“No Muslim Parking…Your Car Will Be Towed.”
The phrase was printed in bold black letters on signs outside of Westview Shopping Center in Spring Branch, Texas. The shopping center owner denies posting the signs despite one of his employees alleging that he was responsible. The Westview parking lot is positioned near El Farouq Mosque, where Muslims heading to worship services told CNN affiliate KRPC they were offended.
“I’m very shocked because we do live in a society that’s supposed to be very accepting, and this is what we all preach,” Yara Aboshady told a KRPC reporter. “That we all have the freedom of religion.”
It’s a funny phrase, “freedom of religion.” Americans claim to value it, but when they speak of it, they often mean “freedom of my religion.” This is especially true of Christians.
We can only imagine what would happen if signs were posted outside of a Baptist Church warning, “No Christian Parking.” Tony Perkins would call a press conference on the steps of the Family Research Council headquarters, David Barton would be making the rounds on cable news talk shows, Alliance Defending Freedom would be rushing to file a lawsuit, and poor Rush Limbaugh might have an on-air heart attack.
Christian leaders and political groups claim to oppose religious discrimination, but when the religion in question is Islam, their silence is deafening.
In a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute survey, almost half of Americans said they would be uncomfortable with a woman wearing a burqa, a mosque being built in their neighborhood or Muslim men praying at an airport, or a having a Muslim teach at the elementary school in their community. According to Gallup, about half of American Jews, Catholics, and Protestants believe most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslims.
Interestingly but not surprisingly, one’s views on these issues are heavily shaped by which news network one watches. Of Americans who say they trust Fox News the most, 52% believe that Muslims are trying to establish sharia law in the United States. Only 20% of those who most trust CNN and 23% of those who most trust public television believe the same thing. Sixty-eight percent of Fox News viewers said they believe the values of Islam are at odds with American values.
What are Christian leaders who claim to care about religious discrimination doing about anti-Muslim attitudes and behaviors? Little, if anything.
In fact, some Christians have found themselves on the opposite of these debates. When a group of Muslims attempted to construct a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for example, many Christian residents opposed it, even filing an appeal with the state supreme court to halt construction.
Christians should continue to decry unjust discrimination of their fellow Christians, both in America and abroad. And they should continue to protest against the brutal persecution of Christians by Muslims throughout the Middle East. But they can’t afford to stay mum in the face of discrimination against religious non-Christians in America. As our nation grows more pluralistic, Christians are losing their cultural and political cache. If current patterns persist, only a minority of Americans may claim to follow Jesus in the not-so-distant future. If Christians allow restrictions on where Muslims can build mosques—much less park—who’s to say that the same restrictions won’t one day be placed on them?
So Christians must oppose anti-Muslim discrimination wherever it rears its head. For when it comes to liberty, a threat to any religion is a threat to them all.