The National Catholic Review

An athletic association consisting of private Christian and Catholic parochial schools in Texas is drawing national attention after refusing to grant an Islamic high school membership. From the New York Times:

With 500 students, increasing academic prestige and an established soccer team, Iman Academy SW, an Islamic school in Houston, was seeking membership in 2010 to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, a group that organizes competition among more than 200 schools in the state.

In addition to an application form, Iman Academy SW was given a questionnaire. Among the questions:

“Historically, there is nothing in the Koran that fully embraces Christianity or Judaism in the way a Christian and/or a Jew understands his religion. Why, then, are you interested in joining an association whose basic beliefs your religion condemns?”

“It is our understanding that the Koran tells you not to mix with (and even eliminate) the infidels. Christians and Jews fall into that category. Why do you wish to join an organization whose membership is in disagreement with your religious beliefs?”

“How does your school address certain Christian concepts? (i.e. celebrating Christmas)”

The private-schools association, known by the acronym Tapps, was established in the 1970s to coordinate sports among Christian schools. The organization drew national attention this week when it refused to reschedule a state semifinal boys basketball game for an Orthodox Jewish day school, which could not play at the scheduled time because its players observe the Sabbath.

Lawsuits and legislation are being considered to prevent this situation from happening again. Searching the TAPP website reveals that several Catholic schools are members of TAPP. Just like immigration, it shocks me that some Catholics today are willing to engage in this sort of xenophobia and denigration of the “other” when they themselves were victims of such prejudices just decades ago. Imagine the prophetic witness that the Catholic members of TAPP could offer by withdrawing support from the organization until the association changes its policies.

Comments

Traeh Lledew | 3/18/2012 - 5:13pm
I don't consider those questions to the Islamic school biased.  I don't have any problem with Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, or animism.  I don't have a problem with Muslims who disavow the totalitarian central strands of their religion.   I do have a problem with what the core texts of Islam say about how to treat non-Muslims, and the state of basic human rights in all Islamic nations today.  I do have a problem with the extreme anti-Semitism in the Qur'an.  I do have a problem with the many core Islamic texts in which Muhammad supports killing apostates from Islam.  I do have a problem with the numerous news stories from around the world about murder of apostates from Islam.  Bernard Lewis, the renowned expert on the Middle East and Islam long ago referred to the totalitarian character of Islam.  All the other religions have things to be criticized about them and their adherents, but only Islam has in its core texts the imperative to subjugate the whole world under Islamic law.  Among religious organizations, only the Organization of the Islamic Conference (which includes all the Muslim-majority nations) rejected the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and signed on to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, which makes Islamic law paramount.  In the U.S., we already face significant admitted self-censorship by public figures, journalists, artists, and public institutions on the issue of Islam, because of death threats any public critic of Islam receives.  In Europe, demographic trends are toward a Muslim majority by the end of this century, and already criticism of Islam faces huge obstacles and death threats there, and homosexuals and Jews are increasingly persecuted in many urban areas.  Anyone who gives a damn about freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, and knows anything about the core texts of Islam and the life of Muhammad, should welcome the kind of questioning and skepticism shown by this group of schools toward the Islamic school.  Islam was tolerant in its early period, when Muhammad had few followers and was relatively weak.  When he became the ruler of a state in Medina, tolerance ended, and the Qur'an reflects this, for example in chapter 9, which is the last or near to last chapter Muhammad produced.  If reform is to happen in the Islamic world, we must ask such questions and insist that mosques teach publicly against Islamic supremacism various tenets.
ed gleason | 3/8/2012 - 10:57pm
First Catholic HS  ought give up team names like;
Fighting Irish. Crusaders, Knights, Warriors, etc. 
JIM MCCREA | 3/8/2012 - 7:20pm
"The Catholic affirmation of religious freedom resists this kind of xenophobic rejection of religious difference."

Obviously not in Texas it doesn't.  Could the desire to be accepted, to be included, is more important to these Catholic schools than being a witness to "the Catholic affirmation of religious freedom?"
Amy Ho-Ohn | 3/8/2012 - 9:02am
It does seem like a missed opportunity. Sports are one of the few things in life which can be done in an unambiguously religion-neutral way, and accordingly also one of the best for establishing inter-religious harmony.

But one could argue that Catholics made themselves acceptable to Protestant majorities, and hence welcome to participate in leagues like this, by assimilating somewhat to the mainstream culture; for example, by surrounding extra ecclesiam nulla salus with protective mimicry about "separated brethren" and by conceding that error hath some rights after all. TAPP seems to be asking Iman HS whether and how much they intend to assimilate, and basing their decision on the answer. Is that really so outrageous?
Nichole Flores | 3/8/2012 - 1:01pm
Right on point, Michael. The Catholic affirmation of religious freedom resists this kind of xenophobic rejection of religious difference. It occurs to me that membership in an interreligious association of schools might even foster conversation and cooperation across difference by encouraging collegiality and good-sports-personship among these groups.  How can Catholics work with other religions on a local level to pursue a vision of goodness, virtue, and justice that includes all people?  
Marie Rehbein | 3/8/2012 - 10:22am
This is the way these "Christian" groups are; everyone needs to sign a loyalty oath to Jesus before they are let into the group.  This is not confined to the South. 

The fact that Catholics get to belong is because they believe in Jesus, and their membership is permitted so long as they don't try to run things, because they are considered to be practicing a corrupted version of Christianity since they "worship and pray to" Mary and these people they designated as saints.  Jews are grandfathered in (no pun intended) because Jews are God's Chosen People.  But Islam...

The Koran presents Jesus as an important prophet with an alternate, but no less fantastic, birth story, making Jesus an important part of Islam.  However, Islam denies Jesus's divinity and the Koran tells Muslims in strong terms that God does not want people to worship Jesus as God - that would disgust God in the extreme and God's reaction would not be pretty.

This business in Texas is just dumb.  If it's any comfort, the Catholic schools that my children have attended in different parts of the country (currently near Texas) have all had Muslim students attending as well, and they did not have to recant their religious beliefs in order to do so, though they were not excused from religion class or school Mass.

It's funny, though, that, given that in the "Christian's" mind it's Christianity vs. Islam, they don't want the rivalry to manifest itself on the playing field.  Maybe their reaction to the request of Iman Academy is based on fear of losing and what that might represent.
Kang Dole | 3/8/2012 - 10:12am
“Historically, there is nothing in the Koran that fully embraces Christianity or Judaism in the way a Christian and/or a Jew understands his religion. Why, then, are you interested in joining an association whose basic beliefs your religion condemns?”

The irony of this is, of course, the fact that TAPPS doesn't embrace (not too sure about how they're using that verb) Islam in a way that Muslims understand their religion.

It is outrageous, and while Catholics are obviously not in the least bit disposed toward voicing outrage, I wonder if they wouldn't venture a protest if a Protestant group offered such a distorted depiction of their faith?