Does the Catholic Church Really Have An 'Islamophobia' Problem?

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Out of India this week comes the harrowing story of T.J. Joseph, a professor at a Catholic college and member of the Syro Malabar Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with Rome. Ten years ago, Joseph was accused of blasphemy, whereupon a Muslim group attacked him and severed his hand. In the ensuing years, the Syro Malabar Church, aghast not at the attack but at Joseph’s alleged “Islamophobia,” fired him from his job and excommunicated him. The day after that story came out, one Jordan Denari Duffner of Georgetown University’s Hamas-linked Bridge Initiative, published a piece in the Religion News Service (RNS) claiming that Catholics have an “Islamophobia” problem. Ask T.J. Joseph what he thinks of that, Ms. Duffner.

Duffner piece focused upon the case of the Rev. Nick VanDenBroeke, about which I wrote here at PJ Media. VanDenBroeke landed in hot water when he called Islam “the greatest threat” to Christianity and the U.S., and was subsequently forced to recant and apologize by his boss, Archbishop Bernard Hebda. “The whole incident,” says Duffner, “is reflective of a deeper problem,” which is unlikely to be something she would say about the excommunication of T.J. Joseph. No, Duffner is more worried about what she characterizes as “the discrepancy between the church’s positive official teaching on Muslims and the Islamophobia that often permeates U.S. Catholic communities and discourse.”

Duffner reminds us that “in its 1965 ‘Declaration on Non-Christian Religions,’ issued during the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church begins by declaring its high esteem and respect for Muslims.” She apparently would have us believe that VanDenBroeke, by identifying a threat from the religion that preaches warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers, is demonstrating a lack of esteem and respect for Muslims. For “the most important aspect of the church’s statement about Muslims,” she says, “is the first line — the teaching that we are to treat Muslims with respect and hold them in high regard. In other words, as Catholics our default attitude toward Muslims is to be a positive one.”

Back in the real world, however, the real problem the Catholic Church has is not the spurious neologism “Islamophobia,” but a fantasy-based Islamophilia that denies obvious reality and is ruthlessly enforced, as the outrages the Church committed against T.J. Joseph demonstrates, and of which Duffner’s article is an example.

Duffner is either spectacularly naive or outrageously deceptive or both; in all her writings, not just this one in RNS, she completely ignores the reality of jihad violence and the violent exhortations in the Qur’an and Sunnah. She continuously writes as if Muslims were victims of widespread discrimination and harassment in the U.S., which they are not and should not be, and that any examination of the motivating ideology behind that jihad violence is tantamount to inciting violence against innocent Muslims.

In her book Finding Jesus among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic, Duffner even laments the “Islamophobia” of a Christian family in Jordan she stayed with as an exchange student, claiming they picked it up from Christian television channels and not from their lived experience, which she assumes would have given them a positive impression of Islam: “Despite the fact that they lived among Muslims — who are the vast majority of the population in Jordan — my Christian host family bought into these Christian TV channels’ negative portrayals of Islam.”

Duffner also indulges in the familiar conflation of criticizing Islamic teaching or opposing jihad violence with failing to respect or esteem Muslims as human beings. The effect of this articles and the others that the Bridge Initiative churns out by the pound will be to inhibit (even more than it is already) honest discussion of the motives and goals of jihad terrorists, and of the nature of Sharia, and to stigmatize all resistance to it.

A personal note: Duffner identifies me in her RNS article as one of the “popular voices who write about Islam for Catholics.” I don’t. I write about Islam for anyone and everyone, and am relieved and grateful to say, in this fantasy- and lie-ridden age when the likes of Pope Francis and Jordan Denari Duffner are in the ascendancy, that I am not a Catholic.

“Leave them; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.