When my dad asks me question that starts with "What do you think about..." I should be on my guard. I would normally interpret such a question to mean that the questioner is seeking to learn my thoughts on a particular matter. But when it comes to my dad, apparently not. Rather, it means, "let me see if you have any good reason for not believing the same thing I do." Or something to that effect.
Since my dad met my fiance (whom he loved,) he's been a little more open to talking about Islam with me. That's great, really, since I kind of botched my best chances to give da'wah to my parents. But yet my dad, as with most of my family, is swimming so deep in propaganda he can't see which way is up. After hearing him describe how my fiance would discuss Islam, I decided to try a change in tactics when the "What do you think about..." questions come up.
And I got that chance yesterday while driving to a nearby town (about an hour away) to visit my brother and sister et al. The question was, "What do you think about people who say Muslims are trying to take over the country?"
Now, what I think is that it's a lot of inane propaganda, vitriol from neocons and zionists, largely unfounded attempts to poison the American psyche against Muslims by perpetuating a state of fear which weakens the public defense of liberty in favor of "security." But I didn't say anything like that.
What I said was that America goes through cycles of having a targeted bias against a particular group of people, and I pointed out that some years ago there was widespread fear of and hatred towards Polish, Irish, and Italian immigrants, and there was even religious tension. Many Americans feared that if Kennedy were to win the White House in the 1960 presidential election, that the Pope would have a say in the running of the American government. People were afraid that Catholics would be taking over the then-mostly Protestant nation.
In retrospect, that fear seems wholly ridiculous, and except in very tight circles, Protestants and Catholics are more or less considered to be equally Christian. Especially, that is, in light of other non-Christian faiths, like Judaism or Islam. And in fact, Jews were for a long time a very unpopular minority in America. Although I didn't mention that.
But by mentioning Kennedy and Catholics, my dad could recall from his own experience how his family was reacting to the idea of a Catholic man running for the highest office. And I think he really started to see my viewpoint, acknowledging the possibility at least that the right-wing media's targeting of Muslims might be in the same vein as similar propaganda campaigns throughout American history. Instead of seeing Muslims as a true and legitimate threat, he explored the notion that Muslims are just the modern-day victims of a smear campaign. I'm not sure he was convinced of that, but at least he seemed open to the idea. While in fact I said very little to illustrate my point, more than making a simple analogy.
My dad then compared my technique to that of my fiance, which I will take as a compliment.