As An American Muslim, The Church Fires in Louisiana Are Very Distressing

This is an issue that affects all communities of faith

Almost 100 investigators are working to determine who is behind a series of black church fires in Louisiana:

About 100 investigators are working to find who is behind a series of church fires that have struck rural areas of Louisiana in recent weeks.

The fires, which have prompted calls for prayer by the state’s governor, destroyed three predominantly black churches in St. Landry Parish, around Opelousas, in late March and early April and caused minor damage to a mostly white Pentecostal church in Vivian, about 200 miles north in Caddo Parish.

Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal, said investigators have yet to determine if the three fires at historic Baptist churches in Opelousas and Port Barre are related or if any of them are tied to one at the church in Vivian. But she said the number of investigators is unusually high. It includes 40 federal staffers, including agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; 40 state agency workers; and 20 people from local agencies.

This is most distressing to me as an American Muslim. Houses of worship are sacred spaces, places of peace and tranquility, and they must be off limits for any savage seeking to do harm to either the building, the inhabitants inside, or both. The attacks on the mosques in Christchurch New Zealand really hit home for me. I saw myself in any one of those victims, who were savagely gunned down in their house of worship on the holiest day of the week.

And: I also see myself in the victims of the Emmanuel AME church shooting; and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; and the shooting in the church in Texas. Those black churches in Louisiana are my houses of worship as well, even though I do not practice the Christian faith.

As said by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards in a statement,

Our churches are sacred, central parts of our communities and everyone should feel safe in their place of worship. We do not know the cause of these fires in St. Landry and Caddo parishes, but my heart goes out to each of the congregations and all of those who call these churches home.

The same goes for mosques, synagogues, temples, and all other houses of worship. The Quran itself says the same thing. In fact, one of the reasons that defensive warfare is sanctioned in the Quran is to specifically protect houses of worship:

Were it not for God’s repelling people, some by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein God’s Name is mentioned much, would have been destroyed. And God will surely help those who help Him — truly God is Strong, Mighty (22:40)

It is mind boggling to me that, in 2019, black churches are still being burned to the ground. How can this be, America?

Houses of worship must be off limits; houses of worship must be a red line that no one of any human decency should cross; houses of worship must be places wherein “God’s name is mentioned much,” as the Quran says, and the people mentioning God’s name therein are safe and sound from massacre.

My heart and prayers go out to the congregations affected by these church burnings. I pray that those behind these acts of terrorism be found and brought to justice. And I pray that, forever and ever, our houses of worship remain palaces of peace, safety, and security. Amen.

Reflections on Faith by Hesham A. Hassaballa. Books: “Beliefnet Guide to Islam” and “Noble Brother,” the Prophet Muhammad’s story entirely in poetry.

Reflections on Faith by Hesham A. Hassaballa. Books: “Beliefnet Guide to Islam” and “Noble Brother,” the Prophet Muhammad’s story entirely in poetry.