I remember when I was a very young, net-surfing Christian who encountered atheist hate for the first time. I remember the shock and shame of seeing my God mocked and derided. And I remember that it was a Muslim commenter who defended the right for Christians to believe in the Christian God.
I remember being a college student struggling to explain my purity ring, my desire to save my first kiss despite the struggle of my longing flesh (because yes, I have hormones and a libido and desires). I remember the people who said I wouldn’t last. And I remember the Muslim friends who treated my commitment with more faith and respect than those people who supposedly believed in the same things as me.
Dear Muslims, I remember your kindness. I remember how you were–are–no different from me: we ate the same things (not a big fan of pork either), went to the same places, talked about the same TV shows and books. We laughed together at our mutual “heretic” status (As a Protestant taking Catholic theology as a required subject, I discovered this uncomfortable–yet amusing–title. Our poor professors, who were so nice, did their best to soften the blow.), and drilled each other in reciting the required bits of Catholic Catechism for final exams.
I remember the pale white fear in your faces when our school had a bomb threat for the first time. And I remember the anger that would flash in your eyes each time there was news of yet another bombing, kidnapping, act of terror. I remember how you grieved, not just with us, but as ONE of us when these acts took lives.
I remember seeing, in the news, videos of your preachers in your mosques, denouncing first Al-Quada then ISIS, screaming-crying-praying that people would understand that terrorism does not equal Islam.
I remember. And so I think it needs to be said: This is not your fault. You do not need to take responsibility, to say “mea culpa” for a deed you did not commit. Shout as loud as you can that you disown these monsters, but do not for one second apologize for them. You are victims, same as us, and even more so, for your homes are bombed in retaliation for crimes you did not commit.
ISIS wants us to hate you, to blame you, to play the game of us versus them by stirring up rage on one side and fear on the other. But we won’t let them win. We won’t let them tear humanity apart.
Dear Muslims, the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Syria…they are not your fault. You are under attack, same as us, and as we stand with Paris, we stand with you. In the words of the Twelfth Doctor, we hold this pain tight, till it burns our hand, and together we say: “No one else will ever have to live like this! No one else will have to feel this pain! Not on my watch!”
I forget to pray a lot, but I’m going to do my best to remember to pray for you. For all of us. For this to end and for all of us to get through it together. Because we will end it. This won’t be the status quo.
Not on our watch.