A pastor in Keller, Texas continues to push back against so-called “Islamophobia” after making national news for standing up for Muslims when Rev. Franklin Graham said they should be stopped from immigrating to the U.S. after the massacre of 5 U.S. servicemen in Chattanooga by a Muslim.
Star Telegram Pastor Bob Roberts Jr. of NorthWood Church in Keller works closely with Grand Imam Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad from the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan.
After gunman Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed five U.S. servicemen in attacks at two military installations in Chattanooga, Tenn., Graham wrote on Facebook that Muslim immigration to the U.S. should stop. Abdulazeez, 24, was born in Kuwait and raised in the U.S.
“During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans,” Graham wrote. “Why are we allowing Muslims now?”
Last month, Roberts stood with American Muslim leaders on Capitol Hill to challenge Graham’s comments.
“I was so sad when I read the Facebook posting of Franklin Graham,” Roberts said in a report by the Religion News Service. “This is not ‘evangelical’ and even less evangelistic. I don’t want American Muslims to think we fear them or that they are our enemies.”
Roberts has long worked to support people of other faiths. He defended the inclusion of a Muslim imam at this year’s Fort Worth Stock Show after the issue sparked controversy on social media.
In 2011, his church had an event to promote Muslim-Christian cooperation. The Building Bridges with Fellow Texans event drew 2,500 people. Roberts said, the interfaith effort draws criticism in the U.S. from people who don’t understand the mission or don’t see how hate speech here can put Christians in danger in Pakistan by provoking extremists.
“Christians in America are very concerned about what is happening to Christians in Pakistan,” Roberts said. “What they don’t understand is how they treat Muslims here — what they say to the media here — affects Christians in Pakistan and Syria and all over the world.”
Christian leaders and Muslims met in Nepal last year, and the initial talks led to meetings in Texas and Pakistan. Those gatherings resulted in a commitment by American Christians to look out for Muslims here and by Muslims to look out for Christians and other minorities in Pakistan.
Roberts’ work with the grand imam and Channan echoes biblical teachings of the golden rule, which asks people to treat others as they would like to be treated.
“I’m a Baptist so I am passionate about religious freedom,” Roberts said. “I have to be concerned about freedom of religion for the Muslim in America. If I want freedom of religion for the Christian in Muslim countries, I need to be very concerned about that here.”