by Elizabeth Corney, Editor-in-chief
One week ago Friday, I was mistaken for a Muslim. This was OK because I was in a Mosque attending Friday prayers, wearing a hijab-like head cover surrounded by people who are Muslim. We laughed about the confusion and discussed our traditions. If I were anywhere else in North Carolina, being taken for a Muslim is no laughing matter. I removed my headscarf on the way home with little thought or concern. For those who choose to wear a hijab as an expression of their faith, it often brings ridiculous questions and accusations from strangers. Some choose indirect methods like avoidance. Others outright shout insults or try to remove the hijab. Too often I hear stories from women who endure harassment from strangers because of their mode of dress. These instances are a microcosm of a larger wave of Islamophobia. Politicians, news media, government agencies, and regular citizens with Facebook accounts, all contribute to perpetuating the phenomenon. I think this response is rooted in misplaced fear and anger. Fear of the violence that many associate with Islam rather than extremists. Anger that little progress has been made in curbing it. In either case, alienating others for their beliefs does not address the issue.
The past few weeks and months, our world has experienced too many terrorist attacks perpetrated by various extremist groups and individuals. At each service I attended, I heard a clear denouncement of violence especially violence from those who claim to be Muslim against fellow Muslims. I heard encouragement to serve others especially the Syrian refugees scheduled to arrive soon. I also heard frustration with the current political climate in which it is not easy to claim Islam. At the same time, I was extended hospitality and kindness even when I did not know precisely what to do next. Throughout all of this, I was struck by how each community was committed to addressing violence even though they are in no way culpable for it. Through the worship of God, welcoming strangers, and loving their community, they put forth a tangible witness of what Islam really means. And so, I found that the Christian thing to do in the midst of the world as it is today was to attend a Muslim prayer service and get a glimpse of how to respond to hatred with strength and grace.