The Amish are a unique ethnoreligious group in North America. They rarely leave the country, and even in places like Lancaster, PA where they intermingle with non-Amish communities, they tend to keep to themselves.
They’re exceptionally insular in that regard, to the point where it may even be accurate to call the Amish a cult, depending on who you ask.
So if they’re located in North America and rarely — if ever — travel internationally, how often do the Amish encounter cultures and religions that are substantially different from theirs?
And if they do have the chance to get to know people of other faiths, can they be friends?
Most notably, people want to know: Can the Amish be friends with Muslims? Or is there a religious or community restriction that prohibits them from making friends with non-Amish (or non-Christians)?
In this blog, we’ll dive into that question with both a short and a long answer.
To start, we’ll give the short answer.
Can the Amish Be Friends with Muslims? Yes
In short, the Amish are able to be friends with Muslims in the same way that a member of any faith can befriend someone of a different faith.
There are no explicit rules in Amish doctrine stating that they can’t engage with non-Amish of any descriptions. In fact, to do so at this point in world history could wind up isolating the Amish economically and make their lifestyle financially non-viable.
It’s also important to note that the Amish don’t have a cultural disdain for anyone, at least in broad strokes. Communities may harbor their own prejudices individually, but there’s no sweeping edict that’s used by all Amish to discriminate against someone of a different religion.
Perhaps most importantly, the Amish don’t get the opportunity to meet people of different geographies very often. They may be familiar with the non-Amish of their area, but the Amish also live in rural regions with little access to easy transportation.
In other words, it’s not likely that an Amish person would get the opportunity to meet a Muslim individual, just like they would be unlikely to have the opportunity to meet a Buddhist or Taoist.
With that said, let’s jump into some details that explain why the Amish are able to be friends with Muslims, despite the admittedly narrow and deliberately old-fashioned views of the Amish themselves.
1. Amish Rules Only Affect Themselves (Most of the Time)
The main reason the Amish are able to be friends with Muslims is that they have very few rules about engaging with non-Amish people.
In fact, most Amish rules (even the rare new rule that gets introduced to a community) have to do with the Amish governing their own lives, complete with instructions on how to live in a way that pleases their faith.
The Amish are, to some extent, forbidden from using modern technology. In all communities, women may be able to participate in community governance, but they can’t hold office. Men must never shave their chins after marriage.
While these rules are considered at best odd (and at worst oppressive) by modern standards, they all share the same intended target: the Amish.
Some rules may guide the Amish when it comes to the exceptionally rare case of someone marrying into the Amish (or, more often, an Amish person marrying out).
Other rules may offer guidance on how to work, sell, transport goods, and other stipulations so that the Amish can maintain a livable (or even comfortable) level of income without forsaking the tenets of their faith.
Regardless, there’s no strict rule stating that the Amish can’t engage with other non-Amish, including non-Amish of other faiths.
2. The Amish Don’t Consider the World at Large
Another reason the Amish are free to be friends with Muslims is that the Amish don’t often consider the world at large.
One of the religiously-oriented motivations of Anabaptists is “to be in the world, but not of the world.”
The Amish take this concept to an extreme by withholding from so many modern conveniences.
However, it also means they don’t often consider the world as it’s currently considered. Without ready access to the Internet or even telephones, world news doesn’t often reach the Amish.
Instead, it’s almost all information that affects the Amish on a local level.
Because the Amish live in rural America and Canada — areas with little Muslim population in North America — many Amish may not know that Muslims even exist. For those that do, Muslims are likely to be lumped together by the Amish as other non-Amish.
This is arguably the biggest reason that the Amish don’t have restrictions against being friends with Muslims or other religious groups. They so infrequently encounter non-Amish that the Amish don’t think about them much, if at all.
As a result, they don’t spend much (again, if any) time considering whether they should or should not be friends with Muslims.
Instead, the Amish are free to befriend whomever they’d like in most cases.
3. Jakob Ammann Didn’t Mention Muslims
Jakob Ammann was the founder of the Amish. His radical views of punishment and conformity made him an outcast among his fellow Swiss Brethren elders, who were essentially Swiss Mennonites.
Ammann and his followers caused what’s called “The Great Schism” in the Mennonite denomination when they excommunicated the Swiss Brethren elders who disagreed with them. The Swiss Brethren also excommunicated Ammann and his followers.
Since it’s not clear who excommunicated whom first, Ammann and his followers left Switzerland and made for greener pastures elsewhere, eventually ending up in the New World.
Regardless, Ammann’s methods focused on how his followers should behave themselves in the face of the context of the era, which was the 1700s.
Ammann focused on answering questions like what should happen when someone leaves the Amish church or how women should be subservient to their husbands because of biblical interpretation.
His goal was to isolate his followers as much he could from the potential enemies and evils that he saw at the time, which were namely the Swiss Brethren and other Christian groups who disagreed with him (or wanted to kill him).
The Muslim population of the Middle East, on the other hand, was likely not in Ammann’s mind or vision at the time. Instead, he established the rules and guidelines for his followers in conjunction with (and sometimes against) those who he knew.
4. The Amish Are Non-Violent
As a result of being an Anabaptist sect of Christians, the Amish are non-violent. In fact, the Amish were one of the only groups of Americans given the chance to register as conscientious objectors for the purposes of military drafts during World War II and the Vietnam War (among others).
However, non-violence doesn’t necessarily mean that the Amish practice pacifism or something to that effect.
It also means that the Amish are, by and large, remarkably approachable for a group of people who shun much of the modern world.
The concept of non-violence also extends to non-discrimination for some Amish. While Amish racists and sexists most certainly exist, the interpretation of non-violence can be seen as both a passive rejection of hate and an active embrace of compassion.
In other words, one of the reasons that the Amish may be friends with Muslims is because of their belief in not hating others. This can differ on an individual basis, of course, but it also means there’s no explicit rule forbidding an Amish person from making contact and building a friendship with a Muslim.
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