Very recently our media thrust the phrase No-Go Zones (NGZ’s) into the forefront of our minds and onto our Facebook pages. It has been suggested that these are places inside western countries, including the US, where Sharia Law reigns and Muslim extremism can thrive. One FB post I recently saw showed a picture of ISIS with a title that read “coming to a neighborhood near you”.
There was also an instance where a ‘terrorism expert’ said “there are actual cities like Birmingham [England] that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." This was discredited immediately and apologies were made.
So do NGZ’s like this exist in the US? Absolutely not. That doesn’t mean a person (or a small group of people) cannot become extreme in their thinking and actions. Sadly, we see that happen all the time in the US where someone picks up a gun and takes innocent lives. But the NGZ’s being talked about today are as mythical as the Sasquatch.
One way to help put your mind at ease is to ask the simple question “If they do exist why isn’t the FBI or some other law enforcement agency shutting them down?”
In one interview I saw, on a major news outlet in the US, they asked this question to an expert on NGZ’s. This was the same guy who claimed to have video evidence of these places, showing how he had been chased away by the inhabitants. In one case, a person even hit his car with a big stick.
When asked why the FBI isn’t shutting these down he said the FBI’s response is that these NGZ’s are protected by First Amendment rights, regardless of any activities going on inside. What? Really? We are supposed to believe there are terrorist training camps in the US and our law enforcement agencies are just ignoring them? Not a chance.
And what about when he was run off the property. Well, imagine what most Americans would do if a goofy white guy with a camera and an agenda showed up at their house? Considering the high rate of gun ownership in the US, that encounter might end far worse than just having your car hit with a big stick.
But despite the myth, I do think NGZ’s exist all across the US in a very different way.
Statistics suggest about 0.6-0.8% of the US population is Muslim. This is just a fraction of the 316 million people who live here but we do have neighbors, more than ever before, who practice Islam. For those of you with an American non-Muslim background (like me) ask yourself this, do you go to the same places/neighborhoods where your Muslim neighbors go? Do you shop at the Halal grocery stores? Do you buy houses in the same neighborhoods? Are you spending time together as friends?
In some cases, we are connecting as neighbors. But for many non-Muslim Americans we have created our own NGZ’s by our lifestyles and way of thinking. This has nothing to do with the suggestion that we would not be welcomed by our Muslim neighbors. In fact, the exact opposite is usually true. In most cases, we would be welcomed with tea, a great meal and unmatched hospitality.
Instead, we often let fear lead us away from our neighbors and into a world of avoidance where this type of NGZ can thrive.
So what can we do to overcome this? About 2000 years ago a concept was introduced by Jesus of Nazareth that said we should Love our neighbors, even our enemies. I have been fortunate to see the extraordinary results of this concept lived out from Des Moines, Iowa to Palestine, Iraq , the UK and even Joplin, Missouri. I have seen people from different religions, and non-religious backgrounds, embrace this concept and overcome seemingly impossible differences.
When we begin to see others as our neighbors, and seek to Love them, amazing things happen. And the No-Go Zones we've created will start to vanish.
*If you would like to learn more about The Nations and how we are helping individuals and organizations Love their neighbors please email Rich@thenations-dsm.org.