[Editor’s note: Sarah Metzel writes this letter to the editor in response to CT Managing Editor Saffeya Ahmed’s March 20 column on the attack in New Zealand.]
My eyes were wet with tears as l finished reading your article. As a Christian, I can’t imagine the simultaneous outrage and emptiness I would feel if someone walked into the Cathedral on Monroe Park and shot and killed 50 worshippers.
This terrorist could walk straight past the sign I acknowledged Friday afternoon, saying “come in and pray.” They could pull out a semi-automatic rifle, and open fire.
I’m not saying that is likely to happen in Richmond — this amazing city I have called home the past four years — but I’m saying it could. There would be public outcry, and especially if the terrorist were a Muslim extremist.
I don’t know everything on the topic of Islamic extremism, but I know it’s not most Muslims. The root word that “Islam” in Arabic comes from translates to “peace.” All the Muslims I have known in my life have welcomed me as a friend.
Jesus taught us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” In other words, treat others how you’d like to be treated. Interestingly, your neighbors play a big role.
Talk to political science professor Chris Saladino, and he’ll tell you a funny story. A year after the 9/11 terrorist attack, a neighbor of his friend called the cops on their Muslim neighbor across the street. The fearful man thought that his neighbor, who was actually Sikh, was concocting a bomb in his garage. In fact, he was constructing a “man cave” to watch TV, eat food and enjoy time with friends. The irony and ignorance in this story makes it laughable.
This belies a bigger issue: wrong assumptions resulting from a lack of communication can have real consequences. When the police arrived, they found nothing wrong and laughed it off. However, as we know from videos of unwarranted police brutality, law enforcement is not always as understanding as those Richmond police officers were that day.
In the famous words of the legend, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “A single story is a dangerous one.”
We must never let the single story become the only story — that is what breeds stereotypes like the “Muslim terrorist.”
I am proud of my family in all its diversity. Just to paint a picture (relatives reading this, sorry if you’re missing): On my mom’s side I have an African American uncle, an Indian uncle and a Pakistani aunt. On my dad’s side, I have a Turkish aunt. My sister-in-law grew up in Shanghai, China. It may sound like we just go around collecting people from different continents … but there is no governing body in the chaos of my family. I think they all pretty much just fell in love with each other.
My parents are two unique characters themselves. My mom, the daughter of a civil rights activist in segregated Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My dad, the son of missionaries in Congo who was greeted by race riots at John Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia, when he moved to the U.S. for high school. Talk about a racist version of the “Mean Girls” plot and some serious culture shock for my dad!
The point of all these stories is to say that contact between cultures matters so much. How else can we be woke?
We all bleed red, like you said, Saffeya. The actions of a few extremists should not define an entire community — that goes for Muslims, and Christians.
When the faithful walk into their place of worship, whether it’s a mosque in New Zealand or the Cathedral on Monroe Park, they deserve peace. As-salamu alaykum — peace be upon you.
– Sarah Metzel