Today I went to the Mayo Clinic for some blood tests. The man who drew my blood is a stellar professional when it comes to getting blood from my tiny veins. Second time in a row he nailed it with the first poke. It’s rare that you ever get the same phlebotomist at The Mayo so it felt a bit serendipitous to meet up with this guy again. I don’t remember his name but both the first and last ones were clearly Muslim-like so, I just looked up at him and said, “With a name like yours are you Muslim?” He said he was and we had a fantastic discussion about being Muslim in Rochester, Minnesota.
I learned from this man that as much as non-Muslim Americans fear the radical arm of Islam, this husband and father fears it even more. He feels safe in Rochester but keeps a strict eye on his children and makes certain that he knows every person in his faith community that has contact with his children. He is very involved in actively teaching his children what the heart of his faith is and that killing people to go to heaven for 70 virgins isn’t it. This man simply wants to care for his wife and children and live in peace. He came to the US from Somalia when he was five years old and is very happy to be here.
One of the reasons I love going to Rochester is because there are people there from all over the world but more importantly because the community itself strives hard to be an inclusive community. This sign greets you as you come into the downtown area. One of the most interesting things about going to the Mayo Clinic itself, however, is that almost any time I sit in the lobby or in a coffee shop, I will overhear a conversation from someone about “those” people. Once, when a Saudi man walked by me and this obviously wealthy Texan couple, the man looked at me and said, “I can’t believe how many of them are here. It’s just disgusting how they treat their women!” Without even knowing what I thought about it, the woman went on to tell me about a Bible study she was in that exposed what they really believe and how horrible it was. All the while they were talking and expecting my “amen”, I just grew more and more uncomfortable with the conversation and did my best to change the subject and treat them well as their humanness deserved. I was so caught off guard that I really didn’t know what to say.
I often wonder what these people would have said to the man I met today were he needed to withdraw blood from either of them. Hopefully not one thing but, thank you! I honestly don’t understand why one would travel all the way to Rochester with such strong feelings about Muslims when the odds are pretty good you just might be seen by a Muslim physician? I guess the docs are rarely seen sporting the Muslim headdress so maybe that makes them less of a threat, I’m not sure. I do realize that neither of these people saw their views as ones of hatred. They simply saw their perspective as gospel truth that gave them the right to pass sentence. It’s a very common worldview here in America that too many of us have had for a very long time. It is the worldview that is taught in many congregations and from many pulpits. I think it’s time we challenge ourselves because many of these people live among us and more importantly, THEY are human beings just like us who deserve respect just like we do.
I have a feeling that the next time I’m in a position to respond in a conversation like this, I’m going to handle it a bit differently. It’s time to stop this nonsense and realize America isn’t a white, Christian country anymore and possibly never has been one. We’re all human beings and we have got to figure out how to see those unlike us in a way that builds bridges rather than fuels the fires that in the end cause all of us a great deal of harm.