Islamophobia and Monster’s Inc.
I read an interesting article last night right before going to bed and couldn’t contain my thoughts about it, so I had to write them down before I could fall asleep. First, here’s the gist of the article, you can read the whole thing here. Two imams were flying to Charlotte (I know, I know, sounds like the beginning of a bad joke) for a conference on Islamophobia when the pilot refused to fly the plane with them on it. They had been checked twice by the TSA and determined to not be a threat (which, if they were both checked twice, it makes you wonder about those “random” screenings). These men had been judged to be a threat by a man who had never met them, never spoken with them, never given them the benefit of the doubt.
Why is it that we as a society have decided that it’s a good idea to be ruled by fear? Why is our default setting not trust and hospitality and openness? Here are the thoughts that I wrote down quickly last night…forgive the lack of a thought pattern, I would edit them, but I wanted to share them as they came to me:
Islamophobia. What if every American learned one phrase in Arabic that pretty much every Muslim knows, whether they’re Arab or not: salaam aleikum. It means peace be upon you. What if, whenever a passenger got on a plane and encountered a person that looked ‘suspicious,’ they struck up a conversation and tried to engage with ‘the enemy’. What if that action of humanity changed the course of history. What if that person actually was planning on doing something terrible (which 99 times out of a hundred you wouldn’t be sitting next to them on a plane)? What if a conversation with another human being changed the ‘enemy’s’ mind and he/she didn’t go through with the plan. We have heard stories of people talking down those about to commit suicide or those about to take the lives of others. Why do we think it so impossible to engage with someone different than ourselves and therefore miss out on opportunities to make new friends or even, to soften a heart and change history?
I understand that human nature is skeptical and suspicious, but most of my questions are aimed at my Christian family. Could we as Christians be a part of changing the tide of suspicion and questioning in America and around the world? Could we do as Jesus tells us and welcome the stranger like we would welcome him? I think part of my thought process you peeked into above is a desire to change the status quo. In my class on nonviolence we used the term “changing the script” to speak of this transformation. Post-9/11, there is, sadly, a way that many Muslims and those of Arab descent are used to being treated, especially in airports. What if we were to slowly break down that standard in America and instead, treat those that we encounter with kindness and humanity? I think we would see a radical shift in the way Americans are perceived around the world and therefore, we would have the chance to change the way that those who actually want to do harm think about what America is and stands for. I understand that the situation is far more complex than I am stating here, but I wish we would start to think of things in a different way.
I’ve been thinking about this in relationship with the kids movie “Monster’s Inc.” I know, that was probably a really strange transition. But think about it. When the monsters were encountered in their true environment and their real identity was revealed, they became a lot less scary to the children. Maybe this is how it is with people that seem strange or scary to us. Maybe if we would be wise enough to encounter them in a way that was open to finding out who they were they’d show us that they’re just like us…with hopes and dreams and fears of their own.
Maybe that could change the world.