The “link the report makes between Catholic media, Catholic book publishers, and Islamophobia needs to be severed,” stated ethics professor can Catholic priest Drew Christiansen at a September 12 Georgetown University presentation. He referenced a new report by Georgetown’s Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) that presents new censorship dangers to Catholic “Islamophobes” who speak critically of Islam.
The report by ACMCU’s Bridge Initiative, Danger & Dialogue: What American Catholics Think and Write about Islam, found that “Catholic media outlets discuss Islam negatively overall” despite Islam’s supposedly benign nature. A Pope Francis quotation asserted “it’s not fair to identify Islam with violence” and hackneyed apologetics for Islamic law stated that sharia, rather than uniformly endangering human rights, “has been interpreted in diverse ways.” By contrast, “[t]hose surveyed who consume content from Catholic media outlets have more unfavorable views of Muslims than those who don’t.”
Surveyed Catholic views on Islam in Danger & Dialogue were correspondingly negative. In all, “[n]early half of Catholics (45%) believe Islam ‘encourages violence more than other religions around the world.’” “Catholics more often identified Muslims’ potential shortcomings or faults as major obstacles to good relations, than they mentioned Catholics’ faults,” the report stated in an accusatory tone without specifying such Catholic faults. Yet brutal realism justified that “[t]hree-quarters (75%) of Catholics felt that violence and terrorism committed by Muslims was ‘very much’ or ‘somewhat’ of an obstacle to better relations.”
As a contributing cause to these findings, Danger & Dialogue focused on how the “Islamophobia industry sometimes influences the production of Catholic content on Islam.” The report reiterated well-worn accusations from leftwing, George Soros-funded organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) concerning “Islamophobes” in Catholic media. Muslim reformer Zuhdi Jasser, Donald Trump’s Catholic presidential campaign adviser Walid Phares, and Catholic academic William Kilpatrick all received critical citations. The report noted that books by the best-selling Catholic writer on Islam, Robert Spencer, a supposed “anti-Muslim hate group” leader and “misinformation expert,” are available in Washington, DC, area Catholic bookstores.
Such individuals were anathema to the panelists who presented Danger & Dialogue in Georgetown’s Riggs Library. The university’s well-known Islam apologist, Professor John Esposito, echoed the report by stating that “Islamophobia is growing exponentially in the US and Europe….Many would say it is at an all-time high.” ACMCU board member and Catholic Theological Union professor Scott Alexander in turn contrasted that Esposito, “one of my most faithful and treasured mentors,” belongs among Islam scholars to the “Islamophilic category, a category to which I unapologetically place myself.”
Once noted for having proclaimed as a Catholic “I love the Quran” despite its anti-Christian elements, ACMCU report author Jordan Denari Duffner, introduced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after her overview of Danger & Dialogue. She described him as a “longtime friend of Georgetown and the Center for Muslim-Christian relations…known for his powerful demonstrations of solidarity with his Muslim friends.” He reciprocated that “I have a number of heroes and heroines” among the presenters.
McCarrick, previously criticized for his erroneous beliefs that Islamic teachings parallel Christian humanism, referenced his participation last January in the Moroccan conference that issued the Marrakesh Declaration. He called this religious liberty statement made by Muslim clerics drawn from Islamic history a “beautiful expression of the very best that is in Islam…the real Islam,” notwithstanding the declaration’s and its signers numerous flaws. Alexander likewise offered the canard that dhimmis were “protected religious minorities during the medieval period in Islamic countries according to religious law, but were obviously in a second-class status.”
Alexander and Esposito dismissed this author’s scrutiny with reference to a recent speech by Knights of Columbus (KC) Supreme Knight Carl Anderson concerning the persecution, including genocide, of Middle East Christians. He had asked “can governments recognize and truly respect human rights if they are also committed to an Islam that totally organizes life on both the political and social levels.” Esposito paid little respect to the “grand knight or whatever” Anderson who had overseen the invaluable KC-assisted report on the Islamic State’s Christian genocide.
Alexander responded that he knew Anderson, a “very good man” who was “nonetheless not an expert in Islam or Islamic studies or Middle Eastern studies” and whose “assessment of the data is quite flawed and skewed.” Alexander rejected examining Muslim-majority societies in a manner that would “essentialize those very serious human rights violations as having something to do with Islam…some flawed gene in Islam.” “Most of those human rights violations take place in societies that are suffering from all of the ills that Catholic social teaching attempts to address,” he stated, as if sharia abuses in Iran, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere had some socioeconomic root cause.
Yet many might find the views of Alexander, a man who seems oblivious to any dangers in Islam, “flawed and skewed.” The “Qur’an only permits violence insofar as it qualifies as a necessary component of the struggle for righteousness” and jihad commands Muslims “to work tirelessly, and in radical love, for the realization of justice,” he has written. He thus recommended the My Jihad website initiated by the Hamas-derived Council on American-Islamic Relations to whitewash jihad’s holy war nature. He also once offered in an expert witness defense brief for a Palestinian facing immigration charges excuses for his rank Islamic anti-Semitic statements, before public outrage forced Alexander to withdraw from the case.
Asking how Catholics like Spencer “get away with it without any public censure from the Catholic hierarchy,” Alexander and his fellow panelists desire a new inquisition against “Islamophobes.” “Taking a closer look at the message that is being communicated about Islam—and who is communicating it—should be a priority” for Catholic media, Danger & Dialogue states. This would be a “mark of professional maturity if the Catholic press were willing to monitor itself,” stated Christiansen, who has a long record of anti-Israel, Islamophilic, and leftwing statements. Catholics and others concerned about critical inquiry into Islam should beware.
Cross-posted from the Religious Freedom Coalition.