I was recently approached by a long-time friend to have lunch with a friend of his who was running for a local city council seat. My friend of over thirty years is a golfing buddy, a former business partner, and…he happens to be a Muslim. His friend, running for city council in the city of Euless, Texas, is a successful businessman, a husband and father, an attorney, graduate of the prestigious SMU Dedman School of Law…and…he also happens to be a Muslim. His name is Salman Bhojani. He legally immigrated to America from Pakistan, and subsequently became a U.S. Citizen. Salman asked for my support in his race for city council. I advised him at that lunch to be prepared for his religious faith to become an issue in his campaign. And it sure did!
I introduced Salman to several friends who live in Euless and could actually vote for him. I really didn’t plan to publicly endorse him because I don’t live in Euless and I could not vote for him. The intensity of the attacks on his Muslim faith came to a head the final week of the election. First, our State Representative, sent out an email warning voters in Euless not to vote for a Muslim, that he held ideas that were dangerous for our community. Then a man approached his wife at the polling site and called her a “brown Muslim terrorist liar.” Another man rode in on a motorcycle and taunted them, said he would never voted for him because of his skin color and religion, and claimed that if elected, his family could face physical attack.
When I learned of these incidents, I decided that I would go public with my support. And on Facebook and Twitter I told the above stories and let people know that Salman Bhojani, a Muslim, a friend, had my complete support for the Euless City Council and I encouraged all of my friends and past supporters who live in Euless to meet Salman and give him a chance to earn their vote.
In an incredible outcome, with just over 4,200 votes cast in the race, my friend Salman Bhojani won a seat on the Euless City Council by just 37 votes. Euless is a city with about 55,000 residents and nearly half of those residents are non-white. Salman is the first non-white to be elected to the city council in the history of the city!
Certainly, there are things that Salman and I do not agree on. But I could not sit silently by and allow racism and bigotry to go unchallenged! Christians…we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to love even our enemies. I believe as followers of Jesus we are to love all people, everywhere, whether they agree with us or not, whether they are like us or not, and even whether they like us or not. Love is to be the defining characteristic of Jesus followers. Let’s put an end to racism and bigotry by not sitting silently by whenever it raises its head.