Cannibalism, homophobia, and worshiping the Pope are all accusations that I have received as a Roman Catholic. Granted, while these are some of the more extreme judgments I have come across, they are still upsetting and, frankly, untrue. However, even though I belong to a group that has faced its share of phobia and ridicule, I cannot even begin to imagine how Muslims must feel in today’s society, especially here in the United States.
The American culture reeks of these putrid ideas that Muslims are terrorists, are antifeminist, and are somehow less than the average American citizen. Yet, I think we fail to recognize that most other religions, specifically Christianity, have engaged and still do engage in their own forms of “terrorism.” For example, Christians raided the Holy Land during the Crusades with the initial rationalization that they were trying to keep routes of pilgrimage free from Christian persecution, but then ended up looting and pillaging the surrounding areas.
Furthermore, in America, the specter of Christian terrorism has arguably committed more crimes against American citizens than has Islamic terrorism. The Klu Klux Klan terror group, for example, has historically used different means of terrorism to spread its hate message, including “[l]ynchings, tar-and-featherings, rapes and other violent attacks on those challenging white supremacy,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. And according to the Anti-Defamation League, “[Klu Klux] Klan groups tend to be overwhelmingly Christian (often adhering to the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity sect), reflecting the Klan’s more traditional origins.” Also, the Westboro Baptist Church has contributed to this Christian terror campaign through acts of aggressive protest against homosexuals and war veterans. So I fail to understand why the American culture continues to see anyone wearing a hijab as a sign of female oppression or why people continue to look at others from the Middle East as undercover terrorists when so many acts of aggression against American citizens have been performed by white Christian people.
Now, I am not trying to delegitimize Christianity. In fact, I am attempting to prove that most Christians in the United States do not identify with these terror groups. As a Catholic Christian, I feel no connection to these atrocities, or other accusations I have come across, because I know that deep down my religion does not teach those things. Likewise, most Muslims, like most Christians, do not associate with or even believe in the same principles that groups like ISIS so strongly advocate. So why does this country continue to view Muslims through a filter of terrorism?
Terrorism, in any form and from any belief system, is evil. The people who commit acts of terrorism are doing evil things. But just as Christianity is not evil, despite the fact that some Christians commit evil acts, Islam is not evil, nor are Muslims.
Even though my life experience is different coming from another faith tradition, I can sympathize with those whose religions modern society invalidates and ridicules. Of course my religion does not teach cannibalism, homophobia, or the Pope as an authoritarian dictator, but does modern society always see it that way? Of course not. Similarly, Muslims face stereotypes and prejudices, arguably on a far greater scale. From my perspective, having one’s religion judged so hastily and crudely without a chance to defend oneself is demeaning and invalidating. No one should have to undergo this undignified treatment, especially in a country that preaches freedom of religion with a fervor rarely seen in other countries of the world.
This article was written by Ceci Weigman. Click here to see more of Ceci’s work.