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The Growing Christian Movement Pushing Back Against Islamophobia

20 October 2012 General 4 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

by Amy Sullivan (The New Republic)

The loudest Christians making waves about Islam for much of this year have not been terribly, well, Christian. There have been the protests against plans to build mosques in places like Tennessee and New Jersey, and arson attacks on mosques in Joplin, Missouri and Toledo, Ohio. The anti-Muslim posters placed in New York City and Washington, DC subway stations by Pamela Geller’s organization. And that crude now-infamous video that sparked riots across the Middle East.

These contentious activities have garnered headlines and defined for many the “Christian” take on Islam in the U.S. And that’s been too much for a growing number of Christian organizations who are fed up with Islamophobia. Just in the past month, four separate campaigns have started to push back against extreme Christian voices and to preach a message of tolerance and love.

Sojourners—the community founded and led by evangelical author and speaker Jim Wallis—responded to subway ads calling Muslims “savages” by purchasing space to post its own posters in the same subway stations. The message is simple: “Love Your Muslim Neighbors.” After the mosque attacks in Joplin and Toledo, Sojourners bought billboards in both communities to broadcast the same message. “It’s only an extremist fringe that would ever attack another religion’s place of worship in this country,” explained Sojourners spokesman Tim King to the Christian Post. “But unless we offer up an alternative voice, it will be the message and acts of extremists that most across the country and the world hear.”

Geller’s subway ads also prompted a response from an interfaith coalition called Shoulder-to-Shoulder. The group worked closely with the United Methodist Women to produce a letter signed by 168 Washington-area clergy and religious organizations calling on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to donate any proceeds from Geller’s ads to charity. It also countered with its own Metro advertisement: “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.”

Two other religious campaigns are focused on educating Americans—and particularly Christian communities—about Muslims and Islam. On October 11, the Interfaith Alliance led by Baptist minister Welton Gaddy, along with the Religious Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center, released a guide called “What is the Truth about American Muslims? Questions and Answers.” The online document addresses topics such as the role of mosques in Muslim life, whether U.S. courts can ever substitute religious law for civil law (spoiler alert: no), and the meaning of Muslim words like “jihad” and “Taqiyya.”

The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which was founded by Rev. Richard Cizik, is also undertaking a massive effort to broaden American perceptions of Islam and challenge stereotypes. The group produced and released an hour-long documentary called “Islam in America: The Christian Truth,” which tells the stories of American Muslims, but also of conservative Christians who have exchanged their fear of Islam for tolerance and understanding. Cizik and his colleagues intended the film to prompt discussion of Islamophobia in Christian communities, and they released it after the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the hope that churches and other religious communities could discuss honestly their fears and beliefs.

Efforts like these too often go unnoticed or uncovered by journalists because they are earnest and have the goal of bringing people together instead of tearing them apart. That’s a sad commentary on journalism, but also on all of us who react to stories of religious hatred but flip past stories of religious cooperation with a “meh.” Too many of my colleagues also question whether campaigns to promote education or civility are actually representative of American Christians, because these efforts don’t fit the assumptions they have about who American Christians are. At the same time, they rarely ask whether Pamela Geller or Terry Jones of Qur’an-burning infamy represent anyone other than a small pitchfork-wielding band of followers. Until they do, the antics of Geller and Jones will make the front page while the efforts of Christians to push back against them will remain mostly exiled to the religion pages.

Original post: The Growing Christian Movement Pushing Back Against Islamophobia

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4 Comments »

  1. There were many islamophobia in internett come from West Extreem Christian. The stupidity and un-Tolerance +(mock, upside down the fact) , its just created many of muslim Anti Christ too. They may be have never go over sea to realize there were many religions exist more than their own country. They look like a frog under half coconut, and prejudice known everything in the World, even if in fact no more than half cocunuts.

  2. I do agree that Christians should not demmonstrate against ,or tit for tat with any religious or non religious organization.the Bible made it very clear that we should love our enemies ,bless them that curse you ,do good to them that hate you and pray for those that despitefully use you ,and persecute you.MATTHEW 5:44 KJ.IF Christians want to win the Muslins they must show them love.when Christians demmonstrate and show open hostility to any group they are behaving just like the ones they condeming.

  3. This is great news to hear. It’s ironic how much more we find we have in common (than different) when we know each other and communicate. I am Jewish and was raised in rural Ms. Any minority was “the bad guy”; so we “bad guys” hung out together (often Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Buddhists etc), and the good Christians (there were many) who knew how ridiculous the labeling was.

    I’m preaching to the choir when I say that there are good Muslims and some that aren’t so nice; but of course that is true in my religion and all others and among atheists and agnostics.

    There are so many other elements of a human being (if one has to judge) to consider other than religion (which is an accident of birth).

    My business partner is Muslim. We’ve worked together in a creative field for 2+ years and accomplished a great deal. He is about to finish his PhD in film, and I know I’ll lose him (but he’ll succeed beautifully as his imagination is unlimited) so he’ll always be in my heart (he’s half my age).

    So way to go in getting the word out. I am not sure where you are but I’m in America, and all religions are welcome as far as I’m concerned.

  4. Ms. Sullivan,
    Thank-you for being the journalistic example you hope to see in others. I think writers as a profession are guided and pressured by a profit margin, and they must cater to a need. It is easy to track the interest level of internet media. And in this medium, we know the profane, obscene, and ridiculous get the most hits. Put a headline of a wild party gone wrong next to an analysis of the war in Syria and analyze the results. I’m certain most readers will be able to tell you of the details of the party and few will be interested in the analysis.

    I think the profit motive is what keeps figures like Geller and Jones in the spot light. Although no one should ever mistake Pamela Geller for being a Christian. She proudly identifies herself as Jewish. And her hate campaign basically includes anyone who disagress with her, including other Jews or Jewish organizations.

    In defense of journalists, I don’t think Geller or Jones have been identified as represenative of Jewish/Christian Americans, but they do know how to hit certain nerve points that others have rallied around; as we have seen in the Park 51 campaign. These figures, give voice to Americans’ fears that they are losing their way of life, and the country they know. The hysterics magnify these fears, convince their followers that Muslims/Islam is their enemy and then prescribe an agende of defense to ‘defeat’ the religion and its followers.

    But for those of us who work for peace every day, we consider Geller/Jones and many others to be of those whose evil deeds seem quite attractive and virtous to them; God guides whom He wills. Everyone will have to account for the life they lived; whether they believe that or not.

    I think until the media industry in general, reduces the need for sensantional news, figures like Geller/Jones, will continue to attract attention. I do have a positive report on Jones. He recently made (another) trip to Dearborn, to one of the local high schools, where he encouraged the student to walk out in protest. They did not, and Jones was ignored by all; including the local media.

    I wish Geller would get some of the same treatment. Then maybe we would not have to be subject to so many interviews about her ads, and create numerous platforms for her vitriol.

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