his life and decided to take his family from Pakistan to America in 1974, a time when America was in dire need of physicians. One would ask why wouldn’t the greatest country in the world have enough physicians, but no, they required the assistance of thousands of immigrant Muslims, such as my dad. I must say though, that when I arrived, I was truly mesmerized with the country and fell in love. Safe to say, me any my brothers became *quite* American very quickly.

    Let’s fast forward a few decades. After becoming a privately practicing physician myself, (www.myallergycenter.com), and marrying a Muslim physician who works for underprivileged women (all 100% poor white Christians in fact) in a local government clinic, our combined families have integrated ourselves quite nicely here. Our time here has been nearly ALL positive. What we would never have predicted was the rise of a Hitler-like individual publicly degrading our culture in the media.

    Although I believe this is all a show on his part, what I am more concerned with are the thousands of individuals who actually believe that what this showman is spewing is true. These supporters, in my eyes anyways, are actually exposing their true colors. This is akin to KKK supporters who would line the streets during a KKK rally without the hood. and being completely shocked to see e.g. your neighbor standing shoulder to shoulder with a grand master for example. What I feel sorry about is that when he loses, (or if he wins, it won’t matter) they will be forever recognized as supporters of hate and division.

    I want to thank you for your message above and all the support you are providing many who may not have a voice to defend themselves. You are the true image of the path and faith prescribed to you by your parents.

    Reply

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