Are you afraid of Muslims? This pastor says ‘Islamophobia’ is dangerous

Hate groups in the U.S. spend millions of dollars each year whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment through websites, videos, white papers and the like, a Washington pastor said.

That industry — the “Islamophobia industry” — is a dangerous thing, Pastor Terry Kyllo kyllotold the Herald.

The Anacortes man is working with a Muslim leader from the west side to fight it. They’re bringing their “Faith over Fear: Standing with our Muslim Neighbors” event to Pasco on Tuesday.

Kyllo, a Lutheran pastor and founder of the group Neighbors in Faith, will speak alongside Aneelah Afzali, founder of the American Muslim Empowerment Network.




Why Christians Should be the Biggest Advocates of Religious Freedom For Muslims Read

christians-muslims-dialogues-in-pakistanSometimes because I write so much about Christianophobia, some feel the need to tell me that Islamophobia exists. No kidding? Do you think when stories such as this one come out that I am ignorant of Islamophobia? It is as if some individuals do not comprehend the possibility that we can have anti-Christian and anti-Muslim hatred in the same society.

But Islamophobia does not merely manifest itself in violent acts. It also manifests itself in the double standard some people have in their treatment of Muslims. For example, the desire to create higher barriers for Muslims to enter the United States can also reflect Islamophobia. When we treat individuals worse because they are Muslims, then we are furthering an ugly Islamophobic mentality.

Unfortunately, the way some Christians have approached Muslims reflects Islamophobia as well. There have been Christians who have tried to stop Muslims from building their mosques. Other Christians have called for a stop of Muslim immigration to the United States. This attempt to treat Muslims worse than we treat those of other faiths or no faith is wrong. The sad thing about the reality of how some Christians have dealt with Muslims is that we have a great deal of incentive to protect the religious freedom of Muslims. When we fail to do so, we fail to fully live out our faith, and we set ourselves up for future hardship.

Before I go into why Christians should defend Muslims, let me be clear about something. I am Christian and not Muslim. I believe that Muslims are wrong about the nature of God and in their belief that Allah is God. I support any efforts at witnessing to Muslims as long as it does not involve coercive tactics. To those who say that Christian proselytizing is evil, then I will ask you to give up telling Christians what to do. When you tell Christians what to do, you are proselytizing about your beliefs to Christians. Stop being a hypocrite!!

So my defense for religious freedom for Muslims is not a defense of Islam. I will leave that for Muslims to do. But I defend their right to be wrong just as I hope that non-Christians will defend my right to be wrong.



The Bridge Initiative: Catholic Islamophobia and Interreligious Dialogue

The Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project on Islamophobia, based in the university’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, this week released a report that sheds light on American Catholics’ views of Islam, and the way Islam is discussed in Catholic publications.

hands-holdingThis report, “Danger & Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam,” finds that nearly half of Catholics can’t name any similarities between Catholicism and Islam, or say explicitly that there are no commonalities.

The report, which includes survey data on Catholics’ views of Muslims and interreligious dialogue, also reveals that only 14% of Catholics say they have a favorable impression of Muslims. The poll also shows that respondents who consume content from Catholic media have more unfavorable views of Muslims than those who don’t.

The report, authored by Jordan Denari Duffner, also analyzed nearly 800 articles about Islam in Catholic media outlets, finding that half of the time the word “Islamic” was used in nine prominent Catholic outlets, it was in reference to the Islamic State terrorist group. The headlines of Catholic articles on Islam had a negative sentiment overall, but the outlet that mentioned Pope Francis the most in its headlines on Islam had positive sentiment.

The report also explores the 100-plus books, audio programs, and DVDs sold by Catholic publishers about Islam. Interfaith dialogue is a prominent topic in these for-sale materials on Islam, but differences between Christians and Muslims are often stressed in introductory materials or those that attempt to compare Christianity and Islam. The most prolific authors on Islam for Catholics take varied approaches, with some focusing on dialogue and others on sharing the Christian faith with Muslims.


Islamophobia Is More About Phobia Than Islam—A Christian Perspective

Recently a flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse was delayed two hours, stalled on the runway, because one passenger became concerned when she perceived a man of Middle Eastern descent scribbling what appeared to be Arabic on a piece of paper. Was he an Islamic terrorist? Was he scrawling out his intentions to hijack the flight and create mayhem?

It turns out the man was an Italian economics professor at University of Pennsylvania who was scribbling an algebraic equation. He wasn’t a terrorist; he was a math nerd.

This story is more than a case of mistaken identity. It illustrates something about the “fear of Islam” that grips many in our society. While Islamophobia obviously has something to do with Islam—or, at least, certain perceptions of Islam—it is the fear factor that often develops a life of its own. In other words, Islamophobia has less to do with Islam and more to do with fear.

This reality is prevalent among Christians, despite what the faith teaches. In the New Testament, Jesus continually exhorts his followers, “fear not.” It is his most repeated exhortation and thus reveals something fundamental about the Christian faith. Unfortunately, when it comes to current concerns about Islam, many Christians are doing exactly what Jesus warns against: They are giving into fear which produces the fruit of anxiety, judgment, anger, hatred, self-protecting isolation and/or militant aggression. When this happens, we betray ourselves, fail our Muslim neighbors, and botch our Christian witness.

islamophobiaSuch fear was on display after last year’s Paris attacks, in a sermon by the evangelical pastor, Robert Jeffress. At one point, Jeffress claimed that Muslims follow a warrior prophet who killed his enemies and called his followers to do the same, while Christians follow a loving savior who called his followers to love their enemies. While his characterization of Islam is deeply problematic, what is more relevant here is what he says a few minutes later when he vigorously wags his finger in the air and declares, “it is time to start bombing the ‘you know what’ out of ISIS. That is a Biblical response!” How did he get from point A to point B? He did so through exegetical gymnastics that short-circuit Christian love and grant impunity to the U.S. government to do, in his words, “whatever is necessary” to destroy radical Islam. (Interestingly, his language closely parallels Malcolm X’s infamous call to oppose racial injustice “by any means necessary“).