The Bridge Initiative: Catholic Islamophobia and Interreligious Dialogue

BY ISN STAFFSeptember 14, 2016

The Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project on Islamophobia, based in the university’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, this week released a report that sheds light on American Catholics’ views of Islam, and the way Islam is discussed in Catholic publications.

hands-holdingThis report, “Danger & Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam,” finds that nearly half of Catholics can’t name any similarities between Catholicism and Islam, or say explicitly that there are no commonalities.

The report, which includes survey data on Catholics’ views of Muslims and interreligious dialogue, also reveals that only 14% of Catholics say they have a favorable impression of Muslims. The poll also shows that respondents who consume content from Catholic media have more unfavorable views of Muslims than those who don’t.

The report, authored by Jordan Denari Duffner, also analyzed nearly 800 articles about Islam in Catholic media outlets, finding that half of the time the word “Islamic” was used in nine prominent Catholic outlets, it was in reference to the Islamic State terrorist group. The headlines of Catholic articles on Islam had a negative sentiment overall, but the outlet that mentioned Pope Francis the most in its headlines on Islam had positive sentiment.

The report also explores the 100-plus books, audio programs, and DVDs sold by Catholic publishers about Islam. Interfaith dialogue is a prominent topic in these for-sale materials on Islam, but differences between Christians and Muslims are often stressed in introductory materials or those that attempt to compare Christianity and Islam. The most prolific authors on Islam for Catholics take varied approaches, with some focusing on dialogue and others on sharing the Christian faith with Muslims.

A number of individuals connected to the Islamophobia industry have impacted American Catholic discussions about Islam. In some cases, Catholic publishers, media outlets, Catholic bookstores, and prominent figures have promoted their views. Books and articles by Robert Spencer, who leads Jihad Watch and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-Muslim hate groups), have been distributed by some Catholic outlets and institutions.

Duffner, a graduate of Georgetown University and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, says she hopes the report’s findings can inform the work of diverse Catholics, both lay people and clergy. “We hope the report gives Catholic leaders and educators insights into how ordinary Catholics view Islam and interfaith dialogue. The report also gives Catholic outlets, bookstores, and publishing companies a broad picture of how their content is representing Islam and potentially shaping Catholics’ views.”

While studying at Georgetown, Duffner, then an undergraduate student, offered a reflection on interreligious dialogue entitled “Living Nostra Aetate: Dialoguing with Muslims” from the mainstage at the 2012 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. Duffner’s artwork was also featured on ISN’s Voices for Justice Blog in the form of an icon honoring Fr. Frans van der Lugt, S.J., who was murdered in Syria in 2014.

[Bridge Initiatve]

3 replies
  1. Dr. Cajetan Coelho
    Dr. Cajetan Coelho says:

    Islam preaches peace, justice, charity, prayer, community-making, love, friendship, hospitality and equality.

    • JayT
      JayT says:

      Yes, that is apparently why Pope Urban II called for the first crusade after Jerusalem was taken by Muslims who used *force* as in warfare. I mean, the Muslims didn’t stroll into Jerusalem by the thousands to plant flowers and only resorted to violence after those pesky Jews began stepping on the flowers, right? And let’s not forget that succeeding Pope’s did not call off the Crusades that Urban originally triggered.

      The article by your affiliated organization cites The Southern Poverty Law Center declaring Robert Spencer, and others, as hate groups. This shows how low our Catholic leadership in the U.S. has fallen. TSPLC was dropped by the FBI as a source, want to know why? It was determined they were basically a political agenda machine that labeled any organization that opposed the goals of the left as hate groups. Somewhere, back in their accounting ledgers, I’ll bet George Soros has money showing he bought them off as well. Oh, George Soros? Did you know he recently was discovered to have been throwing money around to put the media outlets, other than his Media Matters which he basically owns, to do the same thing TSPLC did? He’s a smart one. Now that TSPLC is simply a laughing stock, he simply propped up new soldiers made of straw on the walls.

      For you to have missed so many passages in the Quran and Hadiths that show Islam is anything but a religion of peace means you simply haven’t read it. Fight the unbeliever wherever you may find them until there is no belief left in any but Allah escaped your notice? A man may take 2,3, or 4 wives as he desires and if 2 men cannot be had to bear witness to a crime then 1 man and 2 women will suffice shows the so called equality you mentioned. And there is much, much more.

      Coptic Christian priests in the Middle East are watching their people die by the truckload at the hands of devout Wahabi and Salifist Jihadists. They are not misinformed and are following the post Medina Mohammed path of Jihad perfectly.


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