LONDON – A British cardinal said Muslims should join Catholics in fighting for “genuine religious freedom.”
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster said that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States public opinion in Great Britain has become suspicious of religion and Islam in particular.
He said religious communities are vulnerable to restrictive laws that are being “made in a time of perceived crisis.”
The cardinal said it was currently necessary for Catholics and Muslims to unite to uphold religious freedom as a “natural right of every human being to be respected by every government.”
“There are times when we may all feel that we are not exactly muzzled or silenced, but we are most certainly not free to express our deeply held convictions, sometimes simply for reasons linked to so-called ‘political correctness,’“ said Cardinal Murphy-O’Conner in a June 9 address to the Muslim Council of Wales at Cardiff University in Wales.
The cardinal said there was “an atmosphere where ordinary Muslims feel very uncomfortable and unfairly singled out by people who often seem not to understand them at all.”
Muslims often feel “misrepresented or at least misunderstood by our media and in public opinion,” he said.
He said it is a difficult time for those involved in governing and policing society, and religious communities needed to be able to operate with a certain degree of autonomy.
“If politicians at the national or local level – or even academics, for that matter – think they know what is best for religions, they will not act in our best interests, and could well be tempted to try to manipulate the ways we contribute to society,” he said.
“Nobody should be blind to the risk of basing decisions about religious groups on sociological or security-driven criteria,” said the cardinal. “Of course we should not presume that people anywhere will respect us.
“We have to earn their respect, and when we have it we need to work to keep it,” he said.