To Walk in Freedom, Walk in Peace

Image result for muslim women protest

As a Christian theologian and an ardent champion of women’s rights, it used to bother me when I saw traditionally garbed Muslim women walking behind their menfolk.

The teachings of my own faith have too often been used to justify the oppression of women, so I saw this as yet another religiously sanctioned form of women’s enforced submission to men.

But this is America 2016, where a Muslim woman attending a university famed for its tolerance can be threatened with a fiery death unless she removes her hijab.

So maybe it’s not about submission.  Maybe it’s about the freedom to walk in peace.

Since Donald Trump won the presidential election after a campaign noteworthy for savage misogyny and racist rhetoric, there has been a surge of hate crimes against women and minorities.  Muslim women in particular are targeted, easily recognizable when they choose to wear the hijab as a sign of their devotion to God. Muslim men can be targeted as well.

After 9/11 some Americans associate all Muslims with the rise of Islamic terrorism.  However as of 2015, there were only about 25,000 militants in the Islamic State – in contrast to the approximately 3.3 million Muslims living peacefully in America!

Do the math.  Clearly the vast majority of Muslims would rather be about the business of living than killing in the name of their God.  In the face of ever-increasing Islamophobia, some Muslims have courageously spoken out against those who would torture and kill in the name of Allah:

If only Christians would do the same.

A terrifying article in Newsweek  speaks of American terrorists who hide among us, the “right-wing militants who, since 2002, have killed more people in the United States than jihadis have.”  They target minorities and non-Christians, and are predominantly white males who claim a Christian identity.

How sickening.

They have obviously managed to miss the entire point of Jesus’ teachings:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  (Matthew 5:9)

If we decline to judge all Christians based on these terrorists, how can we judge all Muslims based on violent extremists claiming a Muslim identity?

There is a symbol some of us are wearing now to indicate we do not hate, that we are safe people whom others can walk with, if they feel unsafe or would like to share their stories and be heard.  It’s a safety pin.

It’s not a perfect symbol; some have decried it as too little, too late.  Others think it’s uber-embarrassing at best, and patronizing at worst.  But I like it.

Because just as the safety pin holds things together, so can the “perfect love that casts out fear,” gather us together and make us ALL safe.

True, hate can unite us.  So can walking the path of peace and love.  One destroys, the other frees.  Muslims know this too, for it is written into their holy book:

“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them harshly, they say words of peace…” – Surah 25:6

Maybe Muslim Americans could teach the rest of us the ways of peace.

God knows we are not a free people until all of us  walk in peace.

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9 thoughts on “To Walk in Freedom, Walk in Peace

  1. Kathy, We must be on the same wavelength since this is twice in three weeks we have referenced the same Bible verse. I wish more people would hop on the love over fear wavelength that has been the theme this week. I have read differing opinions on the safety pins, but my husband, who works at a college in downtown Chicago, has been wearing one and said the response has been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative. As long as we recognize the effort is in good faith and is meant to be loving, there is little to fuss about. There seems to be a pervasive hypercritical tone since the election, and it’s time we start giving people the benefit of the doubt. Safety pins may not fix the world, but if they start conversations and offer a little comfort and reassurance, it’s at least a small step.

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    • I heard about the movement from one of my clergy buds. She brought a bag of them in, and we all took one. It felt like something we could DO. Someone else said it might be perceived as patronizing and my friend said, “in other words, if something isn’t perfect, we don’t do it?” I felt the same way. Nothing is perfect and you are so right – it seems as though our entire country has been rubbed raw, and is looking for a fight. Bravo to your husband – tell him there are lots of UCC pastors and at least one congregation, all sporting safety pins.

      I’m with you: it’s meant to be a loving gesture during a time when so many are indulging their favorite hates. It was wonderful to see people’s eyes as they looked at the pins, hesitated, weighed the risk, then took one and pinned it on. These are people who have been through the Depression, WWII, segregation, Vietnam…for the most part, they come from a generation that has been taught not to make waves. But they also know what hate looks like and what it can cost to resist it – and they chose to wear the safety pin, accepting whatever comes. That’s love.

      Thanks for reading!

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  2. I have such difficulty wrapping my head around the Islamaphobia expressed by certain members of my own family who are much more to the Right than I am. They don’t seem to understand that our own Christian faith has been responsible for the slaughter of millions throughout the centuries. How is it okay for us and not for them. Or better yet, why don’t we learn to work together to form a more peaceful existence for us all.
    At my church, we have worked to build bridges with the local Muslim community. We have shared meals after 9/11 and most recently after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I welcome my daughters questions about what the women were wearing and why the prayers sounded different. I want my daughter to grow up to be a bridge between faiths.

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  3. It is accurate to compare right wing militants with Isis. In comparison to Isis they too have neglected to represent their faith accurately, but rather betray a false representation of their religious tradition.
    You are wise to expose them in light of Islamophobia.

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  4. Lisa, thanks for this blog. I used to feel the same about the hijab, even as a conservative, thinking it was a symbol of oppression rather than an expression of faith. As you say, “Maybe it’s about the freedom to walk in peace.” That point cannot be overstated. Your use of the #Notinmyname video is applied well here. It’s a powerful movement/statement and something to bring up whenever we hear the, “where are all the good Muslim’s speaking out against the extremists.” They’re there. Working for peace. We just have to be willing to broaden our field of vision.

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    • My apologies, Kathy. I didn’t mean to address “Lisa” (who I have marked to respond to next). My brain knew who I was writing to, but my fingers didn’t listen!

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    • Hey, thanks for reading, Jessica! Actually, my first name is Kathy, not Lisa. But it’s funny – one of the names on my mother’s “alternative” list when she was pregnant with me, was Lisa. So you’re not far wrong there!

      yeah, once I thought about all the functions the hijab served (and actually talked to a couple Muslim women about it, duh), I came to see it in an entirely different light. I recently met a Jewish woman who wore a knitted cap as a symbol of God’s covering her, i.e. protecting her. You could do an entire study on the function of the head covering in various religions, I’m sure. As my kids would say, it’s a thing and has been for centuries.

      As for walking in freedom and peace, 2017 is shaping up to be a tough year to walk in freedom for many here in America. But many people possessing a good heart towards others are also present in this land and we WILL speak out.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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