I first met Daoud Abudiab on the night some skinheads burned down his mosque.
It was February of 2008, a few days after the presidential primary here in Tennessee. The skinheads had spray painted swastikas on the outside walls of the small storefront that housed the mosque, along with the words, “White Power, We Rule the World.”
Then they’d torched the place. It was still smoldering by the time I arrived to report on the fire for the Tennessean newspaper. Across the street, three men from the congregation sat stunned, their faces filled with disbelief.
“Call Daoud,” they told me.
Daoud, it turned out, was the president of the mosque. We talked that night on the phone and then in person the next day as he showed me around the ruins of the mosque. This kind of thing is not supposed to happen in America, he said.
I later learned that the skinheads who burned down the mosque claimed to be doing God’s will.
“What goes on in that building is illegal according to the Bible,” they reportedly told police after being caught.
Rather than becoming bitter, Dauod was gracious. He did not lose faith in America. Nor did he doubt goodwill of his Christian neighbors — some of whom reached out to help the mosque rebuild.
I thought of Daoud this week, after reading a blog post titled “I’m Islamaphobic, Are You?” by the Rev. Cass of DefendChristians.org. The blog was also reposted by Charisma News under the headline, “Why I am absolutely Islamaphobic.” (After much backlash, the publication removed the post from its site.)
Like most of us, Rev. Cass is horrified by the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a murderous terrorist group that brutally kills anyone who does not share their view of Islam.
Cass also claims that all real Muslims are terrorists. And ISIS, he says, is doing “what every true followers of Mohammed wants to do to you and yours; subjugate or murder you.”
Then Cass goes on to claim that God hates Muslims, and that, for all intents and purposes, Muslims are so evil that not even Jesus can save them.
His advice? Toss every Muslim out of America. If they won’t leave, sterilize them so they can’t have kids. Or even better, Cass says, buy a gun and get ready to shoot your Muslim neighbors before they shoot you.
“Muslims cannot live in a society based on Christian ideas of equality and liberty,” he wrote. “They will always seek to harm us. Now the only question is how many more dead bodies will to pile up at home and abroad before we crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus name?
That’s right. Cass, a Presbyterian minister, says that Christians face so much danger from our Muslim neighbors that we should get some guns and shoot them all in “Jesus’ Name.”
No. I’m not going to get a gun. And I’m not going to shoot anybody in the name of Jesus.
Especially not Daoud, who lives just a few miles away from me in a small town south of Nashville. (One of our other neighbors is former Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson, who also thinks that every Muslim is out to get her.)
Look, I’m not naive. The terrorists of the Islamic State are evil. They must be stopped. But so must any Muslim or Christian or atheist or Hindu or Buddhist or fascist or skinhead who believes that their ideology gives them the right harm or kill others.
But I will not give up my faith — in God or in America — to do so.
Cass says that Muslims have no place in a society based on Christian ideals. Perhaps he missed the following part of the Declaration of Independence, which draws on the Christian doctrine that all human beings were created in God’s image:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
For years I’ve heard people like Cass claim that religious liberty and freedom don’t apply to Muslims. It was one of the central claims of a suit that tried to block the construction of the mosque in Murfeesboro, Tennessee.
It’s time for that to stop. Either we are all free or none of us is. And for those of us who call on the name of Jesus, it’s time to follow his commands, even in troubling times like the ones we live in.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. And take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world.
So no, I won’t buy a gun. And I refuse to live in fear. I’ve seen where that leads: fire and hatred and death — and a world left in smoldering ruins.
Instead I’ll put my faith in the hope of the gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Image courtesy of Morgan Rauscher/Shutterstock.com.