In today’s mail came another book from Amazon, sent as a Christmas gift by this blog’s reader Mohammad. It’s a book about Christian art; last week, Mohammed sent a book about Chartres, and included a Tomie de Paola’s book “The Clown Of God” for my kids. I was so excited to receive the art book that I immediately sat down and began to read. I can tell that it’s going to be great.

When Mohammad sent the Chartres book and the “Clown Of God” book, I didn’t want to name him here, out of respect for his privacy. But I feel that I must do so today, because he really must know — and you really must know — how much these thoughtful gifts touched my heart. As my longtime readers will know, I have had a hard heart towards Islam since watching all those people in my city die on 9/11. It is one thing to know in one’s mind that you cannot blame all Muslims for that abhorrent crime, but that is not the same as knowing it in one’s heart. The fact that American liberals seem to fall all over themselves to overlook or excuse Islamic extremism, even in this country, paradoxically makes it harder to be fair, at least for me. That, and seeing the vicious persecution of Christians in Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan, at the hands of pious Muslims.

Of course, a pious Muslim seeing American drones raining down murder on innocent wedding parties in Yemen must have the same thoughts about American Christians.

What Mohammad’s kindness at Christmas time did for me was to make my heart more tender, and my mind more open. And you should know, by the way, that Mohammad is not only a Muslim, but is an Iranian, who lives in Iran. He bought books to teach a Christian stranger living in the United States more about his — the Christian’s — religion and its artistic tradition, and sent them as gifts for Christmas.

Have I ever done that for someone like Mohammad? No. But now I will. He has shown me what it means to be a good Muslim, and a good man, and in a small but important way, helped me to see the world more clearly. That may be the most important of these Christmas gifts. I hope I don’t embarrass Mohammad by thanking him publicly, but it occurred to me that the rest of you ought to know about this extraordinary generosity from a man halfway around the world who has reason to think of me as his enemy, but considers me rather a friend.

Thank you, Mohammad. God’s peace be upon you and your family. You have a friend in Louisiana, and you are always welcome at my table.

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