Friday, August 20, 2010
Patricia Zapor reports HERE on the similarities between the anti-Islam of today and the anti-Catholicism of yesterday. At first read, I was moved by the comparison. It made me sympathetic toward those Muslims who are not enemies of freedom, the United States, Christianity or whatever else; and it made me frustrated with those behind the sentiments.
Georgetown professor, Chester Gillis: "At its core, the mosque furor is not unlike what Catholics experienced in the United States for more than 100 years, according to Georgetown University theology professor Chester Gillis.... While there are a wide range of political, philosophical and even zoning arguments about the Islamic center plans, Gillis sees anti-Muslim sentiment -- based in misconceptions and xenophobia -- at the core of the debate."
At the end of the article, Gillis is quoted as saying, "it may sound simplistic, but you really need to know Muslims as people."
As I said, my initial reaction was sympathy for Gillis's position. However, I can't overlook the "simplistic" action he takes by saying that the anti-Muslim sentiment at the core of the debate is based on misconceptions and xenophobia, just as it was when Catholics were the center of xenophobic ire.
While I don't purport to be an expert of Catholic history in the United States, I am unaware of any massive attacks carried out against United States citizens in the name of the Catholic Church. I am also unaware of many cases where Protestant fears about papists actively working to subvert American democracy and culture were substantiated. I am also unaware of Catholics actively seeking to set up parallel laws and systems of justice for themselves as some Muslims hope to do with Sharia law here and in Europe... of course, I am open to correction! Sadly for those Muslims forced to qualify themselves "moderate Muslims," there is reason for mistrust and wariness that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with, not glossed over as "misconception" or "xenophobia."
To create a dichotomy between ignorant xenophobes and the enlightened open-minded in this debate (which goes much deeper than the Ground Zero Mosque) is stifling. Those favoring the mosque and an improved position of Muslims in the United States need to "call a spade a spade," there are violent radicals among them. Those in opposition do not need to abandon their memories, but need to be open to a reality that is different from their preconceptions or previous experiences. Each side need to be cognizant of the difficult position they are asking the other to adopt.
As always, comments of disagreement and discussion are welcome and desired!
Posted by Joseph Orrino at 4:21 PM