Dear American Baptists,
Now is not the time to turn our backs on our Muslim neighbors. Certainly the terroristic act in San Bernardino, in the wake of the attacks elsewhere, has raised uncertainty and fear. But to generalize those acts to every Muslim is dead wrong. Sometimes it is easier to gain perspective by considering another set of circumstances. We know that right before San Bernardino there was a shooting incident at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs which resulted in the deaths of three and the wounding of another nine. The man arrested for this attack was motivated by his strong beliefs against abortion. Yet, who among us would generalize his acts to every person who holds views against abortion and suggest that every such person be put on a watch list, be forbidden to enter this country or relinquish any of their rights afforded by our constitution? Yet there are those who in effect wish to do this very thing to anyone of the Muslim faith.
The image of the couple in San Bernardino contrasts sharply with that of the Muslims I have met. Over Labor Day weekend this year, I attended the meeting of the Islamic Society of North America with thousands in attendance. They began their meeting with the trooping of the US flag and the pledge of allegiance led by Muslim Boy and Girl Scouts. Throughout the meeting I heard speaker after speaker reference themselves as Americans and spoke to those gathered as “we Americans.” Workshops were offered on how to counter efforts to radicalize youth.
Likewise, I have had the privilege of meeting outstanding leaders in government, medicine, law enforcement, education, business and the military who are Muslim and who are committed to seeing our country flourish in peace as a multicultural/multifaith nation anchored in democratic values with a commitment to universal religious liberty. These are the images that flood my mind.
At the end of January 2016, I shall be in Marrakesh, Morocco, for a conference called by the King of Morocco concerning the rights of minority religions in Muslim-majority countries. I shall be there as a Christian leader with deep concern for the churches in those countries as well as other faiths. But how do I speak in Marrakesh for full religious liberty for all without speaking to that same issue here in America? I cannot. As a Baptist Christian leader, I am compelled by principle and experience to speak out against all attempts to paint a whole religion and the peoples who share that religion by the extremist actions of a few.
Now is the time to turn toward our Muslim neighbors not away from them. Now is the time to confirm our common commitment to counter violence in the name of God. Now is the time to work together for the common good of America and the world.
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA