(To my Muslim readers: you are most welcome to read this or any blog post I write. But this post is especially for my Christian readers. I want them to see a little bit of what I see – the beauty of you, my Muslim friends.)

Dear Christian readers,

I know that many of you don’t know a single Muslim person – not one. Some of you have fears, doubts, and suspicion so you don’t engage in conversation or dialogue or friendship with any Muslims. I so want to see that change!

Part of my purpose in creating this blog is to break down walls between Muslims and Christians. To build bridges between us.

In this blog post, may I tell you about some of my Muslim friends? (I have chosen not to use their real names here.) I want you to see what I see – incredible people that you would love – if you just took the time to meet them.

I Wish You Could Meet Abbas – An Auto Repair Owner From Palestine
Abbas is one of the kindest, gentlest, humblest people I have ever met. He tries hard to help his customers in any way he can. Abbas and I have had long conversations about life and faith at his auto repair shop. I have attended Friday prayers at the mosque with him (so I could observe) and met his large family. I have eaten at his father’s home in Palestine. He tells me that he loves me and I know he means it. I say the same and he knows that I mean it too.

I Wish You Could Meet Ibrahim – A Student From Saudi Arabia
Ibrahim and I have had excellent conversations about life in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, about American politics, about Israel and Zionism, and about our faiths and our families. I have seen pictures of his wonderful family and heard of his father’s love for western jazz and blues music. Ibrahim is an incredible listener. He thinks before he speaks. He speaks softly but with real impact. His absolute openness to talk about potentially controversial topics is so refreshing. Both of us look forward to our next time of dinner and conversation together.

I Wish You Could Meet Husam – A Baker From Palestine
Husam is one of the hardest workers I have ever met. When my wife and I first met Husam about 7 years ago, he was working two jobs: baking early in the morning at his bakery/restaurant for 4-5 hours and then working in a hospital for 8 hours each afternoon and evening. I have eaten at his home in the States and stayed with his family in their home in Palestine. His hard working wife, sons, and daughters are like family to me. If you could see Husam’s smile, hear his warm greeting, and experience his strong bear hug, you would love him like I do.

I Wish You Could Meet Laleh – A Student From Iran
My wife and I met Laleh while taking a group of international students to a winter ice sculpture event. We immediately found her to be a very sweet, warm person. Later that evening, she invited us to have tea with her at her apartment. She shared her joy at going on the hadj to Mecca as a teen to “admire God.” She said about her time on the hadj, “When I was in Mecca, I realized I had fallen in love with God all my life.” We could see in Laleh’s eyes that she really loves God. We know He loves her too!

I Wish You Could Meet Farah – A Student From Palestine
My wife and I first met Farah and her two sisters – all of them in their twenties – when they worked for their father in the bakery. Like their father, they worked long and hard hours. I have been in their home visiting their father when Farah came home from a long day at work or at her college where she studies medicine. She always smiles and greets me warmly, asks about my wife, and quickly begins helping with cooking or cleaning in the home. She is an exceptional young lady in every way.

I Wish You Could Meet Samir and Walid – Cooks From Yemen
These young guys make great mac and cheese, fried chicken, and gumbo! When I come in to their restaurant (owned by a Lebanese family we also know), they always greet me warmly with big smiles. Samir is married and has one child – a little boy he has never met! After a time at home for the wedding and time together, he came back to the U.S. to work to send money home. His wife has since given birth and he can only see pictures of this amazing little boy – now about two years old. Walid is a hard working guy who also attends a local university in our area. He is so intelligent and well-spoken and he might be reading this blog post!

I Wish You Could Meet Yousef – A Biologist From Syria
I met Yousef while he was a student at a local university and President of the Muslim Student Association there. We built friendship over time and we had the idea to have an “I Love Muslims Day” at his university. When I e-mailed him about it, he said he wished I had told him in person so he could hug me! He said he had tears in his eyes! He was really touched by the event – as were many other Muslim students. You will not meet a kinder, more respectful, more humble young man than Yousef.

Finally, I Wish You Could Meet Khaled – A Barber From Jordan
Khaled is not just a barber – he is my barber! This guy and the other Arab barbers in the shop are amazing with hair and beards. Khaled’s wife is still in Jordan after several painful years of awaiting a visa. He is able to go home to see her twice a year. They have 4 girls together and a new baby boy is on the way! Khaled always says to me, “I love you too much, Mr. Mark.” I know he means, “I love you so much.” For sure, I love him too.

These are just a few of my Muslim friends. I am blessed to have so many more. To my American Christian readers I just want to say, take the time – make the effort – to meet a Muslim man or woman. Get to know them. Ask about their family. Their home country. Ask what they miss about home and what they like about here. Most of all, show them love.

I wish you could meet my Muslim friends!