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Posted on on March 31st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



Dear Rightwing Catholic Islamophobes.

By Professor Juan Cole on his blog

31 March 13


ope Francis on Maundy Thursday declined to address enormous crowds. Instead he went to a prison to emulate Jesus’s act of humility before his crucifixion in washing the feet of his 12 disciples. The pope washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates, two of them women and two of them Muslim (one of the women was Muslim). It is reported that some of the prisoners broke down in tears.

CNN reports,




Pope Francis’s willingness to wash the feet of a Muslim woman shows his concern for the very lowest stratum of society. Europe has millions of Muslims, and some are well off and well integrated into society. But many Muslims who immigrated into France and Italy for work got caught when the jobs dried up, and live in poor areas of the cities, being excluded from mainstream society or much hope of betterment. Women have lower status than men in such communities, so a poor Muslim woman in jail is just about the bottom of the social scale.

Pope Francis is from Argentina, which has a large, successful Arab-heritage community that includes Muslims, and he is said to have deeply disagreed with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, over the latter’s Regensburg speech in which he said things that Muslims found insulting.

The thing that strikes me about all this is that there is a small strand of American Catholic conservatism that frankly despises both the poor and Muslims, and is one of the pillars of prejudice against Muslims (some call it Islamophobia) in the United States. Most Catholics in opinion polls have a more positive view of Islam and Muslims than is common among evangelical Protestants, but the rightwingers among them have a thing about Muslims (and about poor people).

An example is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Rep. Peter King of New York also comes to mind. Robert Spencer has made a career of defaming Islam and Muslims. Then there is professional bully Sean Hannity of Faux News. Paul Ryan uses the insulting language of “Islamic fascism” (fascism is a Western invention; most fascists in history have been of Christian heritage; and it has nothing to do with the Muslim faith). Ryan, far from serving the poor, wants to cut social services to them by savaging the government budget, and openly boasts of following prophet of selfishness Ayn Rand.

These purveyors of hate speech against Muslims claim to be Catholics, and some of them are annoyingly Ultramontane, insisting on papal infallibility and trying to impose their values on all Americans.

Yet the person they hold to be the vicar of Christ has just given humankind a different charge, of humility and of service to the least in society, many of whom are Muslims.

So when will we see Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity and the others go to a prison to comfort inmates, and serve the Muslims among them? When will we see them kiss a Muslim’s feet? Or are they cafeteria Catholics, parading only the values that accord with their Ayn Rand heresy?



Since 2007 we have posted quite a few of the events Prof. Juan Cole expressed an opinion about them.
Here the advertisement for an upcoming event involving him:



The Palestine Center invites you to the

Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture

“Statelessness as the Core of the Palestinian Issue”


Dr. Juan Cole

Juan Cole

The Palestine Center
Thursday, 2 May 2013
12:30-2pm EST

Lunch is served from 12:30-1:00 p.m.
The lecture and live webcast begin at 1:00 p.m.

Click here to RSVP now!

The Israeli-Palestinian issue makes the area one of the world’s longest-running geopolitical hotspots. It has been characterized as a territorial dispute, or a refugee problem, or even a problem of terrorism. It has been the subject of negotiations and agreements that always seem to fall apart. Dr. Juan Cole argues that the core of the issue is the statelessness of the Palestinians and that all the other problems stem from this condition. He will explore the meaning of statelessness for human and civil rights, property rights, and standing in negotiations, as well with regard to international regimes of law and diplomacy.

Dr. Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (2009), and his Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East was published in 2007.

Cole was the recipient of the Hudson Research Professorship in 2003, the National Endowment for the Humanities grant in 1991, and the Fulbright-Hays Islamic Civilization Postdoctoral Award in 1985-86. In November 2004, he was elected president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and in 2006 was the recipient of Hunter College’s James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Since 2002, he has published the blog Informed Comment.

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