Polemics & Exchanges

On Excluding Muslims

Srdja Trifkovic’s call to exclude “Mecca from America” (“To Lose a War,” American Interest, November) brings to mind Protestant-nativist attempts to “exclude Rome from America” a century ago.  Dr. Trifkovic’s reasons for excluding Islam from American society can be applied to the case of pre-Vatican II Catholicism in the United States.  Anti-Catholic literature often expressed the fear that American Catholics would be more loyal to Rome than to their own country.  The traditional Catholic support of a Catholic state and disavowal of democracy and the separation of Church and state bears much similarity to Islam’s fusing of “mosque and state.”

As sociologist José Casanova has noted, the perceived threat to Protestant culture caused by the number of Catholic immigrants arriving in the United States (much larger than the current influx of Muslims) was enough to instigate a few riots, a “know-nothing” movement, and the failure of Catholic Al Smith’s campaign.  It wasn’t until Vatican II, with its support for religious freedom, and the candidacy of John F. Kennedy, who vowed not to take his cues from Rome, that the Catholic stigma began to dissolve.  By the 1980’s, the situation had changed enough for Samuel Huntington to...

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