My Muslim Problem

I’ve wrestled with what to say (if anything) the last few weeks as the rhetorical temperature about Muslims has risen.

I want to tell a story that does more than get the folks who already agree to click “like” and the folks who disagree to un-follow. 

The best I could come up with was to revise and update a piece I wrote in July for Seedbed.

I hope it tells an alternate story.

I have a Muslim problem.

I am a Christian pastor in North Texas. I am also the proud son of a Muslim immigrant from the Middle East, and I have a very wonderful—and large—Muslim family.

This is a problem, because when I hear about San Bernardino, or Paris, or any other terror event, my first prayer is to hold my breath and hope the killers do not have names like mine.

This is a problem because down the highway from me some men with guns protested outside a mosque, then posted the names and home addresses of local Muslims online.

This is a problem because a brother in Christ, and president of a large Christian university, received thunderous applause when he told his student body to get guns and help end Muslims before they kill us.

This is a problem because a leading presidential candidate, along with the son of an iconic preacher, called for Muslims in our country to be tracked, databased and banned from coming into the country, with both looking to the U.S. treatment of Japanese during WWII as inspiration.

These stories frighten me, but they do not cause shock and awe. I’ve heard this kind of rhetoric spoken beneath the public surface most of my life. Like the one time, somewhere between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, when I received an email from a friend in ministry. It was a joke that read something like this:

A cowboy, an Indian and a Muslim walk into a bar. The Indian said, “My people used to be very great in number, but now are very small.” The Muslim replied, “My people used to be very small in number, but now are very big in number. Why do you think this is?” The cowboy responded, “Because we ain’t played cowboys and Muslims yet.”

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Omar Rikabi
Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas, and a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You can follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi.