Assimilation or Not?

America’s Muslims Aren’t as Assimilated as You Think
Geneive Abdo

If only the Muslims in Europe — with their hearts focused on the Islamic world and their carry-on liquids poised for destruction in the West — could behave like the well-educated, secular and Americanizing Muslims in the United States, no one would have to worry.

So runs the comforting media narrative that has developed around the approximately 6 million Muslims in the United States, who are often portrayed as well-assimilated and willing to leave their religion and culture behind in pursuit of American values and lifestyle. But over the past two years, I have traveled the country, visiting mosques, interviewing Muslim leaders and speaking to Muslim youths in universities and Islamic centers from New York to Michigan to California — and I have encountered a different truth. I found few signs of London-style radicalism among Muslims in the United States. At the same time, the real story of American Muslims is one of accelerating alienation from the mainstream of U.S. life, with Muslims in this country choosing their Islamic identity over their American one.

The Washington Post runs a provocative op-ed in its Sunday edition, claiming that American Muslims aren’t well-assimilated in the general population. The writer provides some quotes to support that, but the economic evidence she provides doesn’t, I think. American Muslims are among the most successful immigrant groups in the country; they are successful not only in comparison to other immigrants, but to the general American population.

There is a disturbing quote in the piece, though, where a young woman says that, as a Muslim, she doesn’t need to assimilate. She does, but apparently doesn’t recognize just how American culture deals with religion. Religion, for most Americans, is simply a matter between you and God. The state does not interfere with the rights, rituals, and beliefs of any religion. A religion does not interfere in the laws, rules, and regulations of the state. Where those values conflict, then negotiations—sometimes in the courtroom—take place. Usually, and particularly since the passing of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the state must try to accommodate religious requirements if it can do so without threatening the religious rights of others.

That does not mean that all of any religions rules or laws will necessarily accommodated. Polygamy, for instance, is against American law. Therefore, even if permitted by a particular religion (and there are several religions which do permit it, in addition to Islam), polygamy is not permitted in the US. Some cultures permit honor killings or female circumcision, often with religious justificaitons offered. They are not permitted in the US. Anyone seeking to avoid assimilation on religious grounds will be charged with a crime and prosecuted.

Assimilation does not mean becoming a stereotypical American—however you draw the stereotype. One can keep one’s cultural identity, one’s language, one’s religious values. But they must also respect, if not follow, those of the general population and culture surrounding.

[This item is cross-posted at Crossroads Arabia.]

FILED UNDER: Media, Race and Politics, Religion, US Politics, , , ,
John Burgess
About John Burgess
John Burgess retired after 25 years as a US Foreign Service Officer, serving predominantly in the Middle East. He contributed 35 pieces to OTB between February 2006 and April 2014. He was the proprietor of the influential Crossroads Arabia until his death in February 2016.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    polygamy is not permitted in the US.

    You have obviously never been to southern Utah.

  2. John Burgess says:

    Been there, ain’t done it…

    But, to subtantiate my point:

    Fugitive Polygamist Leader Arrested

    LAS VEGAS The fugitive leader of a polygamist Mormon sect has been arrested in southern Nevada.

    Warren Steed Jeffs, 50, was taken into custody after he and two other people were pulled over late Monday by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas, FBI spokesman David Staretz said.

    The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was wanted in Utah and Arizona on suspicion of sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.

    Since May, Jeffs has been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, with a $100,000 reward offered for information leading to his capture.

  3. Old War Dogs says:

    Is it Tuesday already?…

    Feels like another Monday. Some days there just ain’t enough coffee. I put a lot of time, and a lot of me, into those last two posts last night. Sitting here with Still in Saigon doing an endless loop in…

  4. Anderson says:

    One can keep one’s cultural identity, one’s language, one’s religious values.

    Yeah, just don’t bring ’em on the plane.

  5. John Burgess says:

    Yes, there is that little problem with hysteria…

    I suspect I could get puled over for something in Hindi or Bhutanese. Maybe even Burmese.

    Arabic, Persian, Urdu? Off to the pokey.

  6. jpe says:

    People are always griping about our multiculturalism adding to the problems, but if anything I think our live-and-let-live ethos has been key to the fact that our Muslim populations aren’t nearly as radicalized as those in Europe. Sure, we get our nutters, but they tend not to get such large followings, because no one here gives a shit what god their neighbors worship.

  7. Seamus says:

    People are always griping about our multiculturalism adding to the problems, but if anything I think our live-and-let-live ethos has been key to the fact that our Muslim populations aren’t nearly as radicalized as those in Europe.

    Is France Doing a Better Job of Integration than Its Critics?
    http://pewresearch.org/obdeck/?ObDeckID=50

    How well are French Muslims integrated? Pretty well
    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2006/8/25/12215/3841

  8. Triumph says:

    The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was wanted in Utah and Arizona on suspicion of sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.

    I am not sure how this is relevant to polygamy. This guy appears to be charged with sexual misconduct relating to underage girls.

    Polygamy runs rampant in southern Utah/northern Arizona and there is very little local authorities ever do about it.