Catholics Then, Muslims Now: A Case against Islamophobia

Source: NY Times

By DOUG SAUNDERS Published: September 17, 2012

THE short, crude anti-Muslim video that sparked a wave of violent protests across the Middle East did not emerge from an obscure pocket of extremism; it is the latest in a string of anti-Muslim outbursts in the United States. In August, a mosque was burned down in Missouri and an acid bomb was thrown at an Islamic school in Illinois. The video’s backers are part of a movement that has used the insecurity of the post-9/11 years to sow unfounded fears of a Muslim plot to take over the West.

Their message has spread from the obscurity of the Internet and the far right to the best seller lists, the mainstream media and Congress. For the first time in decades, it has become acceptable in some circles to declare that a specific religious minority can’t be trusted.

During the Republican primaries, Muslims were accused of harboring plans for “stealth Shariah.” A group of five Republican House members, led by Michele Bachmann, groundlessly accused two prominent Muslim federal officials of loyalty to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Another Republican representative, Joe Walsh of Illinois, used a campaign rally to suggest that Muslims in the Chicago suburbs were plotting to commit terrorist attacks. In New York City, the police spied on thousands of Muslims for six years without producing any evidence that could lead to an investigation.

The view that members of a religious minority are not to be trusted — that they are predisposed to extremism, disloyalty and violence; resist assimilation; reproduce at alarming rates, and are theologically compelled to impose their backward religious laws on their adopted home — is not new. From the 19th century on, distrust, violence and, eventually, immigration restrictions were aimed at waves of Roman Catholic immigrants.

As late as 1950, 240,000 Americans bought copies of “American Freedom and Catholic Power,” a New York Times best seller. Its author, Paul Blanshard, a former diplomat and editor at The Nation, made the case that Catholicism was an ideology of conquest, and that its traditions constituted a form of “medieval authoritarianism that has no rightful place in the democratic American environment.”  Read more.

Categories: Americas, Islamophobia

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