Many of them have never met a Muslim in real life unless they are members of the US Military and have been stationed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
So when terrorism, from which most of us here in Pennsylvania like to feel we are directly immune, hits our small communities, people feel shocked, angry, and fearful. Like most people everywhere touched by terrorism, right? After all, isn't that one of the objectives of terror?
The first time terrorism hit us in a big way was on 9/11, when one of the three hijacked planes, United Airlines Flight 93, dropped out of the sky into a farmer's field in Shanksville, PA. With all of the news coverage of New York City and Washington, DC, Shanksville, and the people of Pennsylvania were mostly forgotten. And when that particular flight did receive attention, it was mostly about Todd Beamer and his famous last words, "Let's roll!"
While on a business trip to the area, I visited the Shanksville site. At that time, there was a temporary memorial set up. You have to drive up small roads and twisting turns to get to the site. The last leg of the journey involves driving uphill on a small makeshift road, and then at last, a HUGE field under a HUGE sky appears before you. I have never seen such a big sky! It is eerily quiet up there except for the sounds of mobiles and other mementos clinking and tinking against the memorial. One is only left to look at the scene and use the imagination as to the horror of that day. I wrote about it and took some pictures which are here.
A few days ago, terrorism in a faraway land hit us personally in Pennsylvania again. This time, less than a few miles away from my house. Six members of a local Christian missionary team were injured in the Uganda bombings. You can read about it here.
I went to the prayer service at the United Methodist Church of Christ last night. I was the only Muslim there that I was aware of (no one there looked like me, lol). I thought it was important for them to see Muslims there. For them to know that we, as their neighbors and members of the community, are there with them and for them. To let them know that we, too, are shocked and angry.
As a Jew, I remember stories told of the numerous people, Christians and Muslims, who helped us during the Holocaust. Christians and Muslims who hid Jews in their homes. Christians and Muslims who helped us at the cost and threat of their own lives and the welfare of their own families. As people of faith, they knew it was the right thing to do.
And participating in Interfaith activities is the right thing to do in my opinion.
I was supposed to go to the service with our local rabbi, but at the last moment she had an emergency at her synagogue. I met Rev. Kind from the United Methodist Church of Christ and extended the thoughts and prayers of both the Jewish and Muslim communities.
In her prayer service, Rev. Kind told the people that despite all of the feelings of fear, sorrow, and anger, she also knows there are feelings of hope, and she encouraged the people to turn their hearts with love toward God. She reminded the people to never diminish the power of prayer, and asked them to let go of bitterness and hatred, and replace it instead with forgiveness. In the midst of hope and possibility, she celebrated the fact that "the love of God is so great that nothing can overcome it."
Please keep all victims of terrorism in the world in your dua. And do not be afraid to be "present" in the face of fear and confusion. The terrorists are counting on the fact that Muslims everywhere will isolate.
After all, what they did is not jihad ... it is murder.