How Refugee Neighbors Changed A Man’s Mind About Muslims: ‘They Took The Hatred Out Of Me’

Learning neighborly kindness.


By Christopher Mathias
Huffington Post (2/9/17)

“I hated Muslims.”

That’s what John Dutcher, a 61-year-old house cleaner in Omaha, Nebraska, recently admitted in interviews with both The Washington Post and KETV.

He told the Post that he had been “one of those guys who would want to put a pig’s head on a mosque.” (Pork-based hate crimes targeting Muslims are common in the U.S., including in Omaha.) And he’d “sneer at” women wearing headscarfs of hijabs, he said to KETV ― even though he had never actually met a Muslim person before.

Then six families of refugees, including from Syria and Afghanistan, moved into his apartment building. They were Muslim.

His previous neighbors had been loud, messy drug addicts, and Dutcher found living next to the refugee families a surprising relief.

He learned about their harrowing stories escaping war-torn countries, and slowly but surely, his feelings about Islam and Muslims warmed.

“The Muslims here were all about family and they just loved everyone,” Dutcher told the Post. “I remember the people who lived here before; they took for granted everything this country gave them. These people, they really changed my heart.”

“After three months of being here, they all have jobs, they all have cars, their kids are going to school,” he told KETV.

The KETV segment features a refugee aid worker describing how helpful Dutcher has been to the families and shows footage of him playing with smiling refugee children.

And in an especially powerful moment, Dutcher describes how his new neighbors have changed him.

“They took the hatred out of me,” he says, tears welling up in his eyes. “I never knew how badly somebody could hate someone they don’t even know.”  …

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