Fear-mongering groups across the Midwest have invited another anti-Islam speaker into our churches, community halls, and civic centers. The “Truth in Love Project” tour kicked off in Bagley, MN this week and then came to the VFW in Little Falls last night, which I attended.
As I walked in, I held the door for a couple of ladies in their 70s or 80s. They stood in line behind me and, as I finished paying the entrance fee, they asked the event coordinators what this event was about.
“We don’t know what this even is,” they said, “someone just said we should come.”
“Oh – this man is going to talk about the Muslims and how they are trying to take over,” the woman behind the table explained.
“Hmmm, ok – I guess we’ll stay since we came all the way here,” one of the sweet older ladies said with a smile.
The ladies and I ended up sitting near each other, and as they sat down, a woman near them explained that it was good they were there so they could “learn the truth about why Muslims have so many kids and what their true motives are for being here.”
As the event started, Dr. Masea, a former Muslim from Pakistan who converted to Christianity before moving to St. Cloud continued this same sentiment:
“God is letting Muslims come to America because of our unrepentant sin. Muslims have 7-8 children per family while Americans have less than 2. It’s simple math. Eventually, this country will be majority Muslim because of this. Minneapolis and St. Paul are gone. St. Cloud is next.”
Dr. Masea continued to spread fear of our Muslim neighbors by claiming that “women are dyeing their hair black in Europe because Muslims want to rape blond haired women.” Most unfortunately, he claimed that “Jesus knows more than one way to destroy Muslims. He brought a tsunami to Indonesian Muslims because they were persecuting Christians. He can take care of them here too, but only if, as a nation, we repent and turn back to God.”
Pastor Shahram claimed many of the same things, saying that “European leaders are allowing women to be raped by Muslims so they can have babies and not have to worry about their declining population.” After spending a few minutes throwing shade on the LGBT community (what? why bring our LGBT neighbors into this?), Shahram then spent most of the night talking about the differences between Islam and Christianity.
I have heard this type of talk many times. And, to be truthful, I understand and even agree with many of his points. Muslims and Christians don’t believe in the same points of doctrine. If we did, then why would we have separate worship centers? We don’t practice our religion in the same ways and we have different traditions that have both been around for a long time. So, yeah, we’re different. No surprise there. Unity does not mean uniformity. To love my Muslim neighbor, I don’t have to convert to their religion or even say that their religion is “right”. For Muslims to love their Christian neighbor, they don’t have to believe that the two doctrines are the same. Again, truthfully, they aren’t.
Religion is not what unites Muslims with Christians, Christians with Atheists, or Atheists with Jews. What unites us is our humanity. Unfortunately, Pastor Shahram and I don’t see eye to eye on this, even though we both claim that the same religion guides our lives.
“Why would I call someone who is not a Christian my brother?” he said. “A Muslim is not my brother. Only my fellow Christians are.” As I heard him say this, I felt sick to my stomach. The dehumanization of this statement is fierce. I can look at ANYONE in this town and truly say that they are my brother or sister. Humanity unites us.
Father Virgil, a Catholic Priest who attended the meeting last night as well said it best when he confronted Pastor Shahram about his statement: “All people are my brother or sister. God made each person in this room – each person on this earth. We are all humans, made in the image of God.”
ACTIONABLE STEP: Shahram Hadian is coming to the St. Cloud area! Mark your calendars for Thursday, Sept 14th at 6pm at Granite City Baptist Church (1425 Co Rd 134 St Cloud, MN 56303).
*We will not shut this event down. We are not planning to host an action outside the church. We are planning to attend the event to have conversations with our neighbors and show that the #unitecloud spirit will not be quenched by outside speakers coming in to rile us up against each other.