Jesus said, love your neighbor as you love yourself. Our question in response: who is my neighbor. When that question was posed to Jesus he told the story of the Good Samaritan, a story that underlines the fact that very often the true identity of the good neighbor will be surprising.
Last evening I showed I excerpts of the PBS documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet to my bible study group. I've had the CD for a year and have been looking for an opportunity to show it. I used excerpts because the film itself is 2 hrs. It is a wonderfully produced film and worth watching in its entirety. What's most important about this film, which has been distributed by the Council of Arab Islamic Relations is that it highlights the difference between perception and reality. Of course this film, which intersperses the story of Muhammad with the stories of American Muslims, several of whom are converts, demonstrates that our stereotypes of Muslims aren't always correct. Too many Americans equate Muslim with terrorist, but such is not the case. Yes, there are Muslim fanatics who have responded violently to the Muslim world's engagement with the largely secular and Christian West. But this is not true of all. Lasting peace requires that we all get beyond our stereotypes.
For many in my group last night, encounters with Muslims had been few and the stereotypes were therefore foremost in their minds. They found the film challenging and yet helpful. But, watching a film is only the first step. The next step is getting to know your Muslim neighbor. That encounter may be surprising. You will discover, I expect, that this Muslim neighbor is gracious and generous.
As I was thinking of last night's experience, which was quite positive, I came across a piece from CNN highlighting the President of the Islamic Society of North America, Ingrid Mattson. If that name doesn't sound too Middle Eastern, you're right. Like many American Muslims, she's a convert, and her background is Roman Catholic.
Watch as Dr. Mattson briefly tells her story by clicking here. We need to listen to more of these!