The new Islamophobia

In case you haven't heard, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, Fla., has announced that his church will host a "Qur'an burning" on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to warn Americans about the dangers of Islam. (So much for associating the word "dove" with "peace.")

In Tennessee, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican candidate for governor, has suggested that Islam may be a "cult" instead of a religion. And then, of course, there is the huge controversy over building a mosque and Islamic center a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. Elsewhere in the United States, Muslims are running into zoning roadblocks when they seek to build mosques.

What is going on? Since 9-11, there has been ample opportunity to learn about Islam and its strong historic links to both Judaism and Christianity. There have been many opportunities for interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Countless spokespersons for Islam, and independent analysts, have pointed out that Muslims who promote terrorism are a miniscule minority.

I suspect that some of this may be fed by a desire to create a new "enemy within" to raise popular fears, or in the case of the Qur'an burning – to foment a reaction – before the Congressional elections in November. If so, such motives are reprehensible.

In any event, these multiplying events call for a response from those of us who understand that they represent ignorance, intolerance and even hatred. Catholics, at least in previous generations, knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of this hatred. Appropriately, it was the "Know Nothings" who attacked Catholics in the 19th century.

These people are the new "Know Nothings."


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