On Thursday, four marines in Chattanooga were killed by a man named Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez. Now, there are basically two different types of people right now: 1) There are the kinds who hear this shooter’s name and think, “It figures.” And 2) There are the kinds who hear this shooter’s name and think, “Well crap….” Certainly, if you are a person living in America whose name sounds any sort of Muslim, you probably belong to the second group…. But there are a lot of people like me out there too–People whose names and physical features and culture has nothing Muslim about them. Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of people in the first group as well. People like Franklin Graham, who posted this steaming load of garbage on his Facebook page:
And I don’t have the time or the energy to go into all the many reasons why Franklin Graham is such a sad, prejudiced old man who is doing way more to denigrate and defame the word “Christian” than he is doing to bring anyone into the knowledge of the love of God and the life of Jesus…. If you can’t already see it, nothing I’m going to say is going to change your mind. The moment Franklin Graham found out that the shooter’s name was Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, he decided to use this tragedy as a fear-mongering tool to fan the flames of a centuries-old conflict between Christians and Muslims. But the thing is, the Chattanooga shooter’s name does matter. It matters very much.
Just like my name matters very much. It’s what distinguishes me from other people. That’s one of the things that names do. When people heard the shooter had a Muslim name, they were like, “See? That’s important to point out!” And yeah, it IS important to point out…. Because these actions were the actions of ONE PERSON–NOT A WHOLE COMMUNITY. His name is SUPPOSED to be the way you distinguish him from all of those other people with names. For example, if my wife heard that someone named “Chris” was seriously injured in a car wreck, she would probably be very concerned. Then, if she found out that it was actually someone named Chris McGillicuddy who was injured, she would probably be more than a little bit relieved…. Because she doesn’t know anyone by that name, and who cares if some dude we don’t know gets hurt, right?.
SO joking obviously, but seriously, your chances of getting killed by a Christian extremist in this country are way more than your chances of getting killed by a Muslim extremist…. But you don’t see Franklin Graham calling for an immigration freeze on Christians. Actually, in this country since 9/11 you have more of a chance of being shot by a kid under five years old than you do of being shot by a Muslim extremist. Think about that for a moment. I’m really happy that we DON’T decide things in this country based solely on stereotyping–Especially as a white man. Guess what nearly 95% of serial killers and pedophiles look like…. That’s right, white men. Guys that look like me. And Franklin Graham. Probably a little more like Franklin Graham than me…. Whatever. White guys.
When nine people were gunned down in a Charleston Church, right away there was a big effort to encourage people NOT say the murderer’s name, but instead focus on the names of the people who lost their lives to that colossal act of hatred. I doubt there is going to be the same sort of push to not say Muhammad Youssuf Abdulazeez’s name. Next to his yearbook picture, the shooter wrote, “My name causes national security alerts…. What does yours do?” He was making a joke about it at the time…. Man, it’s so tragic that this young man’s mind was poisoned by an extremist ideology. You mustn’t let your mind be poisoned by extremist ideology from the other side either. If Christians are to be any sort of extremist, we are called to be extremists of love. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is anything we can do to change the minds of the Franklin Grahams of the world. They are going to be all over social media talking about things that “walk like a duck and quack like a duck,” making hateful, prejudiced comments, and calling for some sort of holy war. But really, these folks are just the Christian version of the Taliban. And it’s very hard to change the Taliban’s mind.
But what you CAN do is you can find a Muslim friend, talk to him or her about how they felt when this guy’s name was released, and give your friend a hug. Take them out for a meal. Do something to let them know you are thinking of them, you love them, and you are with them. As hard as it is for you and me to deal with the sudden influx of jingoism and overt prejudice, it is way harder for someone walking around with a Muslim name. Maybe one of the haters will see you acting like Jesus and their heart will be changed…. Probably not. But at least you might make your Muslim neighbor’s day a little better. And I’m betting they need something like that right about now….