First, profoundest apologies. You’re wise enough to know that the actions of the U.S. President do not reflect the beliefs of all American people. Indeed, we are appalled by the travel ban on people from 7 Muslim-majority countries. Most disturbingly, refugees from Syria, that war-torn country that has broken our hearts with photos of its suffering women and children, seem to be permanently barred. Ironic that no terrorists have come from these countries!
Second, I will cherish memories of the few Muslims I know (and I hope these friendships continue to increase in number and grow in depth.) Dr. Nazeer, a space scientist who helped design the Hubble telescope, began our most recent Muslim-Christian retreat, “in the name of God most gracious, most merciful.” Maimoona drew me into her interfaith women’s group. Maram gave me an ornament for my Christmas tree, made of olive wood from Bethlehem. Hina spoke eloquently of how she consoled her young son, afraid of what Trump’s election might mean: “nothing will happen to us that is not Allah’s design.” Hilal does not want to be overwhelmed by fear, so she “takes refuge in the All-Merciful.” These and others like them have deep reverence for the Christian tradition and compassion for all people. One evening during Ramadan when a group of us visited a mosque, they had prepared a huge meal, and insisted we eat first. (They had been fasting since dawn.) Banning people like you from our country makes it a far poorer place.
Many Christians don’t know that Mary, Mother of Jesus is given a whole chapter, and named 37 times in the Koran. I’ve long admired Christian de Cherge’, French Trappist killed in Algeria, who sought “the notes that are in harmony” between the two religions. His story was most recently told in the film “Of Gods and Men.”
The president defended the ban with a tweet: we must keep the bad guys out (subtly nuanced as “bad hombres” for Mexico). My 5-year old grandson once used that phrase, but now seems to have outgrown it. It reveals unvarnished dualism; higher stages of moral development know that sadly, the bad guy lurks within ourselves.
Friends know that my move last year from Colorado to California was ambivalent: filled with sadness over leaving my home of 45 years, but anticipating rich family times with my children and grandchildren. Now I am even prouder to be a Californian. They are starting the process to become a sanctuary state. Although I couldn’t attend the prayerful circling of the mosque on Friday, I encircle you now with words, dear friends. May they be a protective garland against stupidity and bigotry.