Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims
It doesn’t happen often, but this past week a video which all Americans should watch went viral. It’s a video of Ibn Ali Miller not doing anything tremendously extraordinary. He was recorded on a cellphone stopping a fistfight. Someone uploaded the video to YouTube (there’s some adult language, but no graphic images), and it got more than 20 million hits since being posted last Monday.
Talking about his experience later, Mr. Miller said, “I’m a Muslim. I was raised by Muslim parents. That’s what we were taught in my house, always, growing up. For me, I don’t look at it like I’m a peacemaker. I did what I was supposed to do, what I was raised to do.”
As far as I know, Mr. Miller did not talk much about Islam per se. He said only that he is Muslim, and he’s given credit to God and to his mom for teaching him what is right. But Mr. Miller’s actions very much follow what I hear in mosques all the time: God expects Muslims to work to improve themselves and their communities. Breaking up a fight, even if it means taking on some danger, is part of a Muslim’s duty.
My wife Anne and I are part of a monthly “Dialogue on Racism, Poverty and Violence” with pastors and other community leaders, including members of local police, in Newport News and Hampton, VA. About fifty of us gather each month to encourage White and Black clergy to get to know each other and to search for strategies to reduce crime in tough neighborhoods.
Everyone in our group would love to see this sort of thing happen much more often. Almost all of us are Christians (including the police), but our main concern is to reduce racism, poverty, and violence in our area through any means possible.
What’s really neat about this tape is that none of us needed to be involved! There was no pastor or social worker or police officer around. There was only a man who believed that God wanted him to be a peacemaker and was willing to take a risk in order to promote peace.
As I wrote at the top, the video has been played more than two million times. This is one of those times that a video should go viral, because it gives us a positive example of a person doing the right thing. People who watch Mr. Miller’s real life actions may become inspired to work for peace in their own neighborhoods. This is not just a “Christian” thing or a “Muslim” thing; it’s good for everyone.
Mr. Miller credits LeBron James with making the video popular. Snoop Dogg also tweeted about it. If it takes celebrities to get the word out, it’s OK with me! (I don’t know of any famous Christian leaders who’ve talked about it, however).
But I’m disappointed that this has not caught the attention of the top politicians. I know that President Trump was busy last week trying to repeal Obamacare, but he did take a few minutes to offer condolences to Britain’s Prime Minister for Tuesday’s terrorist attack in London, and to promise help in finding and punishing those involved. Even though we can’t do much to help the British investigate a British citizen who never left Britain, it was a nice offer.
If the President could make time for that phone call, he can spend five minutes promoting crime-reducing behavior in the U.S. by congratulating a hero. I’m glad that LeBron and Snoop made some tweets; Trump can now do his part by encouraging Trump supporters (many of whom may not follow the musings of athletes and rap artists) to promote peace as well.
President Trump would have a problem, though. If he promotes a man who did a very, very good thing because he is Muslim, then Trump will have a harder time suggesting that Islam is a threat. The idea that Islam is dangerous was a big help to the president’s campaign, and his popularity depends in part on the idea that he will fight bad Muslims. Talking about a Muslim who promotes peace might be a bad move politically.
On a larger scale, Christians have to deal with a similar issue. Many Christians agree with Trump that Islam is dangerous to America, and to the world. And, frankly, many of us really want people to choose Christianity instead of Islam. If we share this video, we’re making Islam look like a “religion of peace.”
So along with our President, we Christians face a crucial question. Do we strengthen the idea that Christianity is better than Islam by ignoring Mr. Miller? Or do we promote peace?
(I’m proud to report that I found out about this video because three of my committed evangelical Christian friends posted it on Facebook!)
What would Jesus do?