Even though Islam and Catholicism are two distinctively different faiths, the two share a common bond in their treatment by the public, according to Dean Chester Gillis.
Gillis—dean of the Georgetown College and the founding director of the program on the Church and Interreligious Dialogue at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs—told the Catholic News Service that he sees similarities between the way Muslims are perceived by the public and the way Catholics were treated during their arrival in America.
“The neophytes in society are always on the outside,” Gillis told CNS. “With Catholics, people feared they would have loyalty to a foreign power, the Holy See.” (Likewise, some critics fear that Muslims may have ties to terrorist organizations or Islamic countries opposed to the U.S.)
Gillis also mentioned that in response to the YMCA, which originally did not allow Catholics, the Catholic Youth Organization was created. The CYO served as a community center for Catholics, similar to what the planned Park51, or Cordoba House, is to be for Muslims.
Although it took over a century for Catholics to become a mainstream part of society, Gillis believes that it could take less time for Muslims to become a mainstream part of society if the public starts to “know Muslims as people.”