By Miguel De La Torre
Baptist News Global, 2 February 2017
As a committed liberationist-leaning Christian, I may have no choice but to say the Shahada (the Muslim profession of faith) and convert to Islam if I wish to be faithful to my beliefs. One of the bedrock principles of any liberative faith tradition is “solidarity with the oppressed.” I discover my own salvation when I cast my lot with the poor and wretched of the world. The persecution Trump is unleashing on our Muslim brothers and sisters requires faithful Christians (and faithful Jews, and faithful Hindus, and faithful Buddhists, and faithful Humanists) to take a stand against persecution of anyone due to their faith, or lack thereof.
After prayer and discernment, I have decided if this administration attempts to update and reintroduce a screening and tracking system of Muslims, I will join former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and several prominent Jews in placing my name on the Muslim registry. I stand ready to register as Muslim in #solidarity. For me, this is personal. We Cubans in 1939 turned away the MS St Louis from our ports, condemning its roughly 900 Jewish passengers to the Holocaust. This particular Cuban refuses to participate in turning away anyone due to their religious tradition, or lack thereof.
But, you might ask, what about Islamic terrorism? Don’t we have a right to protect ourselves from those wishing to do us harm? By any means necessary? To which I would say: really? Do you really want your Islamophobia to show? Yes, there are Muslims who wish to harm people; but there are also Christians, and Jews, and atheists who wish to do harm. But do we use terms like Christian terrorism? When we consider the centuries of terrorist acts by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, who based their terror on their understanding of Christianity and the support of Christian churches, when we consider the genocide of the indigenous people of the land based on a violent evangelism, we would be justified in speaking about radical Christian terrorism — and maybe we should. But somehow we have made a distinction between the misuse of Christian principles by a group of people and the teaching of the faith, a courtesy some refuse to offer Muslims due to their fear and hatred of them. In fact, we have no qualms of rejecting the KKK as being Christians, in the same way many Muslims have rejected terrorists who happen to call themselves Muslim.
But what about the Qur’an? Isn’t the book full of violence? Calling for conversion by the edge of a sword? To which I can only again reply: really? Have you actually read the Qur’an? Have you read it in comparison to the Hebrew Bible? Have you ever read the Bible? You know, the book calls for genocide (Josh. 6:21). You are aware women were considered possessions (Ex. 20:17). You realize it permits sex slaves (Deut. 31:10-14). In fact, it supports all forms of slavery (Phil. 1:12). All ancient texts, regardless of claims of divine revelation, reflect the prevailing misogynist xenophobia prevalent in culture. Is this problematic for readers of Holy Writ? Only for those rejecting solid food (1 Col. 3:2).
So let’s be honest for a moment. Does the Qur’an contain verses which appear patriarchal and oppressive to the modern reader? No more than the patriarchal and oppressive verses which appear in the Bible. But in the latter, it says something about removing specks out of eyes by those with beams in their own (Mt. 7:5). The issue before us has less to do with judgmental pronouncements hurled toward the Qur’an by those who never took the time to analytically read the text, than what are we to do when our government is moving toward discriminative acts through some form of registry. The last time we engaged in such a flagrant violation of civil liberties targeting a people for being nonwhite Christians, we placed Japanese in internment camps as their sons bled and died in the battlefields of Italy for a liberty denied their kinfolk. Did we not learn anything? Are we so ignorant of our own history?
So, how to I respond to those seeking to visit injustice upon a people because of what they believe? I begin by responding with a prayer:
إِنَّ اللَّهَيَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالْإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاءِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَيَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ ۚ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Surely Allah commands justice, good deeds and generosity to others and to relatives; and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, so that you may be reminded.” (Qur’an Surah 16:90).
Prayers are always nice, but more important, I also respond with praxis. I commit:
- To speak out against Islamophobia through my writing, through my teaching, and through my preaching. Not paternalistically speaking for Muslims, but sharing how the Trump administration privileges me as a Christian at the expense of Muslims.
- To stand up and say something when I witness goose-stepping ignoramuses publicly harass a Muslim brother or sister, specifically a sister wearing a hijab.
- To fight for the civil rights of Muslims with the same intensity with which I am currently fighting for immigration civil rights, for at the end of the day, the forces persecuting both groups (as well as LGBTIQ, racial and ethnic folks) are derived from the same white heterosexual supremacy which won in the past election partly due to voter suppression.
- To protest, resist, disrupt, and joder — as a response to my faith — the forces of discrimination and disenfranchisement as this administration attempts to normalize and legitimize oppression.
- And last, but not least, to follow the Danish model of protecting the most vulnerable members of society. And while the account of the king wearing a yellow star is fictional, nonetheless, I will commit to register as a Muslim if this nation chooses to follow the example of past fascist governments.
Forgive me for ending this op-ed with an altar call, but what can you expect from a Baptist? Will you walk the cyberspace aisle and join me in following Jesús by becoming a Muslim if necessary?
Rev. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre, Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. He has served as the elected 2012 President of the Society of Christian Ethics and currently serves as the Executive Officer for the Society of Race, Ethnicity and Religion.
Dr. De La Torre is a recognized international Fulbright scholar who has taught at the Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development (Mexico), Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (Yogyakarta), University of Johannesburg (South Africa), and Johannes Gutenberg University (Germany).