Joel Cooper serves as a Global Mission Intern in Beirut, Lebanon. His appointment is supported Week of Compassion.
It seems for every atrocity committed by someone claiming to be Muslim, sifting through the media frenzy reveals that among the atheist, Christian, and other victims is another Muslim. In the horrible attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, this victim’s name was Ahmed Merabet. He was a faithful police officer trying to protect the lives of the very cartoonists whose lives were dedicated to disrespecting his religion.
Undoubtedly, Ahmed’s Muslim faith affected his decision to confront the attackers. His story gives a positive testament to Islam, but media consumers prefer content that reinforces their stereotypes and moral superiority. So we are inundated with prejudiced news about the “Muslim” extremists. Popular “Christian” leaders fan the flames by fear mongering and further dividing us from Muslims.
It is difficult for me to understand why merely the depiction of Muhammad offends many Muslims so much, but my ignorance does not invalidate their feelings. The countless lines drawn in the sand throughout history have carved a vast canyon. People have had different experiences on both sides of the canyon that have shaped their values differently. I believe Jesus calls us to humbly cross that canyon as he did during his own life.
When Michael Jackson died, Charlie Hebdo published a caricature of his skeleton with the title “white at last.” In 2013, the magazine’s cover read, “The Quran is crap.” In 2012, a cover depicted God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit having sexual intercourse. The cover of a 2010 issue depicted a naked Muslim woman with part of a burqa coming out of her anus.
What if one day you turned on the news and learned that a mentally unstable person killed the adult members of Westboro Baptist Church? Think about that for a moment. How would you feel? Now, what if everyone who was not personally offended by Westboro unleashed a wave of support for the church members because they were champions of free speech. World leaders convened on the United States to march in solidarity with these supporters. People held signs, posted statuses, and tweeted “I stand with Wesbroro,” and newsstands were packed with millions upon millions of memorial magazines with the cover, “God Hates F...”
Week of Compassion supports my appointment as a Global Ministries Global Mission Intern in Beirut, Lebanon. I work with an organization called the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue. We encourage relationships among people of different religions, genders, ethnicities, and political affiliations, to convince people to stop drawing lines in the sand and start putting themselves in their neighbors’ shoes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this life changing opportunity to meet my neighbors across the canyon. Je ne suis pas Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.
Joel Cooper serves with the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue in Beirut, Lebanon. His appointment is supported by your gifts to Week of Compassion, Disciples' Mission Fund, Our Church's Wider Mission and your special gifts.