In the past several years we have seen multiple acts of terror from Muslim extremists, both nationally and internationally. This has fueled a fire of animosity and misunderstanding against Muslims in the U.S. and abroad. The dislike has gone both ways as people, including Christians, have retaliated back with hatred toward Muslims. I have seen demonstrations of this hate—in the form of tweets, posts, and photos—plastered on the walls of social media.
As a Christian myself, it has pained me to see these outbursts and statements from people of my own faith. I wanted to see the issue in another light, so I decided to get to know Muslim student Haya Abdel-Jabbar to understand her perspective. Can Christians really judge the Muslim faith on the actions of these terrorist individuals? And can Muslims really judge Christianity based on the individuals expressing hate?
Haya moved to America from Jordan when she was 7-years old, living in New Jersey for several months before moving to Nebraska, where she has lived since. Her parents had decided to move here on account of the better job and educational opportunities available. My realization, as simple and obvious as it should have been, was that they were simply a family seeking a better life, just as any family would.
After talking with Haya, one of the primary motivators in her life which stood out to me was her desire to care for and love those around her, no matter their faith—a motivation that I could immediately relate to. She shared that it made her sick to her stomach to think of the horrible acts which some Muslims have committed in the name of Islam, ashamed that they have abused the religion in such a way.
I connected with that feeling immediately. My blood boils when I hear of hate crimes committed by Christians as they are taught to treat people of other faiths with love and respect. In fact, the Golden Rule, taught in nearly every school—to do unto others what you would have them do unto you—are the words of Jesus from his well known Sermon on the Mount. Christians are told to show hospitality to strangers and foreigners. They are even to go so far as to forgive and show respect to people who have wronged them.
While many self-proclaimed Christians do not abide by these principles, as evident by the hate expressed in the public square, it is important to note that any religion (Islam, Christianity, and all others) should be judged by its teachings, not by the actions of some of its proclaimed adherents. Its adherents can misrepresent it grossly.
I realized, in talking with Haya, that she is a student, a Nebraskan, and a unique person with her own set of gifts and passions—just as I am. I mean, she even joked that she kneels on a magic carpet to pray; that’s teenage humor. While our two religions differ greatly in their core beliefs, this does not mean we are at odds relationally.
Ultimately, we must understand clearly that Christians and Muslims, while holding very different beliefs, can interact lovingly and respectfully. We should use the opportunities around us to engage people of different faiths in discussion and friendship, learning about them and caring for them as our neighbors and friends.