Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Yesterday morning I meditated on Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man ignoring the poor man at his gate. I asked God who the poor man was that I was ignoring. The answer that occurred to me was Americans who are Muslims. I'm sure the recent expression of prejudice towards them has something to do with their coming to mind. Maybe it's a good thing that I rarely thought about the Muslims among us, but now it seems that I want to pay more attention.
I started looking stuff up and was surprised at how far back we have had Muslims in America. The earliest documented was in 1630, a Dutchman who came to New Amsterdam (now New York.) I was astonished that the founders of our nation talked and wrote about Muslims and included them in freedom of religion. In fact in 1788 North Carolina opposed ratifying the Constitution for fear one day Catholics and Muslims might become president.
Many slaves brought to Colonial America were Muslims from Africa. The numbers of Muslims did not begin to increase significantly until the 20th Century. The first mosque built in the United States was in 1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In 2005 96,000 Muslims came to the United States, more than in the previous two decades. Estimates differ widely about how many are in the United States now, from one to seven million. Since Islam began in Arabia, I had always thought that most Arabs were Muslims, but the majority of Arabs in the United States are Christian.
There were Muslims working in the World Trade Center the day of the attacks. There were Muslims among the heroic police and firefighters who were killed that day trying to save the people working in the buildings. They grieve for their dead as well as the Christians and Jews who lost loved ones that day. We do our fellow Americans who are Muslims a terrible injustice by lumping them together with the terrorists who were behind those horrifying attacks.