A provocative comparison

A PROVOCATIVE COMPARISON…. Last night’s segment on Park51 on “The Daily Show” featured some pretty brilliant insights, most notably Glenn Beck trashing Feisal Abdul Rauf for making nearly identical remarks to Glenn Beck’s own on-air commentary.

But of particular interest was the discussion between Jon Stewart and John Oliver about the conservative drive to conflate terrorists with all Muslims, even Muslim Americans. Oliver offered a tongue-in-cheek summary of the right-wing line: “What Newt Gingrich is trying to say is that Islam, like every religion, has to be responsible for its biggest assholes.” When Stewart asked why faith traditions have to “bend to people’s worst suspicions about them,” Oliver replied:

“Because there is a difference between what you can do, and what you should do. For instance, you can build a Catholic Church next to a playground. Should you? Or am I alone in thinking it’s a little too soon for that?”

Well, that’s not going to go over well at the Catholic League.

The comparison was obviously provocative, and intended to be confrontational — it’s a comedy show, after all, highlighting the absurdities of our discourse and modern life — but it’d be a mistake to dismiss the point reflexively.

After all, we’re dealing with a political environment in which many Americans want to blame an entire faith tradition for the gut-wrenching crimes of violent fanatics and monsters. What happens, then, if one takes John Oliver’s question seriously?

Everyone is well aware of the horrific scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church, in which priests sexually abused countless children — across the United States, and around the world — and church officials neglected to act, often engaging in an international cover-up.

If a congregation wanted to build a church next to a children’s playground, would conservatives ask why it has to be right next to the playground? What about the feelings of the abused children’s parents? Can’t the church at least be five blocks away, just out of respect?

Of course, the questions are absurd on its face — by no reasonable standard should Roman Catholic Churches be assumed to be dangerous to children, just because of a systemic scandal involving sexual abuse. In America, we just wouldn’t tolerate this kind of discrimination.

But we should be just as offended when the same discriminatory attitudes are applied to other American minority faiths.

The video of the segment is below.

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