Natchitoches native holds “YOU BELONG” sign in front of a mosque

By Justin Normand


I have had the most extraordinary weekend.

Like most everyone I know, I have been in a malaise and at a loss since Election Day. What to do? With myself? With my time? To make things better, or even just to slog through?
I had had the urge for a week or so to do this. Friday, I had a couple of spare hours in the afternoon, so I did.

I made a sign, and I drove to a mosque and stood out on the public sidewalk to share the peace with my neighbors. My marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors.
Someone took a picture and posted it, and it’s been viewed millions of times, and shared across various platforms many hundreds of thousands of times.

This is extraordinary and humbling; mainly because what I did isn’t (or shouldn’t be) all that extraordinary.

For me, this wasn’t about expressing agreement; I remain Presbyterian, not Muslim.
It wasn’t about demonstrating my outrage to right-wing drivers driving down Esters Road in front of the mosque. I can never, and will never, change any of the haters. It’s not about them. Not this time, and not here.

This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us. Or, in some Christian traditions, this was about washing my brother’s feet.

This was about my religion, not theirs.

And, it was about what I think I must do as an American when our way of life is threatened. Targeting people for their religion not only threatens our way of life, it is the polar opposite of our way of life.

Find a group marginalized by the haters in this current era we find ourselves in. Then, find a way to express your acceptance to that group in a physically present way, as opposed to a digital one.
I can assure you, from their outpouring of smiles, hugs, tears, hospitality, messages extending God’s love, and a bouquet of flowers, it will mean a lot.
My own religious tradition ascribes these words to my deity:
I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
It is also in this vein that the words on the Statue of Liberty embrace, with eagerness and mercy, all who come to join us:
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words bespeak the America we all remember, know, love, and are still called upon to be. Especially now.

Lastly, it worked. I felt better for the impact it had on my neighbors. They genuinely needed this encouragement. They need us.

They need all of us. They need you.

We ARE one America.

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5 thoughts on “Natchitoches native holds “YOU BELONG” sign in front of a mosque

  1. I was going to actually post a “no comment” just to show that I read the article; however, after crying during the aftermath of 911 , and with no apologies from Muslim leadership, other than asking for understanding …. (I’m not Catholic but I can imagine that the Pope, being the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church would be outraged if this were a “splinter group of Catholics”….and denouncing them. Perhaps I am wrong but where has this been said from Muslim leadership?…..Other than Paul’s statement?

    • Actually, Junior, MANY Muslims in very prominent positions have emphatically denounced the actions of a few deranged fanatics who commit terrible acts using religion as an excuse. The American media, particularly those who benefit from encouraging bigotry and divisiveness, have ignored the many voices of sane people (regardless of their religion) who find murdering civilians repugnant. How many American “Christian” leaders have denounced fanatic murders (abortion clinic doctors, anyone disagreeing with them) committed in the name of their own religion, not to mention the nasty stereotypes perpetrated by those who supposedly follow a leader who commands “love thy neighbor” and “love thy enemy as thyself.” Hypocrisy was a cardinal sin denounced frequently by the founder of the Christian religion. It’s a pity, so few “Christians” care to follow the teachings of Jesus, and, instead, used their religion as a narcissistic “get out of hell free” card to feel superior to others. So much for tolerance. Get thee behind me, Satan; or, walk into many churches today preaching hate.

      Have a blessed day!

  2. What if your neighbors religion teaches that they have a right to kill you if you don’t believe the way that they do.

    • Unfortunately, many religions, including Christianity (Jesus, don’t you people read history?), have at various times taught such an odious message. It’s not the religion, it’s the intolerant narrow-minded bullies pretending to represent the religion, that are responsible for such attitudes. But, of course, many find it always much easier to demonize those different from themselves, and then parrot the same message directed against those who worship differently. BTW, Islam is one of the the three Abrahamic faiths; to be accurate, we should refer to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, because, despite what you may have been mistakenly told, Allah is the Arabic word for God, not the name of another God. Education is a blessing.

      Have an educated day!

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