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Letter 46 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 46

Amir Hussain

Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

March 6, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration, and the 115th Congress,

Peace be upon you, and the Mercy and Blessings of God.

I write to you as an American Muslim who has spent his personal and professional life engaged in interfaith dialogue and comparative theology. You probably know that the commandment repeated more than any other in the Torah is the charge not to mistreat the stranger: “You shall not oppress a stranger. You know the feelings of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).

You also know from the Gospels, especially from Matthew 25:31-46 (the Parable of the Great Banquet), that Jesus commands us to care for the stranger: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” In the original Greek text of the New Testament, the “you” is always in the plural. Jesus commands all of us, together, to care for the stranger.

What you may not know is that the same biblical teachings are found in the Qur’an: “Serve God and do not associate anything with God, and be good to both your parents, and to the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor who is near and the neighbor who is farther away, and the companion by your side, and the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess; surely God does not love the one who is proud, boastful” (Qur’an 4:36). What I have translated as “and be good” is even more powerful in the Arabic original, which reads as “do something beautiful” for the people it then lists. The Qur’an is explicit that our doing good and showing beauty is not limited to our family, but also applies to those in need, whether they are literally our neighbor or someone far away from us.

I ask you, with all respect and humility, to follow these commandments in our sacred texts. In doing so, we live out the best of our ideals, both as religious persons and as Americans. We will be judged, as Jesus warned us, by how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters.

Sincerely,

Amir Hussain

Amir Hussain
Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

About the author

Amir Hussain, Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, teaches courses on Islam and world religions. His specialty is the study of contemporary Muslim societies in North America. From 2011 to 2015, he was the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. The most recent of his six books is Muslims and the Making of America (Baylor University Press, 2016).