However you feel about the news, you may have noticed that our new president has been following through on his campaign promises about immigration. During the campaign, he stated: “Countries in which immigration will be suspended would include places like Syria and Libya.”
He put that in an executive order. After a period of suspension, this order would change our immigration procedure to: “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
Muslims aren’t “banned”… we’d just let everybody else in first. Since the order specifies 7 countries, all of which have a Muslim-majority population, this order could be interpreted as a “legalese” way of keeping Muslims out of the US.
You might imagine that “Muslims” would be angry about this.
Have you heard how “they” have responded to our government’s recent actions?
By asking for help.
“The OIC calls upon the United States government to reconsider this blanket decision and maintain its moral obligation to provide leadership and hope at a time of great uncertainty and unrest in the world.” (from the official OIC AP statement)
While no person or organization can speak for “Muslims-in-general,” The Organization of Islamic Cooperation does have permanent delegations in the UN and the EU, representing 1.6 billion people in 57 countries. Their statement represents something as close to an “official response from Muslims” as we may get.
Are “Muslims” different than “we” are? While you might say that “they” are led in matters of religion in ways that “we” are not – they have asked us for leadership and hope.
Because everybody is scared right now.
We have believed ourselves the “Bestest and Most Powerful Country on Earth” for a long time, and this grand self-identity has helped us be grand. Whether by self-delusion or high expectation, this country has done big things that humanity had not seen before. This same “big” identity has also helped us to get involved in other country’s problems, whether they asked for it or not.
When those around the world look at us – we are seen as both powerful and possibly “good.” Even by “Muslims.”
How can we be “good” to a whole world? Many cultures do not seem to want the same things that our culture wants. Do “they” hate our religion? Our freedom of religion? Many threats have been made, and US citizens have been killed and harmed. It’s difficult to choose what you know is best for everyone, when it feels like what you love most is in danger.
We seem to observe one another across a chasm. Those on the other side often seem to be sneering. How can we, as individuals, even be considered “good” by those in our own country? Do we have power, as individuals? Does it matter what we or our neighbors do?
Many states do not seem to want the same things that our communities want. The world and the country do not feel safe.
When protection and argument and battle feel like the only options to us – this is the time to consider what we want most as individuals. It is time look around, to see what everyone is creating by their words and actions. This includes looking in the mirror. You may feel powerless, yet the mirror is the most important place to look. If you see trouble on your left, or trouble on your right, how are you responding to it?
With fear? Indignation? Anger?
What do you want?
If what you truly want most is war, simply respond to dangerous people with the defensive attacks that come naturally. Name-calling feels good; it is natural. Righteous anger feels good; it is natural. Practice it, and your defense cues attack. This is ancient. This is mankind. War is within us all.
If you’d prefer peace… somebody has to be the first to practice peace. Someone has to be the first to listen to the other side. If you look around, and other people don’t seem to be ready to choose peace, guess who the responsibility falls to?
This is tough. It is a challenge for anyone, to not lash out at those who are wrong and who put us in danger. It is a challenge for anyone who cares. The more we care, the more challenge we face in creating peace.
We have been asked by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for leadership. They asked us really nicely. To paraphrase: All the people in all the countries are scared right now, and it would really be helpful if your people could be less-scared because we all look up to you in some ways even if we don’t want to.
Leadership is not the same as being the Boss. Our culture often gets these things confused. We tend to like a big boss with a shiny tie. We tend to each aspire to being a boss. Being a boss means making sure things get done “your” way. This often boils down to making people do things that make you feel good. Leadership goes beyond what makes you feel good.
Leadership asks that you do what you know is best, even if doing something else might feel more satisfying to you. Why is this important? Leadership allows other human beings to see that what you say is best is truly possible for human beings to do.
We are being asked to open our arms when we feel like we must cross them to protect our hearts.
We the people may provide leadership and hope, even when being cynical seems to be the only option because we are not the boss.
We are being asked to find our compassion for the non-compassionate. This means actively pursuing an understanding of the non-compassionate people who wear turbans AND the non-compassionate people who wear ties. If we the people can practice compassion, we provide this possibility to the world.