"Interfaith Dialogue an Antidote to Poison of Religious Intolerance," a Commentary by Aziz Junejo

March 3, 2007

Author: Aziz Junejo

Source: The Seattle Times


I have come to realize today's Muslims may have something in common with Irish immigrants of a few hundred years ago. Anti-Catholicism was widespread in colonial New England society. It arose from Protestant fears that Irish immigration could, one day, cause the country to become Catholic and to fall under the influence of the pope in Rome.

Many in the Muslim community feel that Islam today is viewed with the same trepidation and that Muslims are treated unfairly as a result.

There is a story about when the Irish first landed on our shores. It is said two flags were raised: Old Glory on the one hand, and on the other, a banner using an anti-Catholic slur to say Catholics were not welcome.

Most New Englanders at the time usually associated Catholicism with tyranny and oppression. It would be more than a hundred years before things would start to get better for Catholics in our country. In time, Catholicism came to be understood as a tolerant and respectable religion, mostly through the good work of Catholic people.

Many American Muslims believe Islamophobia has replaced anti-Catholicism, and they find it troubling that the majority of Americans have very little understanding about what Muslims believe and how we practice our faith. The situation allows negative media portrayals of Islam to be received with more credibility than they deserve, something I find deeply disturbing.