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Christian Religious Identity vs. Muslims

December 7, 2011, 3:38 pm | Posted by Casey Schoeneberger
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The core lie underlying the recent rise of Islamophobia is the claim that Muslims’ loyalty to their faith makes them untrustworthy Americans. As we’ve tracked in the past, Anti-Muslim commentators (and even former presidential candidates) continue to falsely promote this divisive rhetoric, propagating the myth that if Muslims find their religion and loyalty to America in conflict, they would ultimately betray America.

With such an intense focus on the “loyalty” of American Muslims, it should serve as a surprise to anti-Muslim commentators that a new poll from Gallup finds that devotion to one’s faith before country is not exclusively a characteristic of minority religions. American Christians–particularly white evangelicals (who are least comfortable with public displays of Muslim religion and culture) actually report thinking of themselves in terms of their faith first in much higher numbers.

So why don’t pundits and politicians consider American Christians’ allegiance to their faith as a threat to American democracy? It seems unfortunately likely that some conservatives’ attacks on Muslims’ loyalty to “religion above country” has nothing to do with the significance of religion in one’s life, but is merely a pretext to cast a cloud of suspicion over the Muslim community as a whole.
David Sirota at states proposed legislation banning Islamic Sharia law, despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits the government from targeting one religion and “>Fearmongers push these fictional problems as evidence that Muslims are not entitled to the same treatment and religious freedom as every other American.
Andrea Elliott at The New York Times questions the origins of the anti-sharia movement:

Yet, for all its fervor, the movement is arguably directed at a problem more imagined than real. Even its leaders concede that American Muslims are not coalescing en masse to advance Islamic law. Instead, they say, Muslims could eventually gain the kind of foothold seen in Europe, where multicultural policies have allowed for what critics contend is an overaccommodation of Islamic law.
“Before the train gets too far down the tracks, it’s time to put up the block,” said Guy Rodgers, the executive director of ACT for America, one of the leading organizations promoting the legislation drafted by Mr. Yerushalmi.
The more tangible effect of the movement, opponents say, is the spread of an alarmist message about Islam — the same kind of rhetoric that appears to have influenced Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in the deadly dual attacks in Norway on July 22. The anti-Sharia campaign, they say, appears to be an end in itself, aimed at keeping Muslims on the margins of American life.

Herman Cain even went so far as to loyalty test” for Muslims holding government office.
All of these efforts, of course, harken back to similar periods of religious suspicion in U.S. history. In the 1960′s, John F. Kennedy had similar charges levied against him for his Catholic faith, with critics claiming he would never be able to maintain his loyalty to the Presidential office and identify as a practicing Catholic. Looking back, the majority of Americans would now find those claims to be unfounded and extreme.
It is a sad testimony to the state of religious freedom and tolerance in the U.S. that members of minority religions are regarded with such distrust, especially when Christians are treated with a presumption of loyalty.

Photo Credit:
A Gude, Flickr

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