Sunday, July 2, 2017


For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

I developed Islamophobia and xenophobia long before those words were invented. Islamophobia refers to: set of discourses, behaviors, and structures which express feelings of anxiety, fear, hostility, and rejection towards Islam and/or Muslims in Canada. Xenophobia is intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

Decades ago if I shared about the fear I experienced of Somalis and Muslims while growing up in Somalia people here in the West would look blank at me, not knowing what I was talking about. That was because Islam, Muslims and words like jihad, hijab, or terrorists were unknown to most non-Muslim Westerners. But today the whole world is informed either correctly or incorrectly about Islam and Muslims.

Islamophobia and xenophobia are extreme or irrational fears of or aversion to something. Those fears could be real or perceived but for it to become a phobia it becomes extreme or irrational and will lead to unhealthy ways to deal with it. Why did I develop such phobias? I would attribute that to a generalized feeling that I was living in potential danger. The murders of three Christian workers in Somalia and the Somali occupied Ogaden area produced extreme fear of my safety. Unfortunately, I did not talk about my fear as a child to anyone and never with my parents. It was a silent burden which gripped me. I would not have even known how to express my fears as a child.

Some non-Muslims, including Christians, are developing an extreme fear of Muslims because of what is happening in the world, both overseas and right here in our homeland. Fear or caution is one thing but when our fears become extreme or irrational then we have a phobia; in this case of Muslims. Some people may feel they cannot even express their fears to anyone lest they be judged as unstable or even 'bad'. If you have such phobias, find a wise person to share your burdens with. Don't just suppress your fears. If you feel condemned by that person, find someone else to share them with. For sure talk about them to Jesus who understands you perfectly but also wants you to be released from phobias.

It is important to break the silence and have a honest transparent conversation. Perhaps you sense God wants you to reach out to Muslims but you are inwardly afraid of them. Can you identify what you are actually afraid of? There is no condemnation in simply being afraid of something or someone. The problem is if it has turned into a phobia. What are some ways or options of how we can deal with Islamophobia or xenophobia if we recognize it in us?

Option 1: We can avoid greeting Muslims even to the point of living in isolation of them.
Option 2: We can go into denial of everything that is going on in the world and stay ignorant.
Option 3: We can inwardly dislike Muslims and possibly even hate them.
Option 4: Or, as followers of Jesus, we can choose to ask God to remove our fear, whether real, perceived, extreme or irrational and ask Him to give us the same love He has for the whole world including Muslims.

Those are the four options we have: avoidance, denial, dislike, and Jesus-love. I chose to ask God to remove my extreme phobias and replace them with Jesus-love. He did...for nearly 40 years by now! It has not meant that I have to agree with everything about Islam, which I don't, but Jesus has given me His love for the people He created and with whom I share the earth.

There have been some practical ways for me in dealing with Islamophobia. These have proven wise and beneficial.
Practical tip #1: Discipline how long I watch the news and try not to watch just before I go to bed.
Practical tip #2: Discipline my diet of reading materials. Are the books or websites I read creating and increasing dislike and extreme alarm or are they developing understanding and compassion?
Practical tip #3: Befriend Muslims. That makes a huge difference in seeing them as fellow human beings and not as all scary potential terrorists. It is okay to love Muslims Jesus has put on your path. It is biblical and oh, so much like Jesus. They are our neighbors.

Dear heavenly Father, please help my sister-in-Christ who lives with Islamophobia or xenophobia to be free of her fears so that she may be free to love. In Jesus' name, Amen.