Muslims in America don't have as easy a time fitting in. Many don't look as "Anglo" as my ancestors could, after dropping their accent, getting a haircut and wearing conservative clothes. Worse, many of the 1% of Americans who are Muslims follow customs which make them stand out. This country isn't used to seeing women wearing veils, or clothing that covers enough of the body to satisfy Islamic standards.
I don't pretend to understand how it feels to be a Muslim in America. I do, however, know what it's like to be Catholic, when another case of clueless anti-Catholicism hits the news.
Case in point:
- "Signs of the cross" Albany Democrat Herald (February 25, 2008)
The principal at the school says that the crucifixes are gang symbols, and banned them. That's fair, sort of: school policy says that gang symbols are verboten. And police in Albany, Oregon, say that crucifixes are being used as gang symbols in other towns, so maybe they're gang-related in Albany, too.
The principal and the police may not be aware that millions of Catholics around the world use, and occasionally wear, rosaries. Not because Catholics are gangsters, but because the rosaries help us keep track of our prayers.
Even though 24% of Americans are Roman Catholic, I've noticed that many other Americans either know little about Catholicism, or know things that aren't so. I suppose it's what we get, for having practices that most people don't.
I suppose that having a principal say that two teenagers are connected to gangs because they wear rosaries isn't the same as a cashier saying, "please don't stick me up," to a veiled customer.
Just the same, the outrage I felt when I read about those Oregon teens may be similar to what Muslims feel when someone reacts badly to an expression of their beliefs.
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.
Related blog, on being Catholic in America:
- A Catholic Citizen in America
Following Catholic beliefs and practices in America: One man's experience