How the Catholic media is shaping views about Muslims in America

(CNS photo)

“Islam is peace,” said George W. Bush just days after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Earlier this year, President Obama wrote that it reflects a “tradition of peace, charity and justice." And Pope Francis has repeatedly said it is wrong to identify Islam with violence. But many Catholics disagree. According to a new report from Georgetown University’s project The Bridge Initiative, 45 percent of U.S. Catholics believe “Islam encourages violence more than other religions,” and fewer than two in 10 have a favorable view of Muslims.

Catholics’ negative impressions of the world’s second largest religion may be explained in part by their unfamiliarity with its adherents: 70 percent of Catholics say they do not know a single Muslim. (Those who do are more than twice as likely to view them favorably.) That means most Catholics “know” Islam through the media, where it is most often discussed in relation to violence and terrorism. And, it is disturbing to note, those who frequently read Catholic publications have on average more unfavorable views of Muslims than those who do not.


This report should prompt those who work in Catholic media, including America, to examine how we write and talk about Islam. It is important not to downplay the atrocities committed by the Islamic State—whose victims are primarily other Muslims. But it is also vital that we not speak of our Muslim neighbors as if their value depends solely on their being allies or instruments in the fight against violent extremism. They are, first and foremost, in the words of St. John Paul II, fellow believers “in the same God, the one God, the living God.

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James Richard
1 year 9 months ago
Well you can start with explaining why Saudi Arabia does not allow any non-Islamic religions into their nation. If you travel there and custom's finds that you're carrying a Bible in your luggage, you have a choice of giving it to the customs agent for its destruction, or be refused entry into the country. Even during the 1st Gulf War, US Servicemen sent do defend Saudi Arabia against Saddam, they were not allowed to wear crosses. Masses and Christian Services were said secretly in tents and not allowed to be done in the open. There are no Christian churches, Buddhist Temples, nor any other religion allowed to worship freely there. Other Islamic nations aren't much more tolerant of other religions. Sure, you'll get nice peace loving Islamic professors in the West explaining a different Islam than what we see in the Middle East, but those professors are considered apostate by Islamic groups in the Middle East. So, perhaps if you can explain this, then we Catholics can be enlightened to how peaceful Islam is.
argentina herrera
1 year 9 months ago
It's not fair to lump all of Islam in one category. Saudi Arabia practices an extreme form of Islam. Turkey is a Muslim country and there are several Christian churches there and people have practiced other faiths and it is more tolerant. A Catholic would not want to be compared to a Mormon who practices polygamy. Religious persecution is a sin committed by many, not just Saudi Arabia. Germany? The Jim Crow south when it bombed black churches? Being holier than thou is never a good strategy.
Richard Murray
1 year 9 months ago
In response to the Editors, Thank you for your charitable, sensible and very Catholic statement and exhortation. In response to the comment of Mr. James Richards, several things could be said, one of which is: Do you realize how much the "democracies" of the West have interfered with the Middle East in the past century? Saudi Arabia is a creation of the West, so that we can get cheap oil. That's why "we" have supported the Saud family, which has grown monstrously wealthy at the expense of the authentic Muslims of the land. While the house of Saud grew wealthy, the people suffered from no investment in their infrastructure. Recall that the Bush family has made tons of money in cahoots with the Saud family. Recall that right after 9/11, Bush had a Saudi prince visit his ranch, and famously said, "Saudi Arabia is ok." So, Mr. James, the problems of Saudi Arabia are neither her people nor her religion. The problem is her politics and ruling family, who have kept things there, including religious laws, quite repressive. The U.S. and the West are to thank for this. Regarding the beauty of Islam, and its relational and mystical connections to Christianity, you may enjoy this reflection and discovery:
James Richard
1 year 9 months ago
Sorry my post upset you. You're talking politics and economics, I was talking about religion. Regardless how Saudi Arabia was formed and if not for oil, it'd be unimportant to the West. However, it is the heart of Islam, where it all began and where Muslims are called to make a Hajj to Mecca once in their lifetime. In other words, Mecca is to Muslims as the Vatican is to Catholics. There are Mosques in Rome, and Muslims can visit the Vatican and express their faith freely. Not so in Saudi Arabia and other places in the Islamic world. Yes, dialogue between Christians and Muslims is a wonderful thing, but lets not be naive in thinking that Muslims in the Middle East are as open to dialogue with the Vatican is and view Catholics as equal brothers in faith. It's just not the case, and before you ask, yes I have talked religion with Muslims from the ME and they had little interest in what I believe and outright rejected Jesus Christ as God the Son. Jim
Richard Murray
1 year 9 months ago
Hi James, Thank you for your response. No, your previous comment did not upset me. However, I thought that the errors in it needed some response. My experience with Muslim friends has been wonderful. We have had many fine conversations, and several of the Muslim groups that I know people among have invited Christian speakers to address them at conferences and such. That strikes me as being very open to dialogue and exchange. Again, I would certainly imagine that in Saudi Arabia, because of the gross imbalance of wealth, and because of the poverty of the people, and because the government has not always ensured that the poor received good education: sure, there is some fundamentalism there. Poverty and lack of a broad education are very good breeding grounds for fundamentalism. But again, a large portion of the blame for this comes to the government, not the people (and certainly not the religion itself). Best wishes.
J Cosgrove
1 year 9 months ago
Islamic Misinformation
If one wants to understand what Islam is about they should read three texts, the Quran, the Hadith and the Sira. And they should read the Quran in chronological order, reading the Mecca Quran before the Medina Quran. The Quran is only a small part of Islamic belief. The Hadith is much more extensive and then there is the Sira or the life of Muhammed. All three are essential to Islam. Two books by Catholics on Islam are The first is 100 questions and answers written by two Catholics. One is an ex Muslim. The forward is by a Jesuit.
Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics: 100 Questions and Answers The other good book to start with is by an Egyptian Jesuit, Samir Khalil Samir S.J.
111 Questions on Islam Fr. Samir was raised in Egypt and his native language is Arabic so he has read the Quran in the Arabic and has studied with Islamic scholars. Both these books were recommend by other readers here on the America website. Each is in a question and answer format which means it can be put down at any time and it easy to pick up where one left off. They cover all the basic of Islam and more.


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