While working in a large hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Virji realized that due to the number of his patients he was assigned, he was practicing “turnstyle” medicine. Upon hearing of a shortage of doctors in rural communities, he and his family moved to a town of 1400 people in Minnesota, where he opened a clinic. After a few years, he was finally practicing personable medicine in a community that seemed warm and welcoming. Then the 2016 elections hit. Virji, a devout Muslim, woke to find a swastika on his sidewalk. The atmosphere in the town seemed to shift overnight and things got dangerous and intense. At the verge of leaving entirely, a town meeting was called and Virji found himself in the burdened position of having to educate and explain his religion to a less-than-open crowd. Love Thy Neighbor offers a view of the bravery that is required and the shifts that can take place when compassion and faith are used to combat fear.
A powerful true story about a Muslim doctor's service to small-town America and the hope of overcoming our country's climate of hostility and fear.
In 2013, Ayaz Virji left a comfortable job at an East Coast hospital and moved to a town of 1,400 in Minnesota, feeling called to address the shortage of doctors in rural America. But in 2016, this decision was tested when the reliably blue, working-class county swung for Donald Trump. Virji watched in horror as his children faced anti-Muslim remarks at school and some of his most loyal patients began questioning whether he belonged in the community.
Virji wanted out. But in 2017, just as he was lining up a job in Dubai, a local pastor invited him to speak at her church and address misconceptions about what Muslims practice and believe. That invitation has grown into a well-attended lecture series that has changed hearts and minds across the state, while giving Virji a new vocation that he never would have expected.
In Love Thy Neighbor, Virji relates this story in a gripping, unforgettable narrative that shows the human consequences of our toxic politics, the power of faith and personal conviction, and the potential for a renewal of understanding in America's heartland.
About the Author
AYAZ VIRJIis a family physician practicing in Dawson, Minnesota. He received his B.A. in history at Georgetown University in 1996 and his M.D. from Georgetown Medical School in 2000. In addition to his 14 years of medical practice, Dr. Virji has authored several peer-reviewed scientific publications, and one patent, and he studies comparative religion in his free time. He continues to present his "Love Thy Neighbor" lectures in schools, libraries, community centers, places of worship, colleges, and universities throughout the country.
“So many narratives about rural America in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election have been told through the eyes of the white working class. Yet Ayaz Virji’s memoir as a Muslim doctor in small-town Minnesota offers a revealing perspective that challenges us to think more broadly about community and faith in Trump Country, where the author chronicles the conflicts between his calling to practice rural medicine and find acceptance in his religious identity.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Clear-eyed . . . Written in powerful vignettes that jump easily from flashback to present . . . Virji shows the community work he—and many others—are doing to combat a negative political climate through education and outreach. This is a vivid account of one man’s efforts to make sense of political tensions, racial hatred, and religious misunderstandings.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Both candid and compelling, Virji's book is strong medicine for an age plagued by the ills of xenophobia, misinformation, and distrust. A courageous and necessary memoir in troubling times.”—Kirkus Reviews