Truly, the anti-mosque hysteria sweeping the country bears an uncanny resemblance to the know-nothing movement of the 19th century. From Wikipedia:
The Know-Nothing movement was a nativist American political movement of the 1840s and 1850s. It was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, who were often regarded as hostile to Anglo-Saxon values and controlled by the Pope in Rome.
I’m not finding it now, but I recall reading that mobs of know-nothings would occasionally burn down Catholic churches, because somehow Catholicism was seen as a threat to American liberty. If Catholics took over, they would run the country under orders from the Vatican. (This sentiment still existed when John Kennedy was running for president in 1960; I remember some of the old folks saying that if Kennedy were elected, he’d be taking orders from the Pope, and the Pope would be running America.) The know-nothings tried to stop immigration, especially from Germany and Ireland, because, um, they were German and Irish. Whatever.
In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.
These local skirmishes make clear that there is now widespread debate about whether the best way to uphold Americaâ€™s democratic values is to allow Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans, or to pull away the welcome mat from a faith seen as a singular threat.
â€œWhatâ€™s different is the heat, the volume, the level of hostility,â€ said Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky. â€œItâ€™s one thing to oppose a mosque because traffic might increase, but itâ€™s different when you say these mosques are going to be nurturing terrorist bombers, that Islam is invading, that civilization is being undermined by Muslims.â€
I like this part —
Recently, a small group of activists became alarmed about the mosque. Diana Serafin, a grandmother who lost her job in tech support this year, said she reached out to others she knew from attending Tea Party events and anti-immigration rallies….â€œAs a mother and a grandmother, I worry,â€ Ms. Serafin said. â€œI learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.â€
Really, if you replace “Islam” with “Catholicism” and “sharia law” with “papal authority,” you’d be right at home with the know nothings. Same stuff.
The fear that somehow a Muslim majority — the most recent Pew survey says Muslims make up .6 percent of the U.S. population — could exist in 20 years and could implement sharia law for everyone reveals a gross ignorance of both human biology and how the government thing works. And it seems contemporary stupid Americans are no less ignorant than 19th century stupid Americans.